The August NEW ON NAXOS presents a new Brahms Complete Symphonies edition performed by the award-winning forces of the Danish Chamber Orchestra and conductor Adam Fischer. Marking their 25 years of close and innovative collaboration, this release emphasises the works’ chamber music qualities. Other highlights include world premiere recordings of Vieuxtemps’ works for violin and orchestra performed by renowned soloist Alexander Markov; Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel staged by Barrie Kosky for Opéra National de Lyon; Derek Bermel’s music for clarinet and strings featuring the acclaimed JACK Quartet; and many more.
Brahms was 43 years old when, after a long period of maturation, his First Symphony was published. The conductor Felix Weingartner commented on it ‘taking hold like the claw of a lion’ and its urgency marked a new phase in Brahms’ musical development. The Second Symphony is traditionally seen as the pastoral element in the cycle, while the Third, with its melodic beauty, has the courage to end quietly, an act of astonishing serenity. The compelling Passacaglia finale of the Fourth Symphony represents a fitting summation to one of the greatest symphonic cycles in the classical canon.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Vieuxtemps transformed the technique and aesthetic of violin-playing in the 19th century, and as a virtuoso exponent and composer he was considered a worthy successor to Paganini. His works for violin and orchestra illustrate two notable features – a liking for variation form and the fusion of emotional density with virtuosic flair. These can be heard in the impressive Variations on a Theme from Beethoven’s Romance No. 1 and his Fantasie in E major ‘La Sentimentale’, one of his very greatest concert fantasies, where the music is influenced by bel canto. All of the works on this album were discovered after the composer’s death apart from the the unfinished Violin Concerto No. 8 – one of Vieuxtemps’ last compositions and dedicated to his most illustrious pupil, Eugène Ysaÿe.
Wolf-Ferrari is famous for his operatic works in which he invented a new idiom by transplanting 18th-century Venetian culture into the 20th century. But almost all of the composer’s orchestral music dates from his final years and occupies a different expressive realm. The Suite veneziana resonates with melancholy, and the Triptychon is a contemplative, passionate masterpiece of orchestration. Subtle use of counterpoint transforms the Divertimento into a playful exploration of themes, while Arabesken pays tribute to an old friend, the Venetian painter Ettore Tito (1859–1941). His own elegantly simple melody, known as ‘Tito’s theme’, is turned by Wolf-Ferrari into a sequence of sumptuous orchestral variations culminating in a powerful fugue.
John Burge is a JUNO Award-winning composer and a passionate advocate for Canadian music who has a strong affinity with writing for string instruments. All of the works in this recording were commissioned and premiered by the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra. Opening with the joyous and celebratory Sinfonia Antiqua, the mood shifts to an evocative and impressionistic atmosphere in Forgotten Dreams, while One Sail captures the compelling power of poetic imagery. The Upper Canada Fiddle Suite blends tradition and nostalgia with entirely original inventiveness, and concludes an album that perfectly represents Burge’s eloquent and deeply expressive compositional style.
Acknowledged by Sir Arthur Sullivan as his musical heir, Edward German enjoyed huge acclaim during his lifetime. His dances are ‘charged with the fragrant essence of the greenwood’ and the Overture to Nell Gwyn, with its richly English themes, explains Elgar’s liking for German’s music. The gloriously romanticised Gipsy Suite pays subtle homage to Dvořák; the dances from Henry VIII were responsible for his early celebrity; and Tom Jones (on 8.660270–71) and Merrie England were two of his greatest stage successes.
Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel (Le Coq d’or) is based on a Pushkin folk tale, but the opera’s Orientalism, comedy and sultry elements go far beyond its original influence. The composer saw in the story of a Tsar, punished for his cowardice and despotism, an opportunity to employ satire to condemn Russia’s autocratic ruler, Nicholas II. This new production premiered in May 2021 and was staged by the Australian director, Barrie Kosky, a specialist in Russian opera. Critics hailed the ‘glorious’ singing of Dmitry Ulyanov and the ‘exquisite’ performance of Nina Minasyan calling the event ‘a triumphant evening for all concerned’ (bachtrack.com).
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Twice GRAMMY-nominated composer and performer Derek Bermel studied with Henri Dutilleux, Dutch avantgardist Louis Andriessen, and ragtime revivalist William Bolcom. In his music, seemingly antithetical qualities – classical and vernacular, comic and serious – merge and transform each other unpredictably, their inspiration ranging from theatre (Ritornello), to gestalt psychology (Figure and Ground), to meditations on cosmology (A Short History of the Universe). Thracian Sketches explores and reimagines Bulgarian folk music, while the Violin Etudes distill Bermel’s intellectual creativity into its purest form.
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
The rich variety of colours and rhythms in South American culture and music are an essential feature of this programme, which focuses largely on music by composers from the Ecuadorian Andes. Opening with Durán’s popular and crowd-pleasing Leyenda incásica, the theme of Ecuadorian dances continues in Jacinto Freire’s Suite, which also celebrates the flight of the condor. Virtuosity, evocations of landscape and expressive traditional songs can all be found here, concluding with Mexican composer Samuel Zyman’s internationally acclaimed Flute Sonata No. 1, which ranges from lyrical introspection to intensely contrapuntal dialogue.
Konstantin Vassiliev’s music synthesises several different styles including jazz, Russian folk music and contemporary Western traditions. This album contains music written over a 22-year period, with three works composed specifically for guitar soloist Yuri Liberzon. The Hommage à Tom Jobin was inspired by one of the creators of the bossa nova style, while the melancholic and lyrical contrasts of Rose in the Snow reveal Vassiliev’s gift for storytelling. Arias, romantic miniatures, variations and multi-character episodes further reveal Vassiliev to be a vibrant and exciting composer of wide-ranging gifts.
Great Composers in Words and Music is a new series that consists of mini-biographies that are read by acclaimed actors and narrators and illustrated with musical excerpts. The biographies are full of fascinating detail and anecdote, and have been written in a highly approachable style by Davinia Caddy.
Famous today for his Trois Gymnopédies, Erik Satie was an eccentric and solitary figure who was nevertheless viewed by some as a prophet of French musical modernism, his striking creativity championed by Ravel and Debussy. From tragedy and trauma in his early years, through his time as a pianist and Parisian provocateur at Le Chat Noir cabaret, and as house composer to the mystical Rose+Croix cult and beyond, Satie’s eventful life is told in this fascinating revue of a composer whose unique music is still influential today. The narrative is illustrated with musical excerpts from works including Gymnopédie No. 3, Gnossienne No. 3, Sports et Divertissements, Trois Morceaux en forme de poire and Relâche, among others.
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!