Vocal professor’s research project now a gorgeous recording from Centaur Records
Colorado State University voice professor, tenor John Carlo Pierce, has released “Songs of Wintter Watts” on Centaur Records. Dr. Pierce is accompanied on piano by Dr. Joel Bacon, Stewart and Sheron Golden Chair in Organ and Liturgical Studies at CSU.
The new release is available on Amazon Music.
The hour-long CD was recorded in Dec. 2018 at the University Center for the Arts and was produced by Patty Goble and Abigail Shupe, also on CSU’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance faculty.
As a primary research project over several years, Dr. Pierce worked to compile and record the forgotten gems by Wintter Watts, including the complete Vignettes of Italy cycle. The two musicians toured the program around the U.S. in 2019.
About the composer
In the summer of 1923, Wintter Watts, native of Cincinnati and living in Brooklyn, was awarded the prestigious Rome Prize. Along with the honor and notoriety that came with winning, he was given the opportunity to live, study, and compose at the American Academy in Rome. He was 37 at the time and had already published some 70 songs, though contemporary accounts hinted at a total of 200 works. Musical America had proclaimed his 1919 song cycle, Vignettes of Italy, a “contribution of permanent value to American song literature.” Upon his return to Brooklyn in 1931, it was reported that he had “devoted himself exclusively” to composition while in Europe; however, the number of works he published in the ensuing years dropped off precipitately. In the last decades of his life, his name slipped farther and farther into obscurity, and his songs into undeserved neglect.
Watts studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory with Pier Adolfo Tirindelli, classmate and friend of Puccini; and at the Institute of Musical Art in New York with Percy Goetschius, who had studied and taught in Stuttgart. As a result, the impact of both the Italian school and the German school come to bear in Watts’ songs. Contrapuntal techniques and chromatic movement of the inner voices of the piano part reflect Brahmsian influence, while the Italian operatic quality of his vocal lines attracted singers like John McCormack and Kirsten Flagstad.
The purpose of Dr. Pierce’s research and recording project is to reintroduce the songs of Wintter Watts to teachers and students of voice. The recording includes songs from Watts’ most active years: 1908-1923.
About John Carlo Pierce
American tenor John Carlo Pierce enjoys an international reputation for beautiful sound and incisive acting. He held contracted positions with the opera theaters in the German cities of Cologne and Mainz. He appeared as a guest at the Spoleto Festival in Italy, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Aargau Festival in Switzerland, and in opera houses across Germany. Dr. Pierce’s repertoire features leading roles in operas by Mozart, Rossini, and Donizetti, and stretches from the Baroque to new works. Dr. Pierce appeared on European television and radio, and can be heard on the EMI recording of Zemlinsky’s Der Traumgörge, conducted by James Conlon. Dr. Pierce holds a Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Connecticut. He is currently Associate Professor of Voice at Colorado State University, where he teaches lyric diction, opera history, and applied voice.
About Joel Bacon
Joel Bacon is a performer, teacher, and scholar in North America and Europe. He has been heard in recital in Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, Canada, and the US, and live performances have been broadcast on Austrian Radio (1) and Public Radio International. He has taught at the prestigious Oundle International Festival (Cambridge, UK), at several Pipe Organ Encounters of the American Guild of Organists, and at other courses in the U.S. and Canada. He served as the assistant organist of St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Munich-Grunwald, and sfrequent guest organist at the former Hapsburg imperial church, St. Augustine, Vienna. Dr. Bacon holds degrees in mathematics and organ performance from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and an artist diploma in organ from the Konservatorium der Stadt Wien (Vienna, Austria), and a PhD in historical musicology through a joint degree program of Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts and the University of Vienna. He holds the Stewart and Sheron Golden Chair in Organ and Liturgical Studies at Colorado State University.