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Zhou Long & Chen Yi: Symphony ‘Humen 1839’
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Darrell Ang, conductor

Naxos 8.570611

Widely regarded as one of China’s leading composers, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Zhou Long writes music that is consistently compelling. The Rhyme of Taigu revives the spirit of Chinese court music from the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD), drawing on traditional percussion instruments. Symphony ‘Humen 1839’, co-composed with Chen Yi, vividly commemorates the public burning of over 1000 tonnes of opium, an event that was to lead to the First Opium War between Great Britain and China. All three works, written in the first decade of the 21st c., receive here their world premiere recordings. Conducting the New Zealand Symphony is the young, fast rising Singapore-born, Russian and American trained Darrell Ang, who has gained widespread attention for his compelling podium authority and authoritative readings of the core symphonic repertoire – especially the great masterpieces by French and Russian composers, in addition to being one of the foremost interpreters of contemporary Asian symphonic music.



Penderecki: Magnificat
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Antoni Wit, conductor

Naxos 8.572697

The two works on this recording are separated by 35 years, during which time the revered Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki (b. 1933) made a decisive break with the post-war European avant-garde. In the Magnificat, chilling instrumental clusters, spectral sounds and impassioned rhetoric unite with tonality and counterpoint to deliver a work of monumental emotional power. Written to mark the 65th anniversary of the end of the Jewish ghetto in Łódź, Kadisz is among the most distinctive of Penderecki’s later choral works in the stark contrasts between drama and somber reflection of its individual sections. Antoni Wit (b. 1944), one of the most highly regarded Polish conductors and a champion of Polish music whose discography has now surpassed 150 albums, leads the Warsaw Philharmonic, distinguished vocal and speaker soloists and an array of vocal ensembles and choirs.



Prokofiev: Symphony No. 3
Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop, conductor

Naxos 8.573452

This fourth volume in Marin Alsop’s acclaimed Prokofiev symphonic cycle features two of his most viscerally exciting works. Using material salvaged from his opera The Fiery Angel, the Third Symphony was hailed by Serge Koussevitzky at its 1929 première as ‘the best symphony since Tchaikovsky’s Sixth’. Originally commissioned as a ballet by Sergey Dyagilev but rejected as un-danceable, the Scythian Suite has become a popular orchestral showpiece, while Prokofiev retained a lifelong fondness for his dark-hued early symphonic sketch Autumn.




Beethoven: String Quartets, Vol. 3
Quatuor Alcan
ATMA Classique ACD2 2493

The Alcan String Quartet celebrates its 25th anniversary with a landmark three-volume recording of the complete cycle of Beethoven’s 16 string quartets. Volume 1, containing the 6 quartets from Beethoven’s early period, was released in 2014. Volume 2, Beethoven’s middle-period quartets, saw release in early 2015, while this release of Volume 3, the late quartets, masterpieces all, that includes the transcendent and initially controversial Grosse Fugue, caps the celebration. The Alcan Quartet is active in Canada and internationally. The quartet’s originality, contagious enthusiasm, unique sonority, and remarkable cohesion have all contributed to its success. Both on stage and in the recording studio, the Alcan Quartet possesses the qualities that characterize the best ensembles of its kind: recognizable personality, homogeneous sound and elegant style.



Grieg: Lyric Pieces
Janina Fialkowska, piano
ATMA Classique ACD2 2696

Edvard Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, a total of 66 masterly solo piano miniatures, were published in ten volumes over nearly five decades, 1867-1901. Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska performs a selection of 25 of these Romantic gems that earned the greatest Norwegian composer of the 19th c. the “Nordic Chopin” nickname: Berceuse (Op. 38/1), Vals (Waltz, Op. 38/7), Albumblad (Albumleaf, Op. 47/2), Melodi (Op. 47/3), and Notturno (Op. 54/4). Other works include peasant and patriotic marches, dances, songs and evocations of the Norwegian landscape. Beloved the world over for her exquisite pianism, Janina Fialkowska has been enchanting global audiences for over thirty years.



Glenn Gould plays Beethoven vol. 2
Glenn Gould, piano
Idis IDIS6698

Glenn Gould maintained a very peculiar relationship, a sort of love and hate, with Beethoven’s music, which he performed out of any traditional scheme or system. This CD presents two further Beethoven rarities in live recordings by the Canadian pianist, the first being the Piano Concerto No.1 in C, op. 15, recorded in Turin, Italy on 23 January 1951 when Gould was only nineteen. The Piano Concerto No.3 in c, op. 37, with the Canadian Radio Orchestra under conductor Heinz Unger, was recorded four years later, on 21 February 1955. This very significant addition to the discography of Glenn Gould furthers the image of this eclectic, fascinating and singular artist.



Smetana: String Quartets Nos. 1& 2
Pavel Haas Quartet
Supraphon SU4172-2

After their Janáček quartets and their award-winning Dvořák (“Recording of the Year”, Gramophone 2011) and Schubert (“Recording of the Year”, Gramophone 2014), the Pavel Haas Quartet has now put all their energy to the service of the music of Bedřich Smetana. Though very modest in scale, each of his chamber works can be said without exaggeration to be a foundation stone of Czech chamber music. They are personal works, often with a strong autobiographical element. Smetana wrote both his quartets towards the end of his like when he was already suffering from deafness: the First (“From My Life”) is programmatic, the Second seeming to belong almost to the 20th c. in its unconventional compositional style. Founded 2005, the Pavel Haas Quartet has established itself as one of today’s great chamber ensembles, performing at the world’s most prestigious concert halls and recording five award-winning CDs as exclusive Supraphon recording artists.



Chopin: Complete Edition
Various Artists
Brilliant Classics BRI94660

This 17CD set is the third Chopin Edition issued by Brilliant Classics. The piano works of the Polish master, speaking the universal language of beauty, melancholy, tenderness and passion, are beloved by listeners and music lover around the world. This third Edition may also be the best: it contains no less than seven new recordings and several newly licensed recordings. This release features a mixture of consummate Chopin performers and new artists. The 1992 winner of the Moscow Chopin Competition, Rem Urasin, plays the complete mazurkas. The late Earl Wild, among the last pianists to represent the Romantic piano performance tradition descended from Liszt, is heard in the nocturnes. Polish pianist Ewa Kupiec, who celebrated his Chopin’s 200th birthday with three specially selected Chopin recital programs joins the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony for the piano concertos. Also shining a light on Chopin’s orchestral music is renowned American pianist Abbey Simon, whose 1999 all‐Chopin recital in Carnegie Hall was praised by the New York Times for mixing "architectural clarity" with a "free‐spirited quality". Among the newer artists joining these experienced Chopin performers are Alessandro Deljavan (Etudes and Waltzes) and Wolfram Schmitt‐Leonardy (Piano Sonatas 2 & 3, Preludes, Ballades, Impromptus).



Berlioz: Harold en Italie
James Ehnes, violin
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Sir Andrew Davis, conductor

Chandos Records CHSA 5155

The virtuosic, 9-time Juno-winning Canadian James Ehnes is centre stage in this new recording of orchestral works by Hector Berlioz with the Melbourne Symphony conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. This recording mirrors an extraordinarily rare concert held in November 2014 with the same forces, in which James Ehnes played two Stradivarius, respectively a viola in the solo part of Harold en Italie – ‘symphony with a principal viola part’ in Berlioz’s words – and a violin for the solo in Rêverie et Caprice, both of which feature here. Berlioz was never ashamed to recycle his music from one work to another, especially when the earlier work had been rejected by the public or by the composer himself. In 1834, Paganini asked Berlioz for a work in which he could display his power on a fine Stradivarius viola. Berlioz then composed the four-movement Harold en Italie Symphony, incorporating passages from the Rob-Roy overture which he had recently rejected. Similarly, Rêverie et Caprice was the form eventually given to an aria from the opera Benvenuto Cellini, unceremoniously booed in Paris in 1838.Berlioz transformed it into a violin solo piece three years later, becoming the only piece he ever wrote for solo violin.



Barbara Hannigan: In Concert & Documentary
Barbara Hannigan
Mahler Chamber Orchestra

Accentus ACC20327

Barbara Hannigan is one of the most fascinating and multi-facetted artistic personalities of our time.She sets new standards as a singer, conductor, and performance artist.The intimate portrait “I’m a creative animal” takes the viewer into the world of an exceptional musician – a world of both passion and discipline.In this concert with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Hannigan both sings and conducts, effortlessly linking different musical epochs.“The audience went wild.” (Neue Zürcher Zeitung)“She is one of the best musicians out there.” (Sir Simon Rattle in The New York Times)




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