A couple of weeks ago I went to yet another concert featuring the music of Benjamin Britten sung by the tenor Nicholas Phan, the same singer I heard in my first concert in New York City. This time, he was accompanied by a pianist, a horn player, and a harpist by the name of Sivan Magen. Sivan Magen is sort of a superstar - as I explained to my nonmusician friend whom I dragged along, in the harp world, he is a BIG DEAL. Several years ago he was the first Israeli to win the international harp competition in Israel. Now, after hearing him play, I get why. Not only did his performance sound completely flawless, but watching him play is fascinating. He is so poised, and his movements just look totally controlled and precise.
Nicholas Phan &friends performed music from his latest Britten album (which I obviously had to get), “Still Falls the Rain.” This included several folk songs (which are some of my favorites), Canticle V: The Death of Saint Narcissus (which is weird, but cool), and also Canticle III: Still Falls the Rain, which I had never heard before, and is a beautiful piece.
Can I just mention how much I LOVE when a performer can talk casually to the audience during their concert? I just think it makes the performance so much more personal and enjoyable. It always makes me feel like the performer really cares about what they’re doing - that they’re not just getting paid to show up and play a concert, but they also want you to enjoy and learn something about the music. Although Nicholas Phan confined his speech to information about the music and the composer, I think classical musicians could go further than that. Whenever you see rock/pop musicians perform (though, granted, I haven’t seen many of these) they tell the audience about themselves, their music, and sometimes even ask their audiences questions. It almost feels like they’re having a conversation with their listeners, and I think this would work for classical concerts, too. For example, I would have wanted to know how/why Nicholas Phan became such a Britten aficionado, or how he met the other musicians he was working with, and what their personal connection with Benjamin Britten’s music is.
It was a great concert. And afterwards, I super awkwardly introduced myself to Nicholas and Sivan, and asked them to sign my cd.
Which they did.
In other news, I am playing my very first concert in New York City tomorrow night! The Mannes Orchestra, Salvation Army Theatre, 7:30.