Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?  
Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Allan Altman
American Record Guide, January 2018

The forces of Indiana University and a fine cast of singing actors give a top-notch performance under the direction of Arthur Fagen. Christopher Burchett’s lean and rugged baritone cannily captures Van Gogh’s thorny brilliance and tenor Will Perkins brings a suitably honeyed tone to the role of Theo, Vincent’s indefatigably supportive brother. © 2018 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

David DeBoor Canfield
Fanfare, January 2018

I can do nothing but sing the praises of the performers involved in this production. Conductor Arthur Fagen keeps the complex score moving along at a good pace, and produces an exemplary tight ensemble. The solo cast is uniformly strong. Special kudos must be given to Christopher Burchett in the title role. …he vividly captures the many moods and psychological states of the tortured protagonist, as he pleads, cajoles, and cries out for help. In the scenes from the mental ward, the listener would swear that was hearing a mentally challenged, pathetically stuttering individual. Yet Burchett, as a lyric baritone, also sings beautifully and gracefully when the score demands it, interspersing these passage with violent outbursts that are truly frightening.

I should also single out the exemplary singing of Will Perkins, who takes the tenor role of Theo van Gogh, and bass-baritone Jason Eck, whose stentorian tones complement the stern and unyielding character of Theodorus van Gogh, father to Vincent and Theo. Also noteworthy is Kelly Kruse, whose lovely lyrical soprano voice seems perfectly suited to the flawed character of Sien, a street-walking woman whom Vincent befriends and provides for. The important role of painter Paul Gauguin, with whom van Gogh shared quarters for a brief time in Arles, France, is superbly rendered by bass-baritone Adam Walton, and the cast is strong even in the lesser roles. The Indiana University Philharmonic plays at absolutely professional level, proving itself to be one of the best collegiate orchestras around. © 2018 Fanfare Read complete review

Joshua Rosenblum
Opera News, August 2017

In the title role, Christopher Burchett sings with a fervent, plangent baritone that conjures the troubled artist particularly well. …As Theo, Will Perkins uses his sympathetic, forthright tenor to emerge as the voice of reason, particularly when defending Vincent against their domineering father, played by Jason Eck, whose marbled bass-baritone conjures the kind of stern patriarch you don’t want to cross.

Women don’t feature significantly in Vincent, but Kelly Kruse, as Sien, a prostitute with whom van Gogh briefly cohabited, has an expressively pulsing soprano, and she joins with Vincent and Theo in a fraught, lyrical trio that is a high point of Act I. Soprano Jami Leonard has a remarkably clear, attractive sound as Marguerite, …As Agostina, the Café proprietress and a paramour of Vincent’s, Laura Conyers has a warm, alluring mezzo, and her aria is exotic and seductive.

The Indiana University Philharmonic Orchestra is spectacular under Arthur Fagen; the student instrumentalists render Rands’s finely etched score and its cascading musical detail with a level of precision that any professional orchestra could be proud of. The Opera Chorus performs quite well in some inventive set pieces. Rands and McClatchy have every reason to be enormously pleased with this stellar recording of their bold, original and memorable opera. © 2017 Opera News Read complete review

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, June 2017

All is handled with taste and appealing musical values, a healthy dash of modernism a la post-Wozzeck and a sure theatrical flair. I will confess that the idea of an opera rehashing the tragic life of the brilliant painter [Van Gogh] did not on first blush appeal to me. His life story has entered the pop-folk vernacular of the misunderstood artistic genius and in some ways given us a romantic myth that may provide a cautionary tale of how one can never be sure of talent when a great one could possibly be living among us, but otherwise perhaps justifies a kind of collective shrug of the shoulders when it comes to modernism and its supposed inscrutability.

Arthur Fagen, the effective soloists and the amassed Indiana University singers and musicians all give us a convincing and intense reading of the score. © 2017 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

Donald Rosenberg
Gramophone, June 2017

Baritone Christopher Burchett makes a potent Vincent and tenor Will Perkins is warmly sympathetic as his brother, Theo. The Indiana performance, conducted by Arthur Fagen, brims with telling detail and vibrancy. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Records International, March 2017

Rands’ opera was forty years in the making, and has been described by some critics as his crowning achievement. After being inspired by a visit to the then new van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, the composer researched, sketched and spun off some subsidiary works over the next four decades. The work is a comprehensive and sympathetic portrait of the tortured genius’ life, beginning with scenes of his early failures as preacher and art dealer, sabotaged by his religious obsessions and his belief in art as an expression of them. Portrayed throughout, and this is very evident in the music’s degree of harmonic warmth and richness of color, is his refuge in his remarkable art even as his attempt at marriage (to a pregnant prostitute), his friendship with Gauguin, and finally his sanity fell apart. The libretto is presented in straightforward narrative style, without affectations or stylings, while Rands’ music provides the characterization, mood and atmosphere, vividly and unmistakably. One could almost follow the action without understanding the text (which is in fact presented with admirable clarity); the brooding hopelessness of Vincent’s attempt to comfort townsfolk reeling from a mining accident; his rejection by family and friends, his disintegrating psyche, finding relief only in painting God’s creation—all are depicted in music of powerful, expressionistic vividness, as impactful as van Gogh’s hallucinatory landscapes, the idiom grounded in extended tonality which becomes foreground or background depending on the drama of the moment. Libretto available online. © 2017 Records International

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2017

Born in England in 1934, Bernard Rands is a highly prolific composer who moved to live in the United States in 1975, and where in 2011 he composed the opera, Vincent. I came to know his work and style of composition when he was part of the music department in my nearby University of York, a productive period in which he received many commissions from leading performers in the UK. It was at that time he was performing in Amsterdam when the new Van Gogh Museum opened, and he became fascinated with the life of the great but ill-fated artist. For the following forty years he researched every detail of his life, at the same time looking for a librettist who could capture it in words suitable for an opera. That all come together with a commission to write a work to mark the 100th anniversary of the Indiana University Department of Music. It finds Rands in his new-look tonality that contains more than a hint of Alban Berg, but largely follows on in style from the operas of Benjamin Britten. In two acts lasting around two hours, it calls for a large cast, though most are brief cameos, much falling to the baritone role of Vincent who is on stage almost throughout. As with Britten’s scores, the orchestra plays a very important role in creating not only a backdrop, but also helping to project the rapidly changing moods of Vincent’s disorientated mind pictured in a prelude and three hard-hitting interludes. This new release contains the work’s first staging in 2011 as part of the six fully staged operas presented each year by the Indiana University. Christopher Burchett, who has a presence in opera companies on both sides of the Atlantic, sings the name part with an intensity of voice that reflects Vincent’s tortured mind, though it is the young lyric tenor, Will Perkins—as Vincent’s ever faithful and supportive brother—who rather steals the performance. Much praise must also go to the university orchestra which, together with the chorus, make such a vibrant ending to the first act. The sound has good definition, but rather misses out on a depth of sound with singers that are a little too closely microphoned. Arthur Fagen conducts, and I guess the composer was on hand to make this a benchmark world premiere recording. A detailed synopsis comes with the release, the very good diction of most singers minimising the lack of a printed libretto. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group