Featured on a recording of John Harbison's Simple Daylight
Soprano Karol Bennett and pianist/composer John McDonald, have performed recitals all over the world, including televised recitals at the Opéra Comique in Paris, in Korea, and in Taiwan, as well as appearances in Moscow, Rome, Mongolia, France, and throughout the United States. In addition to individual honors, they served together as Artistic Ambassadors for the United States Information Agency--the first classical vocal duo ever selected--and were awarded a Duo Recitalist Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Their performance of the original version of Hindemith's Das Marienleben was selected by the Boston Globe as "Recital of the Year: 1995." They have been Artists-in-Residence at Massachussetts Institute of Technology, and given residencies at universities on both coasts.
The Boston Globe
"Bennett and McDonald have become one of today's finest Lieder partnerships. She brings to "Das Marienleben" a soprano at once crystal clear and full of mysteries, magnificently secure and imaginative musicianship, rare purity and precision of intonation and remarkably complete identification of the inner life of each song. McDonald is an ideal collaborator: he knows Bennett's voice and how to challenge, support, and cradle it, and he brings a composer's insights to a piece composed with meticulous thoroughness. He doesn't reveal his insights didactically, but instead with a born pianist's command of colors, textures, and dynamics."
"She can sing virtually anything. He commands both a composer's understanding and a full pianistic technique...Missing out on one of their recitals is a little like missing out on life itself."
McDonald, like composers Leon Kirchner and Yehudi Wyner in earlier generations, is a completely empowered pianist who knows both music and poems. Together, the two of them have by hard work and intuition forged an ensemble of mutual interchange...a partnership that can stand comparison with the great ones of the past."
"Bennett boasts a clear, penetrating soprano under remarkable control...She sings with vertical as well as horizontal musicianship, knowing not only the poetry and her line in the music, but also the harmony, adjusting her impeccable intonation to it. Because she can sing with an absolute poise, she doesn't fell she has to all the time--the sound varies with the emotional situation.
"Superb recital...Every song contained countless interpretive nuances that could only have come from painstaking planning. Yet for every lovely planned moment, there were a dozen other moments that seemed completely unplanned, the spontaneous inspiration of two thoughtful, compelling musicians who know each other's musical ways and who listen to each other calmly, but attentively.
...They each bring great talent to their partnership...She has no one vocal sound but a whole range of sounds--radiant warmth, choirboy purity, chesty-toned richness, soaring vibrance...McDonald is an accomplished pianist. But his imagination and grasp of musical structure come from his also being a composer...Sublime performances."
Soprano Karol Bennett Shines in Recital, The Los Angeles Times
"Before a...lucky gathering in Bing Theater, the young soprano--a graduate of Yale and winner of the 1993 Pro Musicis International Award--offered an intelligently chosen program of Schubert, Brahms, Fauré, Rachmaninoff, and Harbison, memorably delivered and exquisitely sung.
Ably seconded by pianist-composer John McDonald, Bennett showed complete talents for the task at hand...A light soprano of resonant focus, glimmering tone, and creamy fluidity....In John Harbison's remarkable 1988 song cycle "Simple Daylight,"...she etched long lines over wide spaces...The silky elegance and delicacy of Bennett's voice was displayed to glowing effect in four Fauré melodies--"En sourdine," "Notre amour," "Toujours," and "Adieu"--though she never slighted their breathless fervency...In Schubert and Brahms, she used her full resources to create mini-dramas, but always with an ear for proportion and intimacy. She even found fresh insights into Rachmaninoff's Vocalise and, in encore, Brahms' 'Lullaby.'"
Karol Bennett at "Halle aux Toiles:"Magnificent Recital, Le Maine Libre, France
"A huge crowd gathered...at the recital of soprano Karol Bennett and pianist John McDonald. ..The gathered multitudes fell under the charm of this prestigious singer. A vibrating current, charged with moments of ecstasy, filled the hall during celebrated songs by Schubert, Saint-Saëns, and Rachmaninoff."
"The astonishing Karol Bennett, as well as her pianist, present all the guarantees...Karol Bennett is a singer of world-wide renown...From Schubert to Gershwin, passing via Saint-Saëns and Rachmaninoff, this remarkable duo created an ambiance and even sent shivers down the spine...young talents of international stature."
"Much has been written about the death of the lieder recital in the latter half of the 20th century. But there are musicians like...the duo of Karol Bennett and John McDonald who are demonstrating most emphatically that the song recital is in vigorous health, and moreover, is being renewed with fresh repertory. Bennett and McDonald proved it once again Sunday night...Everything was performed with the most extraordinary urgency of expression, identification with text, musical insight, and love. Even as old a chestnut as the Brahms lullaby, the last encore of the performance, sounded fresh, touching and sheerly gorgeous.
Bennett's soprano is remarkable for the variety of colors it encompasses. She is a great singing actress who unfailingly find the right mood and tone of a song, from the pellucid purity and simplicity which were perfect for Copland's "Simple Gifts" to the earthy tones for McDonald's spirituals-inspired setting of James Baldwin's "Some Days" to the spacey white tones of Strauss' "Ophelia" songs to the kittenish mood of Saint-Saêns "Pourquoi Rester Seulette?"
Pulitzer and MacArthur Award winning composer John Harbison
"That day ten years ago when Karol and John first read a song together was a red letter day. Composers old and new must have felt their luck changing. Now we are looking forward to many more years of uncanny ensemble, fearless repertoire, and the harmony without stasis that has marked this partnership."
El Dictamen, Mexico City Lieder recital, with Olga Chourak, piano
"At the Conservatory de las Rosas, multitudes gathered to hear a notable singer: Karol Bennett...Bennett began by displaying her stupendous comprehension of Baroque style in three songs of Purcell...Four songs of Schumann showed Bennett to be a singer who can offer the intimacy of romanticism...We were graced with one of those luminous nights that lieder can bring."
Lieder of Clara Schumann, with Veronica Jochum, piano
"Bennett was in shining voice."
The Boston Herald
"The soprano is surely one of our most gifted lieder singers, and the intimacy of the Walsh Theater only enhanced the communicative power she brings to each song. Her pronunciation of the German text was so impeccable, one didn't need to know more than a few words of German to understand her. Bennett was delightfully cheeky in "Des Liebsten Schwur," about a smug, charming and defiant girl who keeps her sulky father in the dark about her trysts with a young man. In "Salome," she was the experienced temptress. And in the two laments, she was the spoiled and overly dramatic adolescent who must acquiesce in her parents' choice of husband."
"Bennett has a pure and powerful voice; she moved seamlessly from operatic reach to conversational song."
Probably the most extraordinary performances in an evening full of them were the four Brahms songs. Bennett's exquisite, soaring phrasing in "Solitude in the Fields" made one weep with the beauty of it; "Death is the Cool Night" was heart-breaking, and "My Love is Green" was a headlong rush of passion."