The February edition of NEW ON NAXOS for 2022 presents an anthology of music by Leonard Slatkin and his family such as father Felix Slatkin, wife Cindy McTee and son Daniel Slatkin; Deutsche Oper Berlin ’s modern revival of Francesca da Rimini by Riccardo Zandonai; the Aquinas Piano Trio performing early and rarely heard Piano Trios byJoseph Haydn; the final volume in our Hans Pfitzner Complete Lieder recorded by Uwe Schenker-Primus and Klaus Simon; the final release of Fritz Kreisler’s Complete Recordingson Naxos Historical; and many more.
Leonard Slatkin celebrated his 75th birthday in September 2019. Many of the selections in this program come from a concert given in his honour and are also a tribute to his remarkable musical family, both past and present. Historical recordings include Leonard’s cellist mother, Eleanor Aller, being conducted by Korngold in the Haydn concerto and a 1944 broadcast of his father, Felix, as a solo violinist in Brahms. Every piece here has a deeply personal connection for the family. For his composition The Raven, Leonard used Edgar Allan Poe’s poem in a work that is “almost like a concerto for speaker and orchestra.”
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Korngold’s greatest critical successes lay in the field of opera and in his film scores. The early sets of incidental music reflect these two elements, sharing the theatrical bravura of opera and anticipating his own later filmic techniques. The music for the Viennese production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in 1920, heard here in full, is expressive and dramatic. Der Vampir, a psychological study of desire, seduction and greed, is rarely heard, but remains a potent example of Korngold’s instinct for directness of characterisation.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Johann Baptist Vaňhal was one of Haydn’s most important contemporaries. His symphonies in particular were widely admired throughout Europe, with music historian Dr Charles Burney reporting that Vaňhal’s symphonies were known in England before those of Haydn. The finely wrought works in this recording include the Symphony in F minor, considered one of his best in this genre, and the Symphony in C which was highly popular in its day. All of these works illustrate Vaňhal’s sophisticated mastery of musical structure, imaginative handling of the orchestra, and a profusion of memorable themes.
The Hiawatha trilogy, with its stirring overture, established Coleridge-Taylor as one of Britain’s leading young composers and stimulated commissions in a wide variety of music. The Othello Suite was written for a stage production of the play, its powerful and contrasting themes illustrating the composer’s prowess in characterisation. Redolent of popular ballads and romances, the Petite Suite de Concert is a masterpiece of light music, while the charming Romance of the Prairie Lilies shows Coleridge-Taylor’s lasting influence on future generations of British composers.
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Arthur Sullivan is best remembered today for his Savoy Operas with W.S. Gilbert, but during his lifetime Sullivan was also famed for his church, concert hall and stage works. These three sets of incidental music show his versatility in the genre. The music for The Merry Wives of Windsor has a joviality and lightness that matches its pantomime mood, while the concert suite for Macbeth weaves together nervous tension and impending tragedy. By contrast, King Arthur required one of Sullivan’s specialties, a sequence of choruses, edited after his death into this evocative suite.
Riccardo Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini is a four-act opera set during the Renaissance period. The plot concerns an arranged marriage between Francesca and Giovanni, also known as Gianciotto, who is impersonated by his handsome brother Paolo, and with whom Francesca falls passionately in love. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Italian Tristan’, the opera ends in betrayal and a double murder. The production of this rarely performed opera from the Deutsche Oper Berlin proved to be a huge critical success.
Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0142V)
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING
Medieval England exerted a strong influence on Johann Simon Mayr, especially during his final proto-Romantic period. Alfredo il Grande was to be one of his last operas, with a narrative that takes us to a land under threat of war with the Vikings. Escaping capture, Alfred the Great travels incognito, ultimately defeating the enemy and rescuing his beloved Alsvita. With its grandiose choruses and sensuous melodies, this opera was conceived on a monumental scale and proved both impressive at its premiere and influential on the next generation of bel canto composers, making a substantial contribution to the development of the melodramma romantico.
Haydn worked during a period that witnessed a great deal of stylistic change, including the evolution of keyboard instruments from the harpsichord to the pianoforte with its hammer action and greater dynamic flexibility. These rarely heard but influential early Piano Trios include music originally conceived for piano solo or baryton trio. The Trio in F minor is unusual for its elaborate ornamentation and darker key, and is highly attractive in its youthful freshness. The acclaimed Aquinas Piano Trio brings these unjustly neglected works vividly to life.
Chamber music was a crucial element in Enescu’s output and these two works, separated by seven years, represent very different phases of his compositional development. The large-scale Piano Quartet No. 1 marks the climax of his early maturity. The Piano Trio in A minor, however, was unknown until 1965 and represents a more transitional stage – a compact but intricately expressive work with an animated and compelling sequence of variations at its heart.
A native of Rome, Muzio Clementi was ‘discovered’ by the wealthy Beckford family of Dorset in England, where the foundations for a distinguished international professional career as a composer and performer were laid. Clementi’s legacy to pianists was a significant one, introducing new virtuosity and exploring the possibilities of a recently developed instrument in an ever-changing society. The Op. 1 sonatas reflect the style of Haydn in the early 1770s, while the Opp. 10 and 12 sonatas convey Clementi’s own dexterity as a pianist, including displays of his signature rapid thirds in both hands.
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Hans Pfitzner was able to deploy his extensive musical resources in setting a variety of texts from many different periods and on a wide range of subjects. From Carl Busse’s shattering picture of life in Leierkastenmann, Op. 15, No. 1 via one of Pfitzner’s greatest songs, a setting of Goethe’s An den Mond, to the rare humorous gem, Rundgesang zum Neujahrsfest 1901 with its choral refrain, the works on this recording represent the mature composer’s individual voice. This is the final volume in a series that restores Pfitzner’s place amongst the most important Lieder composers of the late Romantic period.
The period covered by these recordings was a momentous one for Fritz Kreisler as the ascent of the Nazis meant he was frozen out of German musical life. In 1930 he had managed to rerecord a long sequence of titles in HMV’s Berlin studios that had been unsuccessfully attempted in New York, and included here are three test pressings, unpublished on shellac. In London in 1935, Kreisler along with specially selected colleagues recorded his String Quartet in A minor, a work close to his heart. Additionally, an acoustically recorded bonus track is making a first ever appearance on disc.
Naxos Historical recordings are not available in the United States
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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!