The February NEW ON NAXOS presents Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold, now being made available separately from the DVD (2.107001) and Blu-ray (NBD0156VX) sets of the full Ring cycle released last year. Staged by award-winning director Stefan Herheim, the Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin is conducted by Wagner expert Sir Donald Runnicles. Bass-baritone Derek Welton, tenor Thomas Blondelle, baritone Markus Brück and mezzo Annika Schlicht star in the leading roles. Seen and Heard International called this performance of Das Rheingold ‘intense, propulsive and full of dramatic sweep’.
Other highlights include three classic George Gershwin pieces heard in premiere recordings of the new Gershwin Critical Edition; the penultimate volume of Béla Bartók’s Piano Music series, presented by pianist Goran Filipec; the fifth instalment of Johannes Brahms’ Complete Songs series, presented by soprano Alina Wunderlin; tenor Kieran Carrel, accompanied by Lieder specialist Ulrich Eisenlohr; and more.
† WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING OF GERSHWIN CRITICAL EDITION
This album presents three classic Gershwin pieces heard in premiere recordings of the new Gershwin Critical Edition. The edition seeks to create the most accurate representation of the composer’s intentions using all existing manuscripts and other sources, such as piano rolls. In the case of Rhapsody in Blue the edition is based on Ferde Grofé’s symphonic arrangement though 44 measures from the original jazz band version are included. Also featured are the Second Rhapsody and the Cuban Overture, alongside Joan Tower’s propulsive study in rhythm and texture, and Steven Stucky’s ghostly waltz evocations.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
The Bohrer family produced a succession of distinguished musicians of whom the brothers Antoine, a violinist who studied with Rodolphe Kreutzer in Paris, and cellist Max were the most eminent. Their string quartet promoted Beethoven’s works and was much admired by Berlioz, who praised Antoine. They co-composed several works including the imposing Grande symphonie militaire included here, boldly virtuosic and laced with memorable themes. Antoine Bohrer’s Violin Concerto in E minor shares elements familiar from Paganini and is enhanced by Antoine’s sense of lyricism. Max’s Cello Concerto No. 1, though economically scored, shows how quickly the cello had progressed as a solo instrument in the early 19th century.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
As both previous volumes in this series have shown, Luxembourg has a wealth of composers writing vibrant new orchestral scores. Featured on this third volume, Luc Grethen’s Upswing is a crescendo of energy, while Ernie Hammes’ Concertino No. 1 fuses jazz modes with classical patterns, and his West End Avenue evokes the atmosphere of an afternoon in New York. Catherine Kontz explores feminist ideas in The Waves, while Gast Waltzing allows his music to ‘speak for itself’. Volume 1 (8.579059) was acclaimed as ‘an outstanding disc’ by Fanfare, and Volume 2 (8.579116) showcases the music of Marco Pütz.
Peter Boyer, GRAMMY-nominated and one of America’s most prominent composers (his music was performed at President Biden’s inauguration), was commissioned by pianist Jeffrey Biegel to compose a work celebrating the 2024 centennial of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Boyer has responded with a work cast, like Gershwin’s, in a single, multi-sectional movement that similarly captures propulsive energy, along with allusions to blues influences and lyrical evocations of American vistas. This brilliantly communicative work was premiered, to great acclaim, in June 2023, and Biegel will be performing it in each of the 50 United States until summer 2026.
This title will have a pre-release exclusively on Apple Music on 9 February with the global release on all other streaming platforms on 23 February.
* Only available for download and streaming
As early as 1851, Wagner wrote, ‘I propose to produce my myth in three complete dramas, preceded by a lengthy Prelude.’ The Prelude was Das Rheingold (‘The Rhine Gold’) the preliminary evening of Wagner’s epic tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen (‘The Ring of the Nibelung’), which received its first complete performance in 1876. The unfolding events of Das Rheingold depict the theft of the Ring forged from the Rhinemaidens’ gold by the Nibelung dwarf Alberich, and his subsequent surrender of it to Wotan, ruler of the Gods, to pay his debt to the giants who constructed Valhalla. Alberich’s curse foreshadows the catastrophe to come. Sir Donald Runnicles conducts an internationally acclaimed cast in this innovative new production of Der Ring by Norwegian director Stefan Herheim.
Rossini’s rarely performed Elisabetta regina d’Inghilterra was his first opera for the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples. With the composer showcasing and indeed recycling some of his best music, it was an enormous success and allowed him to become established as the leading opera composer in Italy. The story revolves around Queen Elizabeth I (Elisabetta), whose romantic attachments expose her to murderous intrigues, and ends with her renouncement of love itself. This fast-moving production under the baton of Antonino Fogliani was described as ‘a colourful, sparkling festival of music’ in Die Deutsche Bühne.
Two important works dominate volume nine of this series. The first is Bartók’s substantial and ambitious late-Romantic Piano Sonata, Op. 19, a very early work, composed when he was around 17 before his studies in Budapest. It was long considered lost and is heard in Goran Filipec’s performing edition, prepared from the manuscript. Zongoraiskola or ‘Piano Method’ was devised in collaboration with composer, pianist and teacher Sándor Reschofsky who contributed the exercises. Bartók’s 48 original pieces are perfectly formed and charmingly refined, allowing him an opportunity to explore his ideas of piano pedagogy.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Famed for his profoundly Romantic violin concertos, Henry Vieuxtemps revolutionised violin playing in the 19th century. His loyal student Eugène Ysaÿe pointed out that his teacher’s work was ʻa treasure to be protected at all costs’ and ‘ought to be known in its entirety’. Vieuxtemps’ bicentenary in 2020 provided an ideal opportunity to unearth lost and often unpublished manuscripts passed down through the composer’s family. These rediscovered gems include the world premiere of the Fantasy for Voice, Violin and Orchestra, presented here in a piano reduction, an amazing work in which the voice, evoking the composer’s memories in a wordless vocalise, wraps itself around the notes of the violin.
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING
The expressive vitality in this collection of violin sonatas transcends the cultural upheavals from which these three Ukrainian composers emerged. Bortkiewicz’s Violin Sonata in G minor is among the most impressive of his relatively few chamber works, finding his musical language at its most vivid and directly communicative. Kosenko’s Violin Sonata in A minor is notable for the satisfying balance of its two subtly differentiated movements. Skoryk’s Second Violin Sonata is a stylistically diverse chamber work, with pointed allusions to Beethoven, Prokofiev and Gershwin during its compact and always eventful course.
INCLUDES A WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING
Czerny is remembered as Beethoven’s favoured interpreter of his own piano works and is well known as Liszt’s teacher, but it is for his pedagogic works, still in use to this day, that he continues to enjoy renown. The Nocturnes offer a less familiar view of Czerny. These sensitively shaped, small-scale Biedermeier compositions offered domestic households the opportunity to savour their sense of delicacy and enigmatic mood changes. The Op. 604 set is rather more robust than Op. 368, which is exquisitely sensitive, but equally convincing in characterisation and scope.
In grouping his Lieder into sets with opus numbers, Brahms was concerned with thematic unity and poetic contrasts. The theme of Op. 71 is love, whether ardent, ironic or courtly, and contains one of his best-loved songs, Minnelied. In Op. 70 the connections are more subtle: past, present and future create the thematic framework. The serenity of Op. 95 is heightened through the use of Serbian folk songs, and for the Op. 107 set Brahms once again illuminates love in all its intensity and humour.
Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (‘None but the lonely heart’), probably the best known of Tchaikovsky’s songs, lends its name to an intimate theatrical evening in which Christof Loy has combined songs or ‘romances’ and instrumental music to create a chamber opera of striking beauty and intensity. Tchaikovsky’s songs cover a stylistic diversity unsurpassed by other Russian composers, often setting enigmatic texts in which the unsaid and unsayable create expressive tensions and encapsulate true human emotions. Given a sumptuous period setting, these qualities create a unique drama in which suppressed love is confronted with longed for moments of passion, and sadness over broken relationships leads to withdrawal and loneliness.
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!