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British soprano Juliet Fraser brings haunting fragility and intimacy to her first Chicago solo performance

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On a dazzling new recording for Hat Art, British soprano Juliet Fraser brings haunting beauty and weightless precision to Morton Feldman’s Three Voices (1982), an epic work simpatico with her skill for navigating pieces of exquisite delicateness. Originally composed for experimental singer Joan La Barbara, it asks the performer to sing with two prerecorded parts as a tribute to Feldman’s fellow New York School artists, poet Frank O’Hara, who died in 1966, and painter Philip Guston, who passed in 1980. For Feldman the combination represented the dead mixing with the living, and Three Voices’ mostly wordless melodic shapes demand great harmonic and rhythmic accuracy as they develop at a sensual crawl, casting a mesmerizing spell. Performing Frank Denyer’s skeletal “A Woman Singing” (2009), which is featured on his portrait CD Whispers (Another Timbre), Fraser gently pours her inner thoughts directly into the ears of the listener. I haven’t heard most of this weekend’s program, but based on the works I do know, it promises more of that fragility and sympathetic intimacy. Lawrence Dunn’s “While We Are Both” calls for a serene reading of poetic text, while in Eleanor Cully’s “I, as Mouth” barely audible vocals are fed into transducers, triggering the surfaces of various resonant objects; the program also includes work by Cassandra Miller and Christopher Butterfield, two stunning Canadian composers. Fraser will also conduct an informal workshop on composing music for the voice on Saturday at 1 PM at the same venue.   v

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