Reviews: Were I With Thee

One of the finest art song CDs ever.

“Were I With Thee is a ground-breaking art song CD of twenty-first century sensibility. … the disc features the sensuous voice of soprano Michelle Areyzaga with sensitive accompaniment by pianist Dana Brown. … All texts are by women. … Fifteen of the twenty-six songs have texts by Emily Dickinson, including three settings of Wild Nights, each reflecting a composer’s personal understanding. … Ms. Areyzaga’s singing is a clear communication of the poet and composer. These performers bring Emily’s words to life; … Ms. Areyzaga’s beautiful, creamy voice, … a tour-de-force of expression … remarkable collection of American songs … accompanied by Mr. Brown who has been a superb collaborator in this 74 minute musical exploration.”

—John CampbellArtsong Update

5 Stars: A triumphant song recital by Michelle Areyzaga and Dana Brown

“…the music on Were I With Thee is an outpouring of extended and often passionate lyricism. The songs greatly benefit greatly from a singer who is a consummate vocal actress, one who can express the poet’s and composer’s vision with commitment, subtlety, and diction that is both crystal clear and natural. Soprano Michelle Areyzaga fulfills all these criteria in grand, masterful fashion. Her beautiful, silvery lyric soprano soars easily from an opulent middle register to a brilliant top. And Areyzaga sings all of the songs on this recital with complete mastery of both the technical and interpretive hurdles. In the bargain, Areyzaga radiates a joy in the repertoire and the act of singing it. Pianist Dana Brown is a marvelous partner, likewise a master of both the technical and interpretive aspects of the repertoire. … A marvelous recital.”

—Ken MeltzerFanfare

Five Stars: A fascinating idea, brilliantly realized both in terms of programming and of execution

“This is a beautiful extension on the glorious present interest in music by female composers from all periods: here, we have a selection of songs that set women’s words.”

“… Michelle Areyzaga’s voice: perfectly placed, lovely legato, and capable of real strength at climaxes. … Areyzaga’s partner here is the pianist Dana Brown, whose contributions are perfectly realized. … Areyzaga’s caressing way with the melodies is most appealing. … A significant part to the equation for success here is Areyzaga’s purity of intervals: slurs have a completely natural quality about them.”

—Colin ClarkeFanfare

This release could not be more highly recommended.

“Soprano Michelle Areyzaga is one of those treasured singers who creates gold out of everything she touches, conceiving compelling projects and executing them with exceptional skill. Her latest release, Were I With Thee, may be her finest achievement yet. It presents a selection of outstanding art songs with texts by women writers. This simple concept has not been done as often as one might assume, and rarely, if ever, has it been carried out with such a high level of excellence.

“… an illustration of Emily Dickinson by one of her living descendants, Kandice Dickinson, adorns the cover of the disk. It is that kind of attention to detail that elevates this recording from very good to truly great. Twelve of these twenty-six songs are recorded here for the very first time, which only underscores the significance of this release.”

“Areyzaga possesses an exceptionally lovely instrument that she deploys with flawless ease and evenness. Her musical instincts are unerring, and she embraces the rich emotionality of these songs without the histrionic excesses that such repertoire can so easily evoke. Her articulation of these texts, both the English and Spanish, is crystal clear, yet utterly natural.

Pianist Dana Brown is Areyzaga’s equal partner in every way. …these are thickly textured piano parts that a less accomplished pianist might turn to meaningless mush. Brown dispatches them with clarity and precision, yet also wrings every ounce of beauty from them.

—Greg BergNATS’ Journal of Singing, May/June 2022 issue

“A very creative project that assembles Michelle Areyzaga’s inimitable soprano with Dana Brown’s elegant piano, the pair set women’s words to song…Both the artists bring a wealth of talent and skill to the equation, and with writers like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Emily Dickinson, Gabriela Mistral and many others showcased, Were I With Thee makes for a unique and captivating listening experience.” [ Read more ]

—Tom Haugen – Take Effect, April, 2022

“That the material is brought vividly to life by Areyzaga’s stirring soprano, which veritably soars throughout the recording, and Brown’s sensitive accompaniment makes the recording all the more special.

Whether singing at a hush or declaiming ecstatically at full volume, Areyzaga makes a powerful impression, and Brown shows himself to be an ever-empathetic and supportive partner. The two invested themselves fully into these performances and the project as a whole. It’s a celebration of women’s words, yes, but also a very clear confirmation of the performers’ artistry and commitment.” [ Read more ]

—Ron SchepperTextura, February, 2022

“Solid…Masterful… interesting works that deserve further exposure…the Real Deal.”

—Chris Spector Midwest Record, January 4, 2022

“This is the time of year, with concerts scarce on the ground while musicians share holiday time with friends and family, that I turn to new recordings for musical inspiration. A new CD by Chicago-based soprano Michelle Areyzaga and pianist Dana Brown was the perfect tonic as I stayed inside avoiding our first snowfalls of the year.” [ Read more ]

—M.L. Rantala The Hyde Park HeraldJanuary 3, 2022