Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include the latest addition in our ‘Music of Brazil’ series featuring Carlos Gomes’ Opera Overtures and Preludes; Robert Carsen’s staging of Emilio de’ Cavalieri’s opera Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo; Rachmaninov’s Complete Symphonies, in celebration of his 150th birthday; the pairing of two concertos by Danny Elfman and Adolphus Hailstork with the Buffalo Philharmonic conducted by JoAnn Falletta; the world premiere of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s first opera Jephtas Gelübde conducted by Dario Salvi; John Eliot Gardiner’s audiovisual presentation of Claudio Monteverdi’s trilogy, and more. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
This is Volume 14 in our ‘Music of Brazil’ series that goes from strength to strength. Carlos Gomes (1836–1896) was Brazil’s leading operatic composer, hailed by European critics of the day as the equal of Rossini and Verdi. Notably, he also helped pave the way for Italian verismo during the latter part of the 19th century. The preludes and overtures from his operas progress from early experimentation with orchestral sonority through a new conception of atmosphere and tension in his historically based dramas. In Alvorada (Dawn) from Lo Schiavo (The Slave) his descriptive writing comes close to the nature of a symphonic poem, while his final opera, Condor, is reminiscent of French orchestral music in its use of whole-tone scales. Conductor Fabio Mechetti and the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra here build on the success of their three previous successful releases in the series: ‘Mechetti draws from the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra its fullest, winning combination of expressive power and voluptuousness.’ (The WholeNote on 8.574067)
Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo enjoys historical importance as the first surviving opera; it premiered in 1600, predating works by Peri and Monteverdi. This wonderful production by the acclaimed director Robert Carsen was hailed as ‘an unmitigated, tremendous success’ and its ‘musical production was extraordinary.’ (bachtrack.com) Carsen is one of the world’s leading directors who already has a distinguished presence in our catalogue with Pagliacci/Cavalleria rusticana on 2.110670/NBD0117V (‘a radically fresh interpretation ... wonderfully sung and conducted.’ (MusicWeb International) Conductor Giovanni Antonini and the ensemble Il Giardino Armonico have won Gramophone, Diapason d’Or and Choc du Monde de la Musique awards. The cast comprises singers who have variously appeared in the world's leading opera houses and concert halls.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0161V)
This collection of Rachmaninov's complete symphonies celebrates the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. There have of course been many recordings of these works, but with critical comments such as ‘I’m not sure one could cite more committed and accurately played performances of these works by any other orchestra’ (Classical Net on Symphony No. 3 and the Symphonic Dances), this edition has become a first choice for many collectors. The artists in question are conductor Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, who received wide critical acclaim for the other two albums in the series: ‘here is a performance warmed by musicians who clearly love this symphony…[and] are truly inside the music emotionally’ (BBC Music Magazine on Symphony No. 2); ‘a splendid First featuring powerful playing … Slatkin always has performed Rachmaninov as well as just about anyone alive today, and this cycle ... sustains his reputation.’ (ClassicsToday.com)
Here are two highly attractive and entirely new concertos from two vibrant and contrasting American composers. Danny Elfman’s renown as a successful film composer will no doubt boost healthy sales. His Violin Concerto ‘‘Eleven Eleven’’ is a true concerto noir, both haunting and compelling, that melds his rock, film and television background with a love for the music of Shostakovich and Prokofiev. Adolphus Hailstork’s Piano Concerto is the other work, and while he isn’t exactly a household name, albums of Hailstork’s music already in the Naxos catalogue have been well received by reviewers as ‘heartfelt, serious works by an underrated American composer.’ (American Record Guide) The outstanding soloists are violinist Sandy Cameron (‘brilliant’ The Washington Post), for whom Elfman wrote this concerto; and pianist Stewart Goodyear (‘a phenomenon’ Los Angeles Times). Conductor and major Naxos artist JoAnn Falletta needs no further introduction here, except as a final guarantor of the predicted success of this release.
Although Louis Vierne will always be best remembered as one France’s most outstanding organ composers, his piano works are part of a significant wider oeuvre and notable for their colourful and inspired inventiveness. This second volume in Sergio Monteiro’s series is set to build on the success of his first (8.574296), welcomed as a ‘lost treasure of the French composer – a task well worth undertaking.’ (Pizzicato) The only other recordings dedicated to Vierne’s complete piano works date from the 1990s which allows plenty of space for a fine new recording such as this presenting repertoire that has been relatively neglected for over a century. Stretto said it all: ‘an immense discovery!’
Nino Rota’s rarely performed comic opera Il cappello di paglia di Firenze (‘The Florentine Straw Hat’) is a highly individual work that’s essentially a skilful blend of bel canto and film music (it presages the many scores that Rota later produced for the leading names in filmmaking). Composed in 1945, it’s an infectious mix of Rossini, Offenbach and, in terms of the orchestration, occasional hints of Richard Strauss. It’s also one of those unusual works that translates very well from stage visuals to audio-only. This vivacious performance by Graz Opera fully captures the humour and vivacity of Rota’s unique style and demonstrates why it's a work that really should not be underestimated, despite its rarity.
This second album of music by Nino Rota underlines his pre-eminence as a composer of film music. Rota wrote some 80 film scores, including collaborations with Fellini, Zeffirelli and Visconti, and the score for Coppola’s The Godfather. This release features the suite assembled from Rota’s music for King Vidor’s 1956 film War and Peace; it won the Nastro d’Argento award for Best Score the following year. Then there are three of Rota’s non-cinematic works, pieces that Rota himself regarded as equal to his film scores, even if they are rarely performed today; cast in concerto style, they nonetheless hover between the worlds of the concert stage and the silver screen. The programme ends with original film music again – extracts from Rota’s score for Fellini's 1978 comedy Orchestra Rehearsal.
Meyerbeer has long been considered one of the greatest operatic composers, with parts of his output now being gradually rediscovered, a process to which conductor Dario Salvi has proved a significant contributor, not least with his well-received albums of Meyerbeer’s music already in our catalogue. This world premiere recording of Jephtas Gelübde (Jephthah’s Vow), Meyerbeer’s first music drama, was previously available as a digital-only release. The work is based on the biblical story of Jephthah and his rash vow of sacrifice. Dario directs a fine line-up of principal soloists, including bass-baritone Sönke Tams Freier, soprano Andrea Chudak and mezzo-soprano Ziazan, expertly guiding his full musical forces through a mature score that turns between lyricism, drama and rapture.
This trilogy of Monteverdi’s genre-defining operas will surely stand as a landmark project for years to come. Conductor John Eliot Gardiner is at the helm of a world-class team of casts and creatives in his acclaimed Monteverdi 450 series of semi-staged performances that were produced in Venice’s historical Teatro La Fenice. Collectors can now enjoy Monteverdi’s three surviving operas in one box set. The productions were presented as part of the 2017 celebrations marking the 450th anniversary of the composer’s birth, and each received critical praise: ‘Gardiner has assembled a touring ensemble of remarkable quality.’ (The Times on L'incoronazione di Poppea); ‘Impressive singers and musicians shine in a beautifully realised semi-staging that sounded totally assured.’ (The Guardian on Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria); ‘Monteverdi’s genius shone through at every turn in this vibrant, heartfelt performance.’ (The Times on L’Orfeo)
Last month I introduced two releases from Vox’s new Audiophile Edition, a series that's bringing new life to recordings originally made by the legendary producers and GRAMMY Award winners Marc Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz. Collectors will be keen to know of these two further releases from the same edition that sport equally stunning results, following high-definition transcriptions of the original analogue tapes. The first features Stanisław Skrowaczewski conducting the GRAMMY Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra in a programme comprising Beethoven’s four Leonore/Fidelio overtures and some rarely heard fragments from the incidental music to his The Ruins of Athens. This is another winning combination of superb performances and enhanced recordings that achieved collector status among audiophiles.
The second March release in Vox’s new Audiophile Edition features celebrated Naxos artist Leonard Slatkin directing the St Louis Symphony Orchestra in Rachmaninov’s Second and Third Piano Concertos. The soloist is Abbey Simon. Rachmaninov’s five works for piano and orchestra continue to be his most successful compositions; the composer himself cited the Third Concerto as his favourite. Abbey Simon was a pianist in the great Romantic tradition and a noted interpreter of Rachmaninov’s music. He applied his virtuoso technique with effortless ease and a notable clarity of sound. This combination of artistic brilliance and exceptional recording quality promises to be another real treat.