William Parker, Sanford Sylvan, Kurt Ollmann & William Sharp   (Harmonia Mundi 907602)
Item# V0092
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William Parker, Sanford Sylvan, Kurt Ollmann & William Sharp   (Harmonia Mundi 907602)
V0092. William Parker, Sanford Sylvan, Kurt Ollmann & William Sharp: The Aids Quilt Songbook, incl. Songs by Bolcom, Brown, Byron, Musto, St Pierre, de Blasio, Hoiby, Rorem, Gordon, Harbison, Hersch, Krakauer, Lockwood, Thomas & Wheelock. (Germany) Harmonia Mundi Stereo 907602, recorded 6 June, 1992. Final copy! - 093046760229


“Mr. Parker filled his recitals with songs woven around particularly poetic or descriptive texts, and illuminated those works with a warm, flexible timbre and a thoughtful approach to phrasing. In the English, German and French songs with which he was most closely associated, his diction was remarkably clear. And his personality consistently created the illusion that he was sharing a confidence with his listeners. Although he had been making his way in the music world steadily since the early 1970's, Mr. Parker seemed to burst onto the music scene in 1979, when he won first prize at the Kennedy Center-Rockefeller Foundation International Competition for Excellence in the Performance of American Music. That competition established him as a singer who was not only willing to sing American music, but was enthusiastic about it.

He gave the premieres of many works, including Ned Rorem's ‘Santa Fe Songs’ and Ernest Bacon's ‘Last Invocation’. His recordings of works by Copland, Ives, Griffes and Mr. Rorem convey much of the persuasive spirit one heard in his recitals. ‘I've been fortunate, because composers keep bringing me compositions’, he recalled in a 1987 interview. ‘It's important to be open to new things. On the other hand, I don't want to be thought of as a specialist. People tend to pigeonhole us, and we get stuck there’.

Actually, by the time he won the Kennedy Center contest Mr. Parker had a wide repertory of traditional opera roles and European art songs. He had also won first prize at the Toulouse International Competition and both first prize and a special Poulenc prize at the Paris International Singing Competition. It was not until the late 1960's, after five years in the United States Army Chorus in Washington, that he began to consider a career in music and started to study voice seriously. His teachers included Pierre Bernac and Rosa Ponselle.

Although he was best known for recitals, he appeared with many opera companies in the United States and in Europe. He made his New York City Opera début as Pandolphe in Massenet's CENDRILLON in 1984 and gave a highly regarded portrayal of Papageno in Mozart's MAGIC FLUTE the same season. He sang frequently at the Santa Fe Opera and with companies in Houston, Pittsburgh and Miami. He also performed regularly as a soloist in music by Bach and Handel.

Mr. Parker's last project was putting together ‘The AIDS Quilt Songbook’, a collection of new works about the physical and emotional devastation of AIDS. Inspired by the AIDS Quilt, in which each panel commemorates someone who died of the disease, Mr. Parker asked many of the composers with whom he had worked to write songs to be sung as a cycle. Among those who responded were Mr. Rorem, John Harbison, Lee Hoiby, William Bolcom, Chris deBlasio and David Krakauer. In June, Mr. Parker and the baritones Kurt Ollman, William Sharp and Sanford Sylvan performed the cycle at Alice Tully Hall.

‘In Santa Fe last summer’, Mr. Parker said in a May interview in THE NEW YORK TIMES, ‘I was thinking about what we sing about all the time in opera and song - grief, separation, death, fear of death, traumatic events in life - and I had to ask, 'Why are we not singing about AIDS?. For singers, we are being pretty unvocal about this. Something left me unsatisfied about AIDS benefits where the music is all Mozart and Puccini and the word AIDS never gets said’.

Mr. Parker continued to add new works to the collection after the June concert and sang the cycle in several cities. His last public performance was on 1 Jan., at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis.”

- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 30 March, 1993

“The New York City Opera baritone was one of America’s most versatile singers, equally at home on the opera stage, as soloist with major orchestras, and as a song recitalist. He has appeared in major roles with the New York City Opera and the opera companies of Pittsburgh, Tulsa, Miami, Boston, Washington (D.C.), Baltimore, and Santa Fe. Orchestral engagements have included the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, among others. Widely recognized as one of the finest song recitalist of his generation, William Parker has concertized throughout the USA and brought American Art Song to Canada, England, Portugal, France, Holland, Germany, Iceland, and the former Soviet Union. He was best known for his comedy roles in opera.

Parker spent the last years of his life working on a project he conceived and organized, called ‘AIDS Quilt Songbook’. A song cycle by nearly 20 of today’s most important song composers; the songs set texts of poetry about people who are suffering from, or have died of, AIDS. The work, which was to benefit a New York housing organization for homeless AIDS victims, was being premiered in Alice Tully Hall in June 1992. William Parker died of AIDS in 1993 at the age of 49.”

- Bach Cantatas Website

“American baritone Sanford Sylvan is perhaps best known for his acclaimed participation in the John Adams operas NIXON IN CHINA and THE DEATH OF KLINGHOFFER; other operatic appearances have generally been just as well received. However, Sylvan's career has been much more intensely focused on the art song repertory -- a commitment that has not gone unnoticed by recital goers and lieder/chanson-loving record buyers.

The international spotlight first shone on him when he created the role of Chou En-Lai for the 1987 Houston Opera premiere of NIXON IN CHINA; the original cast recording of the work received a Grammy Award in 1989. Sylvan has since been nominated for several additional Grammys. The entire range of the repertoire has been represented in Sylvan's opera career, from Mozart (including the role of Figaro in a PBS Television broadcast of LE NOZZE DI FIGARO) through Stravinsky (THE FLOOD). John Adams called on Sylvan again for the Klinghoffer opera in 1991, and also for a setting of Walt Whitman's THE WOUND-DRESSER (1988), and a number of other major contemporary composers, among them Philip Glass and John Harbison, have followed suit by employing Sylvan's considerable gifts.

When performing and recording art songs, Sanford Sylvan invariably casts David Breitman in the role of pianist; their collaborations, especially of Gabriel Fauré's chansons, are treasured. In 2000, Sanford Sylvan and David Breitman presented THE GLASS HAMMER, a new song cycle by Jorge Martin, to a Carnegie Hall audience.”

- Blair Johnston, allmusic.com