The February NEW ON NAXOS features Ludwig van Beethoven’s Third and Fourth Piano Concertos, completing Boris Giltburg’s Beethoven piano concertos cycle. Once again, Giltburg has joined forces with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Vasily Petrenko. Of the previous release (8.574153), BBC Music Magazine had this to say: ‘Boris Giltburg gives a fine account of the ‘Emperor’ Concerto which honours Beethoven’s markings plus the many additional traditions of rubato and tempo modification accumulated in the work’s performance history.’
Other highlights include the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under esteemed conductor Marin Alsop presenting the world premiere recordings of three works by Kevin Puts; Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy with JoAnn Falletta leading the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; Christian Lacroix’s staging of Jacques Offenbach’s classic French operetta La Vie parisienne starring soprano Jodie Devos and baritone Franck Leguérinel in the main roles; an audiovisual presentation of Franz Schubert’s Eine Winterreise staged by Christof Loy featuring GRAMMY Award-winning mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter; Early Music expert Marc Lewon together with Ensemble Leones with their newest release Unicum – New Songs from the Leuven Chansonnier, and more.
Watch our monthly New on Naxos video to sample the highlighted releases of the month.
For 19th-century audiences Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 was the most loved of all his piano concertos, a work in which the balancing of high drama, tenderness, lyricism and humour is most pronounced and in which a coda resolves inner tensions with brilliance and triumphant grandeur. Piano Concerto No. 4 is the most introspective and poetic of the concertos. The simplicity of its opening piano statement gives way to an unprecedented dialogue in the central movement between a heartfelt piano and an austere unison string orchestra, before the infectious energy of the dramatic finale.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
‘This collection of recordings is especially meaningful for me because it charts my growth as an orchestral composer from my years as a student – when the Marimba Concerto was composed – to more mature work such as Moonlight. It also reflects the wonderful relationship I have enjoyed over the years with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop. The Marimba Concerto, which reflects my love of Mozart’s piano concertos, also represents my most direct and unguarded voice as a composer. The City was originally intended as a portrait of the city of Baltimore and more generally of the American city, but the death of Freddy Gray while in police custody and the subsequent unrest in Baltimore sent me in an unexpected direction with the piece.’ – Kevin Puts
Scriabin composed most of his single-movement fourth symphony The Poem of Ecstasy between 1905 and 1908 in Italy and France. He originally intended it to be called Poème orgiaque (‘Orgiastic Poem’) with its unprecedented raw sensuality and overpowering aesthetic, taking chromaticism beyond even Wagnerian voluptuousness. His earlier Symphony No. 2 in C minor adopts César Franck’s cyclical ideas to which Scriabin layered sweeping climaxes, majestic intensity and rich orchestral colour that enliven its five movements with ceaseless invention.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
As an influential figure in Viennese circles that included Mozart and Haydn, Paul Wranitzky was often called upon to take on commissions from the Imperial Court and the Empress Marie Therese in particular. Das listige Bauernmädchen, a ballet from her collection, reflects its rustic setting and story of romantic intrigues with folk-dance energy and delightful pantomime. The dramatic ballet divertissement Vorstellungen was part of Emperor Franz II's birthday celebrations in 1803, as was an extensive Quodlibet from which we have selected the colourful Final Contradance.
Sir Arthur Sullivan called Edward German ‘the one man to follow me who has genius’. Notwithstanding German’s success in operetta, especially with Tom Jones (recorded on 8.660270–71) and Merrie England (the suite is on 8.555171), orchestral music was always central to his life. Stylistic affiliations with French and Russian music – not that common in British music of the time – are often evident. German, like Elgar, was a stylistic cosmopolitan whose music is, paradoxically, quintessentially English, and the ‘Norwich’ is indeed an outstanding late 19th-century British symphony. German gave us another superb symphony too, albeit in miniature, with his Welsh Rhapsody, a brilliant orchestral showpiece that remains his most performed extended orchestral work.
Jacques Offenbach had already achieved fame as an operetta composer by 1866, but that year’s premiere of La Vie parisienne was his first portrayal of contemporary Parisian life. With its tale of romantic intrigues, disguises and comic celebrations of the mad gaiety of life in the French capital, La Vie parisienne became popular in the nation’s theatres, but not after a hasty re-working of its final acts after protests from the original performers. With significant new musical discoveries and the final acts restored, this opéra-bouffe masterpiece now speaks for itself given the resources of a superb cast and Christian Lacroix’s colourful and much acclaimed Bru Zane France production.
In Eine Winterreise, renowned director Christof Loy has created a memorable evening of music theatre in which Schubert’s tragically short life is depicted by and extended through his immortal music and songs from Winterreise, Die schöne Müllerin and Schwanengesang. The soul of the composer is brought to life by the internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter alongside acclaimed pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout. Drawing on nostalgia for Viennese Biedermeier intimacy the narrative explores extremes of human feelings from the joy of life to a longing for death, all portrayed through a cast that includes Schubert’s disreputable friend Schober, among other shadows from his past and his imagined future.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Raízes (Portuguese for ‘roots’) features new works commissioned by the Matosinhos String Quartet, in which composers were invited to write works inspired by melodies, dances and stories from Portuguese traditional folklore. Returning to their heritage in North Portugal, Eurico Carrapatoso and Fernando C. Lapa both draw inspiration from Mirandese landscapes, dances and melodies. Telmo Marques’s Ilhas Afortunadas alludes to the mythologies surrounding the islands of the Azores and Madeira, and Sérgio Azevedo pays homage to Fernando Lopes-Graça and Béla Bartók’s pioneering work recording folk music in the field with his Popularuskia I.
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Justin Holland was an African American, born free in Norfolk, Virginia. He was the most influential and important American guitarist of the 19th century and wrote the first published and best-selling guitar method in the country. He was also a leading voice in the anti-slavery and civil rights movements. As a composer he synthesized European models and embraced popular, church and parlor songs generating a rich variety of works. A master of virtuosic variations, his arrangements are witty, elegant, and colorful, and culminate in Carnival of Venice, which shows the full range of his gifts, sweeping in breadth and dazzling in effect.
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Anton Rubinstein was one of the greatest pianists of his age – a virtuoso the equal of Liszt and a popular composer whose career took him all over the world. Despite his invaluable contributions to Russian music, his legacy proved controversial with later generations. Today we can appreciate Rubinstein’s very real achievement as a gifted and original composer whose works are notable for their melodic memorability and extraordinary variety of textures. These Preludes and Études bear powerful witness to this composer’s technical ability and command of tone colour, forming a comprehensive survey of Rubinstein’s piano technique and creative prowess.
For Brahms, folk songs were sources of musical inspiration, not subjects for academic study. The songs from Books 6 and 7 of the Deutsche Volkslieder exemplify how Brahms’ distinctive and expressive accompaniments brought unique qualities to these songs, how he intensified certain verses to draw out their power, or allowed the piano its own revealing melodic phrases. In Book 7 the songs are divided between a lead singer and a chorus, adding fresh musical possibilities. In the Volkskinderlieder (‘Children’s Folk Songs’) Brahms’ economy and deftness turn lullabies into works of art.
The discovery in 2015 of a 15th-century parchment chansonnier still in its original binding was made still more startling because it contained twelve previously unknown, anonymous chansons. Most are rondeaus, and they range from the uncomplicated to the refined and elaborate; many bear musical indications that they are the work of the greatest composers of the period. In this recording they have been contextualised with other known songs but in the variant versions found in Leuven. As on their recording of the Chansonnier Cordiforme (on 8.573325), Ensemble Leones employs a range of performance possibilities, from a cappella ensemble to a mixture of instruments and voices.
Liu Wenwen and the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra present this remarkable album featuring the famous Chinese composers Xu Jianqiang, Zhou Chenglong, Li Bochan and Guan Xia
This album contains 6 songs by 3 highly-regarded composers, and are united by the forms of dance – Habanera, Tango, Milonga, Waltz. Although originally written for other instruments, Flavio Cucchi transcribes them exquisitely for the guitar.
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!