Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search

Vive la République! As the Bastille Day is approaching, let’s celebrate by immersing ourselves in the rich repertoire of French music. Here we present to you a prime selection of acclaimed Naxos recordings of French instrumental music from all musical periods, performed to world class standards and recorded in state-of-the-art digital sound.

French Music Releases in 2012

MESSIAEN Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum
Orchestre National de Lyon
Jun Märkl

Olivier Messiaen’s uniquely distinctive and powerfully expressive musical voice drew strength from religious faith and nature. A prestigious commission, Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum commemorates the dead of two World Wars through the transcendence of Christ’s Resurrection. Scored for winds and percussion, the work is conceived for and conjures up vast spaces. Le tombeau resplendissant and Hymne are early works, but equally filled with mystery and symbolism. Fanfare magazine described Jun Märkl’s previous volume in this series (Poèmes pour Mi / 8.572174) as “the best recording around of a mesmerizing masterwork”.

HONEGGER Symphony No. 2
Seattle Symphony
Gerard Schwarz

Completed during World War II, Honegger’s Symphony No. 2 gives voice to the composer’s horror of mankind’s barbarity and inhumanity perpetrated during the conflict. Its power derives from the seamlessness of its construction and the intensity of its expression. The work’s dark, brooding mood comes to a profoundly moving climax in the finale’s elegiac chorale tune, played on first violins accompanied by trumpet, thus ending the symphony on a more optimistic note than might be expected. Henri Lazarof’s Concerto for Orchestra No. 2, ‘Icarus’ is a volatile, richly coloured score, and Poema, composed as a wedding gift for Gerard Schwarz and his wife, is both romantic and brilliant.

ADAM Giselle (Highlights)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Mogrelia

Of his many works for the stage, Adolphe Adam’s ballet Giselle ou Les Wilis is the best-known. The story is based on a legend in which the Wilis, or ghosts of unmarried girls, seek revenge on the living. Speedily written amidst a hotbed of Parisian infatuations and given a timeless parochial setting, this archetypal romantic ballet has everything from unrequited love to deceit, drama, tragedy, and conciliatory resolution. Andrew Mogrelia has been acclaimed for conducting of ‘warmth, grace and vitality’. (The Penguin Guide on Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty 8.550490–92)

MESSIAEN Visions de l’Amen
DEBUSSY En blanc et noir

Ralph van Raat, piano
Håkon Austbø, piano

Both the works on this recording were written during wartime. Debussy’s 1915 En blanc et noir, composed during a late creative burst, is his musical response to the horrors of World War I. Messiaen’s revolutionary Visions de l’Amen from 1943, written to be performed by the composer and his teenage pupil, Yvonne Loriod, is a profound religious meditation whose emotional intensity is overwhelming. The rôle of the two pianos is clearly divided. Melodic and expressive elements are confined to the second piano, Messiaen’s part, whereas all that is percussion, brilliance and rhythmic development is heard in the first piano, Loriod’s part.

SÈVÈRAC Piano Music, Vol. 2
Jordi Masó, piano

A central figure in the arts in France during his lifetime, Déodat de Sévérac stressed the importance of distinctive regional character in music. He derived his inspiration from Catalonia and Provence, and the genial warmth of expression in his work is reflected in the radiant imagery of Baigneuses au soleil which was dedicated to Alfred Cortot. The two groups of En vacances, the first described as little romantic pieces of moderate difficulty, are dedicated to friends, relations or colleagues, while the Fantasy Sous les lauriers rosesis dedicated to the memory of the composer’s teachers. Volume 1 (8.555855) of Jordi Masó’s survey is a Penguin Guide *** key recommendation.

DEBUSSY Complete Orchestral Works [9-CD box set]
Orchestre National de Lyon
Jun Märkl

This collection contains all Debussy’s works for orchestra as well as many orchestral arrangements of his piano music. Together these display a rich panorama of Debussian sound and a remarkable insight into the composer. Established arrangements by Debussy’s contemporaries, including Ravel and Caplet, are complemented by more recent arrangements from composers such as Colin Matthews and Robin Holloway. The conductor Jun Märkl believes that Debussy ‘set up a model of orchestration for the rest of the twentieth century’ and it is with this conviction that he draws from the Orchestre National de Lyon such ‘world-class playing’ (American Record Guide).

ROUSSEL Le festin de l’araignée, Padmâvatî – Suites
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Stéphane Denève

One of Roussel’s most performed orchestral works, The Spider’s Banquet was composed during his earlier impressionistic period, and depicts the beauty and violence of insect life in a garden. Roussel’s experiences as a lieutenant in the French Navy first introduced him to Eastern influences, and the ‘opera-ballet’ Padmâvatî was inspired by his later visit to the ancient city of Chittor in Rajasthan state of western India. It uses aspects of Indian music to evoke this city’s legendary siege by the Mongols.

KOECHLIN Les heures persanes
Ralph van Raat, piano

A pupil of Massenet and Fauré, the prolific French composer and teacher Charles Koechlin expanded traditional harmonies and compositional techniques and was much admired by his contemporaries. Les heures persanes was inspired by Vers Ispahan, Pierre Loti’s diary of a journey through Persia. Oriental atmospheres are recreated through cycles of day and night, and in piano writing completely new for its time. This evocative piece salutes Koechlin’s musical forebears as well as foreshadowing Messiaen through the “passionate and skilled” (The Sunday Times on 8.572570) advocacy of Ralph van Raat.

Other French Symphonies Releases

BERLIOZ Symphonie Fantastique
San Diego Symphony Orchestra
Yoav Talmi

various artists

FAURÉ Piano Quintets
Fine Arts Quartet
Cristina Ortiz, piano

FRANCK Piano Quintet / CHAUSSON String Quartet
Quatuor Ludwig
Michael Levinas, piano

FRANCK Symphony in D minor, Le Chasseur maudit
Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra
Roberto Benzi

MASSENET Orchestral Suites Nos. 4-7
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Jean-Yves Ossonce

RAMEAU Anacréon, Daphnis et Eglé
Capella Savaria
Mary Térey-Smith

RAVEL Daphnis et Chloé (Complete Ballet)
MDR Rundfunkchor, Leipzig
Orchestre National de Lyon
Jun Märkl

various artists

SAINT-SAËNS Violin Concertos
Fanny Clamagirand, violin
Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä
Patrick Gallois

various artists

VERÈSE Orchestral Works, Vol. 2
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Christopher Lyndon-Gee

View our special weekly features:
View all Features »


Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group