The November NEW ON NAXOS shines a spotlight on Deutsche Oper Berlin’s audiovisual production of Richard Wagner’s opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Staged by Jossi Wieler, Sergio Morabito and Anna Viebrock, this was hailed as ‘entertaining throughout’ and ‘thought-provoking’ by BR Klassik. John Fiore conducts the Deutsche Oper Berlin Chorus and Orchestra, together with a great line-up of soloists starring tenor Klaus Florian Vogt who is considered ‘one of the premiere Wagnerians of the moment’ by Opera Wire.
Other highlights include Louis Wayne Ballard’s works presented by John Jeter and the Fort Smith Symphony; the Valencia Baryton Trio’s next recording of Franz Joseph Haydn’s Baryton Trios; Elizabeth Poston’s choral works led by Tom Winpenny; 17th-century German music for Lent and Easter; the life and works of Felix Mendelssohn; and more.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Louis Wayne Ballard – also known as “Honganozhe”, which means “Stands with Eagles” in the Quapaw language – was the first indigenous North American composer of art music, and his extensive knowledge of the music, dance and mythology of this culture informed his compositions. Ballard’s style was eclectic, embracing tonal and twelve-tone elements, and the selected pieces presented here reflect the unique variety of his achievement. This album of world premiere recordings features his third ballet, The Four Moons, which embodies a rich cache of classic dances, and the Fantasy Aborigine No. 3 “Kokopelli” with its battery of unique percussive instruments.
* WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
This recording brings together four extraordinary mid-20th-century composers who helped shape America’s musical destiny. Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land is a moving tribute to the American rancher and farmer. It forms a profound celebration of those unsung heroes of that country’s landscape, and is perhaps his greatest expression of the preciousness of life. Walter Piston is represented by his colourful and beguiling The Incredible Flutist, which depicts a traveling circus led by a magical musician who is able to heal the sorrows of those who hear his music. The two premiere recordings here are the original orchestral version of Paul Creston’s thrilling Saxophone Concerto, and Ulysses Kay’s Pietà – a beautiful elegy inspired by Michelangelo’s masterpiece.
INCLUDES A WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING
Edino Krieger was a leading figure in Brazilian music as both composer and arts director who influenced a generation of his compatriots during his long life. Krieger’s works can be divided into three phases: serial, neo-Classical, and a fascinating synthesis of traditionalism and the avant-garde. From the second category comes the transitional Variações Elementares whereas his final creative phase, his peak of artistic maturity, is represented by the remainder of the programme. Included is one of his most emblematic pieces, Canticum Naturale, an expansive Amazonian painting in sound, and the virtuosic and expressive Ludus Symphonicus.
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
With his distinctive blend of incisive drama and lyrical expressiveness, Sir William Walton was one of the greatest English composers of the 20th century. He and his wife Susana made their home on the Italian island of Ischia where he composed the Cello Concerto – a work he considered to be the best of his three concertos for string instruments – heard here for the first time in a stunning transcription for viola by Anna Serova. The Italian composer Roberto Molinelli pays homage to Susana’s Argentine roots and the beautiful garden she created, La Mortella, with his concerto Lady Walton’s Garden, displaying a colourful use of South American and Neapolitan instruments. William’s Rock and The Missing E are also dedicated to La Mortella.
Triumphantly premiered in 1868, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg evokes the singing guilds of mid-16th-century Nuremburg, a focal point of the Northern European Renaissance. Wagner’s only mature comic opera concerns the young knight Walther von Stolzing’s love for Eva whom the town clerk Beckmesser also covets. Against the background of a singing contest, cobbler-singer Hans Sachs’ nobility ensures the reconciliation of youth and age, and tradition and innovation. Deutsche Oper Berlin’s provocative new staging was considered ‘entertaining throughout’ and ‘thought-provoking’ by BR Klassik.
Rimsky-Korsakov’s Christmas Eve, based on a short story by Gogol, centres on the love of the blacksmith Vakula for the rich farmer’s daughter Oksana, who mockingly requires him to obtain for her the Tsarina’s shoes in order to win her hand in marriage. However, evil spirits are on the rampage imperilling their love – a witch on her broomstick gathers the stars and the devil steals the moon. Rimsky-Korsakov blends Christian and pagan elements, Ukrainian folk songs and carols, and atmospheric orchestral interludes in this vivacious and fantastical village romance.
The city of Eisenstadt was the location of the Esterházy Court where Joseph Haydn was music director for 25 years. Prince Nikolaus commissioned Haydn to write trios for the baryton, an instrument on which the Prince had become proficient. The baryton is a bowed, stringed instrument similar to the viol but with extra plucked strings that can enable the performer to accompany themselves. For Nikolaus, Haydn wrote string trios of elegance, refinement and poise that encapsulate a rich variety of moods. Seldom performed or recorded, the baryton trios attest to Haydn’s limitless powers of invention in every medium.
The 20th-century Lithuanian composer’s dialogue between modern forms of expression and folk motifs is well represented in the four works in this recording. There is a sense of playful lightness in the Romantic aesthetic of Gruodis’s work, while Banaitis incorporates national lyricism with personal grief in his Sonata. Composed under the restrictions imposed by Soviet occupation, Vainiūnas’s Sonata Op. 38 is suffused with tragedy and sorrow, while the distinctive style of Juzeliūnas had an enormous impact on the future of Lithuanian music. All of these pieces are symbolic of survival and represent being truthful to one’s creative identity while under the harshest of conditions.
Recent scholarship has brought numerous compositions by the excessively self-critical Mendelssohn into print and has ensured more accurate compositional dates for them. Many of these rare and little-known examples are encountered on this album. The title Lieder ohne Worte (‘Songs without Words’) may have mystified some contemporaries but their refinement and beauty are obvious as is their wide emotional range. The two youthful sonatas are astonishingly mature, even in the allusions to Beethoven. Mendelssohn’s humour and quirkiness can also be heard in this vibrant selection of seldom encountered piano pieces.
In contrast to the grand scale and public profile of his orchestral and choral works, Johannes Brahms saw the organ as an instrument ‘for home use’, and one in which he confided his most intimate feelings. The earlier pieces were exercises in counterpoint inspired by Brahms’ friendship with Clara Schumann and, despite their academic titles, they are infused with distinctive musical ideas and lyrical expressiveness. The later Chorale Preludes with their themes of suffering and death can be seen as autobiographical, the elder Brahms seeking spiritual strength in the ‘pure style’ of the Protestant tradition.
INCLUDES A WORLD PREMIERE RECORDINGS
Elizabeth Poston’s long and distinguished career included significant work for the BBC during the Second World War, where she performed as a respected pianist and later composed scores for numerous radio and television productions. Describing herself as ‘a littlemonger’ who never wanted to write big pieces, Poston’s supreme talent for composing vocal and choral miniatures is fully represented in this recording, the first to be dedicated entirely to her work. Poston’s music reveals timeless melodic charm, a great sensitivity of word setting and her profound appreciation of ancient folk-song traditions.
This glorious programme represents both the unique magic of Christmas carols, and the deeply rooted tradition of re-inventing their words and music for the times in which they are performed. From David Hill’s unashamedly lush, close-part harmonies enhancing Silent Night, to Eric Whitacre’s hallmark luminous vocal textures in Lux aurumque, this recording is a superb celebration of the moving atmosphere and festive nature of the Christmas season.
* WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING
Winner of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association’s Ostwald Award for composition, Peter Graham is one of the leading brass band composers of his generation. Graham’s previous Naxos album with the Black Dyke Band, Metropolis 1927 (8.573968), received widespread acclaim from the brass band press. The five world premiere recordings heard on this album represent his long association with Black Dyke. The trumpet concerto Master of Suspense references Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic movies, the virtuoso euphonium concerto Force of Nature was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s extraordinary life, and The Triumph of Time is a dazzling example of compositional craft and brass band virtuosity.
The Hanseatic wealth of North Germany in the 17th century is reflected in its magnificent cathedrals, and the enormous grandeur of its church music was composed to fill the rich acoustics of these spaces. This programme presents a wide range of Easter music that displays the wealth of inventiveness in this period, enhancing the texts and finding different colours and surprising effects through improvisation and adaptation of the manuscripts. This early music is brought vividly to life by the acclaimed Margaretha Consort.
Felix Mendelssohn was a child prodigy to rival Mozart and achieved great fame during his lifetime, fêted across Europe, and composing in the widest possible range of musical genres. However, his music has also been denigrated for its elegance, charm and symmetry. This insightful biography explores the breadth of his achievements, the complexities of his privileged upbringing, and the reasons for the fluctuating nature of his reputation. Musical excerpts include the Violin Concerto, String Octet and Elijah, as well as his choral works, symphonies, sonatas and songs.
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!