Classic Kathleen Battle: A Portrait
Kathleen Battle: www.kathleenbattle.com
New York, NY – Sony Classical is pleased to announce Kathleen Battle: The Complete Sony Recordings, the reissue of nine of the legendary soprano's foremost achievements in the studio. Battle, who starred in more than 220 Met performances over the course of her career, made her first appearance at the Met in more than 20 years on November 17, 2016. In the course of a remarkable career, launched in 1973 by mentor James Levine in their shared hometown of Cincinnati, Kathleen Battle has captivated international audiences and taken home numerous awards – among them five Grammys and London’s Olivier Award for her 1985 Covent Garden début as Zerbinetta in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, the first American singer to win that prestigious prize – and become one of classical music’s best-selling artists, collaborating with the various conductors. The Washington Post called her lyric soprano “one of the very few most beautiful in the world.”
The first, originally released in 1984, is her rendition – one of the most enchanting ever committed to disc – of the soprano solo in Lorin Maazel’s Vienna Philharmonic recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. BBC Music Magazine called this “one of the truly great Mahler Fourths … Kathleen Battle’s saintly innocence in the Wunderhorn setting of the finale is a sheer delight!"
Most of the other recordings in this compilation date from the 1990s, when Battle was no longer appearing in opera but concentrating her activities on concerts and recitals. Her repertoire also underwent a transformation in this period, increasingly encompassing pop, jazz, folk, spirituals and other non-classical music. Two of these albums feature the legendary trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis. In Baroque Duet, the two charismatic artists are partnered in works by Bach, Handel and Alessandro Scarlatti.
In A Carnegie Hall Christmas Concert, recorded live in 1991, they are joined by mezzo Frederica von Stade and André Previn conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke’s for a program of favorite holiday-themed selections. Another major event captured live by Sony’s microphones was the soprano’s 1991 Lincoln Center concert with flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal. “The bell-like purity of [Battle’s] voice is delightful in itself,” wrote Gramophone’s reviewer. “Her fluency and evenness, her free production of perfectly steady tone, are all admirable and none too common in the world today (but then, she is generally acknowledged to be one of the leading singers in that world).” American Record Guide concurred: “Her high, pure lyric soprano is infinitely suited to duetting with the flute … Everything is sung beautifully, the coloratura perfectly in place, the few high notes emerging like luminescent diamonds.”
Angels’ Glory, issued in 1995, is another of her highly successful collaborations with leading soloists, an album of spirituals and other sacred traditional songs with guitarist Christopher Parkening. ClassicalNet wrote of it: “Battleis one of that rare breed of artists of whom you always sit up and take notice... Beautifully sung, exquisitely phrased, and musically sensitive.”
Sony Classical’s new 10-CD set is rounded off with a new compilation of Kathleen Battle’s RCA releases, among them her 1977 live Ravinia Festival performance of Bach’s Wedding Cantata and the soprano solo from the Brahms Requiem. She is accompanied by the Chicago Symphony under James Levine, who has been a faithful musical partner throughout her career. Recalling his first encounter with Kathleen Battle, the great American conductor had this to say: “Some singers have little instinct but do have the intellect to balance technical and musical issues. Some have instinct and a beautiful voice but less intellect. I had never come across a more complete talent than hers.” This new Kathleen Battle release will give devotees of this unique American soprano a new opportunity to confirm the maestro’s judgment.
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