Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include a modern premiere of Mieczysław Weinberg’s powerful opera, Verdi and Monteverdi operas conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, symphonic suites by Cesar Guerra-Peixe, Soler’s Keyboard Sonatas performed by the brilliant young pianist Daumants Liepiņš, and more. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
This Oper Graz production of Mieczysław Weinberg’s powerful Holocaust drama Die Passagierin was rightly acclaimed for its moving performances and highly effective staging. Channeling the ordeals of wartime and Soviet persecution that Weinberg and his family experienced, the action unfolds on an ocean liner bound for Brazil on which a former Auschwitz guard and one of her Polish prisoners confront impossible moral conflict. Completed in 1967, the opera had to wait more than forty years before receiving its first performance. This audiovisual release follows an audio recording of the same production released on the Capriccio label (C5455), as a result of which Die Passagierin was declared ‘one of the most important and most brilliantly composed operas of the 20th century’ by Online Merker. Shostakovich, Weinberg's close friend, was of the same opinion, praising the score for its ‘beauty and greatness.’ The cast is uniformly excellent; musical director Roland Kluttig conducts the Graz Philharmonic that ‘seethes and creates a kaleidoscope of emotions and memories.’ (KulturServerGraz)
Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0144V)
When you experience the immediate vibrancy of the works on this latest programme in our Music of Brazil series, you'll wonder why recordings of César Guerra-Peixe’s music are such a rarity. All the items are heard in their first modern studio recordings, and this is the first time his two Symphonic Suites have appeared together on one album. Guerra-Peixe (1914–1993) was one of the most versatile Brazilian musicians of the 20th century. He developed a particular mastery of orchestration through his extensive work in radio, television and cinema. The inimitable sound this generated is impressively captured by the Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra under Neil Thomson. Since his appointment as principal conductor and artistic director in 2014, Thomson has developed the orchestra to a position of national significance. The ensemble's dynamic playing style heard on this album simply could not be bettered.
This is Vol. 10 in our ongoing series of Antonio Soler’s complete keyboard sonatas, which should not be confused with the first Naxos cycle that was recorded by Gilbert Rowland on harpsichord and completed in 2007. The difference? Each volume in this new series is performed by a different pianist, providing a range of perspectives on the sonatas; and all the performances are given on piano, differentiating them from historically informed readings on original instruments. The soloist on this latest instalment is the brilliant young Latvian pianist Daumants Liepiņš, who topped Pianist magazine’s list of Pianists to Look Out For in 2020. He’s a prizewinner of numerous instrumental competitions, including First Prize at the Nordic Piano Competition, the George Enescu International Piano Competition and the 65th Maria Canals International Music Competition, continuing the arrangement whereby the performer on each album is the most recent winner of the latter prize.
Conductor John Eliot Gardiner features in two of my audiovisual choices for July, both of them operas. The first is Falstaff, Verdi's final masterpiece and a fitting culmination of his operatic output. While ‘John Eliot Gardiner’s conducting is fundamental to the success of this Falstaff’ (Corriere Fiorentino), Nicola Alaimo's ‘formidable’ performance in the title role evidenced his ‘variety of phrasing [and] richly expressive nuances.’ (La Nazione) Recorded last year at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the quality of the music is matched by director Sven-Eric Bechtolf’s acclaimed new production, the audience’s verdict clearly reflected in the sustained applause that was unusually rewarded with an encore of the final scene's brilliant fugue.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (DYN-57951)
Audio recording available exclusively for download and streaming (CDS7951)
Here we have the final instalment of John Eliot Gardiner's Monteverdi Trilogy from the Opus Arte label. Judged ‘A crowning glory ... to Gardiner’s half century association with Monteverdi’ by The Times, L’incoronazione di Poppea follows productions of L’Orfeo (OA1347D / OABD7298D) and Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (OA1348D / OABD7299D) that were released earlier in the year. Eliot Gardiner has for decades been at the forefront of Monteverdi performance and scholarship, and for the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth in 2017 he conducted all three of the composer’s surviving full-length operas. This semi-staged production, recorded in Venice’s historical Teatro La Fenice, is part of that acclaimed cycle. Evidently there’s only one thing better than securing this final opera in the trilogy, and that's to have recordings of all three.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7297D)
The excellent series of reissues from Orfeo of archive recordings featuring conductor Michael Gielen (1927–2019) and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra continues with this fifth volume. The programme comprises three of Messiaen's works that reflect his diverse sources of inspiration, from birdsong to modal tonality to non-European rhythmic structures. The recordings were made in 1991 and 1996 and have been superbly remastered. Critical reception for previous releases in the series has been excellent: ‘intense performance … vivid recording’ (Fanfare on C210071/Berlioz); ‘dramatic and exciting’ (American Record Guide on C210021/Mahler); ‘heartfelt expression .. grand, dramatic sweeps’ (WTJU on C210241/Zemlinsky, Schreker); ‘an uplifting experience’ (Classical Music Daily on C999201/Beethoven). If the edition’s previous releases have passed you by, I recommend a bit of catching up!