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Founder and Chairman Klaus Heymann shares his thoughts on select new releases
from the Naxos Music Group.

This is the final release in our three-volume edition of the complete works for piano and orchestra by Camille Saint-Saëns, with his five concertos at the core. It’s the first collection of the concertos to appear on the market in several years, made all the more competitive by the edition’s inclusion of four further highly attractive works for the same instrumental forces. Soloist Romain Descharmes and conductor Marc Soustrot received critical praise for the first two volumes. “A disc to savor” was how summed up Vol. 1 (8.573476), while Gramophone’s appraisal of Vol. 2 (8.573477) was to the point: “What is there not to like?” On this final recording, the Fourth Concerto reveals Saint-Saëns at his most inspired and innovative, while the Fifth Concerto, composed in the Egyptian temple town of Luxor, displays a rich tapestry of exotic cultural influences.

“The last two concertos show all the genius and creativity of Saint-Saëns. Both on the level of the form and the sought-after colours, one immediately feels the different influences and the maturity of the composer. The piano and the orchestra are really used equally whether it is to serve an enthusiastic and an unbridled virtuosity, or to express the most plaintive of the songs. This brilliant music opens the door to a new world.”

Romain Descharmes

The superb Brasil Guitar Duo’s previous releases for Naxos have featured music by Leo Brouwer (8.573336 “...this disc is a winner” Fanfare) and Castelnuevo-Tedesco (8.570778 and 8.570779 “’ll lap up every minute of these discs” American Record Guide). Their latest release is clearly not one to be missed. It features two concertos and signals the increasing importance of the guitar duo on the world’s concert stages. The Book of Signs is Brouwer’s first concerto for two guitars, a double concerto requiring great virtuosity, and with a majestic, songful theme in its central movement. Paulo Bellinati’s Concerto Caboclo deploys luxurious harmonies and brilliantly effective techniques in paying tribute to the music of Brazil's São Paulo State.

Long overshadowed by his contemporary Mozart, Leopold Koželuch’s profile has been enhanced in recent years through an edition of his complete piano sonatas on our Grand Piano label. The Coronation of Leopold II in 1791 threw a spotlight on Prague as a centre of attention in Europe. Two musical works were commissioned for this occasion: Mozart’s opera La clemenza di Tito and Leopold Koželuch’s Coronation Cantata. The cantata was received to even greater acclaim than Mozart’s opera and reinforced Koželuch’s eminent status. Its revival last year, after 226 years of neglect, was captured on this world premiere recording of a live performance in Prague. The soloists are the noted soprano Kristýna Vylíčilová and star opera tenors Tomáš Kořínek and Josef Moravec. The conductor is Marek Štilec, one of the most impressive members of the young generation of Czech conductors.

Il tabarro (The Cloak) was the first work in Puccini’s operatic triptych known as Il trittico, the other two operas being Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. This year marks the centenary of Il tabarro’s first performance, in December 1918. Redolent of the French settings of Puccini’s two previous successes, La bohème and Manon Lescaut, the action is centred on a barge on the River Seine in Paris; the atmosphere, dark and brooding, leads to violence and a murderous conclusion. Conductor Bertrand de Billy and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra bring the score to life with impressive authority, while the cast of outstanding singers is headed by tenor Johan Botha who gives one of the finest performances of his career.

Premiered in 1827, Donizetti’s opera Il Borgomastro di Saardam (The Mayor of Saardam) enjoyed initial success with its Naples audiences, but subsequently failed to establish itself in the repertoire. It fell into oblivion following performances in Budapest in 1839, and was revived only in 1973. This world premiere video recording (in CD, DVD and Blu-ray formats) is of a performance staged at Bergamo’s Teatro Sociale as part of the 2017 Donizetti Festival in a new critical edition made for the Donizetti Foundation by Alberto Sonzogni. Stage direction is in the hands of the internationally-renowned film director Davide Ferrario, while conductor Roberto Rizzi Brignoli leads a strong cast headed by the celebrated bass Andrea Concetti.

CDS7812 [CD]
DYN-37812 [DVD]
DYN-57812 [BD]

This is the final volume in Grand Piano’s world premiere edition of Leopold Koželuch’s complete keyboard sonatas performed by Kemp English, one of New Zealand’s leading concert performers. As with previous volumes, the works are played on original instruments and chart just how profoundly Koželuch’s style changed over the decades, from the charming early Sonata No. 47 for harpsichord to the three late romantic sonatas. The virtuosic Sonata No. 49, with its pedal effects and extended compass, reveals techniques derived from the English Piano School; in the final sonata Koželuch perfectly captures the sound world of early nineteenth-century Vienna. “The music proves vivacious and soulful, and English’s playing is always engaging, often brilliant and sometimes electrifying.” (BBC Music Magazine on Vol. 5, GP646); “…virtuosity once more rubs shoulders with drama and elegance.” (MusicWeb International on Vol. 6, GP647).

Christian Tetzlaff, considered one of the world’s leading international violinists, performs Béla Bartók’s two violin concertos in a new recording with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hannu Lintu. This release continues the artists’ highly successful series of recordings to date on the Ondine label. Christian Tetzlaff was named Musical America's Instrumentalist of the Year in 2005, since when he has received numerous awards and plaudits for his recordings. In 2015, the ICMA named him Artist of the Year, while his recordings of the Brahms Trios (ODE 1271-2D) and Violin Concertos by Dvořák and Suk (ODE 1279-5) released in 2015 and 2016 earned GRAMMY nominations. Recordings on Ondine by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu have received excellent reviews in the international press. Their most recent release of orchestral works and songs by Jean Sibelius (ODE 1289-5) won the ICMA’s Assorted Programmes Award in January 2018.

Kirill Kondrashin (1914–81) was one of the most prominent Russian conductors in the generation following Yevgeny Mravinsky. His intense conducting was the opposite of Mravinsky’s highly reserved style, and his brilliant orchestral sound was much more finely balanced than most of his Russian colleagues. His confident command of the score and the extraordinary power of his direction resulted in performances that were convincing in both temperament and drama, sensitivity and nuance. The Sixth was left out of the highly acclaimed series of Mahler symphonies Kondrashin recorded with the Moscow Philharmonic for the Russian Melodiya label. In January 1981, however, shortly before his death, he rectified this omission with the impressive performance presented here, recorded at the Südwestfunk studio in Baden-Baden.

These are digital remasters of original analogue recordings made in 1979 (Isle of the Dead) and 1980 (The Bells). The Bells was inspired by a free translation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Bells by Russian poet Konstantin Balmont. Scored for solo soprano, tenor and baritone, mixed chorus and a very large orchestra, Rachmaninov initially referred to it as his Third Symphony – its scale certainly outstrips the concept of a cantata – and he never stopped regarding it as his finest and favourite work. The tone poem The Isle of the Dead was inspired by Swiss symbolist artist Arnold Böcklin’s best-known painting of the same title. Leonard Slatkin and his forces give dramatic performances of Rachmaninov’s vivid scores.


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