Catching Up With: Countertenor David Daniels

Classic Arts Features   Catching Up With: Countertenor David Daniels
Countertenor David Daniels completes his current tour with English Concert and conductor Harry Bicket at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on April 1. The program features favorites from Bach and Handel.

Following his recorded excursions into repertoire rarely sung by countertenors (Berlioz's Les nuits d'_t_, also available on Virgin Classics), countertenor David Daniels has been heard most recently on a stunning all-Bach recital with the English Concert and conductor Harry Bicket that features the composer's incomparably sublime sacred arias and cantatas.

The album was released in the fall at the time Daniels and the English Concert began a highly successful European tour. Now, Daniels and his disc-mates have come to North America for a five-city tour that will features works by the composer with whom Daniels is most closely associated _ George Frideric Handel _ alongside the music by Bach that is showcased on his Virgin Classics album. Following concerts at the Chan Centre in Vancouver, Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., Herbst Theatre in San Francisco and Harris Theater in Chicago, Daniels wraps up the tour at New York's Carnegie Hall.


In the conversation that follows, David Daniels discusses his long association with Bach's music and looks ahead to some of his upcoming engagements, including his debut at Milan's La Scala.

How has your season been going thus far?

Doing Handel's Partenope recently in Vienna was wonderful. It's my favorite role and it was great to finally sing it in Europe. The Bach tour that I did with Harry Bicket and the English Concert in Europe was also very successful and I'm looking forward to continuing it in five really wonderful cities in North America.

Tell us about the tour program.

I sing more on this program than I've ever sung in a concert. I begin with four Bach arias from the disc, and then sing four Handel arias in the second half of the program _ arias that I've not performed in the U.S. So this is all new repertoire, both for me and for the audience.

Why did you decide to sing both Bach and Handel on this program?

Although I think the Bach arias out of context work well as a CD, I wasn't convinced it would make an entire program. So I thought it was best to combine the two and add more variety for a concert tour.

How do the demands each composer makes on the performer differ in the case of Bach and Handel?

Stylistically it's very different, but technically and vocally and interpretively I think it's much the same.

So, after these concerts, have people been asking you which of these two composers you prefer to sing?

I certainly wouldn't ever pick a favorite _ they are very different types of geniuses. And I'm never going to choose anybody over Handel _ that composer has been very good to me!

Does it make you proud to think that your performances of Handel's music have really helped to revitalize his reputation on stage?

If I sit down and think about it, I know I played a part in bringing this music to people's attention, especially in the U.S., but I don't concern myself with that kind of thing. It's great to know that I am part of how this has evolved _ it's certainly a nice reward for all the hard work.

What's it like working with Harry Bicket and the English Concert?

I know many of the players from other orchestras, but what's exciting for me is that Harry deservedly got this position a year or so ago and it's nice to collaborate with his new orchestra so quickly and for them to be a part of this new disc and of the two tours. People really seem to love the disc!

Tell us more about the recording.

What's great about this disc _ and especially rewarding _ is that all of it is music I've performed in concert in the complete works. I think you can tell that this music has been performed and lived with for years.

What's up for you music-wise in the near future?

I'm making my La Scala debut in June in Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream. It will be my very first time in the building! I'll be working with Sir Andrew Davis. I'm really looking forward to the summer too _ I'll have three months off! In September I'm doing a project called "Handel Revisited" at the Barbican [in London]. September 18 is the opening of the season there and I'll be singing with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The first half features Handel arias, and the second half features six composers alive today [including John Tavener, Nico Muhly, Jocelyn Pook, and Craig Armstrong], each doing their own twist on other Handel arias. I think it's going to be great fun and I'm looking forward to it.

Interview courtesy of 21C Media Group, Inc.

Tour Program:

J. S. Bach:
Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major, BWV 1066
"Vergn‹gte Ruh" from Vergn‹gte Ruh, BWV 170
"Qui sedes" from Mass in B minor
Sinfonia from Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats, BWV 42
"Schlummert ein" from Ich habe genug, BWV 82
"Erbarme dich" from St. Matthew Passion

G. F. Handel:
Concerto Grosso in A major, Op. 6, No. 11
"Ombra cara" from Radamisto
"Furibondo spira il vento" from Partenope
Passacaglia from Radamisto, Act II
Mad Scene from Orlando

David Daniels and the English Concert perform the 7:30 concert April 1 at Zankel Hall. For tickets, priced $56-$62, visit Carnegie Hall.

For further information and a list of upcoming North American tour dates, visit David Daniels' website at

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