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MILHAUD, D.: Orestie d'Eschyle (L') (L. Phillips, Dempson, Outlaw, Delphis, University of Michigan Choirs and Symphony Orchestra, K. Kiesler)


Naxos 8.660349-51

   new-classics.co.uk, November 2016
   American Record Guide, March 2015
   Opera News, March 2015
   Fanfare, March 2015
   Gramophone, February 2015
   Culture Catch, December 2014
   Gramophone, December 2014
   The WholeNote, December 2014
   The Washington Post, November 2014
   Examiner.com, November 2014
   International Record Review, November 2014
   Classical Music, November 2014
   Classical Net, October 2014
   Classical Net, October 2014
   Voix des Arts, October 2014
   David's Review Corner, October 2014
   Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, September 2014
   Ionarts, September 2014
   The Guardian, August 2014

English        French
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new-classics.co.uk, November 2016

The excellent University Symphony Orchestra is joined by a 320-voice choir comprising the University Choral Union and SMTD’s Chamber Choir and Orpheus Singers, as well as the SMTD Percussion Ensemble and a cast of nine professional vocal soloists, including soprano Lori Phillips as Clytemnestra and baritone Dan Kempton as Orestes. The performance of this extraordinarily ambitious work is conducted by orchestra’s music director, Kenneth Kiesler, and the chorus master is Jerry Blackstone. Milhaud’s music is intense, dramatic and exciting, and the performers rise triumphantly to the challenge of this dauntingly epic work by a composer whose students would later include jazz pianist Dave Brubeck and songwriter Burt Bacharach. © 2016 new-classics.co.uk Read complete review



Richard Sininger
American Record Guide, March 2015

The performance of this gigantic work deserves nothing but praise. The chorus and orchestra perform excellently under Kenneth Kiesler… © 2015 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide



William R. Braun
Opera News, March 2015

…women’s voices carry much of the musical expression, with Kristin Eder’s Elektra slicing the air unassailably and the Clytemnestra of Lori Phillips even more dramatically engaged when she returns as a ghost than she was when alive. Julianna DiGiacomo as Pythia moves from heightened speech to such a pitch of suppressed excitement that we can’t wait to hear her tell a story we already know. Orestes…pleads his case to Athena with the certainty of the just in the voice of Dan Kempson, while the orchestra weaves a web of oddities. © 2015 Opera News Read complete review



Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, March 2015

I cannot say enough about the high quality of this music or the committed performance given by conductor Kiesler and the University of Michigan chorus and orchestra. This will surely be one of the outstanding operatic recordings of our time. © 2015 Fanfare Read complete review



David Patrick Stearns
Gramophone, February 2015

The Michigan soloists are good to excellent, especially Kristin Eder as Electra. Choruses do well with the French language and the orchestra shows occasional signs of labour, though everyone sounds mightiest amid the most challenging polytonal sections of ‘Les Euménides’. © 2015 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone



Steve Holtje
Culture Catch, December 2014

Best New Classical Albums of 2014

To have recorded all of these Aeschylus settings together for the first time is a spectacular accomplishment. Milhaud’s polytonal mastery and his colorful orchestration make for many striking moments, Phillips and Outlaw deliver fine performances, and the much-featured choirs handle the harmonically demanding music with aplomb. Opera fans looking for change-of-pace repertoire will find this just as rewarding as Strauss’s better-known Elektra. And considering that I’m not even that much of an opera devotee and I find this absolutely enthralling, even non-opera fans should consider picking up this highly dramatic and musically rewarding set. © 2014 Culture Catch Read complete review




David Patrick Stearns
Gramophone, December 2014

The University of Michigan forces under Kenneth Kiesler are mighty… © 2014 Gramophone



Roger Knox
The WholeNote, December 2014

…soprano Lori Phillips sings Clytemnestra splendidly.

Throughout, the Michigan choirs and orchestra set a professional standard in this tremendous project initiated by Milhaud-taught composer William Bolcom. © 2014 The WholeNote Read complete review



Anne Midgette
The Washington Post, November 2014

The tension between modernism and the archaic runs through one of the quirkier operatic offerings of recent memory: the first-ever complete recording of Darius Milhaud’s “L’Orestie d’Eschyle.”

It is…an intriguing document—and with a cast including Lori Phillips, Brenda Rae, Tamara Mumford, Sidney Outlaw, and Julianna Di Giacomo, gets, on this lone outing, an impressive performance. © 2014 The Washington Post Read complete review



Stephen Smoliar
Examiner.com, November 2014

…Kiesler clearly brought thorough understanding to both the musical and dramatic elements involved. Naxos has done a great service in making this performance available… © 2014 Examiner.com Read complete review



Robert Matthew-Walker
International Record Review, November 2014

…this release by Naxos constitutes one of the most important issues the gramophone has achieved for quite some time.

…this is a great performance of a great work. The recording quality is consistently fine; and over and above that is the power and intensity of ail the musicians taking part, clearly under Kiesler’s inspiring direction. Soprano Lori Phillips as Clytemnestra is consistently outstanding…beautifully in tune with the chorus, and outlining the general thrust of where the work is, musically, to take us.

The Oresteia is something quite remarkable…our thanks to the outstanding soloists, the University of Michigan and the various other bodies which have prepared this work with such devotion and responsibility, engaging with the music at all times, and above all to Naxos, for bringing it to the wider world. © 2014 International Record Review




Guy Wheatherall
Classical Music, November 2014

[The listener]…is rewarded by many striking moments and music of great originality, especially for the (here excellent) chorus. Soloists and players are mostly good… © 2014 Classical Music



Brian Wigman
Classical Net, October 2014

The various soloists are wonderful…The choruses simply dazzle…Kenneth Kiesler remains a fine conductor…these college musicians have shown that they are fully capable of playing with the big boys, and they prove it…

Naxos provides very good sound, giving a sonic picture that successfully spotlights the unique instrumentation on display…a thrilling achievement, and the University Musical Society and the University of Michigan deserve credit for having the guts to present it. © 2014 Classical Net Read complete review



Mark Sealey
Classical Net, October 2014

Kiesler’s control of the entire production is close and sympathetic—particularly to the relationship which the performers must have had to build with Milhaud’s distinctive idiom. At the same time, it’s necessary for audiences to appreciate the intensity of the psychology and tragedy of events in the Oresteia. This production and recording achieve this splendidly.

…the music, the standard of singing and playing, and the fact that we now have what is surely the first complete recording of this work by Milhaud make the set one to seek out and get to know. It’s a huge success. © 2014 Classical Net Read complete review



Joseph Newsome
Voix des Arts, October 2014

…[Darius Milhaud’s] operatically-scaled triptych L’Orestie d’Eschyle is a Brobdingnagian effort by any standard…and recording the complete work is an extraordinarily daunting proposition. It is an endeavor that almost no label but Naxos might have contemplated…and their achievements speak for themselves.

…the level of musical excellence is very high, and the technical attributes of the recording adhere to Naxos’ industry-leading standards. The most gratifying aspect of this performance is the manner in which every member of the musical team displays dedication to climbing this Everest not merely because it is there but because it deserves to be conquered. As this performance proves, the sonic views from the summit of L’Orestie d’Eschyle are spectacular.

Conductor Kenneth Kiesler…[showed] his expert leadership of the batteries of voices and instruments employed in this performance…[he] presides over this performance as though it were the summation of his life’s work.

…the most triumphant aspect of this recording is the opportunity that it provides to hear several of America’s best singers giving their all to music that demands nothing less. © 2014 Voix des Arts Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2014

You will often find Darius Milhaud’s trilogy, L’Orestie d’Eschyle, included in opera encyclopedias, though it would be more appropriately described as Music Theatre. Greek legend would relate that when King Agamemnon returned from distant Troy, where he haf been leading his army, he discovers that in his long absence and unknown fate, his wife, Clytemnestra, had taken Aegisthus as her lover, and now wished to install him as her husband. She decides that Agamemnon must not live, and drowns him in his bath. His distraught daughter sends for her brother, Orestes, to avenge her father’s death. That he does, but under Greek law is then tried for murder, his life saved when the chosen men of Athens, split in equal numbers, leave it to Athene to give her casting vote that pardons him. Does that story sound vaguely familiar? It does, of course, form part of the chilling libretto for Richard Strauss’s opera. Elektra. But in Milhaud’s hands the work was very different and made a strange entry into the world, the first part, L’Agamemnon written when he was just 21, having been composed for the legendary Jean Cocteau as part of a play. That was also the aegis for the second part, Les Choephores, where the slaves of the royal family take up the story regarding the return of Orestes, a significant part being declamatory against a musical backdrop. That was completed three years later, but there was to be a further gap of seven years, to 1923, before he achieved Les Eumenides, a score that does come close to opera, and lasts as long as a conventional work in that genre. Split into three acts it tells of the trial Orestes and the thankful ending for the people of Athens. I guess for most conductors it is a work they would consider ‘best left alone’. Rhythmically it is a nightmare, often with the unusual 5, 7, 9 and 11 beats to the bar superimposed on a more normal pattern given to other performers. Choral tapestries are overlaid upon sub-tapestries in the most complex fashions, and, in addition to the normal symphony orchestra, it calls for 15 percussionists, and quartets of saxophones and saxhorns. It then needs six outstanding soloists for the technically exacting roles and a speaker in the French style of early 20th century declamation. The cost of staging must be massive, and here we have a performance presented by the choruses and orchestra of the University of Michigan that would be highly regarded by any international standard. It has been masterminded by the highly experienced conductor, Kenneth Kiesler, and one must wonder just how many rehearsals it required to achieve this level of security and total commitment from everyone concerned. Of the soloists, Lori Phillips, a highly experienced dramatic soprano specialising in Wagnerian roles, is thrilling as Clytemnestra; Brenda Rae, a soprano who has mainly worked in the top opera houses in Europe, is a vibrant Athena, while Dan Kempson fills the role of Orestes. Finally a special word for the speaker, Sophie Delphis, who would surely have delighted Cocteau with her style of declamation. Superbly recorded, and though a flawed masterpiece with some barren passages, I do most strongly urge you to hear it. © 2014 David’s Review Corner



Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, September 2014

…L’Orestie d’Eschyle is a forgotten modern masterpiece, fully deserving of recognition. This Michigan/Kenneth Kiesler performance gives us the work in all its glory and excitement.

Highly recommended. © 2014 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review



Charles T. Downey
Ionarts, September 2014

The performance is good, if not quite great, at its best in large textures. © 2014 Ionarts Read complete review




Andrew Clements
The Guardian, August 2014

…an operatic curiosity well worth investigating… © 2014 The Guardian Read complete review





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