This month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include Laurent Pelly’s new staging of Léo Delibes’ opera Lakmé for Opéra Comique, Jean-Baptiste Lully’s opera Acis et Galatée, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Symphony No. 6 ‘Chinese Songs’, Zoltán Kodály orchestral works conducted by JoAnn Falletta, the second volume in Heinrich August Marschner’s Overtures and Stage Music, fresh and favourite carols sung by the Vasari Singers, final volume in Leopold Godowsky’s Piano Music series by Konstantin Scherbakov, and more. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
This Opéra Comique production of Delibes’ Lakmé is a must-see. Premiered in 1883, it remains one of the most popular of all French operas, and stage director Laurent Pelly has given us a truly stunning and innovative interpretation of the classic, setting the story in the early 20th century with updated sets and costume designs. Originally composed for two of its star singers, the Opéra Comique has performed the work more than 1,600 times since its premiere. That remarkable tradition is consolidated here with an exceptional cast headed by Sabine Devieilhe’s powerful and nuanced portrayal of Lakmé, and Frédéric Antoun bringing emotional depth to the character of Gérald. Raphaël Pichon and his ensemble Pygmalion are in the pit. Their credentials have been well established in previous Naxos recordings: ‘The latest notch on Pichon’s baton is a video release of Francesco Cavalli’s Ercole amante ( 2.110679-80 / NBD0118V ), performed with gusto, delectable refinement, and a whole lot of invention at the Opera Comique.’ (American Record Guide)
Also available on Blu-ray Video (NBD0177V)
Written in 1686, Acis et Galatée was Lully’s last completed stage work. It's now acknowledged as an operatic masterpiece that also makes substantial use of dances and choruses. There are surprisingly few recordings of this opera available, so we're delighted to be able to present this CD edition of the highly successful production recorded at the 2022 Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, a belated premiere of the work in Florence, Lully’s birthplace. (An audiovisual version is available on the Dynamic label, DYN-37971/DYN-57971.) Operawire certainly found much to enjoy in the production, appreciating the period instruments ‘from whom [music director] Federico Sardelli elicited a beautiful sound, expertly uncovering the score’s textural and rhythmic contrasts’, while the title role performances by Elena Harsányi (Galatée) and Jean-François Lombard (Acis) were admired by operaramblings for their ‘very stylish and personable’ qualities.
‘Any of Antoni Wit’s Penderecki recordings for Naxos deserves recognition: they are uniformly superb ... in this important and worthy series.’ (ClassicsToday.com) Antoni here directs Sweden’s Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, one of Scandinavia’s leading ensembles, in a programme of two of Penderecki’s concertante works and his Sixth Symphony, which was the last one to be completed. Subtitled ‘Chinese Songs’ it features both interludes for the erhu, a traditional Chinese instrument, and vocal soloist Jarosław Bręk, the distinguished Polish bass-baritone who sadly died in April this year. 2023 marks the 90th anniversary of Penderecki’s birth, and I have every confidence that Naxos’ celebrated recordings of his works under Antoni Wit’s baton will still be leading the pack by the time of his centenary.
This is the second of two albums featuring Kodaly’s complete orchestral works from JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic. The first (on 8.573838) was well received by critics: ‘Falletta magically distils the essence of an authentic ‘‘Hungarian’’ Kodály sound. The playing of the Buffalo Philharmonic is sparkling but earthy throughout.’ (MusicWeb International) Kodály’s Háry János Suite, one of his most popular works, is the main item on the programme. It's joined by the Symphony in C major which, although relatively unknown, still reflects traits of Kodaly’s distinctive harmonic and melodic style. Aside from Ferenc Fricsay’s historic recording of the symphony, there's only one other that's readily available, adding exclusivity to this new album's other attractions.
Adam Fischer and the Danish Chamber Orchestra continue their latest project for Naxos, which is to record all of Haydn’s late symphonies, starting at the six Paris Symphonies (Nos. 82-87) and proceeding to the two sets of London Symphonies (Nos. 93-98 and 99-104). The series opened with Vol. 1 in August (8.574516); this second volume is devoted to three more London symphonies. Adam and the orchestra have enjoyed a 20-year partnership, accounting for their unfailingly insightful and expressive performances. Their ability to present familiar works in a completely new and convincing light bowled over the critics in their editions of the complete Beethoven (8.505251) and Brahms (8.574465-67) symphonies, the latter described as ‘fresh, engaging recordings ... paying scrupulous attention to every detail of the rhythmic articulation.’ (The Guardian) You can count on the revelations to continue.
This album comprises world premiere recordings of overtures and stage music by Heinrich Marschner, whose distinctive style established him as the leading German opera composer between Weber and the rise of Wagner. It’s the follow-up to conductor Dario Salvi’s first volume featuring similar repertoire performed again by the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice. That initial release certainly made its mark among reviewers: ‘Dario Salvi is a dab hand at this sort of repertoire and he and his Czech musicians deliver their performances as if they had been performing Marschner’s music all their lives. Their overall achievement is enhanced by the clear and detailed recording.’ (MusicWeb International) I confidently predict a similar reception for Vol. 2.
Here we have a true milestone of a release with the fifteenth and final volume in Konstantin Scherbakov's edition of Godowsky’s complete piano works. Having taken 26 years to complete, it now crowns his already substantial Naxos discography that includes the complete piano works of Shostakovich and Respighi. The programme on this latest album is the second instalment of the immensely challenging Chopin-Godowsky Studies (the first is on 8.225372), described by Scherbakov as ‘perhaps one of the finest discs of the whole set.’ Godowsky masterfully reimagines Chopin’s original Études to produce music that is fearsomely challenging and boundlessly inventive. Reviewing Vol. 14 in this series, American Record Guide declared: ‘Scherbakov is a one-of-a-kind pianist … There is no one better for Godowsky.’ And there is no further comment necessary.
This is the world premiere audiovisual recording of Cimarosa’s 1794 ‘commedia per musica’ Le astuzie femminili (‘The Cunning Women’). It’s also the first performance in modern times that's given both on period instruments and in accordance with the original manuscript. Lying stylistically between Mozart and Rossini, the work is heard here in a tremendous production from the 2022 Reate Festival that uses a new staging by Cesare Scarton. A spirited performance and lively pace underpinned its acclaimed reception, not least with regard to Alessandro De Marchi’s musical direction: ‘flawless… magnificent… and with all the flexibility necessary to make Cimarosa’s originality shine.’ (Il giornale della musica.it)
Also available on Blu-ray Video (DYN-57989)
Luciano Berio (1925–2003) is acknowledged as one of the greatest and most influential composers of the 20th century, but his music for solo piano is under-represented in catalogues. Matteo Bevilacqua, the soloist on this new release, has pointed out that the remarkable Piano Sonata is now almost forgotten in concert halls. Collectors will be hard pressed to find alternative recordings of the substantial work, which consequently gives this album premier status. Berio’s music is technically demanding but always rewards the listener with its startling theatricality and imaginative contrasts of intensity and atmosphere. Matteo has given over a hundred recitals at renowned festivals and venues across Europe, and received more than 25 prizes in international piano competitions. He's joined in Canzonetta, a piece for piano four hands, by the award-winning pianist Luca Trabucco.
This release represents a very special and rather poignant meeting of both minds and hearts. The solo artists are violinist Christian Tetzlaff and cellist Tanja Tetzlaff; the album is dedicated to the memory of their longtime artistic partner, pianist Lars Vogt, who passed away last year; and the programme embodies Lars’ love of the music of the featured composers. At the heart of the album is Brahms’ late orchestral masterpiece, the Double Concerto for Violin and Cello. This is followed by Viotti’s Violin Concerto No. 22, a work that Brahms admired so much that he included material from the work into his own concerto for the instrument. Christian’s recording of the Viotti in Lars’ memory here extends that line of affection. The programme concludes with Dvořák’s beautiful Silent Woods for cello and orchestra, and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin is conducted by Paavo Järvi.
Here’s a rare treat in the form of a highly collectible 3-LP reissue marking not only the 500th anniversary of the founding of the Bavarian State Orchestra in 1523, but also the legendary status of the conductor, Carlos Kleiber. He made increasingly rare appearances throughout his career, remaining immune to invitations to appear with even the greatest orchestras. He made an exception, however, for the Bavarian State Orchestra, with which he remained closely connected for most of his life. There will undoubtedly be a rare artistic chemistry in these performances of Beethoven's Fourth, Sixth and Seventh Symphonies. My advice is for collectors to order today and not let this opportunity to own a slice of musical history pass them by.
British mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker chose to retire from the operatic stage singing the role of Orfeo in Sir Peter Hall’s acclaimed 1982 production of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. This recording of that Glyndebourne performance proved a captivating crowning glory to the career of one of the great singers of our age. Dame Janet’s realisation of the role was described as ‘a quite staggering performance’ by MusicWeb International, and with noted conductor Raymond Leppard directing the London Philharmonic Orchestra, this release enables everyone to appreciate why this historic performance was described as ‘a must for opera goers.’ (The Sunday Telegraph)
Written in 1911, Hofmannsthal’s play Jedermann (Everyman) received its first staging at the Salzburg Festival in 1920, since when it's been an iconic part of the festival's history and remains an annual highlight. An incomparable array of actors have presented the drama over the years. In this 2022 production by Michael Sturminger, Lars Eidinger portrays the affluent and pleasure-seeking Jedermann, while Verena Altenberger plays his lover, Buhlscha. Their vibrant contemporary take on the characters is performed against the magnificent backdrop of Salzburg Cathedral. The performance is in German, with both German and English subtitles.
Beethoven will always be renowned for his symphonies and concertos, but no collection of his orchestral works would be complete without the overtures and theatre music. The works on this programme, given by Stanisław Skrowaczewski and the GRAMMY award-winning Minnesota Orchestra, range from the majestic ceremonial overture The Consecration of the House to the high tragedy of Coriolan and the remarkable cantata Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt that so inspired Mendelssohn to produce his own setting of Goethe’s text. Significantly, this 1980 Vox recording was made by legendary producers Marc Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz, considered by audiophiles to have produced the finest sounding examples of orchestral recordings. This high-definition transfer to CD of the original master tapes will be as eagerly sought out by audiophile collectors as the original performances were received by the critics: ‘The performances are marvellous, absolutely marvellous… It will knock your socks off. Give this a shot, it’s phenomenal.’ (ClassicsToday.com)