A Verlaine Songbook

Composer Charles Bordes
Ernest Chausson
Déodat De Séverac
Claude Debussy
Gabriel Fauré
Reynaldo Hahn
Poldowski,
Maurice Ravel
Camille Saint-Saëns
Josef Zygmunt Szulc
Performer Joseph Middleton
Carolyn Sampson

Poldowski: Mandoline

Fauré: Clair de lune

Her partnership with Middleton is inspired, his intelligence always evident, particularly in the adventurous modulations of Fauré’s La bonne chanson, Op 61.”

4**** Stephen Pritchard, The Observer

“Carolyn Sampson and Joseph Middleton have turned to Verlaine settings for their new disc…Sampson and Middleton are very much at home in this repertory, frequently functioning as an indivisible unit with sound and sense beautifully fused…Middleton’s playing is marvellously fresh throughout, the thin dividing line between wit and melancholy superbly negotiated…Ariettes oubliées…gets one its finest performances on disc, the slide from eroticism to bitterness immaculately judged. Very fine.”

Tim Ashley, Gramophone Magazine

“Carolyn Sampson and her companion, Joseph Middleton, also show a lot of flair for the various moods of the songs. The soprano, who stands in a series of great British predecessors such as Maggie Teyte and Felicity Lott, is amongst the most important interpreters of the French song…The pianist, who is not required as an accompanist, but as an animator – for crucial things are told by the piano, while the song often remains in a state of hovering – offers a bravura performance, which is always at the service of the music and his partner.” 

10/10, Klassik Heute Recommendation, Ekkehard Pluta, Klassik Heute.de

“Carolyn Sampson has the right vocal color, technique and empathy for these Verlaine settings at the end of the 19th century – and the right piano accompanist…thanks to Middleton, and the best sound technique, the piano part becomes almost psychological, almost illuminated on an orchestral scale… in “La Bonne Chanson” Middleton is more penetrating than even in the old, melancholy and clear recordings of Claude Panzéra and Gérard Souzay…This album is much more intimate, more intense than their recording almost a year ago, the colorful, already extensively and critically celebrated bouquet of flowers, Fleurs’ and consolidates the reputation of this exceptional song team.”

5*****, Harmut Hein, Klassik.com

 


Songs To The Moon

SIGCD443Myrthen Ensemble:
Mary Bevan
Clara Mouriz
Allan Clayton
Marcus Farnsworth
Joseph Middleton [piano]

Signum Classics

 

 

 

 

 

Brahms: Nächtens

Debussy: Apparition

“Middleton is outstanding, his reputation as a rising star among accompanists richly deserved.” 
Gramophone Magazine, Tim Ashley

4****

“An engaging programme, mixing solos by each of the starry young singers with rare ensemble works. Pianist Joseph Middleton excels throughout.”
BBC Music Magazine 

 

“A particular attraction is the inclusion of less well-known duets and quartets, which add to the convivial atmosphere. Joseph Middleton is the imaginative accompanist.”
Financial Times April 22, 2016 by,Richard Fairman

 

4****

“Joseph Middleton reinforces his reputation as the finest accompanist amongst the younger generations…Excellent sound, authoritative notes from Middleton and Richard Stokes, as well as texts and translations add to this rewarding nocturnal journey. Well worth exploring.”
Classical Ear

 

“Undoubtedly the star of the evening, though, was the pianist, Joseph Middleton with his sensitivity to the voices and ability to summon up the mood of each piece through deft use of speed, dynamic and colour.”
Barry Creasy, MusicOMH – Myrthen Ensemble Wigmore Hall Review

 


Nocturnal Variations

Ruby Hughes, soprano
Joseph Middleton, piano
Champs Hill Records
 

 

 

 

 

*CD of the Month BBC Music Magazine Choral and Song, CD of the Month Musicweb International*

Schubert: Im Abendrot

Britten: Evening from This Way to the Tomb

“Hughes has an ace up her sleeve in pianist Joseph Middleton. In Middleton’s version of Mahler’s “Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen” he somehow acknowledges what Mahler’s orchestration does without playing it as a “transcription,” while remaining unconstructed by the piano’s more limited palette. His Mahler “Um Mitternacht” is detailed and magisterially played, and in Schubert’s “Nachtstück” his rendering of an old man’s final harp peroration is lush and comforting. Middleton’s achievement…makes the whole program a far greater musical experience than it might otherwise have been.”
Opera News

 

“Soprano Ruby Hughes moves effortlessly from Schubert’s Nachtstucke to Mahler’s Urlicht and then the sound worlds we’ve just heard (Berg Warm die Lufte & Britten Evening from This way to the tomb), finding moments of heart-stopping beauty as she explores these Nocturnal Variations with pianist Joseph Middleton, who is sensitive to every shift in colour and timbre. I found this a captivating recital.”
Record Review – BBC Radio 3 – Andrew McGregor

 

5*****Performance, 5*****Recording

“Joseph Middleton’s neat and purposeful accompaniments are major assests, and just as Hughes’s singing offers and object lesson in how to bring words and notes together, she and her pianist collaborate as a duo of equals…Each of the performers observes the details of Schubert’s writing…In Mahler…Middleton makes a good deal of the accompaniments that feel orchestrally rather than pianistically conceived…A dream debut.”
BBC Music Magazine – CD of the Month Choral and Song

 

“There is no question, first of all, that we have two major talents here…This is an extraordinary and rather brave CD…Joseph Middleton is a fine musician, technically secure, and fully responsive to Hughes’s, and the composers’, poetic vision…This disc is very special…Something to relish, and a great achievement.”
Musicweb International – Recording of the Month – Gwyn Parry-Jones

 

“a moody, exquisitely realised programme of familiar Schubert and Mahler alongside comparative rarities by Berg and Britten…Hughes’s voice is ravishing, her interpretations wonderfully fresh, and there’s a real sense of give and take between herself and Middleton…there’s an exceptional performance of ‘Um Mitternacht’…Middleton is outstanding, his reputation as a rising star among accompanists richly deserved.”
Gramophone Magazine, Tim Ashley

 


Songs by Purcell, realised by Britten

Joseph Middleton, piano
Robin Blaze
Allan Clayton
Anna Grevelius
Ruby Hughes
Benedict Nelson
Matthew Rose
Champs Hill Records 100th Release
Purcell/Britten: Job’s Curse

Purcell/Britten: If music be the food of love

 

“What riches and pleasures this two-disc set contains…Throughout, pianist Joseph Middleton’s playing is exemplary in its unassertive light-tough clarity, and a superb sextet of young singers offers ideal freshness and variety of timbre and colour…like a box of expensive chocolates, everything one picks out has its own distinctive flavour and charm.” 5*****
The Telegraph – Rupert Christiansen

 

“The Britten realisations of vocal solos and duets (plus one trio) from Orpheus Britannicus  and Harmonia sacra add up to just the right length for two well-filled CDs. Hyperion recorded them complete with an all-star line-up in 1995. Champs Hill’s new set is equally complete and, if anything, the more persuasive of the two…One of the most extreme is ‘Music for a while’, which adds sound effects for the dropping snakes and the crack of whips, and ends like overblown Brahms – enough, I have always felt, to set my teeth on edge and send me running back to Purcell’s original. Maybe not any more. The mellifluous Allan Clayton and Joseph Middleton make no apologies for it. The colours they bring to the music are unashamedly Romantic and Middleton, whose vivid playing is a catalyst throughout the disc, lets himself go in Britten’s scene-painting. This seems to work better than Graham Johnson’s decorous approach on Hyperion…Champs Hill’s recording is also first-rate, giving singers and piano alike tremendous presence. For Purcell, I will still look to period performances. For Britten, this counts as a highly persuasive new release.”
Gramophone Magazine – Richard Fairman

 

“Middleton’s playing is precisely coloured and characterised.” 
4**** Anna Picard – BBC Music Magazine

 

“As pianist, Britten developed elaborate accompaniments for them that today seem a little overworked, but it’s fascinating to hear their period style on these two CDs, especially with the unifying and responsive playing of pianist Joseph Middleton.”
The Guardian – Nicholas Kenyon

 

“The driving force behind this complete survey of Benjamin Britten’s modern realisations of Purcell songs is pianist Joseph Middleton, who features throughout in combinations with six different singers… Britten’s accompaniments are a delicious combination of florid decoration and lightness of touch. Middleton’s realisation of them is exquisite and sympathetic to the countless dramatic hues evoked by his team of singers. A useful and enlightening compendium.” 
4****Ken Walton – The Scotsman

 

“A fine cast of singers…and don’t ignore the contribution of the pianist behind the collection, Joseph Middleton. Casting is split between six singers and part of the joy is wondering who’s been given what…It’s a really entertaining collection highlighting Purcell’s genius, Britten’s ingenuity, and underpinning it all, Joseph Middleton’s casting design and intuitive piano playing. I love this.”
Andrew McGregor – BBC Radio 3 – Record Review

 

“Long an obsession with Britten, Purcell was both inspiration and template for the younger composer and the current collection celebrates that relationship in realisations from 1939 to as late as 1971. There is no weak link among the singers, although Clayton’s tenor and Rose’s rich bass especially impress. Common to all, of course, is pianist Joseph Middleton, refined and adept, for whom this is clearly a labour of love. Excellent recorded sound.”
5***** Classical Music Magazine – Rhinegold

 

“Joseph Middleton is another artist who has become a familiar presence on Champs Hill Records, admired as much for his imaginative programming as for his pianism.” 
Gramophone Magazine – Harriet Smith

 

“one delight after another. Wonderfully agile young singers perform adeptly in the period style you would expect in performance of Purcell’s music but with a different thrust in Britten’s “realized” accompaniments…As for the performance, this is just plain gorgeous singing…Middleton, who is rapidly establishing himself as an important member of a younger generation of accompanists, anchors this set admirably.” 
American Record Guide – R Moore


Fleurs

1440761356fleursCarolyn Sampson, soprano
Joseph Middleton, piano
BIS Records

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Gramophone Editor’s Choice (May 2015)* Nominated for Gramophone Award – Best Recital CD 2015
*Disc of the Month – Radio France (May 2015)*

Fauré: Fleur jetee

Purcell/Britten: Sweeter than roses

The bouquet was Joseph Middleton’s idea, and his fluent and always idiomatic playing accompanies Sampson with glee and grace throughout – first through songs whose English, French, German and Russian texts are all inspired by the rose. Sampson’s soprano luxuriates in the melismas of Purcell’s cool evening breeze, inhabits the passions of Britten’s Pushkin setting, The Nightingale and the Rose and, refreshingly, refuses to over-indulge Fauré’s Roses d’Ispahan.
This programme is the perfect place in which to showcase Richard Strauss’s four Mädchenblumen, after enjoying the free-flight into paradise of his Der Rosenband. Sampson and Middleton nicely choose Schubert’s bosky, frolicking Im Haine rather than the obvious Heidenröslein. And for Verlaine’s poem Green, they veer away from the well-known Debussy and Fauré settings, heading instead towards a beautifully focused performance of Hahn’s Offrande.
Poulenc provides the disc’s title-song – and Sampson and Middleton capture its dark, chaste ecstasy as incomparably as they enjoy the exuberance of their final Chabrier Toutes les flours.

Hilary Finch, BBC Music Magazine

 

Joseph Middleton is a perfect accompanist.
Opera Now, April 2015

 

Highlights of this CD? Every track is a highlight unto itself…Thanks to Sampson’s great artistry and Middleton’s risk-taking approach, everything sounds fresh and vital…a pianist who plays with guts and feeling…the greatness that is this Sampson-Middleton duo.
Fanfare Magazine, Lynn René Bayley

 

The English soprano’s latest recital, Fleurs, has her joining that excellent pianist Joseph Middleton to offer an exquisite bouquet of flower songs. Roses take precedence, and Purcell’s Sweeter than Roses, dressed up by Benjamin Britten, creates a certain frisson with Sampson’s historically informed singing set against Middleton’s resonantly modern piano. Schumann’s vision of a snowdrop is so moving that one might hope that spring would stay right away, while there is a winning strain of mischievousness running through a Richard Strauss poppy song. For some, the “find” may be the languorous post-Debussian world of Lili Boulanger’s lilacs.
A number of pieces are less bloom-specific. Sampson catches just the right mix of the becalmed and bizarre for Poulenc’s Fleurs and is suitably wry in a Victor Hugo dialogue between a butterfly and a flower, set to music by Faure.

The New Zealand Herald, 21 March 2015

 

With pianist Joseph Middleton she savours some choice blooms from, among others, Britten, Chabrier, Schubert, Schumann, Gounod and Strauss, her glorious soprano particularly affecting in Fauré’s Le papillon et la fleur and the wonderfully perfumed Les roses d’Ispahan. Middleton plays with dextrous delicacy throughout and brings real virtuosity to Strauss’s Mädchenblumen. Highly recommended.
Stephen Pritchard, The Guardian, 29 March 2015
Editor’s Choice for May 2015

 

…an imaginatively planned, beautifully executed recital that charms and touches by turns…Carolyn Sampson and Joseph Middleton range well off the beaten track to embrace such rarities as Lili Boulanger’s dreamy, liquescent ‘Les lilas qui avaient fleuri’ and Strauss’s beguiling Mädchenblumen songs…To Schumann’s fragile, self-communing miniatures she brings an ideal delicacy and Innigkeit, not least in the gently floated high notes and magical pianissimo close of the rare ‘Die Blume der Ergebung’. Here and elsewhere Middleton creates limpid, luminous textures and reveals a subtle feeling for Schummanesque rubato…In French song, too, Sampson is in her element, whether in the blithe, seductive grace of Gounod’s ‘Le temps des roses’ or the hothouse torpor of Debussy’s ‘De fleurs’, where she and Middleton respond sensitively to the sultry, shifting harmonies.
Richard Wigmore, Gramphone May 2015

 

Sampson and her superb pianist, Joseph Middleton, make a case for a selection of songs that succeed in producing a dazzling range of intimacy and virtuosity…
James Naughtie, BBC Music Magazine

 

Sampson’s lovely, uncomplicated tone and palpable sincerity are all one could ask for… Marvelously accompanied by pianist Joseph Middleton, who is as sensitive to the expressive demands of a song as to the singer’s interpretative strengths…performances so beautifully sung and accompanied…the recording can be highly recommended.
Jason Victor Serinus, San Francisco Classical Voice, 14 July 2015

 

Sampson and Middleton’s enthusiasm is infectious…It’s a charming recital with pleasant variety, performed with appropriate sweetness and great energy by Sampson and Middleton… Middleton’s playing is stellar…wonderfully delicate, but like Sampson, never sentimental.
American Record Review – Heisel

 

Au piano, Joseph Middleton, avec un talent protéiforme, parvient aussi bien à faire surgir les couleurs chamarrées d’ un orchestre straussien qu’à suggérer les textures féeriques de Lili Boulanger (« Les lilas qui avaient fleuri » index 23) ou la noble et mélancolique épure de « Sweeter than Roses » de leur compatriote Henry Purcell qui ouvre ce disque. Un projet artistique plus ambitieux qu’il n’y paraît et, ici, parfaitement accompli. Un bouquet d’essences rares harmonieusement réunies. A offrir! 
Bénédicte Palaux Simonnet, Crescendo Magazine, Son 10/10, Interprétation 10/10


This other eden

1440758736this-other-edenKitty Whately
Joseph Middleton
Champs Hill Records

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*American Record Guide – Shortlisted for Best Disc of 2015*

Ireland: Earth’s call

Britten: Early morning bathe

 

Her voice is magnificent—warm, voluptuous, and winsome. Her technique is excellent; her diction is pristine; her careful use of dynamics is laudable…Middleton’s partnership is exemplary in the entire program. He performs two short solo pieces, Ireland’s impressionist ‘Spring Will Not Wait’ and Britten’s rollicking ‘Early Morning Bathe’, which suggests the invigoration of a cold dip. ‘The Children’ (Macmillan, 1995) is a powerful setting of Scottish poet William Soutar’s anguish at the Spanish Civil War…It is a deeply moving performance of this brilliantly harrowing work.
American Record Guide – Shortlisted for Best Disc of 2015

 

She receives terrific support from pianist Joseph Middleton, sensitive to Ireland’s fine writing.  This is a perfectly controlled performance…Kitty Whately builds Herbert Howells’ (1892–1983) King David so well, rising to some very fine moments with exquisite piano accompaniment, limpid and sensitive with mezzo and pianist complementing each other’s textures superbly…After Madelaine Newton’s fine reading of Thomas Hardy’s (1840–1928) The Darkling Thrush we have a song by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924), something of an underrated song composer. Here his La belle dame sans merci has a surprisingly spare opening with Whately finding just the right feel before the music turns brighter picking up rhythmically and with Middleton, finely delivering all the changing moods, tempi rhythms and dynamics…Kevin Whately reads a line from A E Houseman’s Spring will not wait before Joseph Middleton plays John Ireland’s piano piece of the same name, a wonderful idea with this pianist catching Ireland’s elusive sound world so well…Benjamin Britten’s (1913–1976) piano piece Early Morning Bathe is a light skittish piece to which Joseph Middleton brings a lovely rippling quality, full of forward motion and richness of tone…This is a terrific debut disc from Kitty Whately…
5* Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer, 24 March 2015

 

Joseph Middleton’s piano accompaniments are equally fine, and he contributes Britten’s horribly hearty solo piece ‘Early Morning Bathe.
4* BBC Music Magazine, Michael Scott Rohan


Love said to me

1440757907love-said-to-meCaroline MacPhie
Joseph Middleton
Stone Records

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poulenc: Violon

Wolf: Mein Liebster singt am Haus

 

Vividly stylish and responsive accompaniment from Joseph Middleton enhances this delightful musical menu…beautifully polished miniatures from Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch…all sung by MacPhie with haunting sensitivity and emotional engagement.
4**** The Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen, November 2014

 

Joseph Middleton, mit dem sie auch im Konzertsaal häufig zusammen arbeitet, ist dabei weit mehr als Begleiter, sondern mit seinem entschiedenen Zugriff eine Art Motors des ganzen Unternehmens.
[Translation: Joseph Middleton, with whom she regularly appears in recital, proves far more than an accompanist, propelling the whole programme with his decisive ownership of the music]

Klassik Heute


You promised me everything

1440758442you-promisedJennifer Johnston – mezzo soprano
Joseph Middleton – piano
Champs Hill Records

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frances-Hoad: Rubbish at Adultery

Frances-Hoad: The Cycle

One Life Stand (2011) for mezzo soprano and piano epitomises the wonderful inventiveness and persuasiveness of Frances-Hoad’s response to iconic compositions of the past, and the thoughtfulness and acuity of her text setting…the melodic arcs soar above diverse scintillating piano textures and figurations which are articulated with bright clarity by Joseph Middleton…[the] piano accompaniment to ‘Rubbish at Adultery’ (meticulously executed by Middleton)
Opera Today


LUDWIG THUILLE: SONGS

1433057772thuille-songsSophie Bevan
Jennifer Johnston
Mary Bevan
Joseph Middleton
Champs Hill Records
Recorded: August 2011
Release date: February 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thuille: Elfen

Thuille: Seliges Vergessen

Middleton is exquisite in every piece…The extremely imaginative songs of Ludwig Thuille are the subject of this thoughtfully prepared program…The three singers sound wonderful together; the colors in the voices line up, and Middleton offers clear and lively support…Sophie Bevan and Middleton play it with great sensitivity…This is a worthy addition to every lieder lover’s collection.
American Record Guide

They’re impeccably sung, with great warmth of tone…some gorgeous ensembles. Joseph Middleton is their indefatigable pianist.
****The Guardian, Tim Ashley

Both singers should be applauded for bringing this long-forgotten repertoire to life, as should Joseph Middleton, who brings sparkle to Thuille’s imaginative and charming accompaniments…This release offers a generous and welcome conspectus of his song output.
Gramophone Magazine, Harriet Smith


Tell Me The Truth About Love

tell-me-the-truth-about-loveAmanda Roocroft, soprano
Joseph Middleton, piano
Champs Hill Records
Recorded: August 2011
Release date: February 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachmaninov: Midsummer Nights

Debussy: La Chevelure

“Joseph Middleton is everywhere a sensitive and imaginative accompanist to Amanda Roocroft, whose intimate, emotionally versatile singing is always engaging… Prologue and epilogue, framing this artful recital are both by Benjamin Britten: first a delicately poised performance of the disc’s title song, the Auden setting ‘Tell me the Truth about Love’; and finally, Britten’s plangent folksong setting, ‘Early one Morning’. In between come treats and rarities.” 4****

BBC Classical Music Magazine, Hilary Finch, August 2013

 

“This is one of the most imaginative solutions to the construction of a song recital that I have ever encountered…The whole programme has been constructed by Joseph Middleton, who explains that the idea was to tell the story of a love affair over a period of a weekend, described as a mini-opera in four acts with overture and postlude…The Rachmaninov song, Midsummer nights is declaimed by Roocroft with the right sense of dramatic involvement, while Middleton copes manfully with the virtuoso ‚Äòaccompaniment’.”

Seen and Heard International, August 2013

 

“an imaginative recital of art song…Roocroft is impassioned in outgoing songs such as Bridge’s ecstatic ‘Adoration’, where accompanist Joseph Middleton is really able to let himself go…persuasively shaped and coloured. The choice of songs, though, is its own strong selling point. It would be nice to think that every weekend fling might be as rewarding as this one.”

Richard Fairman, The Gramophone, June 2013

 

“This is an intelligent and engrossing recital…Roocroft and Middleton’s performance is glorious…Faure’s Fleur jetee (Discarded flower) is altogether a surprise. A brilliant, Erlkonig like, piano part superbly rendered by Middleton, and the highly dramatic song gives Roocroft full rein…And we conclude in ecstasy, with Rachmaninov’s Midsummer nights, Middleton revelling in the outrageously elaborate piano part…In this she is ably supported by Middleton who is dazzling…the whole adds up to a great recital from one of the warmest, vibrant and most human of sopranos.”

Planet Hugill, February 2013

 

“there is much to enjoy, not only in the quality of this well-paired performance, but in the emotional range displayed in a series of musical vignettes…well worth hearing.”

The Scotsman, February 2013, 5*****


Canciones, Memories of Spain

1433058811canciones-memories-of-spainClara Mouriz, mezzo-soprano
Joseph Middleton, piano
Sonimage SON 10902
Release date: July 2010
Recorded: 25-28 May 2009
Venue: Champs Hill, Sussex
Website

 

 

 

 

 

Turina: Cantares

Hallfter: Al que llnda moça

“…plenty of authentic, restrained fire to the Granados and Turina sets and Joseph Middleton’s accompaniments are full of colour”

Classic FM Magazine, October 2010


Elgar in Sussex

elgar-in-sussexFelicity Lott, soprano
Joseph Middleton, piano
Champs Hill Records CHRCD027
Recorded: November 2010
Release date: 26 September 2011
Venue: Champs Hill, Sussex
Website

 

 

 

 

 

Pleading Op. 48

Like To The Damask Rose

“A change of gears and personnel makes for a delightful set of seven songs — an atypical genre for Elgar — taken from both early and mature periods. Soprano Felicity Lott sings with a wonderful purity of tone; the superb balance and clear recorded sound quality with pianist Joseph Middleton make for a memorable listening experience.”

All Music