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2013 has been another incredibly fertile year for the Naxos label, with 273 new classical albums and videos released on CD, Blu-ray Audio and DVD. Each year I’m asked to cherry-pick a list of favourites to share with you, a task that never seems to get easier with such a vast array of new recordings vying for selection, from early music to contemporary works, solo instrumental recitals to the grandest of grand opera.

I’m delighted, however, to nail my colours to the mast by nominating the following titles, encouraged by the critical acclaim that external sources have also awarded them throughout the year.

They aren’t listed in order of preference, simply in the order of the months in which they were released and highlighted in my Chairman’s Priorities Newsletters.

I hope you will take the opportunity of listening to them, perhaps through the free listening service available on Naxos.com, your NaxosMusicLibrary.com subscription.

I wish you many hours of happy listening.


January 2013


8.572698
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Symphony No. 6 in D major, Op. 60
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854–1928)
Idyll

Seattle Symphony • Gerard Schwarz

This was a very attractive addition to our Seattle Symphony releases. The Sixth is one of Dvořák’s great symphonies and here received the full Seattle/Schwarz treatment – musical, dramatic and romantic. Reflecting the composer’s interest in Moravian folksong, Janáček’s Idyll was a welcome new addition to the Naxos catalogue.

8.570990
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Divertimento No. 11 in D major, K. 251
Divertimento No. 17 in D major, K. 334

Cologne Chamber Orchestra • Helmut Müller-Brühl

This was the last recording the late Helmut Müller-Brühl made for Naxos. Both works date from Mozart’s Salzburg period and are full of melodic invention and charm. Beautifully played by the conductor’s Cologne Chamber Orchestra and recorded in the excellent acoustics of the Deutschlandfunk concert studio, this disc had little problem in making it to my list of favourite recordings!


February 2013


8.572662
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64*
Violin Concerto in D minor*
Violin Sonata in F minor, Op. 4

Tianwa Yang, violin • Romain Descharmes, piano
Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä* • Patrick Gallois*

Coupling the famous E-Minor Concerto with the much less well-known, youthful D-Minor Concerto and the F-Minor Violin Sonata gave the chance for our star violinist Tianwa Yang to display the full authority of her musicianship. Supported by our house conductor Patrick Gallois and his Sinfonia Finlandia, this has proved to be one of the best performances of the E-Minor Concerto now in the market.

8.572873 • 9 CDs
Mieczyslaw WEINBERG (1919–1996)
Symphony No. 8 'Polish Flowers', Op. 83

Rafal Bartminski, tenor
Magdalena Dobrowolska, soprano • Ewa Marciniec, alto
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir • Antoni Wit

This is the third volume of our project to record all the Weinberg symphonies together with Chandos. With few orchestra/choir combinations better equipped to deliver first-rate performances of large choral works than Antoni Wit and his Warsaw forces, this has already become the recording of choice for this work. An absolute must for collectors of Russian 20th century symphonies.


March 2013


8.573151
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887–1959)
Symphony No. 3 ‘War’ • Symphony No. 4 ‘Victory’

São Paulo Symphony Orchestra • Isaac Karabtchevsky

Using huge orchestral forces to explore unusual and evocative effects, this disc proved to be a hugely successful instalment in our project to record all the Villa-Lobos symphonies with this conductor and orchestra. It followed up the pairing of Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7 on Naxos 8.573043, in which Isaac Karabtchevsky and the São Paulo Symphony scored a knock-out over another recent cycle from the CPO label: “…a much finer ensemble, and Karabtchevsky’s performances are far more persuasive.” (David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com)

8.557358-60
George Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759)
Concerti Grossi, Op. 6

Aradia Ensemble • Kevin Mallon

Handel’s Op. 6 collection of concerti grossi represents the jewel in the crown of his orchestral repertoire. The works’ wealth of colour and rhythmic dynamism may have ensured frequent recordings, but the Aradia Ensemble’s high regard and competitive edge for their accomplished work in eighteenth-century interpretation under their founder/director Kevin Mallon has set this performance among the best.


April 2013


8.573051
Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873–1943)
Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 44
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45

Detroit Symphony Orchestra • Leonard Slatkin

I had little doubt that this second of three discs featuring Rachmaninov's symphonies would attract a positive critical reaction equal to that received by Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for their recording of the Second Symphony (Naxos 8.572458): “a performance warmed by musicians who clearly love this symphony” – BBC Music Magazine. My optimism was duly rewarded, earning this disc a place among my favourites.

8.573034
Ernest John MOERAN (1894–1950)
Cello Concerto* • Serenade in G (original version, 1948)
Lonely Waters • Whythorne´s Shadow

Guy Johnston, cello* • Rebekah Coffey, soprano
Ulster Orchestra • JoAnn Falletta

JoAnn Falletta's association with the Ulster Orchestra got off to a flying start with their first disc of music by Holst claiming a place among the Top 10 Bestsellers in 2012, so I am very pleased to recommend this follow-up recording of works by the Anglo-Irish composer E. J. Moeran. It marries what is arguably his most significant and mature composition, the Cello Concerto, with the outstanding young British soloist, Guy Johnston, “one of the country's most promising and distinctive cellists” – The Strad.


May 2013


8.573057
Dmitry SHOSTAKOVICH (1906–1975)
Symphony No. 7 ‘Leningrad’, Op. 60

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra • Vasily Petrenko

With critical reaction to previous volumes in this cycle overwhelmingly positive, it came as a pleasure but no huge surprise that this disc topped the UK Specialist Classical Chart for five weeks in a row. My expectations that the Seventh Symphony would receive the definitive treatment from rising star Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic were fully realised.

8.570934
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
Complete Overtures, Volume 2

Prague Sinfonia Orchestra • Christian Benda

The full spectrum of Rossini’s operatic catalogue continued in this second of four volumes devoted to his complete overtures. The balance of familiar works with those that are difficult to find in catalogues again proved highly appealing to those looking for a comprehensive, well-assembled overview of Rossini’s curtain-raisers.

8.573137
Edvard GRIEG (1843–1907)
Three Concerti for Violin and Chamber Orchestra

(based on the sonatas for violin and piano – orchestrated by Henning Kraggerud and Bernt Simen Lund)
Henning Kraggerud, violin • Tromsø Chamber Orchestra

I am happy to again recommend this disc that features one of the world’s best known composers in a set of his works that have remained relatively unknown. In transforming Grieg’s violin sonatas into concertos through his excellent orchestrations and authoritative first performances, Henning Kraggerud also succeeds in raising the profile of the original works. The disc carries both a wide appeal and a certain rarity value.


June 2013


8.559750
George GERSHWIN (1898–1937)
Rhapsody in Blue* • Strike Up the Band – Overture
Promenade • Catfish Row

Orion Weiss, piano* • John Fullam, clarinet
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra • JoAnn Falletta

The combination of Gershwin’s immediately attractive music and conductor JoAnn Falletta’s gift for tapping into its essential qualities made this release one of the summer’s hottest releases, building on the accolades Falletta received for the pizzazz of her previous Gershwin volume with the Buffalo Philharmonic, which featured the Piano Concerto in F and Rhapsody No. 2. The Grammy® nominated disc certainly made its mark: “This is world-class Gershwin; Falletta really swings.” (Fanfare)

8.559758
Aaron COPLAND (1900–90)
Rodeo (Complete Ballet) • Dance Panels
El Salón México • Danzón Cubano

Detroit Symphony Orchestra • Leonard Slatkin

Replacing one of our oldest best-sellers by Stephen Gunzenhauser and the Slovak Radio Symphony (Naxos 8.550282), this first of two volumes featuring Copland’s complete ballet music soon hit the spot with many Copland fans. At the helm of one of the top-10 US orchestras is Grammy® Award-winning Leonard Slatkin, a leading proponent of American music, whose pedigree in this field was further confirmed by the critical reaction given to his recording of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait (Naxos 8.559373-74): “the kind of performance that brought tears to my eyes.” (Audiophile Audition)


July 2013


8.660340-42 • 2 CDs
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
Semiramide

Alex Penda, soprano • Marianna Pizzolato, contralto
Lorenzo Regazzo, bass • John Osborn, tenor • Andrea Mastroni, bass
Marija Jokovic, soprano • Vassilis Kavayas, tenor
Raffaele Facciolà, bass • Camerata Bach Choir, Poznań
Virtuosi Brunensis • Antonino Fogliani

Semiramide, Rossini’s longest and most spectacular opera, was the final Italian stage work he wrote before turning to the Parisian opera scene. Often heard in abridged versions, this disc is significant in that it presents the work entirely uncut. Leading singers include three times GRAMMY® nominated soprano Alex Penda and American tenor John Osborn, the first non-Italian to receive the prestigious Premio Aureliano Pertile award in 2012.


September 2013


8.572996
Johannes BRAHMS (1833–1897)
A German Requiem, Op. 45

Anna Lucia Richter, soprano • Stephan Genz, baritone
MDR Leipzig Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop

Marin Alsop has long been an ardent and respected champion of Brahms’ music. Her interpretations are noted for their natural affinity with his style, which makes this latest version of one of his greatest and most popular works stand above the many other available recordings. Alsop is joined on this release by two outstanding soloists, soprano Anna Lucia Richter and baritone Stephan Genz, winner of the 1994 International Brahms Competition in Hamburg.

8.559757
John CORIGLIANO (b. 1938)
Conjurer* • Vocalise

Evelyn Glennie, percussion* • Hila Plitmann, soprano
Electronics produced and performed by Mark Baechle
Albany Symphony • David Alan Miller

This is a formidable combination of music by one of America’s preeminent living composers and a performance by the world’s greatest percussion virtuoso. Dame Evelyn Glennie has commissioned some 170 new works for solo percussion, including Conjurer, Corigliano’s fascinating exploration of the percussionist’s basic resources of wood, metal and skin. With an output hailed by Aaron Copland as “expertly crafted and aurally quite stunning”, these world première recordings proved readily attractive to a wide range of listeners.

8.573146
Philip GLASS (b. 1937) Harpsichord Concerto
John RUTTER (b. 1945) Suite Antique
Jean FRANÇAIX (1912–1997) Harpsichord Concerto

Christopher D. Lewis, harpsichord • John McMurtery, flute
West Side Chamber Orchestra • Kevin Mallon

Coming from the pens of composers with a proven popular appeal, these three highly attractive concertos recast the old sound world of the harpsichord for modern ears in music that is by turns haunting, virtuosic, witty and elegant. Soloist Christopher D. Lewis brings his considerable knowledge of the 20th century revival of the harpsichord to this fascinating repertoire with playing that demonstrates his unique style and flair.

8.572751
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835–1921)
Music for Violin and Piano, Volume 2

Fanny Clamagirand, violin • Vanya Cohen, piano

This recording was quickly snapped up by those who acquired Volume 1 (Naxos 8.572750) of the two-disc set of Saint-Saëns’ music for violin and piano, featuring the amazing talents of the young French violinist, Fanny Clamagirand. The release brings together versions of works by Saint-Saëns that are rarely heard in recordings and are presented with an equally rare standard of execution. The combination of a flawless technique and the strong musical personality of the winner of the 2007 Monte Carlo Violin Masters Competition were a clear hit.


October 2013


8.573188
Dmitry SHOSTAKOVICH (1906–1975)
Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Op. 43

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra • Vasily Petrenko

Our Shostakovich Symphony cycle continued to receive resounding praise from all quarters, with unfailingly positive reviews for Vasily Petrenko’s insightful readings of the works and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s response in performance. This latest instalment, comprising the gargantuan Fourth Symphony, created a similar impact to take its place in what is sure to become one of the major recording triumphs of the century.

8.573186
Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891–1953)
Symphony No. 4 (revised version), Op. 112
The Prodigal Son, Op. 46

São Paulo Symphony Orchestra • Marin Alsop

Marin Alsop added to the success of her first issue in this ongoing cycle of Prokofiev’s symphonies, in which her synergy with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra in Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony (8.573029) produced “an outstanding achievement.” (BBC Music Magazine) The Fourth Symphony is given in its enriched revision of 1947, released here both in CD and Blu-ray Audio formats. The latter perfectly captures the spectacular performance under Alsop, who was suitably honoured this year by becoming the first female conductor to direct the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms.

8.572276
Pablo SARASATE (1844–1908)
Music for Violin and Orchestra, Volume 4

Tianwa Yang, violin
Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra • Ernest Martínez Izquierdo

Coming in the wake of her much lauded release earlier in the year of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concertos, Tianwa Yang again dazzled with her consummate response to the technical challenges of Sarasate’s music for violin and orchestra in this final volume of her acclaimed series. The performance of this stunning programme, showcasing Yang’s dexterity, lightness of touch and heart-melting tone, garnered praise equal to that for her previous Sarasate disc: “…plays marvellously, fearlessly and with great freshness and verve.” (ClassicsToday.com)

8.573251
A TALE OF TWO CELLOS
Arrangements by Julian Lloyd Webber

Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber, cellos • John Lenehan, piano

British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber furthered his impressive record of giving the premières of new works with this collection of exquisite arrangements for two cellos. The eclectic repertoire – from Monteverdi to Arvo Pärt – makes this a highly attractive disc for collectors of chamber music looking for something slightly off the beaten track, performed by musicians who all enjoy international solo reputations.


November 2013


8.572888
Maurice RAVEL (1875–1937)
Orchestral Works, Volume 2

Orchestre National de Lyon • Leonard Slatkin

Leonard Slatkin, winner of seven GRAMMY® awards, builds here on the impressive first instalment of his 11-volume survey of Ravel’s orchestral works (Naxos 8.572887), which won praise from Gramophone for its “delicate balance between Ravel’s exoticism, lyricism and gaiety.” Of particular interest is the inclusion of pieces more commonly heard in their original casting for piano solo. This superb recording is available both on CD and Blu-ray Audio.

8.573205
Philip GLASS (b. 1937)
Concerto Fantasy (transcr. Mark Lortz)
Mohammed FAIROUZ (b. 1985)
Symphony No. 4 ‘In the Shadow of No Towers’

Soloists • University of Kansas Wind Ensemble • Paul W. Popiel

Originally scored for orchestral forces, Philip Glass’ virtuosic Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists here receives its first recording in the transcription for wind ensemble. Mohammed Fairouz’s In the Shadow of No Towers: Symphony No. 4, a controversial commentary based on the 9/11 terrorist attacks, similarly receives its première recording. Rhythmically galvanising, sonically alluring and ranging stylistically from musical elegy to savagery, these works hold an immediate attraction for all collectors of contemporary American music.


December 2013


8.573122
Kara KARAYEV (1918–1982)
The Seven Beauties • The Path of Thunder
(Ballet Suites)

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra • Dmitry Yablonsky

Kara Karayev is probably Azerbaijan’s best-known composer. He was also one of the most distinguished pupils of Dmitry Shostakovich, who remarked on his “great and brilliant talent.” The Seven Beauties, the nation’s first full-length ballet, draws on a storyline rooted in 12th-century folklore. In contrast, The Path of Thunder uses elements of African and Afro-American music to colour the theme of forbidden love during South Africa’s apartheid era. With an extensive discography of Russian and Eastern European repertoire already under his belt, Naxos artist Dmitry Yablonski makes the perfect advocate for Karayev’s music.


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