Klaus Heymann Recommends November 2022

Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group includes an audiovisual release of Wagner’s iconic Ring cycle, tenth symphonies by Shostakovich and Mahler, second volume of Mozart’s Complete Masses, The Edison Singers performing traditional and contemporary Christmas carols, Maria Kliegel’s Anniversary Edition bringing together her most outstanding recordings, and more. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.

Naxos 2.107001 [7-DVD Boxed Set]

Here’s a real audiovisual treat for Wagner fans from the world-renowned Deutsche Oper Berlin. Their new production of Wagner's iconic Ring cycle is directed by the award-winning Norwegian Stefan Herheim, who is recognised as one of the industry’s leading exponents. Conductor Donald Runnicles, music director of Deutsche Oper Berlin since 2009, is a proven Wagner expert who is currently continuing his Ring interpretations at the opera houses of Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna and San Francisco, and at the BBC Proms in London, the Edinburgh International Festival and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The cast comprises an outstanding line-up of world-class performers that features soprano Nina Stemme, one of today's leading Wagner singers. All of which adds up to performances that are ‘intense, propulsive and full of dramatic sweep.’ (Seen and Heard International on Das Rheingold and Die Walküre)

Also available in Blu-ray Video Boxed Set (NBD0156VX)

Naxos 2.110738 [DVD]

Probably best known on recordings in its version as an orchestral suite, Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Christmas Eve is a surprising rarity in today’s opera houses; and while one comes across the occasional audio recording of the complete opera, this excellent DVD production stands alone. Released in perfect time for the Christmas season, Oper Frankfurt's production was considered ‘a perfect seasonal tonic’ by the Financial Times. Weigle is well known for his numerous acclaimed opera recordings on the OehmsClassics label, while director Christof Loy is one of the most internationally sought-after opera and theatre directors of his generation. In 2016, he won the award for Best New Production for his Peter Grimes at the Theatre an der Wien at the International Opera Awards, where he was also named Director of the Year in 2017. For opera buffs, there can be no better gift of seasonal indulgence than this.

Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0154V)

Naxos 8.574372

I strongly suspect this is the first time the Tenth Symphonies by Mahler and Shostakovich have appeared on the same disc. While there are several completions of Mahler’s Tenth in the catalogues, I’m certain that collectors will be eager to hear how artists who were near-contemporaries interpreted the great composer’s sketches. This version of the two movements that Mahler left largely completed in either full or short score was prepared by the composer Ernst Krenek, following a request from Mahler’s widow, Alma; she then sent this score to the conductor Willem Mengelberg, one of Mahler’s most loyal and insightful champions, who enlarged the orchestra and made several changes in expression and tempo markings. Jaap van Zweden conducts the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, which is recognised as Asia’s leading classical orchestra; van Zweden has been its music director for the past ten years.

Naxos 8.574406

Claudio Santoro has yet to become a household name outside his native Brazil, but he’s internationally recognised as one of that country’s most eminent and influential composers. This world premiere recording of his Eleventh and Twelfth Symphonies is part of a first complete edition of Santoro’s cycle of 14 symphonies within Naxos’ extensive, ongoing Music of Brazil series, of which this is Vol. 12. The release follows on from our recording of Santoro’s Symphonies Nos. 5 and 7 (8.574402) featuring the same artists. Released in March of this year, it was very warmly received: ‘The performances by the Goiás Philharmonic Orchestra under its principal conductor Neil Thomson are first-class, as is the quality of the recording.’ (Gramophone)

Listen to an excerpt from Concerto Grosso: III. Allegro vivo – Finale

Naxos 8.559920

The rediscovery of the music of Florence Price (1887–1953) has revealed one of the most significant bodies of work by an African American composer in the 20th century. This album of largely world premiere recordings of her works is being released in time for Black History Month, which takes place in February 2023. The programme is a varied one that reflects Price’s immense artistic imagination, and it's expertly directed by conductor John Jeter, who has specialised in African American composers on previous albums for Naxos. Two of them featured Price's symphonies: ‘inspiring … a valuable addition to any library’ (BBC Music Magazine on Symphony No. 3, 8.559897); ‘excellent performances – possibly the best I have heard of Florence Price’s music.’ (American Record Guide on Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4, 8.559827)

Naxos 8.574463

Conductor Jun Märkl adds to his extensive, eclectic and impressive Naxos discography with another programme of French music. It's his fifth album of works by Saint-Saëns and presents a selection of the composer's incidental music and music from his operas. Working with the excellent Hague Residentie Orchestra to bring to life Saint-Saëns’ colourful scores, I expect critical reaction will echo the reception Jun received for his previous album of Saint-Saëns’ music for the stage: ‘This disc is a mandatory acquisition for anyone who cares about either the composer or good French theatre music.’ (ClassicsToday.com on 8.574033)

Listen to an excerpt from Samson et Dalila, Op. 47: Act III: Bacchanale

Naxos 8.574417

This second album in our edition of Mozart’s complete Masses pairs a work of exceptional dimensions with a much smaller one: the ‘Great’ Mass in C minor, heard here in the 1989 completion made by Franz Beyer, is one of Mozart’s most spectacular in its reconciliation of the Salzburg tradition with Italian opera, while the Missa brevis in C major, K. 258 exudes a spirit of festive concision. As on Vol. 1, the conductor is Christoph Poppen, ‘[who draws] powerful and often dramatic performances… a top recommendation.’ (Yorkshire Post on 8.574270, Vol. 1) Both Poppen and the orchestra are well represented in our catalogue. The Cologne Chamber Orchestra is the oldest chamber orchestra in Germany and this album is being released in the run-up to its centenary in 2023; it was the recipient of a Cannes Classical Award for its Naxos recording of Telemann’s Darmstadt Overtures (8.554244). The excellent West German Radio Choir Cologne has performed some 150 national and world premieres, alongside many other innovative projects.

Naxos 8.574475

The approaching Christmas celebrations will surely be merrier than those of the past two Covid-blighted years, so this release provides both the perfect accompaniment to that happy renaissance and a first-rate stocking-filler. The mixed programme weaves beautiful traditional carols with energising contemporary works to present a tapestry across the centuries. This is Noel Edison’s eighth album for Naxos and although on this latest he conducts the Edison Singers, his previous releases with the Elora Singers racked up one glowing review after another. ClassicsToday.com, for example, judged it ‘among the world's finest choirs.’ (8.572812, I Saw Eternity) The organist is Matthew Larkin, whose expert accompaniments were noted in a previous Naxos collaboration with Edison: ‘Matthew Larkin’s skill at the console is beyond reproach.’ (MusicWeb International on 8.557781)

Naxos 8.574371

This release will be welcomed by the many collectors who acquired Peter Breiner’s Calm Romantic Piano Music series (Vol. 1, 8.574256, Vol. 2, 8.574257, Vol. 3, 8.574474), which presented original pieces alongside attractive new arrangements of classical repertoire. On this latest album, Peter focuses on the music of a single composer, Dvořák, with whom he has a particular compatriot affinity. As both performer and arranger, Peter provides an overview of Dvořák’s entire career by transforming the greatest melodies of his orchestral and chamber music into sparkling piano jewels. These 33 tracks once again underscore Peter's track record of both musical and commercial success.

Listen to an excerpt from Serenade in D minor, Op. 44, B. 77: I. Moderato quasi marcia

Naxos 8.578370-72 [3 Discs]

Cellist Maria Kliegel celebrates her 70th birthday in November and this timely collection brings together some of her most outstanding recordings, personally selected by Maria herself from her vast and distinguished Naxos discography. The recordings date from the period 1990 to 2011 and each disc carries the added dimension of showcasing the wonderful, historically significant instruments on which she performs: the Antonio Stradivarius ‘ex Gendron’ (1693), a Matteo Goffriller (1690) and a Carlo Tononi (Venedig, c. 1730). Performing with excellent orchestras and pianists, Maria's inspirational musicianship radiates from every track of this 3-CD box set, from her GRAMMY-nominated Bach Cello Suites to a Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto that was ranked among the top 50 recordings of the 20th century by Scala. I can heartily recommend this collection as a major celebration of Maria Kliegel’s fluent virtuosity and irreplaceable musicianship.

Capriccio C5477

This is a rare opportunity to acquire two one-act operas by Bohuslav Martinů in the first recordings of the versions used for this album. Together, they illustrate how Martinů could be a musical chameleon: Larmes de couteau (in its original French version) sets an absurdist libretto in a range of styles, from Le Jazz Hot! to Stravinsky, while Comedy on the Bridge recalls the style of Hanns Eisler and uses the English version that helped the work enjoy its initial brief fame. The two casts, comprising eight solo singers, are accompanied by the Staatsorchester Stuttgart under the renowned musical direction of Cornelius Meister.

Capriccio C8084

Marcus Poschner and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra continue Capriccio's exhaustive survey of Anton Bruckner’s complete symphonies in all their versions. Paul Hawkshaw's excellent supporting notes summarise all the detailed differences between the various versions of the Fourth Symphony, but I simply recommend that you just sit back and enjoy this authoritative performance of the 1876 version which will undoubtedly continue the run of critical acclaim received by previous releases in the edition: ‘I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed by this superb recording ... a superlative account of the third version of the Fourth Symphony.’ (MusicWeb International on Vol. 4, C8083).

Capriccio C7410 [10-Disc Boxed Set]

This is the fourth and final instalment of Capriccio's 40th Anniversary Box Set collections, featuring celebrated singing stars from the label’s history. The 10-CD compilation comprises performances by the celebrated counter-tenor Jochen Kowalski, plus unexpected repertoire from icons such as Peter Schreier (with lute accompaniment) and Hermann Prey (singing operetta). There's Italian fare from Alfredo Kraus and Ramón Vargas, and a surprise from Cecilia Bartoli (discovered and first recorded by Capriccio) in her first and presumably only Wagner role! Also included are examples from the opera rarities that helped Capriccio establish a name for itself, with casts that would have turned heads even in the finest opera houses. A tremendous finish to a splendid series.

Dynamic DYN-37944 [DVD]

This exceptional production of L’elisir d’amore was recorded at last year’s Donizetti Opera Festival in Bergamo. While cementing its reputation as one of the world’s most popular and frequently performed operas, this performance also broke new ground in that the usual cuts were restored and the complete work was played both on original instruments dating from the time of composition, and at the original pitch. All of which helps to appreciate how brilliantly Donizetti turned a traditional opera buffa into a masterpiece of characterisation and theatrical power. Caterina Sala certainly impressed the critics in the leading role of Adina: ‘Caterina Sala. Make a note of the name. The Como-born soprano is destined for an extremely bright future in this and other repertoire. Her coloratura is immaculate.’ (operatraveller.com); ‘Caterina Sala ... literally bewitched the theatre. Just twenty-one years old, her huge talent left everyone dazed.’ (operaclick.com)

Also available in Blu-ray Video (DYN-57944). Audio-only version available for streaming and download (7944)

Ondine ODE1416-2

‘Astonishingly beautiful … One certainly does look forward to more recordings from this partnership.’ Fanfare need wait no longer, since we now have the follow-up to that impressive first volume of Ravel's orchestral music (ODE1385-2) performed by the Basque National Orchestra under its chief conductor Robert Trevino. While Vol. 1 focused on some of Ravel’s most popular orchestral works, this second album features a couple of rarities: Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose) in its complete ballet version, and the world premiere recording of Pierre Boulez’s orchestration of Ravel’s Frontispice, originally written for two pianos/five hands and strangely avant-garde in its polytonal and polyrhythmic construction. ‘This is one terrific album!’ (Classicstoday.com on Vol. 1) – soon to become two, I predict.

Opus Arte OA1354D [DVD]

Rigoletto, Verdi’s epic masterpiece, positively shines in this striking new audiovisual recording from The Royal Opera. Director Oliver Mears was making his Royal Opera debut with this ‘thrilling new production’ (The Times), framing Verdi’s masterpiece as a modern morality play that pits power against innocence in a decadent world of corruption and social decay. Antonio Pappano conducts an outstanding cast that includes an ‘utterly compelling’ Carlos Álvarez in the title role, Lisette Oropesa as ‘a matchless Gilda’ (The Guardian) and tenor Liparit Avetisyan as the Duke of Mantua. So, I invite you to sit back and experience how this powerful piece of theatre, superbly performed, made for such a ‘great evening, rapturously received.’ (The Independent)

Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7303D)

Opus Arte OA1367D [DVD]

If you're looking for something to fill a Christmas family viewing niche other than the traditional Nutcracker, then Scottish Ballet has the perfect answer. In their magical production of The Secret Theatre, a young boy stumbles upon a deserted auditorium that soon bursts into life with familiar characters from the most popular festive ballets. The worlds of the Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy collide in this spectacular, hour-long film of an amazing show teeming with acrobats, snowflakes, clowns, princes and beautiful ballerinas. The Scottish Ballet Orchestra accompanies the full company with music by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Frank Moon. The result: ‘Enchanting, spellbinding, uplifting.’ (The Herald)

Orfeo C230063

This historic 1962 performance of Handel’s opera Xerxes will undoubtedly catch the attention of collectors. It’s based on the 1958 edition of the work by renowned German musicologist Rudolf Steglich, who was the leading light in the revival of Handel’s music from the 1920s onwards. It followed the autograph score housed in the British Museum and used a new German translation; the roles of Xerxes and Arsamenes, originally written for castrato sopranos, were taken by tenor voices. Unusually for the time, conductor Rafael Kubelik judiciously avoided overt romanticism in the sound, instead adopting discreet vibrato, Baroque terraced dynamics and tempo relationships that avoid extremes. The star cast is headed by the legendary German tenor Fritz Wunderlich.

Listen to an excerpt from Act I, Scene 1 – Arioso: Schattige Ruh’ (Xerxes)

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