In addition to its own wide-reaching monthly new releases (see www.naxos.com/newreleases), 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.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Grand Piano Records, the classical label devoted to the exploration and discovery of unknown and neglected repertoire for the piano. Launched in 2012, Grand Piano quickly gained a reputation for producing high-quality recordings of rare keyboard gems. The label’s main noted feature is the production of complete cycles of piano works by numerous lesser-known composers that might otherwise have remained ignored and unrecorded. Such composers include Leopold Koželuch, Hélène de Montgeroult, Alexander Tcherepnin, Blagoje Bersa and Mieczsław Weinberg. Grand Piano artists are often authorities on these composers and experts on the chosen repertoire, giving their performances a unique stamp of authority. The Grand Piano catalogue is not only historically comprehensive but also geographically global in its reach. Its diverse catalogue showcases piano music from 40 different countries and every historical period, ranging from Viennese classical sonatas to Argentine tangos and contemporary experimental music, with most albums featuring world premiere recordings.
Watch this video trailer featuring an array of the label’s acclaimed recordings from its first 10 years.
Almeida Prado’s colossal piano cycle Cartas Celestes (Celestial Charts) offers a paradigm of audacious invention (GP709, 710, 746, 747) but between 1985 and 1991 this prolific Brazilian composer also wrote a set of 14 nocturnes that display the genre’s lyrical impulses. Along with abstract elements and features such as synesthesia, used in homage to his teacher Messiaen, the full range of influences can be felt in his Nocturnes: Chopin, Scriabinesque colour, bossa-nova, Brahms-like intervals, serenity and radiant songfulness. Ilhas (Islands) is a mystical but programmatic work, the predecessor of Cartas Celestes in many essential elements. Aleyson Scopel is an award-winning Brazilian pianist and one of Almeida Prado’s greatest contemporary advocates.
Medtner’s 14 piano sonatas, the most significant achievement in this genre by any major composer since Beethoven, span his career. The Sonata-Ballade explores a tempestuous musical allegory – the triumph of Light over Darkness, of Faith over Doubt; while the Sonata in A minor is cast in a single, terse movement, with folkloric elements and frequent use of bell-like features that exude Russianness. By contrast, the ‘Night Wind’ Sonata is a monumental epic of exceptional complexity that stunned Rachmaninov and led composer and critic Sorabji to call it ‘the greatest piano sonata of modern times.’
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Acclaimed by the New York Times as ‘an alluring, mystical new work’ when it premiered outdoors at the city’s Lincoln Center in July 2014, John Luther Adams’ Sila: the Breath of the World is so carefully orchestrated that the recording itself pushes the limits of how to capture multiple ensembles of musicians in one setting. Thanks to modern technology and the magic of multi-tracking (with producers Doug Perkins and Nathaniel Reichman at the controls), Sila maintains the composer’s vision as a grand invitation to the listener ‘to stop and listen more deeply.’ Put simply, like Inuksuit (2009), widely known as Adams’ large ensemble piece for percussion, no two performances of Sila are ever the same, due in part to the freedom that is given to the musicians, each of whom plays or sings a unique part at his or her own pace. But on a macro level, Sila can also be described as an intelligent entity all its own – a living, breathing organism that takes on the collective intent of its performers, and its composer, to transcend the forces of nature and become, in a sense, a ‘breath of the world.’
‘One of the many joys of working with early music is that the imagination is free to embark on a journey through space and time. The opportunity arises to reawaken long forgotten music that would have been heard on the streets we now walk, bringing history ever closer to the present, not unlike the experience of holding a yellowing, faded manuscript in your hands, on which the words “Vivaldi” or “small flute” are scrawled. Time stands still, and this 300-year-old greeting becomes tangible in the here and now. On interpreting the stories behind the scribblings of ink that someone once thought so important to put to pen and paper, I’m overcome with eagerness and humility – what a privilege to breathe new life into these treasures.’ – Emelie Roos
Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) was a roaring success from the first day it was performed, praised by critics as a masterpiece. It was also the composer’s last work published by Universal Edition in Vienna. A fierce opponent of National-Socialism, Bartók stopped co-operating with his main publisher soon after. The Divertimento (1939), though definitely not a ‘lightweight’, gives barely any indication of the political circumstances and events at the time it was created. In their original form, the piano works on the present recording, arranged for percussion ensemble, are miniatures whose strong rhythms make them natural candidates for percussion arrangements (Bartók himself experimented extensively with percussion instruments and was familiar with them).
In this new concerto album, one of the greatest violinists of his generation, Christian Tetzlaff, offers profound interpretations of two deeply dramatic and lyrical concertos – those of Brahms and Berg – together with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin conducted by Robin Ticciati.
Five on Fire stands for the five fingers of each hand (Five) that create overwhelming music from dreams, experiences and thoughts. Saxophonist/composer Daniel Gubelmann and his musical companions unconditionally place passion (on fire) at the centre of their performance. By merging his jazz quartet with the string orchestra of the Musikkollegium Winterthur, they expand the diverse spectrum of their expression with vibrations, moods and timbres, thanks to which they embark on new journeys of discovery together with their audience.
Brazilian composers in the 19th century often sought state scholarships to enable them to study in Europe, where they were to become influenced by the German, Italian, and French compositional schools. They also became involved in the vogue for writing suites based on ancient dances, such as Nepomuceno’s delightful Ancient Suite, premiered at Grieg’s home, or Braga’s Madrigal-Pavana which evokes the belle époque ballrooms of Rio de Janeiro. Miguéz’s Suite in the Old Style is polyphonic and lively, while Gomes’ Sonata for Strings is his finest non-operatic work.
American violinist Rachel Barton Pine marks the 25th anniversary of her 1997 recording of violin concertos by Black composers of the 18th and 19th centuries with Violin Concertos by Black Composers through the Centuries. This special-edition reissue updates and expands the original program into the 20th century with Pine’s recent recording of Florence Price’s Violin Concerto No. 2, composed in 1952. The 1997 release established the violinist’s reputation as a passionate advocate for composers of African descent.
Pine recorded Price’s Second Violin Concerto with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by rising young American conductor Jonathon Heyward, who has held conducting and guest conducting positions with prominent European and American orchestras.
The violinist reprises her previous recordings of masterworks by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1775), José White Lafitte (1864), and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1899), all with Chicago’s Encore Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Hege. The New York Times declared: ‘Rachel Barton [Pine] handles the concertos’ varied demands with unaffected aplomb, performing this music lovingly.’
The great cellist Zuill Bailey begins this program with the world premiere recording of Zwilich’s beautiful Cello Concerto, a new and important work traversing many elements of the cello’s singing sound. This marks Bailey’s 6th recording for Delos. The amusing Peanuts® Gallery follows with a quote from Beethoven, which anyone familiar with the famous Charles Schulz cartoon knows is Schroeder’s toy piano passion. Short movements portraying many of the other Peanuts® cartoon characters follow.
Zwilich says that the Romance for Violin and Chamber Orchestra ‘celebrates some of the simple pleasures of playing the fiddle,’ and that the Prologue and Variations for String Orchestra highlights the ‘special sonorities, character and expressiveness of the string orchestra.’ Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong and the remarkable Santa Rosa Symphony bring full warmth and colour to the music in this programme.
Around 1902, Leo Blech took the subject of the ‘original romantic comic magic’ play by Viennese theatre manager/actor/playwright Ferdinand Raimund, adapted it, and turned it into his fifth opera. A cantankerous misanthrope terrorises family and servants with his paranoid mistrust. He’s cured only when faced with his own behaviour, courtesy of a supernatural role reversal. Highbrow opera meets folksy farce with unexpectedly sumptuous and splendidly orchestrated music that lies somewhere between Wagner and Humperdinck. The opera’s premiere at the Dresden Court Theatre was a sensational success. All of Blech’s music was subsequently banned and, once the Nazi horror was over, it never returned. Now you can hear what we missed.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958). Written in 1920–21, just after the First World War and the first waves of Spanish flu, his Mass in G Minor represents a quest for peace and harmony. Music is the composer’s way of healing the world. Along with this great work, the Vokalensemblen Sundbyberg, with the intention to promote the development of Swedish choral music, also presents in this recording other admirable pieces by Kjell Perder, Paula af Malmborg Ward, and Staffan Isbäck.
Dom Pedro I was the first Emperor of Brazil, proclaiming its independence from Portugal in 1822. A gifted musician, Pedro I is one of only a few monarchs to have become known as a composer. A performance of his Ouverture was organised in Paris in 1832 with some in the audience convinced that it had been composed by Rossini, while the Hino da Independência do Brasil (Hymn to the Independence of Brazil) remains one of the country’s best-loved anthems. Operatic in character, the Te Deum celebrated the baptism of Pedro’s first son, and the joyous Credo is one of his most frequently performed works.
‘On the day that I heard the final mastered recording for the first time, it was hard to believe that this particular arrangement of words and music has never existed before. Like many great works of art, it feels to me as though this has always been there waiting to be discovered, like a beautiful figure carved from a single piece of wood whose form is revealed by a master wood carver. As Benedict [Sheehan]’s early vocation was as a carpenter, this analogy feels particularly apt.
I cannot wait to share this dramatic experience with the world. Yes, it’s a story that has been told before, ultimately a story of redemption – how one human is transformed to see the world differently; to open eyes and hearts to others, to offer love and joy rather than bitterness and contempt. It’s a journey we all should contemplate. My greatest hope for this recording is that this collaborative labour of love will encourage many people to contemplate such a journey each and every year.’ – Matthew Guard
Valentin Silvestrov is probably the best-known Ukrainian composer, and his Requiem for Larissa was written in response to the unexpected death in 1996 of his wife, the music and literature scholar Larissa Bondarenko. She had stood by his side from the very beginning of his artistic career. It was in 1999, shortly before the turn of the millennium, that Silvestrov was finally able to complete his Requiem. He did not set a drama of the Last Judgement to music, as Mozart, Berlioz or Verdi had done before him, but rather wrote a lament – in seemingly endless, world-forlorn repetitions. The composer stepped out of the present and into the past, commenting on his life with Larissa with memories of music that had inspired her, and with profound allusions, retrospections and epilogues of the most personal nature.
Tenor Domenico Menini, accompanied by the Orchestra Sinfonica G. Rossini, conducted by maestro Daniele Agiman, delivers some of the most famous opera and chamber arias of the vocal repertoire, from Gioachino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti to Giuseppe Verdi, Francesco Paolo Tosti, Giacomo Puccini, and Ruggero Leoncavallo. This is an anthology of melodies that since their creation in the great melodrama and cultural salons of the nineteenth century, has become widely popular, and remain an integral part of the musical culture of every social class today.
Edvard Grieg, arguably the most popular composer ever to emerge from the Scandinavian Peninsula, made a substantial contribution to the chamber music canon with his violin sonatas, rather than his works for cello; he in fact wrote only one cello sonata, his Op. 36. This all-Grieg album is Daniel Müller-Schott’s twentieth on the Orfeo label and again reflects his commitment to expanding the repertoire for his instrument, not least through his facility for making transcriptions; the programme includes the premiere recording of his transcription for cello of Grieg’s Violin Sonata in C Minor, Op. 45, No. 3. Accompanied by pianist Herbert Schuch, his long-standing duo-partner, the remainder of their programme comprises the short Intermezzo in A Minor (EG 115) and five further contrasting transcriptions of short songs and the Romance, Op. 39, No. 2.
GRAMMY-nominated Danish composer Poul Ruders’ intuitive development as a composer has enabled him to create works which manage to be strikingly modern, without the clichés of European modernism, imbued with the power to speak to the emotions of an audience. The current programme features works spanning 30 years, beginning with the elliptical Throne (1989) for clarinet and piano and two major chamber works, the Clarinet Quintet and Piano Quartet, dating from 2014 and 2016, respectively.
Heitor Villa-Lobos once confessed that he loved to write string quartets, stating ‘one could say that it is a mania’. His 17 quartets form a substantial part of his chamber music output, covering a long career that embraced national pride and musical experimentation leading to the rarefied atmosphere of the final masterpieces. Often drawing on the musical folklore of Brazil, these quartets are an outpouring of the spontaneous and daring invention. Ranging from austere polyphony to compelling expressiveness and virtuosity, they represent one of the most distinctive bodies of chamber works in 20th-century music.
Edith Sitwell’s invitation to William Walton to collaborate on an innovative, revolutionary new work came at a critical moment in the young composer’s career, and Façade proved to be his first great success. The peerless combination of a peculiarly English dry wit, genuine pathos and superlative technical skill remains an extraordinary achievement. Sitwell’s verses conjure a satirical and poignant world of bourgeois late-Victorian England, while Walton’s settings unfailingly enhance and enrich the texts in a work in which words and music are unquestionably of equal importance.
In this admirable recording, Sebastiano Mesaglio presents works by two impressive improvisers and composers, Muzio Clementi and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. The programme opens with Sonata in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 81 No. 5 by Hummel, composed in Vienna in 1819. It is the broadest and most complex of his output devoted to this form. Clementi’s Capricci, Op. 47 in E Minor is characterised by fast movements with highly narrative episodic structures. Clementi presumably preferred not to use the term sonata but rather Capricci in forma di Sonata since neither of the first movements was structured according to the rules. A true masterpiece, the Sonata in F Minor, Op. 13 No. 6, is considered the jewel in the crown of Clementi’s output for piano. Its three movements are in the minor key, similar to most of his accomplished works.
Listening to Rued Langgaard’s works for solo piano is like reading an open book. All through his life, Langgaard had a close relationship with the piano and composed well over 50 works for the instrument, in which his development as a composer, and as a person, can be traced step by step. In this fourth volume of piano works by the deeply original Danish composer, Berit Johansen Tange captures the fierce inner life of Langgaard, his charm and incomparable twists in colour and mood that are all part of Langgaard’s both delicate and visionary expression.
‘As a Viennese interpreter with Russian roots, it is my desire to present works that connect me with my hometown, from the most famous Viennese piano literature to rare discoveries and music never recorded before.
This disc centres on the tradition of dance and the complexity and thorough chromatic explorations in the sonatas of Berg and Korngold. As a passionate chamber musician inspired by many collaborative years with my dear friend, violinist Emmanuel Tjeknavorian, I am delighted to record Sergei Rachmaninov’s fabulous piano arrangements of Fritz Kreisler’s Liebesleid and Liebesfreud from the latter’s three Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen.’ – Maximilian Kromer
This Blu-ray box contains legendary concerts from 1977–1990 of Leonard Bernstein conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker, Orchestre National de France and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, and the Centennial Celebration Concert at Tanglewood, featuring John Williams, Yo-Yo Ma, Andris Nelsons, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tony Yazbeck and many more, performing works by Bernstein, Williams, Mahler and Copland.
Without Camille Pissarro, there is no Impressionist movement. He is rightfully known as the father of Impressionism.
Born in the West Indies, Pissarro found his passion in paint as a young man in Paris, and by the age of 43 had corralled a group of enthusiastic artists into a new collective. Their first show was scorned by the critics, but the group had acquired a new name: the Impressionists. For the next 40 years, Pissarro was the driving force behind what has today become the world’s favourite artistic movement. Pissarro was a dedicated family man, generous with his advice, passionate about experimentation, well-read, astute, socially aware and an anarchist.
Metanoia – the word itself – means beyond thought; to broaden and change the way of seeing. Metanoia, which crosses both time and borders with the works of Giacomo Puccini, Arvo Pärt, Alexander Borodin, Johann Sebastian Bach, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Ennio Morricone, is steeped in this concept: from Puccini, who only wrote one sacred work on account of the ‘Almighty God’ commanding him to write ‘only for the stage’, to Bach, who possessed an astonishing ability to make us experience transcendence using the simplest of elements, to Pärt, whose ten-year creative crisis birthed a new, highly original musical language. Together with her ensemble, K, the choir Sequenza 9.3, and violinist Manon Galy, Simone Menezes travels across Italy and invites us to experience the thought-transcending aspects of music and to uncover the personal journeys of Metanoia of some of the greatest figures in music and art.
With 120 actors, 600 participants, 1300 costumes, 220 sets and after two years of work, Ariane Mnouchkine’s iconic movie tells, in four hours, the fascinating story of Molière and the century in which he lived.
From his childhood to his death, we follow Molière and his travelling companions, in their joy, misery and glory throughout a savage yet refined 17th century France, sharing their first theatrical adventures, successes and failures.
This familiar and spectacular saga where the devout clash with the libertine, peasants with courtesans, is about the life of an honest man who exhausts himself in an unceasing struggle to practice his art in a century filled with repression and violent hypocrisy.
Mary, Queen of Scots, is taken prisoner and sentenced to death by her cousin, the Queen of England, Elisabeth. But Mary remains a figure of light even inside her prison cell. She can count on her loyal followers. The result is an intrigue woven into the male-dominated fabric of politics and religion in which the protagonists are caught between love and the desire for power: a blame game couched in impressively clear language.
‘One of the best is Anne Lenk’s stylish and focused staging of Mary Stuart at Deutsches Theater Berlin. The cast is uniformly superb.’ – The New York Times
Double meanings, disguises and dirty laundry abound as Sir John Falstaff sets about improving his financial situation by wooing Mistress Page and Mistress Ford. But the ‘Merry Wives’ quickly cotton on to his tricks and decide to have a bit of fun of their own at Falstaff’s expense…
The Merry Wives of Windsor is the only comedy that Shakespeare set in his native land. Drawing influences from British 1930s fashion, music and dance, this production celebrates women, the power and beauty of nature, and with its witty mix of verbal and physical humour, rejoices in a tradition that reaches right down to the contemporary English sitcom.
The composition of Un Ballo in Maschera caused Verdi many problems. What began as an opera called Gustavo III was subject to censorship by the Neapolitan and Roman authorities, so its libretto, location and title all changed. The subject, however, is still the murder of Riccardo (Gustavo) at the masked ball, couched in a musical language in which the seriousness of Italian opera is infused with French vivacity. The opera’s structure is carefully symmetrical in the great terzets, and the themes of duty, pleasure, drama and humour are rendered with masterful clarity.
One of the finest dancers of his generation, Vadim Muntagirov has twice won the Best Male Dancer at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards as well as Dance Europe’s Outstanding Dancer Award and the prestigious Benois de la danse.
Since joining The Royal Ballet in 2014, he has excelled in many of ballet’s most celebrated lead roles, as well as proving his skills as a sensitive partner to some of The Royal Ballet’s most revered stars. This special collection brings together four of his most show-stopping performances.
In The Sleeping Beauty, Muntagirov’s elegant classicism shines as Prince Florimund, and in Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, his heartfelt characterization brings eloquent depth to the impassioned pas de deux between Manon and Des Grieux. Described as ‘technically thrilling’ (Guardian), Muntagirov’s performance as Count Albrecht makes the quintessential Romantic ballet Giselle powerfully resonant today. In delightful contrast, his cheeky performance in Coppélia reveals a wonderful flair for comedy.
Lodestar Trio presents their striking debut album, one that not only exhibits the three performers’ outstanding musicianship but also presents new interpretations of baroque classics (Bach, Lully, Couperin…), folk tunes and new compositions. Together, they push the boundaries of their mystical and magical Scandinavian string instruments. With Max Bailie on violin, Olav Luksengård Mjelva on Norwegian Hardanger fiddle and Erik Rydvall on Swedish nyckelharpa, they skilfully showcase the dexterity of each instrument, bringing out new qualities, whilst paying tribute to the roots of a much-honoured musical period.
Sweden-based jazz singer Lovisa Jennervall’s voice has been described as captivating, authentic and warm. She has a way of telling a story through her music that makes the listener want to pay attention to every note and every little change in dynamics. Lovisa is well-known as a member of the critically acclaimed jazz quartet Ellas Kapell. Recently, the group released their second album, What’s It All About and was awarded Vocal Jazz Album of the Year by Lira Musikmagasin.
Together, the title of each of the seven-tracks on this album Dear Body form a complete message. The music becomes an entire story, like a musical drama performance for which the stage has not yet been set. The different moods and soundscapes of the songs propel the story forward, painting a complex picture of pain interspersed with playful simplicity and quiet poetry. The love of music and of making music are the driving forces here, leading to humility and love for the body. All tracks are written and arranged by Annasara Lundgren and share a sense of chamber music’s intimacy and an organic sound with songlike phrasings and dynamics.
Something magical can happen when two rivers meet, two traditions collaborate, or two talented friends work hard on a joint creation. Paul Livingstone on sitar and Pete Jacobson on cello take inspiration from the Hindustani musical tradition, and from Paul’s teacher and mentor Ravi Shankar who collaborated so eloquently with Yehudi Menuhin on violin and helped to popularize Hindustani music in the West. Pete and Paul also draw inspiration from American jazz improvisation. Sangam, in Hindi, means many things, including ‘confluence,’ or the blending of two people, ideas or traditions into something fresh and new.
To mark the label’s 10th anniversary and honour extraordinary women who have left their mark on music history, Grand Piano has lined up three free download options from the remarkable 10-CD boxed set collection 3 Centuries of Female Composers. The albums below present esteemed female composers from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and one of the three is entirely free to download. Whatever you pick is sure to delight!