Susan Narucki made her professional debut at the 1986 Ojai Festival in the West Coast premiere of Gyorgy Kurtag's Messages of the Late R.V. Troussova with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by conductor Kent Nagano. Since that time, she has made over fifty commercial recordings of music of the 20th and 21st century in a wide array of styles. Susan's recordings have earned critical acclaim, including a Grammy Award, a Grammy Nomination (Best Classical Vocal CD), Cannes Award (Best Recording of works of a Living Composer), Best Recording of 20th Century Opera, among others.
For a comprehensive overview of her discography, please use the button below.
James Primosch Sacred Songs(2014) Bridge Records
Susan Narucki; William Sharp; 21st Century Consort, Christopher Kendall
"James Primosch's album of vocal works based on religious-themed texts reveals an impressively broad range of approaches to creating sacred music for the twenty-first century. Regardless of style, however, Primrosch's text-setting instincts are seemingly unerring: his vocal lines always convey the words authentically and honestly, while the instrumental accompaniment provides added depth and drama, whether the mood is one of wonder, joy, frustration, reverence, bleakness, or some combination thereof.
The Rilke poems in the first cycle, From a Book of Hours, are searching and inquisitive, trying to comprehend and illuminate the poet's personal relationship to God. Primosch's musical language for setting these German verses is appropriately wide-ranging, sophisticated, and often unsettling: In "Lösch, mir die Augen aus," Primosch matches the grisly imagery of the poem ("Put out my eyes, and I can see you still;") with driving, violent thrashings. By contrast, the next song begins with a Tchaikovsky-like horn solo. Soprano Susan Narucki, who sings three out of the four cycles, has musical intelligence to spare, as well as a clear, ingratiating delivery and sure intonation that guides us easily through some of the denser thickets...
...Even at his "simplest," Primosch is surprising on the level detail contained in his writing. "Corde Natus Ex Parentis" from the cycle Four Sacred Songs, has a straightforward, attractively contoured, plainchant-style melody, but the composer adorns it with imaginatively layered instrumental counterpoint in subsequent verses. "Christus Factus Est" has another clearly tonal melody, but the subtly dissonant leanings of the accompaniment form a painfully apt depiction of Christ on the cross. Narucki's performance of this quietly devastating number is a delicate marvel.
Another standout is "Deathbeds," the last song of the last cycle (Holy the Firm). Primosch transforms Annie Dillard's poem into something unsparingly grim, even slightly unhinged. Narucki manages to to preserve vocal beauty while giving full dramatic authenticity to Dillard's schizophrenic stream-of-consciousness from the moments right before death. These songs are unfailingly compelling, whether the musical language is complex or seemingly simple. Even listeners with conservative musical tastes will find much to enjoy here. Christopher Kendall skillfully and sensitively leads the 21st Century Consort, which provides superb accompaniment. " - Joshua Rosenblum, Opera News
Poems of sheer nothingness - Vocal music of Aaron Helgeson (2016) Innova Susan Narucki, sopranoTalea Ensemble James Baker, conductor
The forthcoming release (January 2016) on Innova Records features two exquisitely crafted song cycles of American composer Aaron Helgeson. "Poems of sheer nothingness" a thirty five minute cycle for soprano and ensemble was commissioned by Narucki in 2012 and premiered in New York with the Talea Ensemble in 2014. "Notes on a page of Sappho" (2009) completes the disc.
An excerpt from the program booklet, a conversation between Aaron Helgeson and Susan Narucki:
AH: ... Well, I discovered Carson’s translations in her book If not, winter back in 2003, and wanted to work with them ever since. What’s unusual about it is that it’s not just a translation of the words. It’s a translation of the experience of looking at the fragments themselves — faded text on scraps of papyrus, a few painted phrases among a group of dancing figures on remnants of an urn, isolated examples of the subjunctive uttered by ancient grammarians. The language Carson uses to translate these fragments is both plain and modern...
SN: Carson situates the text on the page in a very particular manner and evokes a world that we can neither see or sense. But we are connected to that world. The experience of being human binds us through time, as if with a thick cord that we cannot cut. Sappho speaks to that so eloquently.
I could never describe Notes on a page as sparse, though! To me, it seems ripe and full — even the silences are lush.But it is full of delicious contradictions.The music is never truly at rest.Amid so much color and texture in the instrumental and vocal writing, I find a sense of urgency, not unlike the experience of trying to crystallize a moment of time — “remembering” a memory, if you will. That speaks to me of Carson’s translation of a translation, an ephemeral construction that nonetheless seems to have inherent power.
AH: Right, we’re never truly in silence. We know that from John Cage, of course, and there are certainly silences in this music that behave like he intended — that reveal sounds which were previously taken for granted (a barely perceptible rumble in the bass drum, a slight panting sound in the flute, a long drawn bow on resonant metal). There are other silences, though, that activate the imagination. Silences where we fill in the gaps left by the music. Carson’s translation leaves us all sorts of gaps, and they allow us to participate spontaneously in the creation of a poetry that is partly Sappho’s and partly our own.I wanted that to be true of the music also.We hear a glimpse of harmony or a familiar sound and it reminds us of something we’ve heard before in other music or even our daily life, and the silence that follows allows us to continue that daydream for a little while.
This all has to do with listening to the music, though. I suppose it’s a very different situation to perform it.
SN: Yes, that’s true. .I wonder how many people are aware of the experience of having their imagination activated, in real time, by sound. Musicians are accustomed to that, of course.We apprehend our location within musical form and structure, but some sounds evoke a world that’s just beyond music. The juxtaposition of the two can be disconcerting, but it can also allow a magical environment to emerge — something unexpected and alive.