In addition to its own wide-reaching monthly new releases (see www.naxos.com/newreleases.asp), Naxos also distributes several leading labels in many countries around the world. Here is a choice selection of recent releases from some of these distributed labels.
Established in 1986 by Serafino Rossi, Tactus is devoted to the discovery and preservation of the enormous and still unexplored Italian classical music repertoire, from Gregorian chants to Contemporary Classics. The label is committed to capturing the purest and most natural sound of the original period instruments and promoting historically informed performance practice. Tactus boasts a wide roster of Italy’s talented musicians: Rinaldo Alessandrini, Enrico Gatti, Sergio Vartolo, Federico Maria Sardelli, Modo Antiquo, among others. Under the leadership of Gian Enzo Rossi, son of the founder, the label continues to produce high-quality classical music recordings and gained GRAMMY Awards nominations.
The Italian bass Michele Pertusi, one of the best-known singers on the international opera scene, is certainly the ideal interpreter of the romances by Francesco Paolo Tosti, the composer famous for his chamber art songs. Tosti was the voice coach of Princess Margherita of Savoy. He was very popular during the Belle Époque and the main figure of salon music of the era. The texts of the romances in this full-bodied double album are all by the great Gabriele D’Annunzio, who with Tosti had produced pieces that are rarely found in the history of music. The pianist Raffaele Cortesi, expert connoisseur and performer of the chamber vocal repertoire, delivers his elegant and refined style in accompanying Michele Pertusi on the piano.
Bruno Maderna emphasised the importance of insight and imagination in his works. Among his five music theatre works, three were originally for the radio: Il Mio Cuore è nel Sud (1950), Don Perlimplin (1962), and Ritratto di Erasmo (1970). The other two were explicitly meant for the stage: Hyperion (1964) and Satyricon (1973). Both were conceived as ‘open works,’ so they could take on different forms at each staging. Hyperion was born from Maderna’s collaboration with the director Virginio Puecher. For the first staging of Hyperion, Maderna did not compose anything new but simply assembled some previously composed pieces. In the subsequent years, he constantly rewrote this work, as a place open to imagination, adding other vocal, instrumental, orchestral and choral pieces to it. The present recording documents the live version reduced and adapted by the great actor Carmelo Bene, accompanied by the RAI Symphony Orchestra from Milan, and directed by Maestro Marcello Panni.
ArcoDiva’s newest release presents works for oboe performed by Martin Daněk, a graduate of the prestigious Hanns Eisler University of Music in Berlin and winner of the 2019 Prague Spring International Competition. He says: ‘I’ve been living abroad for a long time, and playing in my own country is always something special’. This is especially true in the case of Prague Spring, with its festive atmosphere, which I remember from my childhood. The combinations of instruments and works on this program will be unusual, so it will be a unique experience for both the audience and the performers.’
Hans Winterberg grew up in Prague where he was one of a whole cadre of composers in the new Czech musical tradition. He is one of the few Jewish composers who survived the terror of World War II. His tale of survival is complicated and involved him, as a Czech Jew, having to seek refuge in post-war Germany, whereas contemporaries and colleagues like Viktor Ullmann, Erwin Schulhoff, and Hans Krása died in the concentration camps. He saw his music as ‘a bridge’ between the Slavic East and the West and admitted at one point that his musical starting point was Schoenberg. Audibly more present than Schoenberg, however, is a central European Impressionism, synthesised with complex rhythms.
William Grant Still, the ‘Dean of Afro-American Composers,’ was part of the Harlem Renaissance and wrote nearly 200 works including nine operas and five symphonies. Still’s many awards included three Guggenheim Fellowships and eight honorary doctorates. His work combines Classical forms with jazz and blues idioms and was inspired by the rich tradition of African American spirituals. Still hoped that his music would serve a larger purpose of interracial understanding, and this joyous, moving and hauntingly beautiful program – featuring all world premiere recordings – is infused with Still’s love of God, country, heritage, and even his mischievous dog Shep.
Nicholas Collon began as the new chief conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in September 2021. This all-Sibelius programme, carefully selected by the conductor, is his debut album together with his new orchestra. Collon offers a fresh and modern interpretation of Sibelius’ symphonic testament, the 7th Symphony, and brings to life the colour and drama of Sibelius’ incidental music for two plays – Maeterlinck’s famous Pelléas et Mélisande and the historic King Christian II.
‘…One day, a couple of years ago, a commission from Aarhus Symphony Orchestra popped up on the computer screen, a new piece for harpsichord and symphony orchestra, starring the phenomenal harpsichord virtuoso Mahan Esfahani. Now, there was an offer I couldn’t refuse, a well-timed opportunity for me to create the perfect symbiosis between ‘yesterday’ and ‘today’ (but without slipping into hackneyed neo-classicism), not only stylistically, but also on a practical level. The harpsichord was never supposed to appear with the modern symphony orchestra, an obvious balance issue springs to mind, but involving a carefully prepared and controlled electronic amplification, a new world of constellations between harpsichord and orchestra presents itself, unexpected sonorous alliances, that would be unthinkable (and impossible) without amplification. Selected purists and period-instrument fundamentalists will be horrified…the mere thought is abominable. But so be it. I could, however, be granted a ‘reduced sentence’, observing the time-honoured order of movements in a classical concerto, in which the first movement is fast, the second slow, and the third…well…just you wait…’ – Poul Ruders
Stéphane Denève, the triple winner of the Diapason d’Or of the Year, produced many outstanding recordings as chief conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra from 2011 until 2016 when the orchestra merged with its sister ensemble from Baden-Baden and Freiburg to form the SWR Symphony Orchestra. Among them, are Ravel’s complete orchestral works. These are now reissued as a 5-disc boxed set including the ballet Daphnis et Chloé, Ravel’s longest work, written for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and the operas L’Heure Espagnole and L’Enfant et les sortileges. Although the two operas cannot be strictly considered orchestral works, they are essential to understanding the œuvre of a composer who had a great predilection for fantasy worlds and the exotic. As a student, Ravel composed the Ouverture de Shéhérazade and, several years later, three poems for voice and orchestra on the same topic – both works form part of this set.
Aladdin’s story, taken from the Arabian One Thousand and One Nights, has been told many times and in many different ways. This operatic version by the Danish composer, C.F.E. Horneman, dates from the turn of the 19th to the 20th century and has the lush harmonies and flowing melodies you might expect from a piece of its time. Horneman adds new lustre to the old fairy tale about Aladdin and Princess Gulnare as they escape the forces of nocturnal magic and pursue happiness.
The source of inspiration for this album originates from collaborative projects between the Sámi artists Frode Fjellheim, Katarina Barruk, Johan Märak and the Erik Westberg Vocal Ensemble. Frode Fjellheim, leader of the band Transjoik and the composer of the opening musical number of the Disney animated film Frozen, features four of his works on this album, including his cinematic A Sister from the North. Jan Sandström, one of the most famous Swedish composers, has written various music for ensembles and orchestras. This album greets listeners with his rhythmically charged Jiegŋáffo, based on a joik by Johan Märak. On top of this are exciting pieces by the impressive composers widely known for their choral works, Kristin Boussard and Mia Makaroff. The comprehensive booklet includes work commentaries, biographies and song texts in English, Swedish and Northern Sámi.
Three great choral and orchestral works of the 20th century are gathered together in outstanding interpretations on the new album from BR-Klassik – Arvo Pärt’s Berlin Mass for choir and string orchestra from 1990, Francis Poulenc’s Stabat mater for soprano, mixed choir and orchestra from 1950, and Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms for choir and orchestra from 1930. Soprano Genia Kühmeier with the Bavarian Radio Chorus and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, two undisputedly world-class ensembles under the direction of Mariss Jansons, guarantee the highest listening pleasure.
Entre deux mondes (Between Two Worlds) is a journey through different spheres and a breaking away from borders. In order to reach a truly diverse perspective on the possible meanings of this subject, the featured composers are distinctly contrasted – both male and female, from the Romantic period to the present day, and in a variety of languages. This is Klaudia Tandl and Gisela Jöbstl’s debut album.
Listen to the Top Ten melodies that three hundred years ago were far and wide most popular in Sweden. The active musical life of Skara in times past, with its roots in the school and the cathedral, is documented by the music foundation Musik i Väst (Western Sweden Music) on four albums, of which this is the third.
GRAMMY award-winning Third Coast Percussion, whose artistry blends creative fearlessness with reverent precision’ (BBC Music Magazine), offers an album of enterprising collaborations and world-premiere recordings of works written and arranged expressly for the Chicago-based percussion quartet, representing four different approaches to composing concert music.
Danny Elfman’s Percussion Quartet structured like a four-movement symphony, shares distinctive traits heard in his GRAMMY-winning, Oscar-nominated films scores, as well as hints of African balafon, Indonesian gamelan, and Shostakovich. For the great admirers of composer Philip Glass, Third Coast arranged Glass’s solo piano Metamorphosis No. 1 for marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, and melodica. Rubix emerged from Third Coast Percussion’s improvisational collaboration with virtuosic, cutting-edge flute duo Flutronix, who also perform on the recording. Critically acclaimed electronic musician and composer Jlin (Jerrilynn Patton) composed her seven-movement Perspective as electronic tracks, without music notation. Third Coast transformed this work of ‘beautiful complexity’ into a version they could perform live as a quartet.
For this complete recording of Johannes Brahms’ Piano Trios, the internationally successful Salzburg violinist Thomas Albertus Irnberger chose his usual top-class ensemble partners. Irnberger has a long-standing friendship with the versatile cellist David Geringas, who, like the remarkable pianist Lilya Zilberstein, can point to several impressive recordings of these pieces. The Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, Op. 8 can be heard here in the revised version, which closes the time gap of almost 25 years to the other two trios (No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87 and No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 101), since the revision took place after the completion of these works and thus at the peak of Brahmsian compositional art. For the Trio in A Minor, Op. 114, Brahms envisaged the viola as an alternative instrumentation from the very beginning, which is mastered by Irnberger as brilliantly as the violin.
‘After many years of performing these works in recitals, we wanted to record them – not as two separate sets but as a confluence of dance-inspired music influenced by two distinct regions and cultures. The track order, tempos, pacing between selections, the improvisatory nature of some of the phrasing, dynamics, articulations, and embellishments were elements in our process that we felt could contribute to providing some of the live concert feelings that we’ve all been missing during periods of lockdown. The tangos were composed for me (Zachary) to play, and like the sonatas of the Italian violinist-composers of the Baroque Era, these compositions provide an environment for exploration, an invitation to embrace improvisation as part of the process. The Balkan Dances are a musical reflection of the cultural influences in my (Mina’s) childhood, in what was then Yugoslavia. Certain rhythms, melodic fragments, and harmonic progressions conjure visceral memories from traveling throughout the rich cultural landscapes across the region, and of singing and dancing traditional songs in several dialects as a child and music student…’ (Mina Gajić & Zachary Carrettin)
Sierra consists of five separate pieces composed for multiple pianos, ranging from the poignant solo excursion Last Light to the cascading, undulating Ocean and the epic 15-minute title piece. Performed with confidence and commitment by pianist Vicky Chow, whose ability to flex in different interpretive directions, depending on the composer’s intention, is renowned in the modern classical community, Sierra captures a palette of subtle but insistent emotions – wonder, wistfulness, joy and awe – that can elevate and transport with astonishing power.
The profound and delightful Partitas, Bach’s Opus 1, sparkle in Eleonor Bindman’s brilliant performance. Her unhurried tempos bring out the twists, turns and quick modulations of the dance movements and preludes of this unparalleled set of six suites – famous in Bach’s day and today for their vitality and depth. Bindman’s spirited recording enriches the listener’s experience by revealing the power and emotional nuances of the suites.
One of Bach’s favourite forms, the suite, or partita, incorporates lively, stately, graceful and stirring dances introduced by an opening movement – with a different title in each suite: Praeludium, Sinfonia, Toccata, Fantasia, Ouverture and Praeambulum. The scope of these works is vast – melody, harmony and counterpoint blending in sonorous combinations that surprise, fascinate and enchant.
According to Bach’s first biographer, J.N. Forkel, ‘Such excellent compositions for the clavier [keyboard] had never been seen and heard before. Anyone who had learnt to perform well some pieces out of them could make his fortune in the world thereby.’
Not only was Manuel Ponce the leading figure in the emergence of Mexican nationalism but his music embodies a wide variety of influences. Nowhere is this more evident than in his writing for solo piano, and this album, the third of eight volumes, explores three specific facets. The first is his youthful concert studies, which are virtuosic, atmospheric and memorably evocative. The second, the Veinte piezas fáciles (Twenty Easy Pieces), consist of ingenious pianistic adaptations of Mexican folk songs and dances, some indigenous. The third element is his personalised use of Romanticism in the form of mazurkas, character pieces and the dazzling Bersagliera. Álvaro Cendoya continues his acclaimed cycle dedicated to the complete piano music of Manuel Ponce.
The internationally acclaimed Latvian violinist Baiba Skride makes her first recording of music for unaccompanied violin with this programme of sonatas by Erwin Schulhoff, Paul Hindemith, Philipp Jarnach and Eduard Erdmann.
Although Johann Sebastian Bach’s sonatas and partitas for solo violin are regarded as the measure of every violinist’s technical skill and maturity, works for unaccompanied violin became increasingly rare in the classical and romantic eras that followed. It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that Max Reger made a conspicuous contribution to the genre with a total of eleven sonatas. His example no doubt provided the impetus and inspiration for his contemporaries and successors to create these further four additions to the genre, all written in the 1920s.
This release is the latest addition to the series dedicated to the piano works of Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the most influential and widely performed composers of the twentieth century. Presented by Eugenio Catone, the First Sonata was the result of a particular creative moment when Shostakovich, who was nineteen at that time, came up with completely new music at an isolated moment in his career. The reuse of the entire themes from previous compositions is a constant feature of his works. One example is A Child’s Exercise Book, Op. 69 (1944–45), a collection of seven children’s pieces for piano, some of which employ melodic material that has already been used. The very short Murzilka, also included in this recording, must also have been part of the collection. Equally fascinating pieces in this volume are the Variations on a Theme by Glinka, performed here for the first time in their entirety. Two variations by Shostakovich are included in this recording, while the other seven are composed by other Soviet composers.
The Paris Opera Ballet is one of the most active dance companies in the world. The dancers, used to practicing 5 to 7 hours a day, develop themselves by working with coaches and choreographers, but first and foremost through a close relationship with their audience. But in 2020, the pandemic radically changed their artistic life. They had never stayed away for so long from the rehearsal studios and the stage of the Palais Garnier and the Opéra Bastille. This film witnesses a unique moment in the history of the Ballet and follows the dancers from their first day back in the studios, to the reopening of the venues, and through the rehearsals of Rudolf Nureyev’s La Bayadère.
Arrigo Boito’s libretti, including those for Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff, are some of the most outstanding achievements in operatic history. Adding to these accomplishments is Mefistofele, the only opera he completed with music, widely performed on the opera stages today. On his opera Nerone, Boito started working in 1862 but struggled completing it immediately, leaving it unfinished for several decades. It became his life’s work; and it was only after his death that the conductor Arturo Toscanini created a performable version. The world premiere was held at La Scala Milan in 1924. Boito’s opera Nerone is now available for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray.
‘Musically it’s brilliant.’ – Wiener Zeitung
‘Rafael Rojas triumphs in the murderous role of Nero, Lucio Gallo (Mago) is a great prince of darkness.’ – Süddeutsche Zeitung
Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen concludes with Götterdämmerung. The composer’s original draft, in which the gods are redeemed by the hero Siegfried’s sacrifice, had fundamentally changed by 1874. Now in this ‘cosmic catastrophe’ Brünnhilde rides into Siegfried’s funeral pyre, the Rhine overflows and Valhalla perishes, and the gods with it. It’s the longest and most complex of the four music dramas, and its orchestration is the most colourful and sophisticated. Siegfried’s Rhine Journey and Funeral March and Brünnhilde’s immolation scene are some of Wagner’s most potent theatrical moments and bring this drama to a shattering conclusion.
Claudio Monteverdi was a pioneer in the origins and development of opera, taking vocal music beyond Renaissance polyphony and entering a modern era in which genuine feelings and emotions are expressed through a wide variety of characters. Part of a late flowering in Monteverdi’s illustrious career, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria is considered the most tender and moving of his three surviving operas. It takes its narrative from the second half of Homer’s Odyssey, presenting Ulysses as a flawed hero; a lone wanderer who has to overcome cruel tests, terrible hardships, treachery and deception before he can be reunited with his faithful queen Penelope and recover his kingdom. Recorded in Venice’s historical Teatro La Fenice, this semi-staged production is part of John Eliot Gardiner’s acclaimed celebration of Monteverdi’s 450th anniversary, a true milestone in Western cultural history.
ECHO celebrates the tenth anniversary of an extraordinary partnership between two virtuosos whose previous releases include 2018’s album SOAR and their 2013 debut Clychau Dibon. ECHO marks the third part of this remarkable trilogy. The harp and kora share centuries of history, and Catrin and Seckou create a unique dialogue in a musical alliance of rare empathy, inspired by differences and similarities. Their atmospheric magic crosses genre boundaries, from folk and world music to classical and contemporary as their fingers flow like opposing tributaries into a single river of sound. ECHO is the tender triumph of an extraordinary musical partnership that combines harp and kora, the modern and traditional, different cultures and common humanity.
‘All the music on this album was recorded in different spaces with different acoustic conditions, using an improvisation-based approach that left much or all to the impulses of the place and moment. Half of the pieces on the album consist of solos for flutes of different sizes, with minimal accompaniment. The others were played in duo with double bassist Johannes Lundberg and were recorded in two spaces with big, warm acoustics: the main exhibition hall at the Nordic Watercolour Museum and Ohlin Hall at the Academy of Music and Drama in Gothenburg’ – Anders Hagberg
This month’s interesting free track is from Tactus’ final volume (Vol. 15) of the series dedicated to Marco Enrico Bossi’s organ works. Bossi was a famous Italian concert artist, composer, and teacher. He was conferred with the highest ranks in the Kingdom, became an honorary member of the most prestigious foreign and Italian academies and enjoyed the esteem and friendship of great musicians and intellectuals.