Iestyn Morris & Nigel Foster – CD Launch

Hosted at Steinway Hall on Wednesday 26th April 2023 at 6:30 pm


(Life, Longing, Love, Loss)

In this innovative world-first album, multi-award winning internationally renowned countertenor Iestyn Morris brings a compelling, new perspective to the international conversation of Russian Romance – masterfully employing the rich tonal colour palette and dynamic range available to the modern operatic countertenor, to meet the Romantics on their own terms.

It challenges listeners to discover and re-discover a spread of 19th and early 20th century Russian song – from the well-known to scarcely recorded gems, Tchaikovsky Rimsky-Korsakov, Taneyev, Grechaninov, Rachmaninov, Medtner and Prokofiev featuring within the mix. Musically, it traces the growing self-confidence of Russian songwriting over a seventy-five-year period, a repertory demanding exceptional vocal ability from intimate delicacy to emphatic bravura knocking on the doors of opera. Something that sets Russian Romance apart from the song output of other traditions.

Programme  Life, Longing, Love, Loss. The twenty-five songs begin with a bucolic group drawing the listener in, followed by a lively set charting the capricious nature of love, from courtship to betrayal and effervescent reconciliation. After a journey of nostalgia for home and the longing experienced when far from the one you love, finally, Death; that companion and universal topic of contemplation towards the close of the 19th century, rounds off the programme – depicted through some of the most extraordinary, heart-wrenching songs ever committed to paper. Rachmaninov’s Tis Time!, a call to arms, closes the journey on a hopeful note.

Poetry  Russian romantic composers were remarkably international and outward looking in their exploration of source material. Russian greats, such as Pushkin and Tolstoy were of course celebrated but composers also found the sentiments they wanted to express in the poetry of England, France, Germany, the Habsburg Bohemian lands, and Poland. This album champions a broad melting pot of expressive voices.

Origin  This album responds to the pioneering spirit of Tchaikovsky in his 1869 setting of Goethe’s Mignon’s Song (Op.6 No.6). Towards the end of the C19th, the Russian language had comparatively little value in the world. Even the Tzar and Tzarina would converse privately in French, with the native tongue being consigned to the serfs, in an almost derogatory manner. As German and French languages dictated the direction of culture in Europe, many people in Russia debated what it was to be Russian, whether there was a national voice or whether it should simply become European, to keep up with Progress. Tchaikovsky, who himself famously identified as Ukrainian, took up the challenge of championing the Russian language and upon the song’s second edition, published the song setting in excellent translation; It has since become almost impossible for it to be sung in anything but Russian. This Album channels the spirit of Tchaikovsky and brings a voice that is arguably still considered an outsider to the ‘main’ four voice types and unapologetically embraces the romantic style required, displaying a marked technical development from the countertenor’s origins in renaissance polyphony.

The Artists

Iestyn Morris studied Early Music and Opera at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. A former  Britten-Pears Young Artist, he won the 2005 Tracey Chadwell Award for contemporary song, and the 2006 Patricia Routledge National English Song Competition. He made his Royal Opera House Covent Garden debut in 2015. Appearing in leading roles in major houses and concert halls throughout Britain and Europe, he has worked with the eminent Russian language vocal coach Lada Valešová since 2005.

Nigel Foster is one of Britain’s leading accompanists and a Steinway Artist. Nigel studied at the Royal Academy of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and privately with Roger Vignoles and Graham Johnson. He has worked and recorded with most of the leading singers of today, and is Director of the London Song Festival.


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