Tenor Nicholas Phan to fete Britten and Schubert for the Celebrity Series

April 15, 2014 at 8:44 am

By Aaron Keebaugh

Tenor Nicholas Phan will perform songs of Britten and Schubert THursday night at Pickman Hall.

Tenor Nicholas Phan will perform songs of Britten and Schubert Thursday night at Pickman Hall.

Nicholas Phan has made the music of Benjamin Britten one of his specialties. The versatile tenor’s critically acclaimed recordings and international recitals continue to draw attention to the composer’s lesser-known and least-performed works.

“Part of Britten’s power is that he’s master of the moment,” Phan said in a recent phone interview from his home in New York City. “He’s a master storyteller.”

The fresh-faced 34-year-old has been a champion of Britten’s music since he first discovered the composer’s correspondences while studying music at the University of Michigan. “I was really taken with the love story between Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten,” he said. “I was just fascinated with their romantic relationship that lasted thirty-five years, that it could spawn such beauty.”

Phan will begin Thursday’s program with a selection of Schubert songs with pianist Myra Huang, including the lilting Im Frühling and Frühlingsglaube as well as the spirited Der Musensohn.

Britten and Pears frequently programmed Schubert’s songs on recitals. But there are wider similarities between the older master and the English composer. “Schubert is the first composer to really make a piano accompaniment a distinctive voice, and he really was a genius at realizing the text in music,” Phan said.

“Britten did very much the same for English music in his time,” he added. “Even though his music never apologizes for its technical mastery, he still really maintains this clear emotional core. I think he really understood how to communicate to an audience as a composer,” Phan said. “It’s a testament to the power of Benjamin Britten’s music and how great a communicator he was.”

Nicholas Phan will perform songs by Britten and Schubert, with pianist Myra Huang, 8 p.m. Thursday at Pickman Hall. celebrityseries.org; 617-482-6661.

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