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Philip Greenfield
American Record Guide, September 2010

The theme of the works commissioned by Maestro Schirmer and his players for the Munich Radio Orchestra’s 2008-09 Paradisi Gloria series was Mary and the Magnificat. These four works were submitted to explore different aspects of the Virgin’s prayer of thanksgiving in the Gospel of Luke...But what you note immediately is that this excellent orchestra gives its best to each of the composers. Exciting, yet polished brass, vivacious winds, and gutsy strings—this band has them all. When these folks play, they don’t play around. (The engineering, by the way, is as accomplished as the playing. Great sound.)

The pick of the litter is Austrian composer Johanna Doderer’s Salve Regina, one of the two choral works on display here. Her hymn to Mary really churns, creating a fervent sense that a battered world like ours is in need of the gracious spirituality that informs the Magnificat prayer. This is the only one of the four pieces I’d be genuinely interested in hearing again, especially with soprano Marlis Petersen doing the solo honors. (I love her in Rene Jacobs’s account of Haydn’s Seasons.)

The other work that makes the dial twitch is Abismes (Abysses), a “Diptych for Orchestra” by Oriol Cruixent, a young composer from Barcelona who was educated in Munich. Inspired by the subject matter, his music explores two worlds: the nasty, inhumane one in existence before the coming of the Christ, and the grateful, jubilant one redeemed by the Son of God. With the musicians speaking words from the Sermon on the Mount as the Tibetan singing bowls have at it, it’s an interesting take on the spiritual issues at hand.

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