Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include an exciting new Brahms Symphonies edition, world premiere recordings of works for violin and orchestra by Henry Vieuxtemps, video premiere of Alessandro Scarlatti’s surviving opera, historic recordings by violinist Henryk Szeryng and conductor Hans Rosbaud, and more. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
Conductor Adam Fischer has long enjoyed a deep artistic bond with the Danish Chamber Orchestra (DCO). This year marks the 25th anniversary of their collaboration, which Fischer himself refers to as ‘a musical marriage’. His past editions on other labels of the Haydn and Mozart symphonies might have been seen as his crowning achievement until the 2019 cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies (8.505251) he made with the DCO for Naxos. It was named Best Symphonic Recording at both the Opus Klassik and ICMA Awards and received reams of critical appreciation. Expect a similar reception for this box set of the Brahms symphonies, which might even move you to attend their special, marathon performance of all four symphonies on 22 November. I hope to see you there!
This new production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s final opera was filmed in May 2021 at France’s Opéra National de Lyon. The stage direction was by the noted Australian director, Barrie Kosky, a specialist in Russian opera. You may remember his authoritative contribution to our recent Global Wagner documentary (2.110708 / 2.110725 / NBD0146V / NBD0139V). Regarding the performance on this release, bachtrack.com observed how his staging elicited ‘dark wit spiced with surreal burlesque’; that the role of Tsar Dodon was ‘gloriously sung by Dmitry Ulyanov’; and that Nina Minasyan as the Queen of Shemakha ‘was the vocal star of the performance ... with a voice like that, she could wrap any monarch round her little finger.’ Conductor Daniele Rustioni already has well-received entries in our catalogue as part of the Elisabetta Brusa orchestral works series, and his operatic standing is reflected in his appointments as principal conductor of the Lyon National Opera (in 2017) and principal guest conductor of the Munich Opera (from the 2021–22 season).
Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0150V)
Vieuxtemps transformed the technique and aesthetic of violin playing in the 19th century. As a virtuoso performer-composer he was considered a worthy successor to Paganini, so it takes an exceptional violinist to convincingly showcase Vieuxtemps’ own compositions for an audience today, which is not a problem when the soloist is Alexander Markov: ‘The most exciting violin recital this listener has heard in quite some time. Markov’s playing is marked by a Romantic effusion that comes so naturally … [he plays] with an emotional intensity that has all but vanished from contemporary violin playing.’ (New York Times) No-one will be disappointed by this mixed programme of works for violin and orchestra, all heard in superb performances and world premiere recordings.
Our engaging new series, Great Composers in Words and Music, continues with this sixth volume that focuses on the life and music of Erik Satie. The edition will continue to roll out in the months ahead; previous releases have featured J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mussorgsky and Debussy as their subjects. Davinia Caddy has again written the biography in a highly approachable style that brims with fascinating detail and anecdote, while the narrator is Lucy Scott, a noted actress in British film and television since the early 1990s who also has recordings of numerous Naxos Audiobooks to her credit. The series is perfect for anyone seeking a straightforward and enjoyable means for finding out the essentials of each great composer’s life and music. Each volume is being released both as a single CD and a digital album.
Griselda is the last of Alessandro Scarlatti’s operas to have survived intact to the present day, and this high-definition 2021 recording of a performance from Puglia’s magnificent Palazzo Ducale celebrates the 300th anniversary of the opera’s premiere. Filmed during Italy’s Festival della Valle d’Itria, Martina Franca, it’s performed by a superb team of Baroque specialists and acclaimed singers under the musical direction of George Petrou, ‘[who] conducted this lavish masterpiece with a strong sense of drama.’ (Bachtrack) The production was critically well received, and cited by Avvenire as ‘captivating … an exemplary performance, rich in expressive nuances.’ As a modern-day performance of a significant work by one of the key figures of Italian Baroque opera – and of the influential Neapolitan school in particular – this release will be hard to beat.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (DYN-57935) and Disc (CDS7935.03)
This new Royal Opera production of Janáček’s great tragic opera met with a red carpet of 5-star reviews. It’s a truly outstanding performance that features leading interpreters of Janáček’s stage works, including Hungarian Henrik Nánási as musical director and Asmik Grigorian, ‘the Lithuanian soprano currently dominating every stage she steps onto.’ (The Independent) This was Grigorian’s much anticipated Royal Opera debut in the title role, alongside Karita Mattila as the Kostelnička and with a star cast in support. I have every confidence that this acclaimed production by award-winning director Claus Guth will be leading the audiovisual market for a long time to come.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7302D)
This 2021 production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors was described as a fairy-tale farce that brims with ‘touches of brilliance and moments of high comedy.’ (WhatsOnStage) Central to the success of the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance is the brilliant direction of comedy master Phillip Breen who, alongside movement director Charlotte Broom, received multiple plaudits from the critics. I'll let their comments speak for themselves: ‘exhaustingly funny … Breen and movement director Charlotte Broom grab every possible gag.’ (The Guardian); ‘Breen’s staging captures how petrifying it is to have the world you live in dismantled in front of you; faced with the shattered pieces, all you can do is laugh.’ (Evening Standard)
This is a re-release of a much prized 1967 recording of Brahms’ Violin Concerto featuring legendary artists Henryk Szerying in the solo role and conductor Rafael Kubelik. Theirs is a rare chemistry that melds virtuosity with beauty in interpretation, while the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra achieves consistently well balanced textures and interplay under Kubelik’s masterful direction. The programme opens with a high-octane performance of Dvořák’s Hussite Overture that brims with a panache that is still palpable more than fifty years on from the recording. I warmly recommend this distinguished nugget of recording history.
Having retired from the podium only last year, the distinguished English conductor Sir Roger Norrington already enjoys a legendary status for his leadership and scholarship in promoting historically informed performances of orchestral music. This release is the latest in a series that reveals the reason behind that reputation; it showcases his work with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra where he was principal guest conductor from 1998 to 2011. The programme comprises two of Martinů’s six symphonies. While the symphonies may be unfamiliar, Sir Roger’s authoritative, musicianly performances provide a perfect introduction to them.
This ongoing SWR edition of performances by Hans Rosbaud continues to do excellent service in reminding us of the wonderful recordings he made across a wide range of repertoire, as one of the 20th century's most distinguished conductors. This 13th instalment features French orchestral repertoire. Fundamental to the critical acclaim for the entire series has been the outstanding remastering of the original recordings: ‘The remastering of the SWR tapes is superb. You never would guess these to be 60-year-old recordings. …The sound is clear and wide-ranging, and the orchestra sounds great.’ (American Record Guide on SWR19105CD/Sibelius songs and symphonies) Once the performances on this latest release have been experienced by any collectors new to the edition, they will surely be lining up for the first twelve. You can take my word for it.