A baroque bass singer pays tribute, Tudor style to the short-lived pop balladeer Nick Drake, who killed himself in 1974. Captivating and sincere, Frederiksen never strays near to pastiche or kitsch: this is an exhilarating re-imagination in a period adaptation of uncanny aptness. Not to be missed.
*Norman Lebrecht is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and other publications. He has written 12 books about music, the most recent being "Why Mahler?". He hosts the blog Slipped Disc.
Anyone hungering for an America purer and more innocent than surely it ever was could hardly do better than spinning The Rose of Sharon. Its presiding genius is Joel Frederiksen, an American-born and -trained lutenist and bass (singer) who has created his own performing group, Ensemble Phoenix Munich, in his adopted home city. This CD might be the best thing homesickness has produced since Dvorak crossed the Atlantic both ways.The instrumental playing, including a foot-tapping "Dixie Land" and some really wicked fiddling, is as bewitching as the singing, but it's the unfamiliar music that most fascinates. There are hymns aplenty, and ballads, including the ironically entitled "The Gentleman Soldier," which gives an earlier perspective on matters marital and military: "Two wives are allowed in the army, but one's too many for me." But all of this music sticks to your ribs and in your memory, and for an hour at least, you'll be amazed to be an American.
There’s actually a stunning musical range on Rose of Sharon, Rose of Sharon offers a unique historic perspective of the tunes some of our ancestors sung...Frederiksen and his ensemble take us back to the birth of a nation, but to its musical roots...the journey proves worthwhile.
...the real gem here is the disc from the Munich-based Ensemble Phoenix, directed by the American abroad Mr. Frederiksen: a widely varied collection of musical Americana rendered with consistent beauty and restraint. Mr. Frederiksen sets a soulful tone at the start with a solo rendering of the Shaker spiritual ‘Lay Me Low’ and later adds the sober ballads ‘The Death of General Wolfe’ and ‘Captain Kidd.’ This one is to treasure, from beginning to end.
...masterpiece... this current effort to bring this music to life has a genuine air of sincerity and reverence--and if nothing else, it's certainly enlivening and entertaining. Frederiksen is an amazing musician and a uniquely gifted singer, and for that reason alone you shouldn't miss this.”
This album is beautifully connected, taking on a large challenge across a hundred years, and succeeding at every turn.
Frederiksen has compiled a fascinating compendium of “America’s early music”. We hear works that sound like Victorian parlour songs; tunes from the old country’s folk styles; pieces that recall the West Gallery traditions of English country churches. Yet a more confident American identity emerges, trading on a certain directness of manner.
...a revelatory new recording ...a smartly programmed and beautifully performed album. Frederiksen is a terrific singer but also a generous leader and shares the solo opportunities with his fine ensemble. The instrumental selections scored for flute, violin, cello, guitar and drum are played with the ideal blend of polish and grit. Fans of vocal music, gospel, country and bluegrass will all have something to love here. It’s a rare album indeed that will attract fans of both Anonymous 4 and the Punch Brothers. It’s only May, but this one ranks very high on my best of the year list.
The interview with Joel Frederiksen about the DVD Joel Frederiksen: LIVE.
Coloratura Bass and lutenist in one person: The New Shooting Star in Early Music.
The result, with the gorgeous instrumental accompaniment, is astonishingly powerful. As the program is also put together with an ingenious ear and curiosity...it is completely irresistible.
Throughout this superb disc it's apparent that, to bass Joel Frederiksen, the instrument is as much an extension of the voice as the music is of the word...Frederiksen, whose rich, clear bass seems capable of an almost infinite degree of tonal shading. His diction is impeccable, as is his taste, combining as he does a period approach with a looser, more expressive, folk style.
Joel Frederiksen's voice has the affect of suns' rays on a cold winter day: It warms all the way to the tips of the toes and brings even the iciest heart to melting. With his wonderfully flexible and absolutely natural bass voice the singer kidnaps his hearers in long-forgotten sound-worlds: in pieces about existential themes like war, death and love.
Frederiksen...overturns all such clichés with this radical reworking of ancient pops from archival sources. (He) delivers Greensleeves raunchily and at speed, reinterpreting it as a failed roadside transcation between prostitute and client. Two contrasting versions are given of Scarborough Fair and a pair of John Dowland glooms are freshened up with deft changes of mood and insturmentation. What Frederiksen does is not so much song recital as musical storytelling, a forgotten fireside art. How rare to find a recordthat is both historically authentic and truly original.
He is a master of the subtle art of vocal story rendition, and is able to keep his voice in check and at the service of the music. After spending most of my time in this repertory with the likes of Emma Kirkby and Custer LaRue, I was somewhat hesitant when I popped this disc in, but I needn’t have feared; these folks play this music with not only stylistic consistency and admirably facile technique, but with a high degree of affection and obvious love.
Harmonia Mundi continues as classical music’s “class act”, a major label with a distinctive identity and an amazingly consistent level of quality. This delightful and intelligently assembled program shows both why early music continues to attract a loyal following, and just how an intelligently run label can put together a production that stands apart from the boatload of similar stuff dumped on the market each month. This brilliantly sung and played recital is a real gem.
2007 Best of the Year Selection
Joel Frederiksen...brings his delicious, expressive bass voice to more than a dozen Anglo-Saxon tunes...Like a true Renaissance troubadour, he acts out the story of each song with his voice.
The proof that Orpheus lives and is not just a mythical figure from the past delivers Joel Frederiksen. The American with Danish ancestry, who is successful as a singer on the opera stage as well as in the concert hall, has at his disposal a marvelous bass voice with rich, gentle depth, considerable volume, and then also great movement. He accompanies his pleasant singing, which radiates calm, subtly and skillfully himself, much as in his time, Orpheus, but not on a Lyre, instead on an 8-course Renaissance lute. Orpheus, I am is the programmatic title of a lute song by Robert Johnson that Joel Frederiksen sonorously embodies and confidently chose for the title of his enjoyable album.
Frederiksen‘s vocal nuances are splendid. Orpheus, I am is well worth the hour of listening it provides. Frederiksen, with his powerful bass voice, makes a worthy Orpheus.