The April NEW ON NAXOS celebrates Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 150th anniversary with a special 8-disc set A Vaughan Williams Anthology, featuring a selection of critically acclaimed recordings from the Naxos catalogue. Other highlights include an exciting new production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte from Florence, the latest in Adrian Butterfield’s traversal through the Leclair’s Violin Sonatas, the final instalment in the Schumann Lied Edition, and more.
Ralph Vaughan Williams is one of Britain’s most illustrious composers, and this specially curated selection of works demonstrates the sheer breadth of his achievement. As a major 20th-century symphonist he is represented by four of his nine symphonies, all in critically acclaimed recordings (‘A clear top recommendation’ wrote Gramophone of A Sea Symphony). Popular orchestral works such as the celebrated Tallis Fantasia and The Lark Ascending are also included. Vaughan Williams’ chamber works are performed by the Maggini Quartet, his greatest contemporary champions; while the sublime Mass in G minor shows the composer’s high standing in the English choral tradition.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
In the last decade of the 18th century, the Moravian composer Paul Wranitzky was Vienna’s leading symphonist. As orchestral director of the court theatre he also composed many works for the stage. The ballet-pantomime Das Waldmädchen (‘The Forest Maiden’) proved one of his greatest successes, enchanting the Viennese public with its tuneful score and the charming story of a feral girl found in the forest by a Polish prince out hunting. Its enduring popularity sparked numerous productions across Europe and inspired works by Beethoven and Weber. The delightfully rustic Pastorale and Allemande was written for Empress Marie Therese, an important musical patron who favoured Wranitzky as composer and concertmaster.
The composers of these 20th-century Italian works were all associated with the cello from a young age. Their deep understanding of the instrument reveals itself in three contrasting concertante pieces where soloist and orchestra collaborate to explore a wide range of colours and moods, and whose slow movements are among the most beautiful each composer ever wrote. Malipiero viewed the soloist in his concertos as a voice rising in a crowd; the mysterious and autumnal L’Olmeneta is the largest and most individual of Ghedini’s cello works; and Casella’s Notturno e tarantella is a sunny piece, expertly orchestrated.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Xiaogang Ye is one of China’s best-known contemporary composers whose work is acclaimed both in East Asia and the West for its colourful sonorities and lyrical expressiveness. Demonstrating Ye’s deep love for ancient Chinese poetry, Seven Episodes for Lin’an is a large-scale symphonic canvas that sets famous texts for the first time in contemporary history, weaving their eloquent imagery with intricate and timeless melodies. Twilight in Tibet evokes the landscape of the Himalayas, while the Tianjin Suite reflects the diversity of Tianjin, a city with a profound historical and cultural heritage, expressed through Ye’s signature combination of traditional and modern musical textures.
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Georgios Axiotis was a leading and historically significant Greek composer who was opposed to the ‘Germanisation’ of music education in Greece. His training in Naples led him to conceive of national music of a Mediterranean quality related to the naturalism of Italian verismo. The works on this album are his most important and lasting contributions to Greek orchestral music. Axiotis possessed an exceptional instinct for balance and timbre and was a splendid orchestrator. The lyricism in these pieces exudes Greek late Romanticism, while his nature depictions are strongly atmospheric.
The focus of Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto for Così fan tutte is on female infidelity, two partner-swapping couples and a wager. Its enigmatic ambiguity and lightness of touch, its razor’s edge balance between irony and empathy, detachment and involvement, and on-stage reality and illusion is structured with perfect Classical symmetry. More than any other opera it explores the depths and darker impulses of the experience of love. This production by director Sven-Eric Bechtolf was given in Florence with a staging that ‘holds a balance between philosophy and humour’ (bachtrack.com).
Lost after its material records were destroyed by fire in 1883, the spectacular ballet La Source originally portrayed the idealistic vision of a magical domain in which a complex but beautiful love story of mythical figures unfolded. Jean-Guillaume Bart has long been captivated by La Source, and his new choreography retains the ballet’s romantic fascinations and its glorious music by Delibes and Minkus. Filled with exotic colour and atmosphere, Bart takes the narrative on an odyssey through near- and far-flung realms of classical dance in a brilliant production, further elevated by Christian Lacroix’s gorgeous costumes and Éric Ruf’s imaginative set designs.
Lord Berners was an eccentric novelist, painter and aesthete, but it is as a composer that he is best remembered. Berners saw Prosper Mérimée’s play Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement in 1917 and ‘was at once fascinated by the grace, the spirit and the character of this little work’. Abandoning operatic tradition, this light and transparently orchestrated version of the narrative unfolds concisely and continuously. The amusing tale is one of domestic bickering and a minor miracle brought about by an act of charity, ‘held together in the style of a symphonic poem’.
Jean-Marie Leclair’s violin sonatas embody a stylistic fusion known as les goûts réunis in which the lyricism and the virtuosity of the Italian school are integrated with the dance idioms of French Baroque music. In this volume, the music reaches new heights of technical complexity in its filigree ornamentation and continuous multiple stopping while still incorporating much wistful beauty. In the Sonata in D major, however, Leclair’s ambition expands yet further, as he combines innate lyricism and rustic drones in a prototype concerto form.
For this programme, Duo Diversitas has selected or created sophisticated arrangements that embody virtuosity and musical expression. In focusing on great composers of the 18th and 19th centuries, Marisa Minder and Evgeniya Spalinger are able to explore the artistic refinement, lyrical grace and technical sophistication of the music in this unique formation. The one original work for flute and guitar is Hans Haug’s Capriccio, a modern classic that alludes to Baroque procedure but within the context of exciting contemporary harmonies.
Georg Philipp Telemann was the most famous of all German composers during his lifetime and a master of all musical genres. Every piece in this album dates from his triumphant years in Hamburg, where he was the city’s music director. They are heard in exciting new arrangements reflecting Telemann’s own practice in transcribing his works for various instruments. The two Sonatinas come from the collection Neue Sonatinen of 1730–31, a rich source of material, while the Fantasias derive from the Fantasias for viola da gamba, with much polyphonic writing cast in galant style.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Darko Nikčević and Srdjan Bulatović, the internationally renowned guitar duo from Montenegro, are acclaimed for their virtuosity and for exciting performances that blend influences from the Mediterranean and the Middle East. This programme captures the spontaneous nature of their musical creativity and documents the strange period in which the world first stood still under the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Drawing on a shared Balkan heritage and using eloquently transparent melodies, these pieces express uncertainty and isolation as well as the deepest and most beautiful of emotions, from inner peace and contentment to a cheerful appreciation of life itself.
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Sandro Fuga became a leading figure in Turin’s musical life in the mid-20th century. His passion for art and music was inherited from his eminent Venetian family which included grandfather Luigi Nono among its members. Few Italian composers of Fuga’s generation broached the sonata genre, but these three works represent the summit of his piano music, together forming a triptych of considerable significance. Fuga considered himself a ‘Romantic survivor’, believing music to represent the expression of emotions. Thanks to his rejection of avant-garde ephemera and a profound faith in humanity, his piano sonatas are expressive, eloquent and emotionally compelling.
Few if any composers equalled Schumann in the breadth of his literary taste. His reading encompassed the major figures of European literature in German translation, as Die Weinende, a setting of Byron in his Jugendlieder collection, amply illustrates. The three sets of Lieder und Gesänge in this volume are among his most expressive, the earliest dating from his magical ‘year of song’ of 1840. They take as their subject matter a panoply of romantic concerns: love of nature, the changing of the seasons, parting from one’s beloved, the allure of mermaids, as well as more cheerful strophic songs. This is the final volume in this acclaimed series.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Margaret Brouwer’s music has for decades been admired for “inhabiting its own peculiarly bewitching harmonic world” (The New York Times). These recently composed pieces reflect her musical representations of particular events: Rhapsodic Sonata charts an internal journey of love, whereas Declaration is a set of songs that addresses ideas of violence and war. Composed at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, I Cry – Summer 2020 outlines a process of isolation and restriction. All Lines Are Still Busy is a satirical monologue that should intrigue anyone who has been placed “on hold” during a telephone call.
Encompassing the Georgian holy trinity of food, wine and song, Iberi invite you to a supra feast full of Georgian polyphonic singing! Celebrate this age-old tradition, its toasts to the motherland, ancestors, love and truth, with traditional Georgian songs – historical ballads, work tunes, sacred songs, lullabies and ‘table songs’ for feasting!
The award-winning Naxos AudioBooks label offers a wide range of abridged and unabridged digital recordings of the world’s greatest literature. There are Junior Classics, and numerous non-fiction titles with focus to history, religion and philosophy. The label also offers a plethora of classic and contemporary plays on record—from Shakespeare to Beckett.
The New & Now playlist features all that is new and exciting in the world of classical music, whether it’s new music, new presentations or new performers. With more than 200 new releases each year, and artists from around the world, there is always something new to discover with Naxos.
This month, there are some fantastic new additions to the playlist!