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

We have a real treat with this release of Massenet’s fairy-tale opera Cendrillon (‘Cinderella’). It's a work that has enjoyed sustained popularity for more than hundred years, but has been captured on surprisingly few DVD recordings. A feast for the eye as well as the ear, Barbara Mundel and Olga Motta’s vibrant circus-like designs contribute significantly to the work’s enchantment. They add a sense of timelessness to this Freiburg production, which is capped by the outstanding British-Swiss soprano Kim-Lillian Strebel in her critically acclaimed portrayal of the title role. The impressively staged performance has been recorded as vividly as anyone could wish for on both DVD and Blu-ray media, hence my enthusiastic recommendation for this release.


This release boasts an outstanding line-up of artists in an innovative programme of music by Kenneth Fuchs, one of America’s leading composers. The three concertos and one orchestral song cycle are all heard in their world premiere recordings. The soloists are four of today’s most sought-after interpreters of contemporary music: Jeffrey Biegel (piano), Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen (countertenor), Timothy McAllister (alto saxophone) and D.J Sparr (electric guitar). The release also marks 15 years of collaboration between the composer, Grammy-award winning conductor JoAnn Falletta and the London Symphony Orchestra. It’s also the fifth recording for which they have joined forces to perform Fuchs’s music. As far as musical milestones go, they rarely come more special than this.

Polish-born virtuoso Karol Józef Lipiński rivalled Paganini for the status of greatest violinist in Europe, but while his technique was virtually unsurpassed his tastes favoured the musical depth and philosophy of Spohr, Tartini, and the French school established by Viotti. I’m happy that this release will help raise Lipiński’s profile among a wider public, with his expertly crafted trios performed by three young Polish musicians from the top drawer of their profession. A further attraction lies in the fact that there are very few alternatives available of the string trios. Indeed, this is the only album now on the market with both the Op. 8 and Op. 12 works on a single disc.


During the Soviet regime, there were a number of Russian composers who managed to handle the artistic demands of the authorities in a more pragmatic way than, say, Shostakovich and Prokofiev. Kabalevsky was one such composer. He was a master of most genres, as this release demonstrates. The varied programme contains the work that first brought Kabalevksy international fame (the Violin Concerto, Op. 48) and the lushly orchestrated Overture Pathétique and symphonic poem Spring. His Rhapsody on the Theme of the Song ‘School Years’ for piano and orchestra became one of the most popular concert works of its time, and the overture to his opera Colas Breugnon was an orchestral hit that served many great conductors, including Arturo Toscanini and Fritz Reiner, as a virtuoso opening to concerts.

All the hallmarks of Boris Blacher’s musical style are in evidence on this recording: pronounced dance-like energy, lyrical melodies, orchestral sparkle, and subtlety of instrumentation. That first quality is to the fore in Dance Suite, based on music from two of his ballets, Demeter and Lysistrata, and the overture to his opera Princess Tarakanowa. The dance element is again present in his Poème for large orchestra (premiered in 1976 by Giulini) and his symphonic poem Hamlet, that was originally planned as a ballet. The programme ends with one of Blacher’s most popular works that remains a hit with audiences: the Concertante Music, Op. 10.

If you thought you knew all there was to know about Paganini, think again. The virtuoso violinist was also a prolific composer, but posterity prevented us from appreciating the full extent of his output because a number of his manuscripts were long held from public view in a private collection. That all began to change in 1970 when the manuscripts returned to Italy, making possible this milestone project to record all the works currently known and available, and present them in a single 40-CD box set. One of the many bonuses of the edition is that the six violin concertos are played on Paganini’s own violin, the great 1743 Guarneri “del Gesù”. In addition to the well-known works for violin and orchestra and the Caprices for solo violin, the edition includes Paganini's less familiar trios and quartets for strings and guitar, string quartets, works for violin and guitar, music for solo guitar, and other chamber music for instruments in various combinations. The scholarly input into both the editing and performing of Paganini’s œuvre gives us for the first time ever a complete picture of this performer-composer who represented a crucial turning point in musical history.

Donizetti’s La Favorite premiered in 1840 at the Académie Royale de Musique in Paris. Although it’s one of the most important works from his French period, coming between Les Martyrs and Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal, it was soon translated into Italian, which became the preferred version. Following a recent reversal in tastes, however, performances in the original French have become more common, such as in this production from Florence’s Teatro Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Under the distinguished musical direction of Fabio Luisi, the cast is superbly led by a trio of outstanding singers, as OperaWire noted in its review: “The mezzo-soprano Veronica Simeoni, playing the part of Léonor, put in a five-star performance”; “Mattia Olivieri cut an imposing figure, both physically and vocally as King Alphonse … It was an excellent performance indeed”; and on Celso Albelo (Fernand): “From his opening aria to the final duet with Léonor he was a real joy to listen to.”


Alban Berg’s Wozzeck premiered at the Berlin State Opera in 1925 and is now regarded as one of the pivotal compositions of the 20th century. It’s an essential work in any connoisseur’s library, and this exciting, razor-sharp performance from Frankfurt Opera under the baton of Sebastian Weigle makes a strong case for being added to any opera fan’s collection. The release boasts an ideal cast, with baritone Audun Iversen and mezzo-soprano Claudia Mahnke in the leading roles.


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