Klaus Heymann Recommends May 2023

Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include John Corigliano’s Complete Solo Piano Music, the world premiere of Adolphe Adam’s opera Orfa; Valérie Lesort’s staging of Jacques Offenbach’s opera La Périchole; Springtime in Amsterdam a musical film by Christof Loy; the latest addition to the ‘Music of Brazil’ series featuring music by José Antônio de Almeida Prado; Vol. 8 in our Haydn Piano Trios series presented by the Aquinas Piano Trio; the 1888 version of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony; Jean-Baptiste Lully’s opera Acis et Galatée directed by Benjamin Lazar; the world premiere recording of Saverio Mercadante’s Messa solenne; Grażyna Bacewicz’s rarely recorded works, new production of Handel’s greatest oratorio Theodora; Parts 1-3 of Shakespeare’s Henry VI presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company; the first and only recording of Eugen Engel’s opera Grete Minde; new digital remastering of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 featuring Friedrich Wührer; and more. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.

Naxos 8.559930

American composer John Corigliano’s prolific output has been rewarded with recognition and popularity throughout the Western world, inspiring acclaim from leading musicians such as Leonard Bernstein, who considered him ‘one of the most talented composers I know’. This new album of his complete works for solo piano features both his Piano Concerto and a set of pieces for piano alone, adding to a growing Naxos discography that has surely contributed to his growing profile worldwide. The concerto turns between lyricism and atonality, virtuosity and theatricality; the solo works are built variously on minimalism (Fantasia on an Ostinato), improvisatory qualities (Winging It) and the soul of Rachmaninov (Prelude for Paul). British pianist Philip Edward Fisher is recognised as a performer of exceptional versatility, while conductor David Alan Miller’s Naxos recordings with the Albany Symphony Orchestra have become a byword for quality performances of exciting repertoire, not least contemporary works.

Listen to an excerpt from Concerto for Piano and Orchestra: II. Scherzo (Vivace)

Naxos 8.574478

I’m pleased to present another album featuring conductor Dario Salvi, who maintains a strong presence in our catalogue through a range of albums featuring composers such as Meyerbeer, Humperdinck, Auber, Bronsart, Suppé and Marschner. This latest is the world premiere recording of Adolphe Adam’s penultimate ballet, Orfa. The work’s scenario is based on Nordic mythology and reflects archetypal Romantic elements that were typical of the Paris Opéra when it was first performed there in 1852. Uniquely, this performance uses a new edition of the work copied from Adam’s original manuscript score held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. I have every confidence that Dario will again favourably impress the critics, as he has done repeatedly to date: ‘Dario Salvi conducts with unreserved energy that makes the music catch fire.’ (Classical Music Daily on Suppé’s Mozart incidental music, 8.574383)

Naxos 2.110756 [DVD]

This audiovisual release provides a perfect opportunity to unwind with the wonderful score Offenbach created for Périchole, his light-hearted opéra-bouffe. La Perricholi – in reality, Micaela Villegas – was Lima’s leading theatrical lady in the 1770s when Peru was a Spanish colony. Her life was fictionalised in a one-act play by Prosper Mérimée that was re-fashioned to produce a libretto on which Offenbach based his opéra-bouffe. The work reflects the creative mania in Paris at the time for Spanish life and art in music that features vivacious rhythms, boleros, seguidillas and rich arias. The strong cast is under the baton of Julien Leroy; the stage director is Valérie Lesor, whose 2015 adaptation of Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea at the Comédie-Française won both the Molière Award for visual creation and the Critics’ Prize.

Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0168V)

Naxos 2.110757 [DVD]

Springtime in Amsterdam is a joyful musical feature film created by stage director Christof Loy, world renowned for his work in international opera houses. His meticulously crafted productions have earned him numerous awards, including Director of the Year several times by Opernwelt magazine. This high-definition production relates how a group of four people meet accidentally in Amsterdam and experience a series of confusions that must be resolved in 48 hours. The richly varied score includes Viennese operetta, Dutch and French chansons, and songs from the Great American Songbook, featuring composers such as Franz Lehár, Jerome Kern and Jacques Brel. It's performed by a quality cast of actor/singers, all with established international opera careers, including Annette Dasch, Thomas Oliemans and Norman Reinhardt. The conductor is Marko Letonja, whose recent recording Baritenor, with vocalist Michael Spyres, was chosen as one of the top 10 classical albums of 2021 by The Times and won the 2022 Gramophone Award for Vocal Album of the Year.

Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0169V)

Naxos 8.574411

This release is Vol. 15 in our tremendous Music of Brazil project, undertaken in collaboration with the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote music by Brazilian composers dating back to the 18th century. This instalment turns the spotlight onto José Antônio de Almeida Prado (1943–2010), one of the most admired Brazilian composers of his time. The album comprises two stylistically diverse works that reflect different creative periods in Almeida Prado's life: the prize-winning Pequenos Funerais Cantantes, a lament full of unique sound-worlds forged from different combinations of choral and orchestral writing, composed when Almeida Prado was still in his twenties; and the superbly orchestrated Sinfonia dos Orixás that portrays the spirits (orishas) central to the Yoruba religion. This is conductor Neil Thomson's fifth album in the series: ‘These impressive and rarely heard works are all played with absolute conviction and panache ... under Neil Thomson.’ (Gramophone on Santoro's Symphonies 11 and 12, 8.574406). The orchestra is the São Paulo Symphony, one of the three major Brazilian orchestras contributing to the project. Their album of Guarnieri’s Chôros (8.574403) received a 5⁠-⁠star rating from BBC Music Magazine.

Listen to an excerpt from Pequenos funerais cantantes ao poeta Carlos Maria de Araújo: Corpo de terra VI

Naxos 8.574391

I'd like to remind people of our continuing, well-received project to record all of Haydn's piano trios with this new release from the magnificent Aquinas Piano Trio, which is Vol. 8 in the edition. The programme contains the later trios that reflect a heightened sophistication, with strings and keyboard given a new independence of character, and Haydn exploring spectacular modulations and enharmonic key changes that seem to foreshadow Schubert. Our edition has already established itself as a market leader, with acclaim for the first three volumes by the Kungsbacka Trio, for example, indicating that they ‘need fear nothing in comparison’ (Gramophone) with any competitor. The series has also featured the Oberlin Trio who made their Naxos debut with Vol. 7 (8.574385): ‘Felicity, finesse, and good cheer are hallmarks of these performances.’ (Fanfare) This latest volume from the Aquinas Trio will no doubt attract plaudits similar to those received for their previous two volumes in the series: ‘I have never enjoyed Haydn trios as much as in these performances.’ (Fanfare on Vol. 5, 8.574361)

Listen to an excerpt from Piano Trio in F major, Hob.XV:6: I. Vivace

Capriccio C8085

Capriccio’s much-admired project to record all Bruckner’s symphonies in all the versions continues with this 1888 version of the Fourth Symphony (‘Romantic’); it's the eighth volume in the series. The conductor throughout the project is Markus Poschner, who has been impressing collectors and critics alike with the fresh vision he is bringing to this major part of Bruckner's legacy, not least MusicWeb International in commenting on Poschner’s two previous versions of The Romantic: ‘I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed by this superb recording.’ (C8083, 1881 version); ‘the great arches of sound are superbly performed by Poschner’s musicians … The recording is excellent, as if one is in the middle of the concert hall.’ (C8084, 1876 version) The label is predicting that listeners will find this performance of the 1888 version both mystifying, troubling, surprising and exquisite. I will add successful to that list.

Listen to an excerpt from II. Andante

Dynamic DYN-37971 [DVD]

Jean-Baptiste Lully was granted unprecedented authority by Louis XIV, the Sun King, to determine who was permitted to stage operas in France at the time. By 1686, however, Lully’s authority was waning and his long-standing librettist deserted him to write sacred works. Despite these setbacks, Lully wrote Acis et Galatée, a pastorale héroïque, and one of his final masterpieces. Its plot – the cyclops Poliphème’s love for the nymph Galatée – drew from Lully an astonishing alternation of effects, a profound monologue for the nymph in Act III, and a magnificent concluding Passacaille, all framed by a succession of dances and vividly conceived choruses. This recording of the work's 1774 Paris version is of a new production directed by Benjamin Lazar; the orchestra and chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino are conducted by Maria Sardelli; the title roles are sung by Jean-François Lombard as Acis, and Elena Harsányi as ‘the luminous Galatée’. (La Nazione Firenze)

Also available in Blu-ray Video (DYN-57971)

Dynamic CDS7986

Recent research among the archives in Genoa has unearthed a series of important manuscripts, including the Messa solenne by Saverio Mercadante (1795–1870). It's a magnificent score requiring four vocal soloists, a male chorus, and a large orchestra with extensive concertante roles for cor anglais and violin. First premiered in January 1868, two years before Mercadante’s death, it reflects the peak of the composer’s artistic maturity: opulent orchestration, extensive counterpoint, intricate instrumental textures, rich lyricism and fugal mastery. This is the world premiere recording of what was the first performance in modern times, held at the Teatro Carlo Felice of Genoa in July last year.

Listen to an excerpt from Sanctus – Benedictus

Ondine ODE1427-2

It’s been pleasing to note how the music of Grażyna Bacewicz (1909–1969) has been enjoying a revival over the past two decades. She was an outstanding figure in 20th-century music, a major Polish composer and a versatile musician. This album includes some of her rarely recorded gems, including both the Piano Concerto and the late Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in its first digital recording. Bacewicz herself was an accomplished pianist, whose formidable keyboard skills and excellent knowledge of the instrument’s resources ensured writing for piano that is idiomatic throughout. Also included on the programme is the composer’s homage to Bartók – her Music for Strings, Trumpets and Percussion – and the early exuberant Overture, written in 1943 during the German occupation of Poland.

Opus Arte OA1368D [DVD]

Julia Bullock, Joyce DiDonato and Jakob Józef Orliński star in Katie Mitchell's thrilling new production of Handel’s greatest oratorio Theodora that presents the work through an alternative, contemporary prism of ‘imaginative vision.’ (OperaWire) Not heard in Covent Garden since its 1750 premiere, Theodora is a tour de force for soloists and chorus alike, with ensembles, duets and arias of profound depth and beauty; the conductor is the noted Baroque specialist, Harry Bicket. The production uses the original English libretto by Thomas Morell, while the new interpretation of the work shines a fresh, feminist light on the work, featuring ‘bombs, a brothel and a brilliant cast ... Katie Mitchell’s modern-day staging of Handel’s oratorio is probing.’ (The Guardian)

Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7313D)

Opus Arte OA1365BD [DVD]

Lovers of Shakespeare won’t want to miss this rare opportunity to have his dramatisation of one of the most turbulent periods in English history conveniently gathered under one cover. I’m referring to Opus Arte’s box set release of the epic Henry VI trilogy, in which Shakespeare’s three dramas successively relate Henry’s accession to the throne, his subsequent encounter with rebellion, and the resultant Wars of the Roses. This is the first time the trilogy has been made available in a single DVD set. Owen Horsley is the director throughout the seven hours of gripping drama (Gregory Doran co-directs in Part 1), offering a rare opportunity to experience all the thrill of rebellion, the brutality of battle, and ambition without boundaries in a production hailed as a ‘thrilling Games of Thrones’ by The Guardian’s 5-star review.

Orfeo C260352

This is the first and only recording of Eugen Engel’s opera Grete Minde that premiered last year at Germany’s Theater Magdeburg, some 90 years after the score was completed and 80 years after the composer’s death. The principal reasons for such an unusual delay were the persecution and murder of Engel’s entire family during the Holocaust; the surviving manuscript needed exhaustive processing; and biographical research into Engel himself was sketchy up to that point. Commenting on last year’s premiere, Die Zeit described the work as having ‘everything you may wish for from an opera, involving the entire ensemble, a heart-stopping storyline touching on the dream of a better, fairer life versus the dogma and bigotry of bourgeois society ... gorgeous sounds and catchy rhythms.’ Engel uses huge resources to achieve his ‘colourful late-Romantic intoxication of sound’ (Opernwelt), including a large team of singers, an expanded orchestra, organ, bells and a children’s choir. Expect allusions to Wagner, Humperdinck, Korngold and others in a score that leads, literally, to a climax of fire under the baton of Anny Skryleva (who rediscovered the work) as she directs the Magdeburg Philarmonic and a fine cast of singers. The role of Grete Minde is given an outstanding performance by Soprano Raffaela Lintl: ‘To hear and see Raffaela Lintl in the title role was quite a sensation.’ (Opera Now Magazine)

Vox VOX-NX-3003CD

Friedrich Wührer was appointed professor at the Vienna Academy of Music at the age of 28, but he didn’t confine his activities to teaching and soon became increasingly active as a concert pianist. He toured most European countries, earning himself the reputation as one of the finest keyboard artists of his time, notably as a performer of Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann. He recorded Beethoven’s complete piano concertos with various orchestras and conductors; the majority of his releases were made in the LP era for the Vox label, for whom he was also the first pianist to record Schubert’s complete piano sonatas. This album of Beethoven’s Second and Third Piano Concertos is a new digital remastering of Wührer’s original recording, which was released in 1956.

Listen to an excerpt from Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19: I. Allegro con brio

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