The first edition of NEW ON NAXOS for 2023 features celebrated conductor Marin Alsop leading the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra performing Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Rhenish’ and Symphony No. 4. This recording completes our edition of Gustav Mahler’s re-orchestrations of Schumann’s symphonies with Vol. 1 appearing in 8.574429, which Crescendo magazine described as ‘a beautiful musical and technical achievement.’
Other highlights include Elisabeth, a musical by Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay staged by Gil Mehmert, Jan Schmidt-Garre’s film Home Music Berlin consisting of fourteen concerts featuring some of the world’s leading instrumentalists and singers residing in Berlin, Daniel-François-Esprit Auber’s opera Le Philtre – part of our ongoing series of releases covering productions from the Rossini in Wildbad bel canto opera festival, Claudio Santoro’s works performed by the soloists of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and more.
Robert Schumann’s Fourth Symphony was initially conceived not long after the success of the First, but the dramatic original single-movement version confused audiences, and substantial revisions resulted in the eloquent masterpiece we hear today. This and the Third Symphony owe a great deal to Beethoven, with the ‘Rhenish’ sharing much of the joy and effervescence of the ‘Pastoral’ Symphony. Gustav Mahler’s subtle re-orchestrations were made in the light of instrumental innovations and the increase in size of the symphony orchestra towards the beginning of the 20th century, making them ideal for performance today.
Sir Arnold Bax wrote his seven symphonies between 1921 and 1939, embracing a prolific period that drew inspiration from a variety of sources. From the dramatic impact of the Second Symphony through to the seascapes of the Fourth and hints of Sibelius in the later works, Bax’s powerful symphonic world is one of surprising and at times stormy vigour contrasting with the most intense lyrical expressiveness and serenity. The selection of additional orchestral works evoking nature and atmospheric landscapes fascinates and rewards in equal measure, providing an essential overview of Bax’s music in critically acclaimed recordings.
Albert Ketèlbey was an excellent pianist, touring Britain and honing his craft as an expert tunesmith as musical director of London’s Vaudeville Theatre. The delightful miniature In a Monastery Garden placed Ketèlbey at the forefront of British Light Music composers, with its birdsong and atmospheric chants delivering a ‘glow of exultation’ that proved hugely popular in its day. From the unashamedly sentimental Bells Across the Meadows to the impressive Suite Romantique and the famous In a Persian Market, Ketèlbey’s music takes us back to a nostalgic era of palm court salons and imaginative reverie.
Marco Pütz gained international recognition after winning awards for his compositions in the mid-1990s. Accessibility and enjoyment for both audiences and musicians are a central element in Pütz’s music, and he is renowned for numerous symphonic, wind band and chamber works that have become standard repertoire throughout the world. Euphonia’s Voice is part of an exploration of lesser-known instruments, and the virtuoso contrasts of joy and grief in Chapters of Life are always at the service of expressiveness – the power of love, life and the commemoration of those close to us forming a theme throughout much of this superb programme.
Treading a tightrope between death, life and intense romance in the opulent world of 19th-century Habsburg royalty, Elisabeth tells the story of the beautiful Empress of Austria, from her wedding, to her tragic assassination by the hand of the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni. Ongoing dark obsessions and inner turmoil are undercurrents as family schisms flare up amidst a crumbling empire. These powerful themes and a potent score brimming with fabulous music have combined to establish Elisabeth as the most successful German-language musical of all time. This spectacular open-air event presents Elisabeth at the fabled empress’s real-life home – Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.
When lockdown was imposed in 2020 many artists began streaming performances from their own homes. In response, pianist Francesco Piemontesi and director Jan Schmidt-Garre launched a concert series to showcase artists living in Berlin, given in the renowned Schinkel Pavillon with an expert technical team assembled at short notice. Fourteen concerts were held, without audiences, under the name Home Music Berlin featuring some of the world’s leading instrumentalists and singers. In addition, a documentary film captured rehearsals and private backstage scenes. This collection of performances is a testament to the resilience and solidarity of these artists during the pandemic.
The two leading operatic composers of their time were Rossini and Auber, one now fêted, the other largely overlooked. In 1831 Auber and his long-standing librettist Eugène Scribe produced Le Philtre, which took the concept of petit opéra to the extreme, even outdoing Rossini’s Le Comte Ory in depicting a rural setting peopled not with Arcadian shepherds but with ordinary country folk. Auber’s Franco-Italian style can be heard in the work’s ensembles, while elsewhere the opera shimmers with rich arias, buffo elements and delightful cavatinas. Le Philtre was an unalloyed success receiving 243 performances and inspired Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
† FIRST RECORDING OF COMPLETE COLLECTION
Claudio Santoro was one of Brazil’s leading composers, having written a considerable amount of solo, chamber and orchestral music, including arguably the most important symphonic cycle ever written in that country. The fifteen Fantasias Sul América, composed as competition pieces for individual instruments, represent fascinating syntheses of his style heard in compressed form. Freely atonal and highly virtuosic, these pieces are now standard repertoire for Brazilian soloists, and were even used later by Santoro as material for his Symphony No. 12 (Naxos 8.574406). The youthful Sonata for Solo Violin is a work of extraordinary density and experimentation that reveals an aesthetically consistent dialogue with the much later Fantasias.
INCLUDES A WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING
The viability of the horn trio was definitively established by Brahms in 1865. He had learned the natural horn as a child and infused his Trio with a range of moods, including a deeply felt slow movement in honour of his mother who had died earlier in the year and a carefree finale which explores the horn’s hunting legacy. Inspired by this precedent, Lennox Berkeley’s Trio is lively and characterful with a sequence of ingenious and playful variations. GRAMMY-nominated Jonathan Leshnoff is one of America’s leading contemporary composers and his 2016 Trio moves from darkness to light, and is full of pointed syncopations, before arriving at a joyous conclusion.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Luis Humberto Salgado was an essentially self-taught Ecuadorian composer inspired equally by the folk music of his country and by currents in contemporary modernism. He defined himself as a ‘polytechnic’ composer, absorbing folk motifs and individual dances into an eclectic, vibrant and highly personal idiom. This can be heard in the Viola Sonata where the lively sanjuanito indigenous dance is evoked in music of sophisticated harmonies. The Cello Sonata is more neo-Classical, while Selene commemorates the moon landing of 1969 in striking, unconventional sonorities. Salgado’s Woodwind Quintet combines pentatonic scales and serial techniques to create a ‘polychrome fabric’.
Considered the most important Brazilian composer next to Villa-Lobos, Camargo Guarnieri and his impact on the musical life of his country is inestimable, with a body of piano music that represents the composer’s most distinctive stylistic features. Guarnieri was a consummate improviser and many of his piano works reflect a sense of ease and intimacy, giving the impression that they were composed in a flash of instantaneous inspiration. This is particularly true of the ‘character pieces’ in this volume, from the autobiographical Improvisos and Momentos, to the intimate nostalgia of the Valsas. Volume 1 of this edition can be heard on Naxos 8.572626-27.
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!