Highlights for the March edition of NEW ON NAXOS include Boris Boris Giltburg and Vasily Petrenko’s recording of Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto; the world premiere recording of Albert Roussel’s operetta Le Testament de la Tante Caroline; a special 5-disc set Francis Poulenc’s Complete Chamber Music; the final instalment in Keith Brion’s acclaimed John Philip Sousa Music for Wind Band series; and many more.
These works share the common key of E flat major but represent two very different stages in the composer’s life. The Piano Concerto No. 0, WoO 4, written when Beethoven was 13 years old, is one of his earliest works. With the orchestral score lost, this extant version for piano solo written in Beethoven’s hand includes the tutti sections reduced for piano. The radiant ‘Emperor’ Concerto shows the 38-year-old Beethoven at the peak of his creative powers, and remains a glorious example of his spirit triumphing over life’s adversities.
Claudio Santoro was one of Brazil’s most eminent and influential composers. Over a 50-year period, he wrote a cycle of 14 symphonies that is widely acclaimed as the most significant cycle of its kind ever written in Brazil. The two selected works in this inaugural volume of the first complete recording of his symphonies focus on the 1950s, a period when Santoro sought a more direct and communicative idiom using Brazilian elements. His use of folk-based material is nonetheless highly creative, sometimes indeed abstract, as in key moments of Symphony No. 5. Symphony No. 7 is one of his most complex and intense works, a celebration of his country’s new capital Brasília in music of striking modernity.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Revueltas and Copland wrote prolifically for film, and these scores are their greatest achievements in the medium. The scores were crafted for two of the most formidable and politically motivated films of the time. Redes is a story of victimised fishermen in Mexico – and the subject matter drew from Revueltas passionate music that Copland himself admiringly described as ‘vibrant and colourful’. The City is a documentary that reveals the musical missing link between Copland’s ‘urban’ and ‘country’ idioms, prescient of minimalism, and masterly in construction and effect. Without narration or dialogue, both scores are heard here for the first time in full.
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Lord Berners excelled in the ballet medium where he enjoyed collaborations with leading choreographers and conductors with whom his natural flair for spectacle and design could be explored to the full. In 1946 he wrote Les Sirènes, set on a French beach in 1904 with an exotic cast – the music is atmospheric, graceful and full of allusions to other composers. Cupid and Psyche was not a critical success but its music transcended weaknesses in the scenario and the suite is both orchestrally deft and thematically memorable.
Frederic Curzon started his career as a virtuoso organist, touring countless British theatres and concert venues. From 1938 he devoted himself to composition, creating a catalogue of works that is truly astonishing for its size and scope. This recording reveals Curzon’s fascination with Spain, and also features orchestral showpieces and evocations of cultured gentility, from the swagger of The Boulevardier to the wistful nostalgia of Simonetta. The Robin Hood Suite represents Curzon at the height of his melodic inspiration. As one affectionate obituary stated, ‘he was a classic among English light music composers’.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING
Le Testament de la Tante Caroline (‘Aunt Caroline’s Will’) remains one of Roussel’s least-known works. It’s an energetic and imaginative operetta that sits perfectly in the lineage of French musical comedy, with a plot that concerns the conditions attached to the mischievous aunt’s will. The text is inimitably Parisian and Roussel responded with graceful and elegant writing that for some contemporary critics evoked the music of one his orchestral masterpieces, Le Festin de l’araignée. The operetta is heard here in the revision requested by Roussel’s widow which cuts three acts down to one.
‘Francis Poulenc is music itself, I know no music more direct, more simply expressed nor which goes so unerringly to its target.’ This praise from Darius Milhaud can be applied to all of Poulenc’s music, but the chamber works represent a lifetime of working with virtuoso friends or following an urgent desire to compose, reflecting the essence of his instantly recognisable and deeply personal style. They range from Poulenc’s youthful creativity as a member of the Groupe des Six, via a rich seam of masterpieces, to the sonatas composed as his final works. Acclaim for these recordings can be summed up by the comment ‘you simply can’t go wrong with any of the discs in this series.’ (ClassicsToday.com)
Antonio Soler is best known for his many keyboard sonatas. His training as a church musician and a post as organist at the royal palace and monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial brought him into contact with musicians such as Domenico Scarlatti from the court of Philip II. With the Op. 4 sonatas the influence of Scarlatti mixes with new styles emerging from Vienna. Soler’s Classical forms include lively dances to go along with elegant delicacy, solemnity and drama – all enhanced by his characteristic sparkling ornamentation and virtuoso technique.
Martin Plüddemann was a pivotal figure in the revival and modernisation of the art of ballad composition. He revered Carl Loewe and Richard Wagner and this confluence of influences allowed him to explore the close relationship between ballad, opera and ‘music drama’, not least through the use of Leitmotifs, quasiorchestral accompaniment or in the piano anticipating or recalling the vocal line. He set the finest poets – Uhland, Müller, Goethe, Heine and Burns among them – and shows a comprehensive mastery of the genre, whether in themes of medievalism, nationalism, the supernatural or in his delightful essays in humour.
John Philip Sousa’s fame as ‘The March King’ came about in part due to the tireless touring of Sousa’s Band, attracting worldwide acclaim with thousands of concerts. This final volume in the series explores some of the lesser-known corners of Sousa’s output. These include fantasies and humoresques that use renowned classical works and fashionable melodies of their day. Also featured are the rarely heard processional hymn with choir We March, We March to Victory and The Fancy of the Town, which offers up a world tour of traditional and popular songs.
The final volume in this critically acclaimed series presents the last 18 of the one hundred magnificent and varied secular vocal works contained in the so-called Guerra Manuscript. Seven of these tonos (secular Spanish songs) – five of which were written for the stage – are by Juan Hidalgo, one of the leading composers of the Spanish Baroque. Great care has been taken over the use of historically informed instrumentation of the plucked strings and especially the harp, bringing vividly to life the golden age of 17th-century Spanish composition.
The Heart of the Dragon Ensemble and Chinese composer Jiang Li present an elegant union of ‘East meets West’, unveiling a wealth of Chinese art and culture to a broader audience. It showcases traditional Chinese music and literature via the sophisticated xiao, and the colourful Dai nation festivities with the hulusi. In addition, these two featured instruments are accompanied by the Chinese guzheng, pipa, erhu, and more, whilst seamlessly entwining with Western drum kits, bass, guitar, piano and strings. The result is a beautifully blended combination of classic Chinese heritage, Dai nation folk history with Western influences.
Global Wagner – From Bayreuth to the World is not a biography of Richard Wagner, nor is it a musicological analysis of his work. This is a documentary dedicated solely to the world’s fascination with the man, and an exploration of the question as to how such massive hype and world-wide cult following developed around this highly controversial artist. The film is a revealing feature-length study of life with Wagner’s legacy from one Bayreuth Festival to the next, and we travel the world to meet devoted Wagnerians and those most intimately involved in commenting on and producing his work today.
Also available in Blu-ray (NBD0139V)
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!