V1815. LORRAINE HUNT LIEBERSON, w.Nicholas McGegan Cond. Philharmonia Baroque Orch.: Les Nuits d’Été (Berlioz); Arias from Giulio Cesare, Ottone, Arianna, Agrippina & Radamisto (all Handel). Philharmonia Baroque PBP-01, Live Performances, 1991 & 1995, Berkeley, CA, Gatefold Edition. Final Copy! - 852188003010
“…this is a release of almost painful beauty. It is admirably presented, with notes and remembrances, plus full texts….With so many recordings of [the Berlioz] score done by so many wonderful singers, preferences for voices dictate choices among them. But this is, for me, one of the most sensitive renditions I have ever encountered….I cannot remember hearing [Lieberson] sing (on records) with such richness of vocal sound, much less with such utterly committed musicianship and feeling.”
- John W. Barker, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/Aug., 2011
"There are certain musical performances you always remember, and I can remember exactly what it felt like standing there next to her for the Berlioz. It was thrilling. You don’t forget that. Her artistry shines through on this recording."
-Nicholas McGegan (PBO's Music Director)
"In conjunction with the Orchestra’s 30th Anniversary Season, Music Director Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra announce the launch of the ensemble’s own recording label, Philharmonia Baroque Productions. The label’s début release showcases the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in a live 1995 recording of Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été and a live 1991 recording of arias from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Ottone, Arianna, Radamisto, and Agrippina. Hunt Lieberson had a long and fruitful relationship with McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque. The Berlioz is the last of seven acclaimed recordings she made with the orchestra and the first time she ever sang the full Berlioz song cycle in performance. Lorraine was in her element, and the result was splendid. These incredibly moving performances are now available to a wide audience for the first time.
Mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson made relatively few studio recordings, but particularly since her death in 2006, more and more live recordings of recitals have been surfacing. This album draws on two live performances with the Boston-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra led by Nicholas McGegan, one from 1991 and one from 1995. Hunt Lieberson had the kind of voice, musicianship, and presence that left critics groping for superlatives, but in his program notes for this recording, Stephen Wadsworth did a good job encapsulating her unique qualities, her '...music-making of thrilling passion yet absolute freedom... singing of shape-shifting colors and sounds which draw word and note, melody and harmony into a darkly tinged, heat-seeking truth'. The inclusion of Berlioz's Les Nuits d'été makes this release particularly valuable because the 19th century was a segment of the repertoire in which Hunt Lieberson was not frequently engaged."
- Z. D. Akron
“The mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who won near universal praise from critics and audiences for her courageous, insightful and deeply affecting artistry, had a maverick career. She brought uncompromising integrity to her choice of roles and repertory, was a champion of Baroque operas and of living composers, and preferred to work in close-knit conditions with directors and ensembles who shared her artistic aims, especially at festivals like Glyndebourne in England and Aix-en-Provence in France….few artists have brought such emotional vulnerability to their work.
That she began her professional life as a freelance violist and did not focus fully on singing until she was 26 may account for the musical depth and intelligence of her vocal artistry. One of her closest colleagues, Craig Smith, the Boston-based conductor and choir director, said as much in a 2004 profile of Ms. Hunt Lieberson by Charles Michener in the NEW YORKER. 'There's something viola-like about the rich graininess of her singing, about her ability to sound a tone from nothing’, he was quoted as saying.
Though her work seldom drew less than raves from critics, her singing eluded description. Despite the gleaming richness of her sound, her voice somehow conveyed poignant intimacy. Although she paid scrupulous attention to rhythm, phrasing and text, she came across as utterly spontaneous. Her person disappeared into her performances. And yet in a Handel aria, a Britten cantata or a song by her husband, she could be so revealing you sometimes wanted to avert your eyes for fear of intruding.
Her second appearance in a Met production came in 2003 when she sang the role of Dido in the new staging of Berlioz's epic LES TROYENS. With this luminous, stylistically informed and emotionally true portrayal she showed that she could galvanize the Met's stage in a major role.
She studied voice and viola at San Jose State University and, upon graduation, became a freelance player in the Bay Area noted for her expertise in contemporary music. When a French horn player she was dating got a job with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, she moved with him to Boston, soon becoming a valued freelance musician. She was particularly drawn to the music program at Emmanuel Church in the Back Bay section of Boston, where Mr. Smith conducted the orchestra and choir. For the next decade her career thrived as she collaborated with the early-music conductor Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra on a series of Harmonia Mundi recordings of Handel operas and oratorios.
She met Mr. Lieberson in 1997 when he selected her to sing in the premiere of his opera ASHOKA'S DREAM at the Santa Fe Opera. The story tells of an Indian emperor in the third century B.C. who renounces violence after converting to Buddhism and inspires trust and generosity among his people. She and Mr. Lieberson, a practicing Buddhist since his graduate-student days at Columbia, were immediately drawn to each other. Their closeness was apparent to anyone who observed them onstage at Symphony Hall in Boston in November during the ovations for ‘Neruda Songs’, Mr. Lieberson's setting of five Spanish sonnets by Pablo Neruda, each a reflection of a different aspect of love. The performance, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Levine, was repeated a few days later at Carnegie Hall. Every phrase of this emotionally unguarded, intricate and haunting work seemed fashioned by the composer for his wife's distinctive voice. It would be her last New York performance.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5 July, 2006