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Opera Arias (Soprano): Borsi, Maria Luigia - PUCCINI, G. / VERDI, G. / CATALANI, A. / RESPIGHI, O.
Italian Soprano Arias
Naxos 8.573412

Appearing here in her début solo album, Italian lyric soprano Maria Luigia Borsi has been acclaimed for her ‘grace, beauty, animation and variety’ (The Sunday Times). Her Willow Song from Verdi’s Otello has been described as ‘gorgeously sung’ (Opera News) and her rôle in Puccini’s Turandot as demonstrating ‘extraordinary communicative skills’ (Opera Magazine). This programme includes some of the most moving and dramatic arias from Italian opera, including the tragic heartbreak of Madama Butterfly and the shimmering beauty of Catalani’s Ebben? Ne andrò lontana from La Wally.


FUCHS, K.: Falling Man / Movie House / Songs of Innocence and Experience
R. Williams, London Symphony, Falletta
Naxos 8.559753

Kenneth Fuchs, one of America’s leading composers, deepens his bond with conductor JoAnn Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra with this superb recording of vocal music featuring baritone Roderick Williams. The new works include Falling Man, a dramatic scena based on the powerful post-9/11 novel by Don DeLillo; Movie House, a cycle featuring settings of seven poems by John Updike; and Songs of Innocence and of Experience, four settings from William Blake’s iconic two-part illustrated collection of poems. Fuchs’s music continues to find its visual counterpart in the work of Abstract Expressionist artist Helen Frankenthaler, whose art adorns the cover of this disc.


RZEWSKI, F.: 4 Piano Pieces / Hard Cuts / The Housewife's Lament
van Raat, Lunapark, Marinissen
Naxos 8.559759

Frederic Rzewski is most celebrated for his virtuosic variations for piano, The People United Will Never Be Defeated! (8.559360). The Four Pieces began as a sequel to that breath-taking work, but whilst sharing certain similarities—Andean dance rhythms and tremendous drama—it occupies its own very distinct sound world, offering a compound of intense lyricism, shattering darkness, and hints of revolutionary fervour. The Housewife’s Lament is a set of variations on a 19th-century tune by an anonymous composer with strong influences of Beethoven. The punning title Hard Cuts refers to cuts both budgetary and musical, and Rzewski’s signature elements appear throughout: folk rhythms, pointillist clarity, minimalism, and unique craftsmanship.


MILHAUD, D.: Orestie d'Eschyle (L')
L. Phillips, Dempson, Outlaw, Delphis, University of Michigan Choirs and Symphony Orchestra, K. Kiesler
Naxos 8.660349-51

Part of the great French musical tradition and a member of Les Six, Darius Milhaud was an important avant-garde figure in early 20th-century Paris. The Oresteia of Aeschylus trilogy arose from his lifelong interest in Greek mythology and drama, inspired by the expressive, syncopated rhythms of Paul Claudel’s poetic texts. In addition to innovative rhythmic elements, the trilogy exhibits complex harmonic techniques, particularly polytonality, which Milhaud believed gave him more varied ways of expressing sweetness in addition to violence.


BARTÓK, B.: Kossuth / 2 Portraits / Orchestral Suite No. 1
Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta
Naxos 8.573307

All three of the works in this programme reveal a young composer on the threshold of greatness, serving as his passport to the vast new world of orchestral music prevailing at the beginning of the 20th century. Inspired by the tone poems of Richard Strauss, Bartók’s Kossuth dramatically commemorates the struggle for Hungarian independence in 1848 with an alluring and provocative orchestration. The Two Portraits set moods of love and painful heartbreak into stark contrast, while the First Suite is a showcase of symphonic effects which caused a sensation in Vienna at its première in 1905.


STRAUSS, R.: String Quartet in A Major / PUCCINI, G.: Crisantemi / 3 Minuets in A Major / VERDI, G.: String Quartet
Ensõ String Quartet
Naxos 8.573108

Three of the greatest opera composers from the 19th and early 20th centuries are heard on this recording in their only works for string quartet. Richard Strauss’s String Quartet in A major is a youthful work which shows the classical influence of Haydn, while Puccini’s Crisantemi is a brief elegy charged with great emotional intensity. Verdi’s String Quartet in E minor is his only significant chamber work, written at the age of sixty when he was at the height of his fame. The Ensō Quartet’s GRAMMY®-nominated recording of Ginastera’s complete quartets (8.570780) was acclaimed by MusicWeb International for “string quartet playing of jaw-dropping prowess”.


SCARLATTI, D.: Keyboard Sonatas (Complete), Vol. 15
Naxos 8.573222

Whilst Alessandro Scarlatti was largely responsible for the early development of Neapolitan opera, his son Domenico is most famous for his extensive series of keyboard sonatas, of which some 555 survive. His employment at the Spanish court in Madrid led to a series of works largely designed for the Infanta, Maria Barbara, later to become queen. These sonatas are amongst the most significant of all 18th-century keyboard works.

HÉTU, J.: Chamber Works for Strings (Complete)
New Orford String Quartet, Dann, C. Carr, Hutchins
Naxos 8.573395

Highly respected as an educator, Jacques Hétu was also one of the most frequently performed of all contemporary Canadian composers. His earlier hallmarks of polytonality and harmonic tension were rooted in European influences, and as his work matured it became increasingly lyrical and virtuosic. The First String Quartet sees Hétu’s emerging style combine 20th-century techniques with a neo-romantic harmonic language, while the more personal Second Quartet concludes with a hauntingly beautiful Andante in memory of the composer’s mother. The lyrical Sérénade evokes the tranquility of a starry summer’s night. Hétu’s witty Adagio and Rondo was his first foray into string quartet writing, while the masterful Sextet was his final chamber work for strings.

SHOSTAKOVICH, D.: Symphonies, Vol. 11 - Symphony No. 13, "Babi Yar"
Vinogradov, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Petrenko
Naxos 8.573218

Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. 13, Op. 113 in 1962. The climax of his ‘Russian period’ and, in its scoring for bass soloist, male chorus and orchestra, among the most Mussorgskian of his works, it attracted controversy through its settings of poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (the ‘Russian Bob Dylan’ of his day)—not least the first movement, where the poet underlines the plight of Jews in Soviet society. The other movements are no less pertinent in their observations on the relationship between society and the individual. This is the final release in Vasily Petrenko’s internationally acclaimed symphonic cycle.

PAULUS, S.: Three Places of Enlightenment / Veil of Tears / Grand Concerto
Nashville Symphony, Guerrero
Naxos 8.559740

Describing himself as ‘a composer who can satisfy all kinds’, Stephen Paulus possesses a remarkable versatility and gift for the dramatic. Concertos for string quartet and orchestra are a rarity, and Three Places of Enlightenment is both a journey of discovery for the listener and a spectacular showcase for the principal strings of the Nashville Symphony. Both this concerto and the reflective Veil of Tears are considered by the composer among his most significant works. Employing hymn fragments, the Grand Concerto is a work of sweeping gestures and melodies as well as wide contrasts of mood and texture. Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero has had a close working relationship with Stephen Paulus for many years.


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10:04:06 PM, 1 November 2014
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