“The glue that holds the whole enterprise together, though, is undoubtedly Middleton. His piano-playing is at once razor-sharp and meltingly seductive. It sparkles with wonderful little details without unnecessarily drawing attention to itself; it lets all the wit and power of Wolf’s piano-writing shine through without ever risking overpowering the singers. In short, it’s playing that strikes an ideal balance, helped by characteristically fine engineering from BIS…Choosing to present the songs in published order, they offer a performance to cherish: fresh, intelligent and beautifully sung and played. It’s a considered studio account in contrast to the more playful recent live recording from Kaufmann, Damrau and Deutsch, but if anything all the more affecting as a result…This new recording, however, makes a good claim to join the finest in the catalogue, with the familiar partnership of Carolyn Sampson and Joseph Middleton bolstered by fellow Brit Allan Clayton, a singer heard all too rarely in lieder, on record at least…All in all, this adds up to a beautiful new recording of a wonderful work.” Highly recommended.
Gramophone Magazine Editor’s Choice,
Gramophone Magazine Discs of the Year, 2022
* DIAMANT d’Opéra Magazine
* Opus Klassik – Best Lied Disc Nomination
* International Classical Music Awards Nomination
* Winner of Priz Caecilia
Already noticed in our columns in other programs, pianist Joseph Middleton now counts, alongside his predecessors Gerald Moore, Geoffrey Parsons, Dalton Baldwin, Graham Johnson and others, among the great accompanists of the English language. His flexible and intense playing, attentive and imaginative, greatly contributes to the success of an album with a program a priori austere, but rich in beautiful musical discoveries…In a program already visited by others before him, the young German baritone Samuel Hasselhorn establishes himself as one of the best Liedersänger of his generation. High class accompaniment from Joseph Middleton.
Déjà remarqué dans nos colonnes dans d’autres programmes, le pianiste Joseph Middleton compte désormais, aux côtés de ses devanciers Gerald Moore, Geoffrey Parsons, Dalton Baldwin, Graham Johnson et d’autres, parmi les grands accompagnateurs de langue anglaise. Son jeu souple et intense, attentif et imaginatif, contribue pour beaucoup à la réussite d’un album au programme a priori austère, mais riche de belles découvertes musicales. Dans un programme déjà visité par d’autres avant lui, le jeune baryton allemand Samuel Hasselhorn s’impose comme un des meilleurs Liedersänger de sa génération. Accompagnement de grande classe de la part de Joseph Middleton.
“it’s high time Joseph Middleton made an album of solo Schumann piano music.”
“Middleton shows why he is in such demand as a collaborative pianist. His caressing of the gentle songs and declaratory articulation of others displays artistry of the highest order…The performance is riveting…This program is so carefully planned and so superbly performed…I found it captivating.”
American Record Guide
“Tempos are flexibly contoured to the words so sympathetically in ‘Du Ring an meinem Finger’ that vocal line and piano seem to be floating together. More daring decisions include ‘Süsser Freund, du blickest mich verwundert an’ at such a slow tempo and with such eloquent rhetorical pauses that it clocks in at 4’27”, in comparison to 3’07” with Dorothea Röschmann and Mitsuko Uchida (Decca, 12/15). Surprisingly, it works – entrancingly. That and other solo piano interludes are so imaginatively played that it’s high time Joseph Middleton made an album of solo Schumann piano music.”
“the utter desolation at the end of Frauenliebe’s last song is heart-rending. Middleton is a magician of moods, his wonderfully enriching rubato the lynchpin of a disc that, ultimately, posts a balance-redressing love letter to Robert and Clara.”
BBC Music Magazine
“Performances are as accomplished as we might expect from Sampson and Middleton. The insight of one is matched instinctively by the response of the other. It is good that Joseph Middleton has the opportunity to play some brief but telling solos…. Gratitude all round is due here. This is a must for any lovers of the musical world of the Schumanns.”
Disc of the Month – Recommended
Music web International
“A magnificent song recital debut. Middleton is one of the best collaborative pianists of his generation. His command of dynamics, nuances of phrasing and precise articulation are superb. Together this team has given us a splendid album.”
R Moore: American Record Guide.
Zauberer am Klavier
Der Pianist Joseph Middleton, der mir aus diversen Recitals mit Carolyn Sampson in frischer und allerbester Erinnerung ist, leistet auch hier wieder Außergewöhnliches – ein Poet und Magier an seinem Instrument, der gemeinsam mit der Sängerin in die tiefsten Innenräume der Lieder dringt, wie man das sonst nur in besonderen Glücksmomenten erleben kann. Was ich an Sampsons Schumann-Interpretationen zu rühmen wusste, die unerhörte Intimität des Vortrags, gilt im gleichen Umfange auch für Ruby Hughes, was auf einen starken Einfluß des Pianisten schließen lässt, dem die Sängerin auch im Booklet für die musikalische Inspiration und die große Freundschaft ausdrücklich dankt. Middleton ist auch der ideale Interpret für den amerikanisch geprägten Impressionismus der Lieder von Charles Ives, die man so zärtlich und wiederum intim gesungen wie von Frau Hughes nur selten hört.
Wizard at the piano
The pianist Joseph Middleton, who I have fresh and very good memories from various recitals with Carolyn Sampson, is doing something extraordinary again here – a poet and magician on his instrument who, together with the singer, penetrates the deepest interior of the songs, how to do it otherwise can only experience in special moments of happiness. What I praised in Sampson’s Schumann interpretations, the unheard-of intimacy of the performance, also applies to Ruby Hughes to the same extent, which suggests a strong influence by the pianist, whom the singer also found in the booklet for musical inspiration and great friendship expressly thanks. Middleton is also the ideal interpreter for the American-influenced impressionism of the songs by Charles Ives, which are sung so tenderly and again intimately as rarely heard by Mrs. Hughes.
Klassik Heute: http://www.klassik-heute.com/4daction/www_medien_einzeln?id=23699&CDS30
Song Recital Heaven 5*****
“Said and Middleton gave us just the right pacing to draw the listener completely into the inner world of each song…And that set the scene for contrasts, the twists and turns of Schubert’s remarkable 19-verse song-rondo “Viola”. This was stunning, and held the audience completely throughout its span of nearly a quarter of an hour…This was a superbly thought-through and worked performance which had everything. There were miracles of pacing and rubato from Joseph Middleton, delicate holdings-back between verses.”
“very much aided by Joseph Middleton’s elegantly nuanced piano playing…Schubert’s extraordinary ballad epic, Viola — almost a one-woman opera in its dramatic demands — was sustained superbly, with its final refrain, ethereal and touching, seeming to come from beyond the grave.” The Times
Como memorable fue el trabajo del pianista Joseph Middleton. Siempre estuvo ahí como apoyo a la cantante pero también con esa personalidad propia que ya hemos comentado. No se puede entender, ni apreciar un lied sin el acompañamiento de un gran profesional. Muchos de los poemas que se cantaron en esta velada fueron orquestados por Mahler. Es indudable la fastuosidad y la calidad del arreglo del compositor, pero en sus lieder yo prefiero la interpretación a piano, me resulta más íntima, más cercana, más acorde con la voz que la, a veces, apabullante orquesta. Middleton estuvo otra vez brillantísimo colaborando de una forma fundamental al éxito de un recital extraordinario.
How memorable was the work of the pianist Joseph Middleton. He was always there to support the singer but also with his own personality, which we have already commented on in other reviews. You cannot understand or appreciate a lied without the accompaniment of a great professional. Many of the poems that were set to music this evening were orchestrated by Mahler. The lavishness and quality of the composer’s orchestral arrangement is undoubted, but in his lieder I prefer the piano interpretation, they are more intimate, closer, more in keeping with the voice than the sometimes overwhelming orchestra. Middleton was once again brilliant, collaborating in a fundamental way to the success of an extraordinary recital.
“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
CD of the Month BBC Music Magazine and Musicweb International
“Middleton is outstanding, his reputation as a rising star among accompanists richly deserved…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’.”
Gramophone Magazine, Tim Ashley
“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.”
“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
“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 5* Performance, 5* Recording
“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
“Middleton is outstanding, his reputation as a rising star among accompanists richly deserved.”
Gramophone Magazine, Tim Ashley
4**** for CD
“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**** for CD
“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.”
“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
“what an absolute and total gem is this Songs to the Moon. Two whole CDs of brilliance, I think. Using the moon as a thematic binding, we have pieces from Schumann, Brahms, Massenet, Barber and more. In places, I think it is devastating, like Debussy’s ‘Apparition’ … Another favourite is the Liederkreis, Op. 39: No 5, ‘Mondnacht’ … Against utterly sublime & heartbreaking piano, which does have something of the impact for me of Britten’s playing, which I love, this one otherworldy track is worth buying the whole album for alone. The singing has such beauty it could make you weep.”
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
“This duo was close to perfection…this was quite simply a knock-out concert, from every angle and particularly in the detail…Middleton’s bird-song-like flourishes in Coates’ Bird songs at eventide and control at the ends of songs, and for that matter his seamless entrances into each, were nothing short of brilliant. His playing was fluid and attentive. Their combined music-making was truly evocative of the landscapes and narratives it aims to capture…
Allen and Middleton’s performance seemed to catalyse a transcendental feeling between composer, composition and performer, creating the illusion that the songs were written for them. Not only this, but the line between vocal and instrumental became blurred. Both performers displayed the ultimate expression of both.”
Imogen Phoebe Webb, Bach Track, 1 April 2016
“on the evidence of the four recitals I attended, this year it has fully realised its potential and become an event of international stature. It now attracts a large, loyal and knowledgeable audience, and not just from the locality. It has had the good fortune to attract as Director Joseph Middleton, and for the 2016 Festival, Roderick Williams. Some of the best British lieder singers were engaged, and the programming was imaginative and adventurous – characteristics essential to justify the epithet “festival”, but often absent.”
Anthony Ogus – Opera Now
“The Leeds Lieder Festival is a compact triumph of outstanding art song…Middleton’s contribution comprised a meaty recital of Nordic songs – Grieg, Sibelius and the Swede Gosta Nystroem – leavened with Debussy’s Chanson de Bilitis, Wolf’s Mignon Lieder and Wagner’s enamoured settings of verse by his would-be mistress Mathilde Wesendonck, sung by 1995 Cardiff Singer of the World, Katarina Karneus…She is an accomplished linguist and sings with rare intelligence and dramatic involvement, especially in Wolf’s Kennst du das Land – the most famous of the Mignon settings – and the Wesendonck settings , in which Middleton’s playing evoked the sound of an orchestra, implied in both composers’ works.”
Sunday Times – Hugh Canning
“the Leeds Lieder Festival, which becomes more sumptuous every time it occurs…Things are looking up for Leeds Lieder. What the visionary Jane Anthony founded now has the young and energetic Joseph Middleton as its Director, work with schools is increasing, there is increased funding from the Arts Council, and the next festival will begin in a year’s time, on 21 April 2017.”
Bachtrack – Richard Wilcocks
“Leeds Lieder is a cute but not entirely accurate name for a festival that takes in every kind of art song, not just German. And it’s flourishing. There was a time when serious song was an endangered species, it was certainly a hard sell. But the packed audiences for this annual Yorkshire fixture tell a different story. And telling stories in song was the theme of the 2016 programme, run by accompanist Joseph Middleton and baritone Roderick Williams…there was a relentless sequence of superb recitals…Outstanding performances…A revelation.”
Michael White – Catholic Herald
“Three days of classy song recitals. And it had me smiling throughout…Administered by Joseph Middleton (one of the best accompanists I know) and Roderick Williams (the most eloquent of baritones and so damn nice you want to hug him), it was round-the-clock, relentless, but with concerts of surpassing quality.”
Michael White – Classical Music Magazine
“Joseph Middleton is a brilliant accompanist – his evident qualities further evidenced by the roll call of singers who have chosen to work with him (it includes Ian Bostridge, Sir Thomas Allen, Iestyn Davies, Christopher Maltman, Mark Padmore, Amanda Roocroft and Ailish Tynan)…Turina’s writing in this ‘Dedicatoria’ is a brilliant ‘translation’ of that kind of guitar music and was superbly played by Joseph Middleton.”
“Soprano Carolyn Sampson, countertenor Iestyn Davies, and pianist Joseph Middleton gave a lunchtime Prom at the Cadogan Hall which was chamber music of the highest quality…the performers’ consummate musicianship…a pleasure in itself.”
The Independent, Michael Church
“This was the last in this year’s series of chamber music recitals at the Proms and I am pleased to say that it was an absolute delight from start to finish…Middleton’s exemplary accompaniment…The performers were greeted with enthusiastic applause from the Cadogan Hall audience and performed Quilter’s Weep you no more as an encore. Overall, this was superlative music making of the highest order – bravo to all the performers!”
Seen and Heard International, Robert Beattie
“Joseph Middleton supported the singers with a dexterity that matched the joy he had in his playing, a broad smile almost constantly visible. In the solo numbers both vocalists showed their mettle: clear diction and clean attack; in the duets their voices matched pleasingly…There was room for an encore – another Quilter setting of, as Davies remarked, “that prolific 16th-century author, Anon” – ‘Weep ye no more sad fountains’, its nostalgic mood perfectly matching the poignancy of the end of the Proms.”
Classical Source, Nick Breckenfield
Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham
Perhaps England’s greatest exponent of Schubert lieder, Ian Bostridge… was accompanied by another award winner, Joseph Middleton…Aided by the considerable keyboard technique of Middleton, the pair progressed together to present a performance that, with an impressive range of dynamics and colour, was both exceedingly intense and sincere…– a great interpretation.
As the last note died away, Bostridge and Middleton remained motionless. It was over a minute before the enthusiastic applause broke the trance. The execution of the duo of Schubert’s Winterreise had been a magnificent obsession.
Geoff Read, Musicweb International
“The cream of the new generation” The Times
RISING STAR ‘GREAT ARTISTS OF TOMORROW’
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
*Rising Star: Great artists of tomorrow*
Middleton, aged 32, is one of the brightest stars in the world of song and Lieder, performing with the likes of baritone Sir Thomas Allen, sopranos Dame Felicity Lott and Clara Mouriz and tenor Toby Spence.
BBC Elizabeth Davis, BBC Music Magazine, November 2013
Alice Tully Hall, New York debut
Sarah Connolly, whose superlative matinee on Sunday at Alice Tully Hall had Joseph Middleton at the Steinway, is at the peak of her career…Ms. Connolly and the impressive Mr. Middleton, meanwhile, flaunted their versatility. Opening with Schubert’s three “Ellens Gesänge,” they brought an otherworldly confidence to the “Ave Maria.” Each of five of Copland’s intriguingly varied “12 Poems of Emily Dickinson” had a distinct mood, while in Elgar’s “Sea Pictures” even Ms. Connolly’s breathing seemed part of her supremely noble phrasing. The encores, Handel’s “Ombra mai fu” and Howells’s “King David,” exuded poise and dignity. This was everything a recital should be.
David Allen, The New York Times, 13 April 2015
Sunday April 12, 2015 – The final concert in our Great Performers at Lincoln Centersubscription series, this recital at Alice Tully Hall by the English mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly was as fine an evening of song as I have ever experienced; both the singer and her songs stood proudly in my memory-pantheon of great vocal recitals which reaches back to the 1960s when I met Dame Janet Baker and which encompasses such paragons of the lied as Christa Ludwig, Elisabeth Söderström, Jessye Norman, Wolfgang Holzmair, and a host of others…The pianist Joseph Middleton was at the Steinway and was an ideal partner for Ms. Connolly with his sensitive, elegant playing. His mastery of piano/pianissimo gradations provided so many passages of quiet rapture throughout the program…Mr. Middleton’s playing had clarity of detail…A whole catalog of descriptive superlatives won’t do justice to this evening’s performance in which singer and pianist found the poetic heartland of the songs and transported us there with the immersive beauty of their entwined voices…In the final “The Chariot”, she and her pianist again found a perfect rapport, and throughout this set (and the entire evening, in fact) there were passages of entrancing delicacy from the keyboard. At the end of “The Chariot” Ms. Connolly sustained the final note in a remarkable pianissimo that hung on the air: a bit of heaven here on Earth…Most musical performances have peaks and valleys; this evening, Ms. Connolly and Mr. Middleton set out on a plateau high in the musical stratosphere and lingered there til the final note, transporting us out of a troubled world and fortifying us with the generosity and sincerity of their artistry. A great night of song.
Fleurs – BIS Records – Nominated for ‘Best Recital’ in the 2015 Gramophone Awards
“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
“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.”
5***** Stephen Pritchard, The Guardian, 29 March 2015
Editor’s Choice for May 2015, nominated for Gramophone Award
“…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
“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
“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
National Concert Hall, Dublin
The distinguished English baritone Sir Thomas Allen accompanied, with impeccable taste, by his younger compatriot Joseph Middleton. This is a marriage of musical minds serving Schubert with total dedication…While wonderfully understated, Joseph Middleton’s accompaniments are still powerfully meaningful as he follows Schubert’s flowing melodic lines with natural grace. Assertive and incisive, he is continuously in tandem with Thomas Allen’s soul-searching insight into Müller and Schubert.
…the voice, aided by the tastefully graded piano accompaniment of Joseph Middleton, still asserted its glory or cast its hushed spell. This winter’s journey may have been tinged with the hues of autumn, but it remained an object lesson in concentrated, unflinching characterisation.
The Irish Times
Ably and stylishly accompanied throughout by Middleton, the momentum of the cycle maintains its hold right to the end. In the final two songs, ‘Die Nebensonnen’ (The Phantom Suns) and ‘Der Leiermann’ (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man), singer and pianist project a rapt sense of impassioned stillness, at the end of which Sir Thomas holds the audience in a beautifully extended moment of silence, before the inevitable applause that follows. Standing ovations have become all too common in recent years, but on this occasion the audience’s reaction is spontaneous and well-deserved.
Barber Institute of Fine Arts
What a privilege for a packed house. Here we were listening to Sir Thomas Allen, one of the finest baritones in the world, accompanied by Joseph Middleton, a sensitive and truly talented young pianist…Middleton discreetly joined forces with lovely phrasing and imaginative, but never overwhelming collaborations. His breathless pianissimos are a joy; achingly sad minor passages contrasting with brief flashes of caressing major sunlight. There was splendid clarity for The Post Coach (but, alas, no letter); more ferocity for a brief storm then a heart-stopping velvety long introduction for a“pitiless tavern”…A recital to treasure.
Birmingham Post, 21 October 2014
Queen’s Gate Terrace
For sheer joy – for youthful panache and heartfelt commitment – nothing I have experienced musically this year comes near to matching this lovely soirée, given in the salon of a private house in South Kensington before a small invited audience. What a privilege to be there!
The concert marked the inauguration of a new group, The Myrthen Ensemble, named after a song that Schumann sent to his wife Clara and modelled on the fondly remembered Songmakers’ Almanac. Like the latter, it consists of a pianist and a quartet of singers functioning as a team of friends rather than stand-alone stars – here they are Joseph Middleton, and soprano Sophie Bevan, mezzo-soprano Clara Mouriz, tenor Allan Clayton and baritone Marcus Farnsworth.This line-up represents the crème de la crème of young British-based musical talent…
The programme was most intelligently devised by Joseph Middleton, an unfailingly sensitive accompanist.
The Myrthen Ensemble will be performing at the Wigmore Hall next season. I hope and predict we will be hearing a lot more of them over the coming years.
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 30 March 2012
Llandinam Village Hall
Pianist Joseph Middleton matched Maltman for power in the two Mahler songs, yet the strength of this duo’s performance lay less in their deeply expressive sound than in their expression of humanity…In the hall, the years stood still and raw feelings hit home: hope, honour and despair. Schumann’s setting of Hans Christian Andersen’s Der Soldat, where a commanding officer, facing an execution squad, is shot through the heart by the soldier who loved him, carried an almost unbearable force…deeply compassionate.****
Rian Evans, The Guardian, 27 June 2014
Joseph Middleton, who is already established as an outstanding accompanist of some distinction, showed his burgeoning reputation is fully deserved. He would seem to have a flawless technique and provided Wolfgang Holzmair with nuanced support that was alert to his veteran singer’s every whim.
Jim Pritchard, Musicweb International
Toronto Summer Music Festival
Pure musical magic…Allen and pianist Joseph Middleton put together a recital of German Lieder from the 19th century as well as a selection of 20th century art songs. To call this a class act would be a huge understatement. It was a living, breathing, example of what it means to effectively communicate in song…Allen’s approach [to Dichterliebe] was to keep the emotions from frothing up too mightily, while Middleton’s liquid-velvet work at the piano maintained a discreet counterweight.
John Terauds, Toronto Star
Oxford Lieder Festival
Sir Thomas’s performance of this raw and direct depiction of young love [Schumann’s Dichterliebe] was exactly tailored to the intimate Holywell ambience, with every note and gesture considered and made to count…Prizewinning young accompanist Joseph Middleton provided excellent, unshowy support throughout.
Giles Woodforde, Oxford Times, 26 October 2011
Pittville Pump Room
BBC Radio 3 Recital with Clara Mouriz:
‘Concert-going doesn’t get much more feel-good than this…The two have played regularly together, clearly get on well, and beam broadly as they take the stage – today’s sunny good mood has got to everybody. Smiles, too, at the end of their deftly delivered first half…Expect to hear a lot more from her – and, for that matter, from the effortlessly graceful Middleton too.’
Jeremy Pound, BBC Classical Music Magazine
BBC Radio 3 Recital with Clara Mouriz: icity Lott:
‘I doubt there’s ever been a better English interpreter of melodies than Felicity Lott… In these Poulenc songs, as in everything else, Joseph Middleton was an ideal and highly skilled partner for Dame Felicity.’
John Quinn, Seen and Heard International
Wigmore Hall, London
The contribution of unassuming and beautifully phrased musicianship that Joseph Middleton brought to the accompanists role must impart confidence to a singer in no small measure … Exciting times are ahead for this talented musical partnership.
Musical Pointers, 5 July 2007
Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Their wonderfully supportive pianist Joseph Middleton, so sensitive and subtly shaded in the quieter numbers, dashed off the glittering Hexenlied (Witches’ Song) with virtuosic relish.
David Hart, Birmingham Post, 14 May 2010
Belfast Festival at Queen’s
Joseph Middleton was an outstanding accompanist throughout, providing musical and sensitive support with a formidable pianistic technique.
Belfast Telegraph, 26 October 2010
Pembroke College Chapel
Joseph Middleton is as classy a Lieder pianist as can be found anywhere in the world… McGreevy and Middleton’s first half built inexorably to a magnificent climax with “Mignon: Kennst du das Land.” Goethe’s headily ecstatic vision of a paradise in the south was powerful stuff indeed…the final selection of characterful and lively Chabrier songs again brought out the best of both performers’ musicianship, humour and stagecraft.
Sebastian Scotney, www.bachtrack.com
Swedish mezzo Katarina Karnéus has made all this repertoire very much her own…Joseph Middleton, often noted by Musical Pointers as a special musician, impressed throughout as her equal partner.
Chan Centre, Vancouver
The pianist, Joseph Middleton, a star in his own right, was in perfect sync with Allen throughout the concert. There was a camaraderie and a mutual delight in the music being shared by these two artists that added a very special tone to the evening.
Nancie Ottem, Review Vancouver, 13 June 2012
Barber Institute of Fine Arts
a tidy and logical collection, impeccably delivered by each singer and their pianist Joseph Middleton, whose delicacy of touch and tonal elegance was at all times perfectly judged. And, although the subject matter rarely strayed from romantic love, the treatment and expressive range was remarkably varied.
David Hart, The Birmingham Post, 23 November 2012
Champs Hill Records
5 star review
This beautifully packaged recording brings together songs around the conceit of a weekend love affair, beginning with an innocent young girl’s wonders and fears (the album’s title song, a setting by Benjamin Britten of a poem by WH Auden). The CD moves through a variety of emotions to its close: Britten’s version of the traditional Early One Morning.
In between, 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.
Alexander Bryce, The Scotsman, 17 February 2013, 5*****
Half the fun in anthologies comes from seeing what has been chosen and how the programme has been sewn together…A pair of cabaret songs – Britten’s setting of Auden’s popular poem ‘Tell me the truth about love’ and Weill’s ‘Je ne t’aime pas’, neither of them easy to pull off – fall early and late in what is an imaginative recital of art song. Most of the usual suspects are here but there is also a welcome thread of rarities from composers such as Boulanger, Marx and Dunhill.
How often do we come across Loewe’s playful ‘Ich kann nicht fassen’ or Mompou’s elegiac ‘Damunt de tu, només les flors’? Even better is the grand setting of Verlaine’s ‘En Sourdine’ by Poldowski’s, an interesting contrast to Fauré’s melodie. 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…Mompou’s Damunt de tu nomes les flors (Above you naught but flowers) evokes true sensuality in its direct uncluttered line. Roocroft brings real depth to this song, hinting at memories of Caballe. And we conclude in ecstasy, with Rachmaninov’s Midsummer nights, Middleton revelling in the outrageously elaborate piano part. Roocroft is wonderfully intense here…Roocroft’s performances are always dramatically involving, and she gives each song its own distinctive style. 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.
Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill, 14 February 2013
Joseph Middleton is everywhere a sensitive and imaginative accompanist to Amanda Roocroft, whose intimate, emotionally versatile singing is always engaging…
…beautifully engineered CD, presented in an equally beautiful little Victorian-style photo album.
Hilary Finch, BBC Music Magazine, **** September 2013
Champs Hill Records
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
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]
BBC RADIO 3
Wigmore Hall, London
She and her suave pianist Joseph Middleton were at their most winning in the wry or whimsical light comedy of songs such as Die Kartenlegerin and Ich kann’s nicht fassen — deliciously characterised.
The Times, Richard Morrison
Throughout the cycle Middleton was very much an equal partner, contributing to the intensity with which the songs were projected and characterised, full of vivid emotion.
Planet Hugill *****
This Other Eden – Champs Hill Records
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
Kings Place, Hall One
…Joseph Middleton stole the show in the Liszt selection – especially the balmy “Bells of Marling.
Andrew Clark, Financial Times, 27 June 2013
And her pianist in a thousand, Joseph Middleton, treated Wagner’s phrase endings with as much care as those of the much more individual master song-writers…When Schumann’s first Liederkreis set (Op. 24) nudged Wagner out of the way and Middleton started making wonderfully nuanced connection between several of the songs, we knew we were in another world…Middleton again took the limelight in the elaborate gypsy strains of Liszt’s vivid song-picture “Die drei Zigeuner”, followed by ethereal river music. He made the most of the piano part in the Wesendonck settings, conjuring the oppressive atmosphere of the hothouse and the liberation of dreams.
David Nice, The Arts Desk, 28 June 2013
…Middleton’s animated performances offered great harmonic and stylistic understanding, as well as unfailing support for the singer… Middleton ensured that there was no reason whatsoever to lament the lack of an orchestra…Watson showed herself just as much at ease with the vocal line as Middleton with the gorgeous piano parts, a treat for any pianist with the requisite technique and stylistic command.
Mark Berry, Boulezian, 27 June 2013
With Jung Soo Yun, tenor
The pianist, Joseph Middleton, won the 2010 Ferdinand Rauter Memorial Prize for Accompanists…Middleton was beautifully musical, never over-pedalling, never overbearing, each phrase, gesture or accompaniment pattern carefully considered and weighted…an excellent pianist …One had to admire the ravishing piano playing in ‘Ideale’. Middleton set up the atmosphere perfectly in the space of but a few bars; and ‘L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra’ was nicely impassioned.
Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard International