The March NEW ON NAXOS features Brazilian composer Carlos Gomes’ Opera Overtures and Preludes, presented by Fabio Mechetti conducting the Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra – key artists in the Naxos’ ‘Music of Brazil’ series. Together with pianist Sonia Rubinsky, they have previously recorded Almeida Prado’s First Piano Concerto which was nominated for a Latin GRAMMY in 2020 for Best Classical Album: ‘The Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra, under the expert direction of Fabio Mechetti, provides a well-considered and exemplary accompaniment. The recorded sound is very good.’ (Fanfare)
Other highlights include an audiovisual release of Emilio de’ Cavalieri’s opera Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo staged by Robert Carsen; Giovanni Antonini conducting the Arnold Schoenberg Chor and Il Giardino Armonico, featuring soprano Anett Fritsch on the lead role; Sergey Rachmaninov’s Complete Symphonies, presented by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and GRAMMY award-winning conductor Leonard Slatkin; the second installment of Louis Vierne’s Complete Piano Works series, performed by critically acclaimed Steinway Artist Sergio Monteiro; multiple GRAMMY award-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra presenting Danny Elfman’s Violin Concerto “Eleven Eleven” paired with Adolphus Hailstork’s First Piano Concerto and more.
Watch our monthly New on Naxos video to sample the highlighted releases of the month.
Carlos Gomes was not only Brazil’s leading operatic composer, but he also helped pave the way for Italian verismo during the latter part of the 19th century. The preludes and overtures from his operas chart a course from early experimentation with orchestral sonority to a new conception of atmosphere and tension in his historically based dramas. In Alvorada (‘Dawn’) from Lo schiavo his descriptive writing comes close to the status of a symphonic poem. The music from his greatest artistic triumph, Il Guarany, weaves themes into an organic whole, while his final opera, Condor, is reminiscent of French orchestral music in its employment of whole-tone scales.
Sergey Rachmaninov’s symphonic career had a rocky start with the premiere of his First Symphony, now recognised as one of the great Russian symphonic works of the late 19th century. Both the powerful First Symphony and the gloriously melodic Second, with its lushly harmonic Adagio third movement, are haunted by the Dies irae chant melody. Rachmaninov considered his Third Symphony to be one of his finest works, alongside the exquisitely orchestrated and virtuosic Symphonic Dances. The enduring attraction of these symphonies is enhanced by the ‘impressive, highly desirable interpretations’ (Gramophone) in this acclaimed edition conducted by Leonard Slatkin.
This recording presents brand new concertos from two vibrant and contrasting American composers. Adolphus Hailstork’s First Piano Concerto draws on his African American heritage to create a work brimming with energy and high spirits, reflecting the rich traditions of jazz and blues. The Violin Concerto “Eleven Eleven” by Danny Elfman – renowned for his many film scores – has its roots in the composer’s rock, film and television background, but also illustrates his love for the music of Shostakovich and Prokofiev. In keeping with his famous Batman score, this work is a true violin concerto noir that is both haunting and compelling.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Eugene Zádor was an established composer by the time he moved from Europe to the United States in 1939 where he worked as a film composer. Many of the works on this album exhibit Zádor’s finest traits, blending neo-Classicism and neo-Romanticism with expert orchestration and rhythmic verve, and a dedication to tonality liberally peppered with gentle dissonance. The Chamber Concerto was composed while he was still in Vienna, and the Suite for Horn, Strings and Percussion only received its premiere after Zádor’s death. The programme concludes with spectacular off-stage effects and a joyous affirmation of life in Celebration Music.
Philip Lane has long been a stalwart of British light music and this recording provides an excellent survey of his concert works. London Salute marked the 60th anniversary of the BBC, while the lyrical and frivolous Diversions on a Theme of Paganini was originally written for brass quintet. Partly inspired by childhood memories, the Cotswold Dances reflect the composer’s own part of the country, Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds. Composed for clarinet soloist Verity Butler, the Divertissement quotes liberally from Lane’s earlier works, the most popular of which is the Sleighbell Serenade, a piece that has been performed all over the world.
Emilio de’ Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di Anima et di Corpo was premiered in 1600 in Rome. It was conceived to be performed in costume, bringing text and music together in a dramatic form, and is accepted as the first surviving opera, pre-dating works by Peri and Monteverdi. Its theme is the dialogue of Soul and Body, a pivotal concept of the Italian Counter-Reformation, presented in allegorical form. This production by the acclaimed director Robert Carsen was hailed as ‘an unmitigated, tremendous success’ and its ‘musical production was extraordinary’ (bachtrack.com).
Louis Vierne will always be best remembered as one France’s most outstanding organ composers, but his piano works are part of a significant wider oeuvre and notable for their colourful and inspired inventiveness. Each of the Douze Préludes carries an evocative title in music filled with the pain and tumult of war and loss, while the epitaphs in Solitude were composed shortly after the deaths of Vierne’s brother and eldest son. Including recently published manuscripts, this is the second of two albums covering repertoire that deserves a place in the pantheon of French piano music.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold wrote a significant body of chamber music (the Piano Trio and String Sextet are on Naxos 8.574008). His three String Quartets reflect differing periods of composition. The First marries impetuousness with enticing harmonies and rapt eloquence. The Second, which dates from 1933, is notable for its clarity, rhythmic impetus and melodic directness. The post-war Third is more relaxed, unexpectedly juxtaposing the archaic and modern with a joyful conclusion.
INCLUDES WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
The second volume of Leone Sinigaglia’s music for string quartet (Volume 1 is on 8.574183) explores a series of generally shorter pieces for the medium. These deeply expressive works, such as the yearning Romanza for string quartet and horn, combine compositional rigour with a flowing Italianate lyricism nurtured in the years 1888–89. Also included are the String Trio in A major, which evokes the world of the Baroque through its Bachian counterpoint, and the Trio-Serenata, fusing elysian beauty with joyful elegance. All but one of these pieces are world premiere recordings, many of which are played from the composer’s original manuscripts.
Brahms had long been immersed in the folk traditions and spirit of Hungary’s musical repertoire, not least through the famous violinist Ede Reményi, for whom he played as piano accompanist. Brahms employed melodies that he had heard, as well as those based on sheet music, and in this album his Hungarian Dances are presented alongside their source material and variants, as well as some elements that Brahms omitted from his settings. Contextualised in this way, the heroic strength and dynamism, as well as the melancholy of the Dances can be heard as never before.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Frederic Rzewski was one of the most important American composer-pianists of his time. The themes explored in his late piano works are typical of his entire body of work in their uncompromising and universal nature. The intensely contrapuntal Ruins and virtuoso Wake Up are the last pieces in his vast piano cycle Dreams, while the War Songs weave together six war and anti-war songs from the last seven centuries. Winter Nights was written for Bobby Mitchell. Rzewski said of the three movements that they were intended to help with insomnia in a similar way to Bach’s Goldberg Variations, though they are inevitably very different in the darkness of their moods.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING
Renowned both as a guitarist and a composer, Carlo Domeniconi has written over 150 compositions, combining Eastern and Western elements in striking and individual ways. Sinbad, a Fairy Tale for Solo Guitar is a perfect example of his imaginative style and is one of the most remarkable works in the entire solo guitar repertoire, evoking the panoramic journey of the sailor and adventurer known from The Arabian Nights. The piece draws on diverse sources including Oriental-Persian scales, Arabic oud ornaments and extended techniques to chart, in three cycles, the Middle Eastern atmosphere through which Sinbad travels.
A renaissance artist for our times, Lera Auerbach is internationally renowned as a composer whose exquisitely crafted, emotional, and boldly imaginative music reaches a global audiences. Her 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano is a cycle of compact but ‘meaningful and complete’ works that follows the key scheme of Chopin’s 24 Préludes, while exploring stark contrasts that range from primordial darkness to naïve innocence. Using a highly original tonal language with clear references to classical traditions, this pioneering work fully represents Auerbach’s ability to put music at the service of a broader expression of human need and fallibility.
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!