In addition to its own wide-reaching monthly new releases (see https://www.naxos.com/newreleases.asp), Naxos also distributes several leading labels in many countries around the world. Here is a choice selection of recent releases from some of these distributed labels.
In 1924, Gramola was founded in Vienna as the Austrian branch of the record label of the same name and has since been active in all sectors of the classical music world. Naturally, Gramola was initially focused on the great composers of the Viennese classical period, such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Their focus has shifted in recent years to CD production, and with around 50 recordings a year, has the highest production rate of classical music in Austria. At the forefront of their current activities is also the support of young Austrian musicians, and not least their cooperation with Exilarte, who are dedicated to the music of exiled and murdered composers.
On this album Austrian-born pianist Christiane Karajeva presents works by Alexander Scriabin and Franz Schubert. The Preludes, Op. 11 by Scriabin stands in the tradition of Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 28. Similarly, Scriabin drafts his 24 compact piano pieces as a tour through all musical keys. Piano Sonata in G Major, Op. 78, D. 894 by Franz Schubert came to be his last piano sonata which has been published during his lifetime.
Czech Philharmonic Quartet chose original transcripts (edits) originally of two piano cycles by Leoš Janáček – On the Overgrown Path and In the Mists. The result is a very interesting and impressive interpretation of Janáček’s music. On the Overgrown Path is a cycle of fifteen piano pieces organized into two volumes. The individual pieces are based largely on Moravian folk melodies. In the Mists was written in 1912, a few years after Janáček had lost his daughter Olga and the major opera houses were rejecting his works. All four parts of the cycle are anchored in “misty” keys with many flats, and frequent meter changes.
The four-movement symphonic poem Kolokola (The Bells), Op. 35 is based on a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The four stanzas of the poem vividly present the sounds of sleigh-bells, wedding bells, alarm bells and funeral bells, and these very different moods are masterfully conveyed in this most monumental symphonic poem Rachmaninov ever wrote. Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 from 1940 is the last completed work by the composer, who died in 1943. In the last few bars that Rachmaninov ever wrote, a hopeful hymn of praise triumphs over The Last Judgment—possibly a premonition of the composer’s imminent death.
Ivan the Terrible is the second joint project of Sergei Eisenstein and Sergei Prokofiev. Sergei Prokofiev’s musical portrayal is unique in film history, for the score conceives both parts of the film on an epic scale. Prokofiev’s rich melodic invention thrives on the expressive sound palette of his native Russia, mostly as they echo the spiritual works of the Russian-orthodox liturgy. These film scores were not published during Prokofiev’s lifetime. They were arranged as an oratorio for soloists, chorus, and orchestra by Levon Atovmyan, one of Prokofiev’s assistants, in 1961. This, however, is the original, straight from the composer’s hands, receiving its world premiere recording.
Not merely the atmosphere, but also the various references suggest that Weinberg’s music—including his String Quartets Nos. 8, 9 and 10—comes from the mind of someone who suffered because of the tragic fate of his family and missed the lost homeland where he had spent “the best and happiest years” of his life. These three works—Opp. 66, 80 and 85—were composed in a period when he lived off memories, which is also evident in his choice of texts for his vocal works. It’s no wonder then that all the quartets on this album are composed in minor keys.
Paddle to the Sea transports listeners into a realm of imaginative sounds and world premiere recordings evoking the aquatic world. In composing Paddle to the Sea, Third Coast found a wellspring of ideas in the other works they’ve included on the album: Jacob Druckman’s Reflections on the Nature of Water, Philip Glass’s 12 Pieces for Ballet (originally composed for piano) and Aguas da Amazonia, and Zimbabwean Musekiwa Chingdoza’s arrangement of Chigwaya, a song from the Shona tradition used to call water spirits.
“A tribute to inwardness, patience and beauty.” This is how the Danish composer Poul Ruders (b. 1949) described his Viola Concerto from 1994. The music has an almost Late Romantic expressive style and is played with rich, many-faceted feeling by the Norwegian viola virtuoso Lars Anders Tomter. The work premiered at the BBC Proms in 1995, whereafter he rewrote the piece. This recording contains the revised 2013 version. In his Handel Variations, the short variations grow together into a symphonic totality where the orchestral colors are constantly shifting and where Handel’s starting point develops into pure Ruders.
In the Poulenc Trio’s second release on Delos, the idiomatic qualities of double-reed instruments are particularly well-served by the pair of trios by Francis Poulenc and Jean Françaix. Both works are delightful models of spare neoclassical structure, spiced with piquant French flavors, lending the music an urbane and witty effect. In contrast, the album offers winning arrangements of music by Dmitri Shostakovich and Gioachino Rossini, topped off by an effervescent world-premiere piece, Trains of Thought, from contemporary composer Viet Cuong, who originally conceived it as part of a multimedia work combining music and an animated film.
During a prolific period in his artistic life, both musically and as an author – he often referred to himself principally as a composer who had drifted into authorship. Anthony Burgess composed a set of 24 Preludes and Fugues called The Bad-Tempered Electronic Keyboard, written to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach. This ingenious and inventive piece, with its brief romantic and music hall elements, oscillates between the classicism of Bach and the modernity of Shostakovich, whose own set of Preludes and Fugues had been written in 1950–51.
Samir Odeh-Tamimi has developed his own distinctive musical language which draws upon his intense involvement with both western avant-garde music and Arabic musical performance practice. He arrived in Germany at the age of 22, where he studied the works of his compositional role models including Giacinto Scelsi and Iannis Xenakis. Also, questioning the musical culture of his native country, which he had studied in his youth as a member of an ensemble performing traditional Arabic music on contemporary instruments.
Karel Mark Chichon was the Principal Conductor of the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra Saarbrücken-Kaiserslautern from 2011–2017. The programmes he presented during his seasons there were celebrated by the public and lauded by the critics in equal measure. One magnificent result of this period is the present recording with works by Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and de Falla. All are ballets whose rhythms made an enormously modern, almost revolutionary effect at the time. For more than ten years now, the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra has been an integral part of the German orchestral music scene which is like no other in the world.
Tüür is one of the most outstanding voices in contemporary music today and regarded by many as one of the foremost living symphonists. This new album includes world premiere recordings of two concertante together with the late masterpiece, Symphony No. 8. Tüür describes his viola concerto Illuminatio (2008) as “a pilgrimage towards eternal light”. In Whistles and Whispers from Uluru (2007) the composer connected Uluru, the sacred mountain of the Australian Aborigines, to his northern surroundings, and the two impulses fused. In Symphony No. 8, he scored the work for a sinfonietta-type ensemble, as a result the music has at times a chamber music feels.
The earliest work on this new release is the choral work with orchestra Stundenlied, a collaboration with the playwright Bertolt Brecht. The story of Christ’s passion is presented by von Einem using simple and stringent compositional means to produce a work that is haunting and authoritative. His Geistliche Sonate, is in a quite different category, with scoring in which he unites contrapuntal concentration in the layout with tense expressivity. Conceived in the dimensions of a three-movement Haydn symphony, Philadelphia Symphony wins over the audience with its moderately modern ingenuity and suggests that these days, the post-modern can boast a longer history.
For more than half a century Philipe Entremont has been thinking of Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 21, D. 960 – this work is considerably haunting and captivating, and in its simplicity, it is very difficult too. This wonderful sonata has a home in his piano and will remain there until the end. Like the sonata, Fantasie is an absolute masterpiece. Entremont’s decision to record the work was an immediate choice on his part. It is hard to find words to describe the beauty of such a masterpiece. To listen you have to let yourself be invaded by the incredible power of its enchantment.
This is a rerelease of an SWRmusic-Bestseller, containing the concert recording of Bruckner’s No.9, conducted by one of the most prominent conductors of the 20th century, Carlo Maria Giulini. He debuted as a conductor in 1944 with the Augusteo Orchestra, and at the same time became Fernando Previtali’s assistant in the orchestra of the RAI in Rome. His life’s work includes many phonograph recordings with, among them, the Vienna Philharmonic, which counted Giulini as its most important conductor for many years. Carlo Maria Giulini died in June 2005 and was laid to rest in the family chapel in Bolzano.
In this double album, organist Alessandro Perin offers a significant collection of the works by the Paduan composer Gaetano Valeri, a leading exponent of the late 18th-century Italian keyboard music scene. Remaining anchored to the ‘galante’ style, Valeri’s sonatas are characterized by great inventiveness, singability, rhythmic variety and formal elegance, and naturally enhance the variegated tonal characteristics of the Italian 17th-century organs. With the participation of maestro Roberto Loreggian, to be noted the world premiere recording of the two four-hands works taking to the limit the expressive and technical features of the instrument.
The Wiener Symphoniker and their Music Director Philippe Jordan present the second album in their first complete recording cycle of the Beethoven symphonies. With his Fifth Symphony, Beethoven created a true symphonic icon. It is as universally known as it is popular, even among people who do not much care for classical music, above all thanks to its powerful opening bars. The Fourth features many ideas that would only be fully elaborated in the Fifth. “The connection”, Jordan emphasizes, “is more a matter of the spirit of the works but is no less important for all that.”
In South America, Antonio Lysy and Yarlung break new ground once again, using SonoruS Holographic Imaging technology to enable Antonio to play every part in a cello orchestra. This recording includes harpist Marcia Dickstein in Villa-Lobos’ Black Swan, flutist Anastasia Petanova in Villa-Lobos’ Jet Whistle, and Coco Trivisonno in three of his arrangements of Volver, Divina and Yo Te Bendigo, songs immortalized by Carlos Gardel. As standard in Yarlung albums, Antonio’s performances with Marcia, Anastasia and Coco are all single takes.
Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 is an incomprehensible wonder of music history, rigorously peculiar, disturbingly new, and timelessly modern. Wie ein Naturlaut (Like a sound of nature) is indicated above the first notes of the symphony. It is both the prelude and the key to his symphonic cosmos. Mahler captures this music of the world, transforms it into a symphony in the old, comprehensive sense of the word and uses it to create his masterpiece of harmony. Composed over the course of just a few months at the beginning of 1888 in Leipzig, this symphony is a true musical awakening.
VERDI, G.: La Forza del destino [Opera] (Vienna State Opera, 2008)
Stemme • Licitra • Álvarez • Krasteva • Miles • Vienna State Opera Ballet, Chorus and Orchestra • Mehta
C Major 751104 [BD] | 751008 [DVD]
Verdi’s 1862 opera is regularly performed, and the overture is part of the standard repertoire for orchestras, but this production stands apart from the rest. Powerful performances by Nina Stemme, who gives a full-blooded portrayal of Leonora, Alastair Miles as her father, Salvatore Licitra as Alvaro, Carlos Álvarez as Don Carlo and Nadia Krasteva as Preziosilla resulted in one of the Viennese ensemble’s most celebrated achievements of recent years. Zubin Mehta leads the Staatsoper Orchestra with agility, subtleness and relaxed mastery, and right from the start David Pountney establishes an atmosphere of entrapment by fate.
Margherita D’Anjou was Giacomo Meyerbeer’s fourth opera in Italian and his first true success. The ironical setting of the director Talevi – the War of the Roses takes place at the London Fashion Week – is perfectly matched by the elegant direction of Luisi, the head of the Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia. The opera, which belongs to the semi-serious genre, moves from the warlike tones of Act I to the idyllic ones of Act II, where the queen and the wife appear, both seeking the love of a heroic tenor equally daring in battle and in music.
SHAKESPEARE, W.: Antony and Cleopatra (Royal Shakespeare Company, 2017)
J. Simon • Byrne • Woodall • Drury • B. Allen • Burnett • A. James • Iqbal Khan
Opus Arte OABD7164D [BD] | OA1165D [DVD] | OACD9028D [CD]
Following Caesar’s assassination, Mark Antony has reached the heights of power. Now he has neglected his empire for a life of decadent seduction with his mistress, Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Torn between love and duty, Antony’s military brilliance deserts him, and his passion leads the lovers to their tragic end. This production by the Royal Shakespeare Company, featuring Josette Simon as Cleopatra and Antony Byrne as Mark Antony and directed by Iqbal Khan, was greatly praised by critics.
Canaletto and the Art of Venice is an immersive journey into the life and art of Venice’s famous view-painter. No artist better captures the essence and allure of the city than Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto. Viewers will embark on their very own 21st century Grand Tour, visiting the sites enjoyed by their 18th century counterparts and immortalized in Canaletto’s views. Guided by Royal Collection Trust curators and the world’s leading experts in Venetian history, the film is not only a wonderful way to see the exhibition, but also an opportunity to get closer to Canaletto and the city that inspired him.