By the time [Dawn Upshaw] sang her encore Saturday at the Library of Congress…she had given a breathtaking display of virtuosity in ‘Night Dances,’ a brilliant cycle of songs…whose composer, 30-year-old Juliana Hall, used every trick in the book—melodic and half-spoken, tonal and nontonal…to deepen the impact of the texts dealing with night and sleep, to explore the implicit emotions in sounds that ranged from a whisper to a scream, with the piano supplying illustrations and comment and engaging in vivid dialogue.
The Washington Post
One comes away from this disc with a profound appreciation for the excellence and innovation of her music…music whose beauty could enhance the text at hand without drawing attention away from that text…masterful writing in every respect…
NATS Journal of Singing
[Jayne] West’s recital Sunday afternoon in the French Library with pianist Karen Sauer featured settings by seven composers of some of America’s finest poets, and the results were exceptional…Juliana Hall caught much of Emily Dickinson’s humor and gentle lyricism in seven songs drawn from her letters, ‘Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush.’ A bright, extended tonality and a moving, spare lyricism allowed the texts to breathe. Her first setting of “To Susan Gilbert” was the most genuinely moving music of the afternoon.
Juliana Hall has set herself apart as a composer devoted to the art song, having written 50 song cycles and vocal chamber works, an impressive output devoted to a particular medium…Hall’s compositional voice is certainly distinctive, and breaks away from the rather ubiquitous style of the Barber-Rorem-Hundley school, giving, I think, fresh life to the concept of the American art song..
David DeBoor Canfield
Until receiving this disc, I was unfamiliar with the music of Ms. Hall. That was very much my misfortune, because if I am allowed to make judgments about her solely from the songs on this disc, I would say she is a composer of great talent…Her music is tonal, very accessible, colorful and often profound. That word “profound” is not a word I like to throw around, but it does apply here.
…extraordinary talent for crafting music that translates the meanings of texts into sounds that can be felt as well as heard…wholly organic, never contrived, and the composer perpetuates the American Art Song tradition of Beach, Barber, and Bolcom with music of ingenuity and integrity…
Voix des Arts
Entitled “Americana,” it included the world premiere of “Christina’s World” composed by Juliana Hall and performed by CCM faculty member Gwen Coleman Detwiler with Marie-France Lefebvre at the piano…a sweeping and inventive setting of poems by Christina Rosetti. It was atmospheric and searching…
Sara Teasdale supplied the text for “Music Like a Curve of Gold” from composer Juliana Hall. Its theme of loving life, of recognizing and cherishing all that’s lovely in it, might have felt sentimental and old-fashioned had Hall not provided music that was lyrical without being precious. The duet…tightly intertwined the two voices so they shifted in and out of harmony, creating sounds that were beautiful in ways both traditional and strikingly original.
The Austin Chronicle
Last to be mentioned in this long article, but I think finest of all the works, we were treated to four extraordinarily beautiful RILKE SONGS by Juliana Hall. With Hall at the piano accompanying soprano Karen Burlingame, the world of Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire was juxtaposed with the nearly-intact, then gradually distorted, Chopin E-major Prelude. These songs were intimate, melancholy, haunting…legitimate modern heirs to the great tradition of German lieder.
New Haven Register
What sets Hall’s songs apart from other composers of her generation is that she gives great attention to detail, chooses emotionally charged texts, and writes effectively for both piano and voice, demonstrating an ease of how the hand fits the piano and how the word is shaped in the voice…Hall’s skillful, sensitive creativity brings life to texts in a way that charms audiences. She deserves public appreciation for her extraordinary contribution to modern art song composition.
NATS Journal of Singing
The American composer Juliana Hall has devoted herself to the art song for nearly three decades. Her sensitivity to words is on impressive display on ‘Love’s Signature’, which features settings of texts by Shakespeare, letters by Emily Dickinson and poems by Marianne Moore. In their first recordings, these songs show Hall to be a composer who savours lyrical lines and harmonies peppered with gentle spices.
Recital convention was stood on its head when Dawn Upshaw began her London programme with a dozen songs by her American contemporaries all born within five years of herself…her commitment to the music of our own time is beyond question. Her choice of American songs, however, did not suggest there was much to catch the listener’s imagination…most looked askance at poetic conceits. Exceptions might be made for Juliana Hall’s beguiling ‘Sonnet’…[to] which Gil Kalish at the piano brought sensitive insight…
Times of London
The songs require vocal virtuosity and extensive range, both melodically and dynamically, and the requirements for the pianist are equally challenging—unsurprisingly, as the composer is herself an accomplished pianist. The tonal language is adventurous, and Hall’s text setting is spot on and exquisite, even when she elevates the text to the vocal stratosphere…In these songs, as in all of Juliana Hall’s wonderful creations, the composer has sensitively allowed the text to dictate the tonal palette and direction. Night Dances and O Mistress Mine are two very different cycles, but both are artful and adroit expressions of superb poetic and musical choices.
NATS Journal of Singing
The music of Juliana Hall is fresh and constantly surprising. She does not experiment with avant-garde sounds or forms, yet she has found a way to take elements of existing musical idioms and incorporate them into an original style that is always innovative and thoroughly delightful.
giving a strong sense of the poet’s voice
Planet Hugill, London
This Dickinson programme is built around Copland’s classic Twelve Poems (1950), but his successors, Luigi Zaninelli (b1932) and Juliana Hall (b1958), belong to the same tradition. Hall’s cycles, To Meet and Flower (written for Benjamin in 2009) and In Reverence (1985), deserve wider airing.
Times of London
Here we are presented with two short cycles and a standalone song. The first of these, “To Meet a Flower”, presents three beautifully set nature poems by Dickinson, a form in which she excelled, from 2009 and only premiered in 2016 by the present singer. This is followed by “A Northeast Storm” from 2015, one of a series of nine letter songs set by different composers. This charming song is a setting of Dickinson’s letter to her brother Austin. The final cycle, “In Reverence”, is Hall’s earliest published work. Written in 1985, it was composed as a wedding present for a friend. Again, despite their early composition, these songs show an ability and sensibility that Hall was to carry through into the later songs, as well as some vocal high jinks…This disc is a real winner, especially for the Hall songs, which should be performed more often.