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Laurence Vittes
Gramophone, February 2018

The magic starts with the first and longest track, the first of six songs that make up [Hagen’s] multilingual After Words, in which Justine Aronson and Joseph Gaines engage in an imagined conversation inspired by Schubert’s Winterreise on the nature of art and love. Along the way Hagen casually evokes sexy hints of Schubert, Broadway and serialism, before the music bursts into innocent lyrical love.

There is no let-up in quality with the Four Dickinson Songs, where Hagen catches the sparkle in each poem, including an extraordinary ‘Wild Nights’, and delivers its punchline with a musical solution that turns out to be unexpected—and right. The Four Irish Folk Songs briefly suggest Britten’s folk-song settings but focus more on richness than purity. Hagen’s florid setting of ‘Danny Boy’ as sung by Kelly Ann Bixby and Suzanne DuPlantis is quite sublime. © 2018 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone



David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2017

The American-born, Daron Hagen, is probably today’s most prolific composer of songs with 350 published, the present disc offering five 21st Century song cycles. Born in 1961, a graduate of the Curtis Institute and Juilliard School of Music, Hagen has become a highly prolific composer in many genres, his natural affinity to vocal music having its basis in melodic invention that is always interesting. Here he is in the world of song cycles, their basic format being the famous song cycles of Central Europe in the 19th century now seen through the eyes of modern America. Hagen also a career as a pianist, which gives him the ability to create keyboard scores that build the musical pictures the words suggest. The literary aspects cover a wide range of sources, from German poets in After Words; a mix of Americana in Songs of Experience, and the New York poet, Susan Griffin, for Phantoms of Myself. They are essentially thought provoking before we reach the rusticity of the Four Irish Folk Songs, and the sad words of Emily Dickinson. We have the texts for most of the tracks in the accompanying booklet, which helps focus ears on the singer’s diction. Hagen has invited the Philadelphia-based Lyric Fest, the organisation who commissioned After Words and the Four Dickinson Songs, to engage the internationally established singers to perform on the disc. They are the sopranos, Justine Aronson, Kelly Ann Bixby and Gilda Lyons; the mezzo, Suzanne DuPlatis, who forms part of the duet in Four Irish Songs; the baritone, Daniel Teadt in Songs of Experience, while tenor Joseph Gaines brings an English quality to After Words. Ears will take time to become accustomed to the rather strange sound of the piano played by Laura Ward. The presence of the composer brings a special accreditation to the performances. © 2017 David’s Review Corner





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