- 01 – Ralph Vaughan Williams – Songs Of Travel – The Vagabond
- 02 – Ralph Vaughan Williams – Songs Of Travel – II. Let Beauty Awake
- 03 – Ralph Vaughan Williams – Songs Of Travel – III. Roadside Fire
- 04 – Ralph Vaughan Williams – Songs Of Travel – IV. Youth and Love
- 05 – Ralph Vaughan Williams – Songs Of Travel – V. In Dreams
- 06 – Ralph Vaughan Williams – Songs Of Travel – VI. The Infinite Shining Heavens
- 07 – Ralph Vaughan Williams – Songs Of Travel – VII. Whither Must I Wander
- 08 – Ralph Vaughan Williams – Songs Of Travel – VIII. Bright is the Ring of Words
- 09 – Ralph Vaughan Williams – Songs Of Travel – IX. I have trod the upward and downward slope
- 10 – J. Frederick Keel – Three Salt-Water Ballads – I. Port of Many Ships
- 11 – J. Frederick Keel – Three Salt-Water Ballads – II. Trade Winds
- 12 – J. Frederick Keel – Three Salt-Water Ballads – III. Mother Carey
- 13 – Herbert Howells – King David
- 14 – Aaron Copland – At the River
- 15 – Steven Mark Kohn – Ten Thousand Miles Away
- 16 – Nikolai Karlovich Medtner – Night Song of the Wanderer
- 17 – Robert Schumann – Liederkreis Op.39 No.5 Mondnacht
Whither Must I Wander
Will Liverman & Jonathan King
Whither Must I Wander takes its name from one of the Songs of Travel xºby Ralph Vaughan Williams, a song cycle that is at the heart of this release. From the trudging Vagabond to the more playful Roadside Fire and the radiance of Youth and Love, Vaughan Williams explores every bittersweet nuance of journeying.
The album also features the exhilarating vigour of Frederick Keel’s Three Salt-Water Ballads, and the magnificent King David by Herbert Howells. We then travel from England across the Atlantic to hear American songs by Aaron Copland, with one of his Old American Songs, the serene At the River, and by contemporary composer Steve Mark Kohn, whose Ten Thousand Miles Away uses traditional folk song to navigate the emotional strains of missing a loved-one far away.
Liverman and King end their recital with the Goethe-inspired Wanderer’s Night Song by Russian composer Nikolai Medtner, and with the beautiful Mondnacht by Robert Schumann.
“Liverman’s account of the opening song, ‘The Vagabond’, combines a firm, oaky baritone with a sharp interpretive attitude… admirable poise and clarity of intention… this is by any standards a notable debut recital.”
BBC Music Magazine - Terry Blain / April 2020
Performance: FOUR STARS
Recording: FOUR STARS
“Baritone Will Liverman recently became the first African American to sing Pagageno at the
Metropolitan Opera, and this is his debut solo recital.
It’s built around Vaughan Williams’s Songs of Travel, and Liverman’s account of the opening song, ‘The Vagabond’, combines a firm, oaky baritone with a sharp interpretive attitude – this wanderer imparts a sense of coiled expectation without needing to hector aggressively.
Some of the airborne quality of ‘Let Beauty Awake’ is sucked out by the dry acoustic of the recording, which tends to emphasise the piano to the detriment of Liverman. His delicately floated legato at the conclusion of ‘Roadside Fire’ seems almost incidental to Jonathan King’s rippling accompaniment.
Forensic dissection of verbal detail is not Liverman’s thing. In ‘Youth and Love’ his satisfyingly steady tone and ability to distil strong atmosphere without obtrusive interventions make for gripping listening. Similarly, his readings of ‘The Infinite Shining Heavens’ and ‘I Have Trod The Upward And The Downward Slope’ have a palpable melancholy without undue self-dramatisation.
A different acoustic – raggy, with some echo – cloaks the voice for Liverman’s colourful traversal of Keel’s Three Salt-Water Ballads. The unfussy directness of his storytelling makes Howells’s ‘King David’ quietly compelling, and both Medtner’s ‘Wanderer’s Night Song’ and Schumann’s ‘Mondnacht’ have an admirable poise and clarity of intention.
Copland’s ‘At the River’ is taken dangerously slowly, and comes close to feeling sluggish. But most interpretive decisions Liverman makes seem naturally right, and this is by any standards a notable debut recital.
“Nothing short of remarkable… For many years, Bryn Terfel’s 1995 rendition with pianist Malcolm Martineau has been the benchmark, but Liverman offers a new perspective, in a superbly balanced and captured recording… The shaping of Liverman’s phrases and clarity of articulation are matched by King here and throughout.”
The Classic Review - Leighton Jones / February 2020
“Nothing short of remarkable describes this debut album from baritone Will Liverman and pianist Jonathan King. The title “Whither Must I Wander” is taken from the seventh song of the main work, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Songs of Travel”. This song cycle is central to the repertoire of English art songs and the domain of many baritones, including Roderick Williams, Thomas Allen and Simon Keenlyside. For many years, Bryn Terfel’s 1995 rendition with pianist Malcolm Martineau has been the benchmark, but Liverman offers a new perspective, in a superbly balanced and captured recording.
Each singer brings a different take to the “Songs of Travel”. Opening Vaughan Williams’ cycle is “The Vagabond”, which is the most famous of the nine songs comprising the set. The quality of the sound is immediately obvious, allowing the vivid performance to shine through. Liverman takes the tempo striding out, but it doesn’t feel rushed. The shaping of Liverman’s phrases and clarity of articulation are matched by King here and throughout. Liverman communicates his meaning without being over-dramatic or aloof, but with subtle drama, emphasizing the meaning of the text. King’s accompaniment also creates a sense of swaggering and stomping, that never feels heavy-handed.
The contrast between Liverman’s voice and King’s accompaniment in “Roadside Fire” is beautifully executed by both musicians, further revealing the deep musical relationship between the two. Liverman has a remarkable ability to temper his voice without losing tone or color, as exemplified in “Youth and Love”, in which he navigates the different parts of his voice with absolute conviction. “In Dreams” is laden with heavy emotion with a slightly pensive air, and he is able to create an arch of feeling to bridge this song with “Infinite Shining Heaven”. On reaching the closing bars of the final song, “I Have Trod the Upward and the Downward Slope”, one realizes the strength in Liverman’s ability to lead a journey through the song and the cycle. The “Songs of Travel” may not be as profound as Schubert’s Winterreise, but Liverman conjures up the same scope of emotions.”
“Liverman shows himself to be an artist of the first order. His performance here eschews melodrama and his interpretations are understated yet powerfully convincing… The pianist, for his part, always rises to the occasion; his playing is full of adventurous handling of harmony and tone. Together with Liverman’s vivid storytelling, this makes for a profoundly dramatic and characterful performance.”
The Whole Note - Rual da Gama / February 2020
“Wanderlust – both literal and figurative – lies dormant in the human genetic makeup. It is often awakened, especially among artists, and takes flight into both real and imagined landscapes often with breathtaking results. From Wandrers Nachtlied, Goethe’s poetry set to song by Nikolai Medtner, to lieder from Mondnacht penned by Robert Schumann; from Songs of Travel by Ralph Vaughan Williams to King David by Herbert Howells and At the River by Aaron Copland, Whither Must I Wander captures the timeless beauty of man’s propensity for real and imagined travel.
The music is interpreted by Will Liverman, an outstanding lieder singer blessed with a warm-toned baritone. Liverman shows himself to be an artist of the first order. His performance here eschews melodrama and his interpretations are understated yet powerfully convincing. Howells’ King David is typical. Although Liverman is still young, and will surely mature, his singing already combines an authoritative vocal sound with accomplished interpretative insights into the music.
Liverman has an outstanding relationship with pianist Jonathan King. Together the two parley with the familiarity of old friends. The singer is aware of when to recede from the spotlight, making way for King to embellish melodies. The pianist, for his part, always rises to the occasion; his playing is full of adventurous handling of harmony and tone. Together with Liverman’s vivid storytelling, this makes for a profoundly dramatic and characterful performance.”
“… lovely fluid phrasing… well partnered by King’s expressive piano-playing… Liverman and King make a fine partnership and Liverman clearly establishes himself as a young baritone to watch, with a fine sense of both the music and the poetry in song.”
Planet Hugill - Robert Hugill / February 2020
“A young American duo bring out the poetry in an imaginative voyage around RVW's early song cycle Songs of Travel.
For Whither must I wander on Odradek Records the young American baritone Will Liverman is joined by pianist Jonathan King for a programme inspired by RVW's Songs of Travel, so alongside this song cycle we have songs by James Frederick Keel, Herbert Howells, Aaron Copland, Nikolai Medtner and Robert Schumann all linked by the figure of the wanderer.
We start with RVW; his 1904 song cycle sets nine poems from Robert Louis Stevenson's Songs of Travel and Other Verses. The verses were only published in 1896 (two years after Stevenson's death), so RVW was being contemporary in his choice of poet. It was his first foray into writing a song cycle, and has a surprisingly complex textual history. The first eight songs were premiered in 1904, and the publishers refused to print it as a cycle and instead issued it in two volumes. The ninth song, 'I have trod the upward and downward slope' was found amongst RVW's papers after his death.
Will Liverman brings a lovely sense of poetry and swagger to the opening song, this is trope which occurs throughout the cycle but there are plenty of moments of introspection too, and Liverman fines his resonant, bright baritone down for some nicely intimate pieces.
I found a rather nice tactile quality to Liverman's sound, and he is well partnered by King. Liverman's diction is excellent, certainly no need of a printed crib, and he makes the poetry expressive. Perhaps he does not quite capture the more mystical elements of RVW's music, Liverman's wanderer is a very practical, down to earth young man, albeit one with many regrets. The eighth song sees the swagger of the opening returning, but with the posthumously published ninth song we move into more thoughtful territory and the idea of a new journey.
James Frederick Keel was both a composer and a singer, he was an early member of the English Folk Song Society, acting as its Hon Secretary between 1911 and 1919. At the outbreak of World War I, Keel and his family were on holiday in Bavaria, and he was arrested and interned in the Ruhleben Internment Camp along with a number of other musicians including the composer Benjamin Dale. Keel's John Masefield settings, Salt Water Ballads, arose out of his experience performing in the camp.
Keel sets three of Masefield's quasi sea chanty poems. The first, 'Port of Many Ships' has the tang of the sea, though the wordiness of the setting does remind you of G&S sometimes. We get more of a touching hint of poetry in the second song, 'Trade Winds' whilst 'Mother Carey' returns us to sea-chanty-ish swagger.
Herbert Howells' 1919 song setting Walter de la Mare, King David, brings a real change of mood, here the wandering is almost internal, a sign of the king's inner restlessness. Liverman sings it with a nice feel for the poetry and lovely fluid phrasing and is well partnered by King's expressive piano-playing, particularly the nightingale.
This is followed by one of Aaron Copland's Old American Songs (the first set of which was premiered by Britten and Pears in 1950). At the River comes from the second set in 1952; originally a hymn tune from 1865, Liverman and King give us a quietly interior performance. And this is well complemented by Steven Mark Kohn's arrangement of the traditional song Ten Thousand Miles Away, very much a poetic ballad.
For the final two songs we get not just a change of mood, but significant changes of style and language. First comes Nikolai Medtner's Wanderer's Night Song from his 1905 Nine Goethe Songs, Op. 6 (a text famously set by Schubert!). This is a striking song, the voice almost intoning whilst the piano seems to evoke bells. Then finally we get a beautifully phrased account of Mondnacht from Schumann's Liederkreis Op. 39. No matter how finely these last two are performed, they do seem to somehow break the mood of the recital, but the Schumann did make me interested in hearing Liverman in the whole Liederkreis.
This is a fine recital disc (not quite a debut disc, though Liverman's only other recital disc concentrates on gospel music and spirituals), and an imaginative attempt to programme around RVW's popular song cycle. Whilst there are, inevitably other recordings by other singers (a certain Welsh baritone anyone?), Liverman and King make a fine partnership and Liverman clearly establishes himself as a young baritone to watch, with a fine sense of both the music and the poetry in song.
“… his timbre is rich and attractive and, best of all, his diction is crystal-clear… a very good first outing for this immensely talented baritone. I hope to hear much more of him in the future.”
The Art Music Lounge / December 2019
“This is the recording debut of Will Liverman, a baritone whose operatic roles seem to encompass much older, light roles such as Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Marcello in La Bohème and Figaro in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, but he has also sung in productions of Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges and Glass’ Akhnaten, and he created the role of Dizzy Gillespie in Daniel Schnyder’s short-lived opera Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Opera Philadelphia. Judging from his vocal timbre, however, I’d say that he is a dramatic baritone in the making.
The opening song, “The Vagabond” from Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel, is one that I know very well from the old Peter Dawson recording. Liverman’s voice is solid from the mid-range up, but in lower notes it has a loose vibrato, yet his timbre is rich and attractive and, best of all, his diction is crystal-clear. He doesn’t quite sing this song with the relish that one heard from Dawson, but then, neither does anyone else, not even Bryn Terfel. He does, however, color and shade the voice nicely. Obviously, then, he is a conscientious artist, and thus I have to give him points for that.
His accompanist, Jonathan King, is a member of the modern piano school. Everything is played crisply, with excellent technique, generally brisk tempi and a nice glitter to the tone without ever really sounding as emotionally engaged in the music as Liverman is. The effect is something akin to listening to Hermann Prey singing with a piano roll, but at least Liverman’s artistic sensibilities keep us engaged, and he floats a nice D-flat at the end of “Roadside Fire.” There were several moments in this recital when it suddenly struck me that there are parts of his voice that reminded me very much of young Leonard Warren. He clearly has the ability to both soften and open his voice up, much like young Warren.
When we reach Frederick Keel’s 3 Salt-Water Ballads, the recorded sound changes. No longer is Liverman’s voice recorded crisply and clearly, but rather swimming in too much reverb, as if he were singing in an empty high school locker room. Yet his artistic sensibilities remain intact; in fact, if anything his interpretation of the words in these songs is even a bit livelier than before.
On the downloaded tracks I reviewed this CD from, there was scarcely any space between the last of Keel’s songs and Herbert Howells’ King David, but by and large I found the latter a pretty boring song, with nothing much musically going on in it. Aaron Copland’s setting of the old folk song At the River has been done to death by singers over the years, but Liverman’s surprisingly soft, delicate approach to the song breathes fresh life into it. I had never heard Steven Kohn’s Ten Thousand Miles Away, but it sounded to me like yet another British “salon song” of the 1910s or ‘20s.
I was particularly happy to see that Liverman chose to sing one of Nikolai Medtner’s songs; so few artists sing them nowadays, and they’re generally excellent. This one is no exception, calling for the baritone to sing fairly low in his range. Liverman sings it with great expression, though his Russian diction needs some work.
The recital closes with the most familiar song on the entire album, Schumann’s Mondnacht. Liverman does a nice job on it, but I think he should have sung it a key or two higher since the notes he tries to “float” on here lie smack in the middle of his range and are not conducive to that sort of thing. Other than that, he does a nice job on it, the second chorus coming out more successfully than the first.
Overall, a very good first outing for this immensely talented baritone. I hope to hear much more of him in the future.
“Will Liverman is quickly gaining a reputation for his compelling performances…”
Broadway World / December 2019
“On Friday, January 10, 2020, baritone Will Liverman and pianist Jonathan King release their debut album Whither Must I Wander on Odradek Records. Whither Must I Wander is an exquisite recital of songs on the theme of travel by composers by Ralph Vaughan Williams, J. Frederick Keel, Herbert Howells, Aaron Copland, Steven Mark Kohn, Nikolai Medtner, and Robert Schumann.
The artists explain, "Whither Must I Wander is born out of our own adventures, each song curated to tell a story inspired by our experiences. As lifelong friends and musical colleagues, we hope always to wander; towards new destinations, new discoveries, new relationships, and always home to share our story. The CD takes its name from one of the Songs of Travel by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a song cycle that is at the heart of this release. From the trudging 'Vagabond' to the more playful 'Roadside Fire' and the radiance of 'Youth and Love,' Vaughan Williams explores every bittersweet nuance of journeying."
The album also features Frederick Keel's exhilarating Three Salt-Water Ballads and Herbert Howells' magnificent King David. The program then crosses the Atlantic to America for Aaron Copland's serene At the River and contemporary composer Steve Mark Kohn's Ten Thousand Miles Away, which uses traditional folk song to navigate the emotional strains of missing a loved-one far away. Liverman and King end the recital disc with the Goethe-inspired Night Song of the Wanderer by Russian composer Nikolai Medtner and the beautiful Mondnacht by Robert Schumann.
Liverman, an ambassador for diversity in the arts, grew up surrounded by gospel music in the Pentecostal Churches of Norfolk, Virginia. His musical education in piano and vocal studies enabled him to visit the Metropolitan Opera at age 15, a transformative moment that inspired Liverman to pursue singing as a career, with such success that he made his own Metropolitan Opera debut in recent years.
Liverman outlines this remarkable journey in his artist biography, included in the album booklet: "Being an artist of color in a Eurocentric art form was an uphill battle, but each rejection served as motivation. Eventually, I won a few major competitions, received some grants, and started making significant operatic debuts. Life came full circle when I made my Metropolitan Opera debut, having been that 15-year-old kid watching opera for the first time."
About Baritone Will Liverman: Called "one of the most versatile singing artists performing today" (Bachtrack), Will Liverman is quickly gaining a reputation for his compelling performances, while making significant debuts at opera houses across the world.
Engagements this season include his return to the Metropolitan Opera as Papageno in its holiday production of The Magic Flute, in addition to Philip Glass' Akhnaten (Horemhab). He also appears as Pantalone in The Love of Three Oranges at Opera Philadelphia, as Marcello in La bohème at Seattle Opera, and as Silvio in Pagliacci at Opera Colorado and Portland Opera.
Liverman has performed the leading role of Figaro in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia with Seattle Opera, Virginia Opera, Kentucky Opera, Madison Opera and Utah Opera. He originated the role of Dizzy Gillespie in Charlie Parker's Yardbird with Opera Philadelphia, in addition to performing the role with English National Opera, at the Apollo Theater, and with Lyric Opera of Chicago and Madison Opera. Other recent highlights include The Magic Flute (Papageno) with Florentine Opera and Central City Opera; Fellow Travelers with Lyric Opera of Chicago (Tommy McIntyre); La bohème ( Marcello) with Portland Opera; Le Comte Ory (Raimbaud) with Seattle Opera; The Rape of Lucretia (Tarquinius) and The Ghosts of Versailles (Beaumarchais) with Wolf Trap Opera; The Manchurian Candidate (Andrew Hanley) with Minnesota Opera; Les mamelles de Tirésias (the Husband) with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago; Menotti's The Last Savage (Protestant Minister) with Santa Fe Opera; Mr. Noye in Noye's Fludde as a guest artist at Wheaton College; and soloist engagements with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Seattle Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Las Vegas Philharmonic, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, South Dakota Symphony, the University of Chicago, and the New York Festival of Song.
Liverman is a recent recipient of a 3Arts Award and a George London Award, a winner of the Stella Maris International Vocal Competition, and a recipient of a Gerda Lissner Charitable Fund Award, in addition to being a Luminarts fellow in the classical division, and a grand finalist in the 2012 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. Previously, he was a member of the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and a Young Artist at the Glimmerglass Festival. He holds his Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School, and a Bachelor of Music degree from Wheaton College.
Visit www.willliverman.com for more information.
About Pianist Jonathan King: Jonathan King, an active pianist and conductor based in Baltimore, MD, currently serves as Associate Music Director at Church of the Resurrection in Lutherville, MD and Choral Activities Graduate Assistant at the University of Maryland, where he has directed the University Chorale and served as Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor with Maryland Opera Studio. He has previously served as an assistant conductor to the UMS Choral Union, a Grammy® Award-winning ensemble that regularly collaborates with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and has prepared choirs for eminent conductors including Leonard Slatkin, Marin Alsop, and Gianandrea Noseda. King has also worked closely with American conductor John Nelson, assisting in several performances with the Chicago Bach Project, Orchestre de chambre de Paris, and the MasterWorks Festival in Winona Lake, IN. King has served as a répétiteur with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and at the Oregon Bach Festival, where he has also served as assistant conductor during their 2018 and 2019 seasons.
As a collaborative pianist, King has worked with celebrated singers including J'nai Bridges, Nicole Cabell, and baritone Will Liverman, with whom he was a semi-finalist in the 2015 and 2017 Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition in London. King and Liverman have recorded with Skillman Music, Odradek Records, and Deutsche Grammophon, and maintain an active recital schedule. Mr. King is currently completing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Conducting at the University of Maryland, where he studies with Edward Maclary. He completed two Master of Music degrees-in piano chamber music and choral conducting-at the University of Michigan, where he was the recipient of the Edward P. Frolich and Brehm Fellowship awards. His mentors include Martin Katz, Julius Drake, Daniel Paul Horn, and Jerry Blackstone.
Visit music.umd.edu/jonathan_king for more information.