Thursday, August 2, 2012

Album Review: Joel Frederiksen “Requiem For A Pink Moon–An Elizabethan Tribute To Nick Drake”

Requiem For A Pink Moon1

Requiem for a Pink Moon

Musical mashups are the new thing but, as with many new things, it’s not new at all. A mashup is a meshing, or a blending two or more songs, often in different genre or styles of music, to produce or transform them into a third, distinct musical offering. An example would be The Beatles music arranged and performed by a classical orchestra or a hard rock tune done by a rap artists ala Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” covered by rappers Run–D.M.C.

So, when Joel Frederiksen, an operatic bass singer, decides to cover Nick Drake, an English folk singer songwriter the concept is not new. Even when you throw in the final ingredients of Renaissance instruments and interspersing portions of the Gregorian Mass.  But when the final product  - no, I can’t call it that. It’s not a product anymore than the Mona Lisa is a picture. The final art work, the final masterpiece if you will is this awe inspiring, this powerful then the result is more than it’s concept could have hoped for. No wonder that Ariama said, “Every once in awhile there’s a perfect confluence of concept, repertoire and performance in the recording studio, and a kind of miracle occurs…” And that is what this album delivers. A kind of musical miracle that produces a power and grace that is at once stunning and fills the listener with a calm and a reverence that is captivating.

Nick Drake “Pink Moon”

Nick Drake was a man out of time. In many ways he was an enigma, a lost romantic who wore his heart on his sleeve, but at the same time he was cool. Cool in the way the beat poets were cool. Cool in a way that Bob Dylan was cool when he came out of Greenwich Village with a six string and a harmonica. Drake never enjoyed the accolades from adoring fans during his too short life time – in 1974, Drake died from an overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed antidepressant; he was 26 years old. Whether his death was an accident or suicide has never been resolved. But the somber melancholy that filled his music was apparent in his life.

He failed to find a wide audience during his lifetime but his work has gradually achieved wider notice and recognition. Drake was 20 years old when he released his first album,  Five Leaves Left, in 1969, an album recorded from a production stand point using Leonard Cohen’s first album as a model. Drake's voice was recorded in a similar intimate style  "with no shiny pop reverb" or other effects. The intent was to convey a kind of intimacy between the singer, the song and the audience. Unfortunately, the music world was in a time where excess was in demand. Though it was crafted and released by a major label, Island Records, it was ignored by all but the most discerning critics.


By 1972, he had recorded two more albums—Bryter Layter and Pink Moon, considered his masterpiece. Neither sold more than 5,000 copies on initial release. Drake's reluctance to perform live, or be interviewed, contributed to his lack of commercial success. There is no known footage of him performing, he was only ever captured in still photographs and in home footage from his childhood. Upon completion of  Pink Moon he withdrew from both live performance and recording, retreating to his parents' home in rural Warwickshire.

His music was forgotten until a retrospective album was released in ‘69. Fruit Tree brought this poet who would have been more at home in Elizabethan England than in the popular music scene and turbulent times of the earl ‘70s. By the mid-1980s Drake was being credited as an influence by such artists as Robert Smith, David Sylvian and Peter Buck. In 1985, The Dream Academy reached the UK and US charts with "Life in a Northern Town", a song written for and dedicated to Drake. By the early 1990s, he had come to represent a certain type of "doomed romantic" musician in the UK music press and was frequently cited as an influence by artists including Kate Bush, Paul Weller and The Black Crowes. 

Joel Frederiksen
Joel Frederiksen follows the success of his 2011 album Rose of Sharon - a celebration of 18th-century American music that landed in the Top Ten on Billboard's Classical chart and on critics' year-end lists – with Requiem for a Pink Moon.

On this personal tribute, Frederiksen uses the form of a Requiem, interspersing portions of the Gregorian Mass with Drake's songs, arranged for Renaissance instruments, to reveal the 20th-century songwriter as a modern-day Thomas Campion whose works speak directly and powerfully to the human condition. Drake's was an art filled with melancholy, a feeling and a concept that unites him with the singer-songwriters of the Elizabethan age. 

Frederiksen has enjoyed an active international career as a premier bass singer whose performances includes appearances in opera, oratorio, and concert on stages around the world. As an operatic soloist he has appeared at prestigious festivals including the Salzburg Summer Festival (under Dennis Russel Davies in Kurt Weill‘s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagony) or the Vancouver Summer Festival, where he played the role of Plutone in Monteverdi‘s Orfeo under Paul O‘Dette and Stephen Stubbs. As an oratorio soloist Mr. Frederiksen has sung Johann Sebastian Bach‘s B-minor mass with Jordi Savall and La Capella Reial de Catalunya in Spain.

Joel Fredriksen

He has also closely co-operated with orchestras such as New York‘s Fairfield Orchestra and the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra. As a bass singer he has worked with many internationally recognized ensembles including the Huelgas Ensemble, Ensemble Gilles Binchois, and Musica fiata. As a member of the American ensembles Waverly Consort and Boston Camerata he toured extensively and recorded over a dozen CDs.

But to my ear and tastes it’s his work with his Ensemble Phoenix Munich and recordings  for harmonia mundi France that shine the most. His three CDs released since 2007 show different aspects of his work: The Elfin Knight, O felice morire and Rose of Sharon lead up to this album of which The Seattle Post Intelligencer said, “…if there is such a thing as a flawless album, this Reguiem is certainly it.

As a lute player and singer Mr. Frederiksen has made a specialty of the self-accompanied lute song. He is a regular guest around Europe with programs of English, French and Italian music for bass voice and Renaissance lute and archlute.

“Orpheus, I am”


In May of 2011 Mr. Frederiksen was awarded the Orphée d'Or by the French Académie du Disque Lyrique in the Bastille Opera, Paris, for his basso profondo singing on a CD with the English soprano Dame Emma Kirkby.

Other awards include "Classical musician of the Year 2008" from the Munich Evening News and numerous honors for CDs including the German Critic's Prize for O felice morire--Early Baroque Italian Monody.

Joel Frederiksen‘s education includes the Master‘s Degree from Oakland University in Michigan, where he was honored with the Distinguished Musicianship Award (1990) and Alumni of the Year in Music (2003), master classes at Salzburg‘s Mozarteum with Helena Lazarska, and in New York, independent studies at New York University and private study in the studios of William Schumann and Myron McPherson.

harmonia_mundiHarmonia Mundi continues to be more than just a staid label presenting classical music. They cover all different crafts of the publishing business, for both recordings and books and from production to distribution. Musically, their sphere extends far beyond ‘classical music’.

WP_Jazz-village-noirTheir JazzVillage label presents the best jazz music from Europe to the Americas and covering traditional to modern through urban soul and new sound crossbreeds.


le chantChant Du Monde operates as publisher of both printed and recorded music championing Russian and French contemporary repertoires, amongst others. Just a few of the genre they cover are chanson, jazz, Jeunesse, children's music and Gypsy Jazz.


World Village has forged a reputation for excellence in the international music scene representing artists such as C.J. Chenier who plays creole, zydeco, jazz and funk, Maria Topferova from the Czech Republic, Twesta from Ethiopia and many other marvelous artists from around the globe. World Village will take you to different shores and introduce you to the beauty of the music of other cultures.

Whatever your taste in music, harmonia mundi offers the best cross sectional experience from a label you can trust for impeccable taste and unparalleled production .

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment