Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include Robert Schumann’s Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4; the first recording of the complete collection of Claudio Santoro’s Fantasias Sul America; Gil Mehmert’s staging of the musical Elisabeth; a tribute to the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho celebrating her 70th birthday; an audiovisual presentation of George Frideric Handel’s Semele; The Dante Project, presented by The Royal Ballet to mark the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death; and more. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
Conductor Marin Alsop is one of Naxos’ leading artists and an inspiring figure on today's international music scene. Adding to her significant, highly praised discography for our label, this latest release completes her 2-album edition of Schumann’s four symphonies. The performances use Mahler’s sensitive re-orchestrations that were designed to render them more suitable for today's larger orchestras. It follows hot on the heels of Vol. 1 (8.574429) that was released last month. With only two other recordings (from 1994 and 2007) that use these Mahler revisions, Marin's astute performances will no doubt now lead the field. The orchestra on both volumes is the wonderful ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Our 30-album ‘Music of Brazil’ series gathers heft with each release, this latest returning to the music of Cláudio Santoro, one of Brazil’s most eminent symphonists. Two albums in October and November focused respectively on Santoro’s Symphonies Nos 5 and 7 (8.574402, ‘the performances are first-class’, Gramophone) and Nos 11 and 12 (8.574406). In contrast, we now have a programme requiring smaller resources and representing fascinating syntheses of Santoro’s style – his ‘Fantasias Sul América’. It's among his most important works and comprises fifteen unaccompanied pieces for solo instruments that were written as test pieces for the 1983 Sul América Young Musicians of Brazil Competition. Both freely atonal and highly chromatic, the fantasias receive authoritative performances by principals of the São Paolo Symphony Orchestra. The Sonata for Solo Violin completes the programme.
Librettist Michael Kunze and composer Sylvester Levay certainly created a huge commercial success with their musical Elisabeth. Telling the story of the beautiful Empress of Austria, from her wedding to her tragic assassination by the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni, theirs is a theatrical production that not only has lavish period costumes, exciting choreography and dramatic impact, but also a music score that perfectly balances tender lyricism with riveting pop-music. The result is the kind of emotionally exhilarating experience that leaves audiences wanting more. Since its premiere in 1992, Elisabeth has seen an almost unbroken run of productions, from Vienna to South Korea. Having starred in numerous musicals internationally, Maya Hakvoort, recipient of the Golden Rathausmann Award of the City of Vienna in 2016, takes the title role.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0164V)
Lortzing’s Der Waffenschmied (‘The Armorer of Worms’) is a lighthearted and superbly crafted opera. Yet there are surprisingly few complete recordings of the work available, so I predict great interest from collectors in this new recording, which was made in the very place for which the opera was written and where it was premiered in 1846 – Vienna’s Theater an der Wien. The wonderful cast includes Günther Groissböck in the title role and the ‘bewitching’ (Der Standard) Miriam Kutrowatz as his daughter Marie. Conductor Leo Hussain leads a performance that OnlineMerker judged a ‘beautiful and amusing encounter with the work.’
Nicola Porpora (1686–1768) helped to turn Italian opera into the most successful and spectacular Baroque musical genre in Europe. One of the few Neapolitan School luminaries that was actually born in Naples, Porpora wrote L’Angelica, a serenata for six voices and instruments, in 1720; the librettist was a young Pietro Metastasio. Composed for the birthday of Empress Elizabeth Christine, wife of Charles VI, its comic plot follows the travails of a couple in love. The work’s success was immediate, resulting in further commissions that became distinguished successes for Porpora in Venice, London, Dresden and Vienna. This world premiere audiovisual recording of a new production of L’Angelica was made at the 2021 Festival della Valle d’Itria. The noted conductor and Baroque opera specialist is Federico Maria Sardelli.
‘Acclaimed Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho is a true visionary. Her music conjures vast, cosmic soundscapes and is at once monumental yet introspective.’ This was BBC Music Magazine’s reaction to a 2019 release of a programme of her music on the Ondine label (ODE1309-2). The same year, the magazine produced a survey ranking the ‘50 Greatest Composers of All Time’ in which Saariaho ranked seventeenth, the best of any living composer, and ahead of the likes of Brahms, Schubert and Tchaikovsky. To celebrate her recent 70th birthday, Ondine has assembled a tremendous digital-only album of tracks from her 15-album discography on the label. The compendium represents a 30-year collaboration that has produced both a number of award-winning recordings and the most extensive catalogue of her music on any label.
Here’s a distinguished interpretation from New Zealand Opera of Handel’s masterpiece Semele. The work's an engaging mix of opera and oratorio that scandalised audiences at its first performance in London in 1774. The story explores a love triangle between Jupiter, King of the Gods, his wife, the goddess Juno, and his lover, the mortal princess Semele. The production is conceived as ‘The Wedding of the Year’ and was filmed appropriately in Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral. The title role is exquisitely sung by soprano Emma Pearson, underpinning ‘A remarkable production… a brilliant theatrical phenomenon [that is] surprising, amusing and utterly engrossing.’ (Opera Magazine)
Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7309D)
Originally presented last year to mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, the poet’s epic journey through the afterlife in The Divine Comedy is realised by the Royal Ballet in a major artistic collaboration between trailblazing forces of the contemporary arts scene. Wayne McGregor’s unique choreography is accompanied by a virtuosic new score by composer/conductor Thomas Adès, one of today’s most influential musicians. The designs are by Tacita Dean, renowned for her pioneering and poetic work across film and other media. Together they illuminate the extraordinary vision of Dante in a three-part work for the full company. This world premiere recording also marks the final performance of acclaimed Royal Ballet principal Edward Watson. In a nutshell: ‘The Dante Project is utterly thrilling... bold, beautiful, emotional and utterly engaging.’ (The Guardian)
Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7278D)
Finnish conductor/violinist Pietari Inkinen has been chief conductor of the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie for the past five years, where his contract extends to 2025. So you can expect a truly engaging meeting of minds between the artists in these refreshing interpretations of works by Shostakovich. The two Chamber Symphonies are arrangements of string quartets by Rudolf Barshai, in his day a distinguished violist and conductor. The Concerto for Piano, String Orchestra and Trumpet features virtuoso trumpeter Sergei Nakariakov and pianist Maria Meerovitch, described by the great Martha Argerich as ‘a real joy to play with … her musical insight and lyricism are most inspiring.’