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

Following the international success of My First Classical Music Book (ISBN 978-1-84379-118-8), author Genevieve Helsby and illustrator Jason Chapman return with My First Piano Book. The unique qualities of this original and vibrant introduction for children to one of the world’s greatest musical instruments cannot be overstated. My First Piano Book is lively, humorous and the perfect introduction for a young audience just waiting to be inspired. There's a treat on every page, with animal characters to help engage the attention. This tremendous new publication is both informative and great fun throughout its seventy-two, full-colour pages, complete with 2 CDs. Not to be missed.


Naxos artist Boris Giltburg goes from strength to strength with this latest recording in our Rachmaninov piano concertos series. Boris’ previous release was of the Second Concerto (8.573629) which attracted the high praise we’re getting accustomed to for any of his performances: “The fusion of freshness with generous spirit and soul lends an enthralling dynamism to this familiar repertoire.” (Gramophone) Equally familiar is the Third Concerto’s epic narrative that moves from a simple opening melody to the triumphant apotheosis of the finale. With the magical contrasts of Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42 completing the programme, I predict significant interest in and success for this release.


The programme on this release offers a unique compilation. It comprises Schumann’s complete works for cello, together with soloist Gabriel Schwabe’s arrangements of works that include Schumann’s contribution to the F-A-E Sonata, co-composed with Brahms. One of our major Naxos artists, Gabriel attracts consistently positive critical comments for his playing. His recording of Saint-Saëns’ works for cello and orchestra (8.573737) was a recent Gramophone Choice, enthusiastically supported by the magazine's reviewer: “Exceptional … Schwabe plays with a light heart and produces a light, airy tone to match, combined with a nonchalance and poise that I found most attractive.”

“This Schumann album is a very special project for me because, with Schumann, I feel that it takes a while until you find your true personal approach and sound for his music. I was very fortunate to have wonderful partners for this recording – the Royal Northern Sinfonia with Lars Vogt, and my long-term partner, Nicholas Rimmer for the duo works – all people I trust completely in a musical sense, and it made the recording very enjoyable.”

Gabriel Schwabe

Smetana’s Festive Symphony was composed in 1854 when hopes for Emperor Franz Joseph becoming King of Bohemia were running high. The composer’s only formal symphony, it’s a pre-echo of later masterpieces such as Má vlast, but his use of the Austrian Imperial anthem became unacceptable in the subsequent spirit of Czech nationalism, hence the work’s neglect. Completing the programme are the sparkling overture and lively rural dances from The Bartered Bride, the work that secured Smetana’s international reputation and was the only Czech opera of its day to enter the standard repertory. Conductor Darrell Ang’s Naxos releases are all very highly regarded. His recording of music by Zhou Long with the New Zealand Symphony (8.570611) earned a GRAMMY® nomination, while that of Henri Dutilleux’s Symphony No. 2 (8.573596) was a MusicWeb International Recording of the Year: “Darrell Ang and Orchestre National de Lille in some of the most exciting and vibrant accounts this music has yet received.”

The works on this recording were composed when David Diamond was at the height of his popularity: Rounds fuses yearning lyricism with energised syncopation; the concert suite Romeo and Juliet is a kind of orchestral tone poem of innate beauty and pathos; while the cyclical Sixth Symphony reflects a classical construction. The conductor on this new release is Arthur Fagen, already noted for his Naxos cycle of Martinů’s symphonies, “…a gifted and imaginative conductor.” (Gramophone on Symphonies 3 and 5, 8.553350)

This recording features suites from Poulenc’s two ballet scores, plus his Sinfonietta. One main attraction is that the music of Les Animaux modèles is currently surprisingly rare on disc. The ballet transforms the animals of La Fontaine’s fables into human characters with a score that brims with colour, wit and self-borrowings, while Les Biches is a sequence of captivating dances, described by Poulenc as “a ballet of atmosphere”. The second attraction is that Jean-Luc Tingaud is once again on the podium for us, no doubt set to repeat his previous success with French repertoire, particularly notable in his recording of Dukas’ Symphony in C major and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (8.573296): “…a performance of sumptuous beauty allied to fine control. There is some gorgeous horn playing and, in Tingaud’s hands, there is plenty of space for the delicate finesses of Dukas’s orchestration.” (Gramophone)

Hector Berlioz’s opera Benvenuto Cellini is ambitious in every sense of the word, and its extreme demands for a full production have long prevented it from being a runaway success. Until now. The work’s combination of romance, excitement, violence, comedy and spectacle proved ideally suited to Terry Gilliam’s stylish, colourful and larger-than-life direction. First seen in English National Opera’s 2014 production, its unique look generated much interest and great acclaim: “…tremendous gusto … the sheer energy and generous humour of the show are hard to resist…” (The Guardian) That production was taken up by the Netherlands’ De Nationale Opera, and it’s from their critically acclaimed 2015 performances that this release has been made. With a strong cast headed by John Osborn (Cellini) and Mariangela Sicilia (Teresa), outstanding musical direction in the hands of Sir Mark Elder, and the Naxos catalogue the only one offering a DVD/Blu-ray recording of this opera, this is surely a highly attractive release for a wide audience.


Stuttgart Opera’s 2014 staging of Jommelli’s Il Vologeso marked both its first airing in more than 200 years and the 300th anniversary of the composer’s birth. This release is the first ever DVD recording of the work. Jommelli was a leading figure in the development of the aesthetic concept of verosmiglianza, or theatrical plausibility, and made significant contributions to the establishment of Stuttgart as one of Europe’s greatest operatic centres. Admired by Mozart for the colourful subtlety of his music, Jommelli is now recognised as a true precursor to the great Viennese Classical School. The release is enriched by the staging of award-winning directors Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, and the musical direction of the highly regarded conductor Gabriele Ferro.


Orchestral colour abounds in these two orchestral works, the first by a young Richard Strauss who was inspired in 1886 by the ruins of Rome to write his first major symphonic poem Aus Italien (“The ideas just flew to me”); the second was written half a century later by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, then approaching 60 years old and able to draw on his considerable experience as an opera composer for his Suite Veneziana. Conductor Ariane Matiakh draws excellent performances from the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. This is her fifth recording for the Capriccio label.

This recording's unusual selling point is that the all-Paganini programme features three instruments that belonged to the composer himself: the powerful 1743 Guarneri del Gesù violin; a six-string guitar by Ory, Paris, dated 1797; and a magnificent 1736 Stradivari cello, property of the Nippon Music Foundation and entrusted to Clemens Hagen, cellist of the Hagen Quartet. Hagen is joined here by violinist Giulio Plotino, professor of violin at the Niccolò Paganini Conservatory of Music in Genova, and guitarist Matteo Mela (see 8.570146 for his Naxos recording of music by Lloher). Uniquely, the three instruments are heard together for the first time on this release. A short history of each is provided in the accompanying notes.

This is the third volume in Grand Piano’s edition of Erik Satie’s complete solo piano music; it uses the new Salabert Edition by Satie scholar Robert Orledge; the performances are by Nicolas Horvath. As before, an 1881 Erard piano is used, Satie’s maker of choice. The programme comprises music composed between 1892 and 1897, and Satie’s legendary eccentricity is duly represented. The composer liked his Prélude de “La Porte héroïque du ciel” so much, for example, that he dedicated it to himself; Vexations, arguably the first example of ‘virtual serialism’ on account of its total chromaticism, presents a musical statement that is meant to be repeated 840 times for complete authenticity; the Pièces froides are essential Satie in their lyrical nature and austere harmonies. This momentous, new, complete edition includes many world premieres of unknown pieces, and significant corrections to famous and popular works, while the scholarly booklet notes include the kind of autobiographical anecdotes that bring these pieces even more vividly to life.

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