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

Conductor Leif Segerstam is one of today’s most admired champions of the music of Sibelius. If you’ve been struck by his interpretations of the symphonies and tone poems, it’s now time for you to get immersed in his recordings of the significant body of work Sibelius wrote for the theatre: from Kuolema, that helped establish his fame throughout Europe, to the hauntingly beautiful writing of Belshazzar’s Feast; from Scaramouche, his only continuous dramatic score, to the rarely performed Jedermann, now recognised as a neglected masterpiece. You can enjoy it in its entirety with our 6-album boxed set of the series of Sibelius’ incidental music, described as follows by Gramophone: “What an absorbing journey of discovery this series has proved to be; congratulations to everyone involved.”

Naxos has enjoyed a long and successful association with the Rossini in Wildbad Festival. Our releases of their productions have always garnered a crop of excellent reviews. But I’m expecting even greater things of this recording of Rossini’s Aureliano in Palmira. It’s unique in his output, being the only opera to contain a role for castrato, intended at the time for the last great castrato singer, Giovanni Battista Velluti, and performed here by mezzo soprano Marina Viotti. Set in the turbulent times of the Roman Empire, this rarely heard work is packed with sublime arias, duets of haunting beauty and excellent choruses. Rossini himself considered the work ‘divine music’ and he would surely have approved of our line-up of outstanding singers and musicians who prove his point, with the lead roles taken by soprano Silvia Dalla Benetta (Zenobia), tenor Juan Francesco Gatell (Aureliano) and mezzo soprano Marina Viotti (Arsace).

It was gratifying to note the success that met our release of Dutilleux’s Symphony No. 2 (8.573596) featuring the Lille National Orchestra under Darrel Ang. It became a MusicWeb International Record of the Year and American Record Guide Critic’s Choice, among other citations. For the Symphony No. 1 we have the same orchestra under the distinguished conductor Jean-Claude Casadesus. I anticipate a similar critical response. The symphony was the composer’s first purely orchestral score and the work that established his reputation internationally. The other works on the colourful and engaging programme are Métaboles, which was inspired by the virtuosity of the woodwind section of George Szell’s Cleveland Orchestra, and the enigmatic diptych Les Citations, which quotes from fellow composers Benjamin Britten and Jehan Alain.

Agrippina might be described as Handel’s definitive opera, so if you’re looking for a recommended introduction to his stage works, this is the one to go for. Written during his years in Italy, the premiere was a huge success and an unprecedented number of performances followed. It set a template for the operas that were to follow throughout Handel’s career: overwhelming melodic power, vivid characterisations, and sheer theatrical power. Add to that the contributions on this release of star soprano Danielle de Niese and the internationally respected stage director Robert Carsen, and you have a DVD recording to rival all others, with the bonus of also being available in Blu-ray format (NBD0079V).

Exceptional editorial work and musicology meet powerful realisations from the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra in this vibrant recording of music by Lully, Telemann and Rameau. The disc realises the long-held desire of artistic director Barthold Kuijken to restore to French Baroque orchestral works the power and intensity that held the musical world in thrall in their day. The music’s grandeur, finesse and elegance make their original impact, with original source material informing specific bowing techniques and the use of ornamentation. Barthold Kuijken is an internationally admired flautist who has many fine recordings to his credit. This musical step back in time with him is an experience not to be missed.

Our ongoing Franz Liszt Piano Music Edition is an internationally recognised reference, both for the composer‘s greatest works and his less frequently performed transcriptions, early versions and other rarities. This latest volume has two particular attractions. The music, of course: a programme that balances attractively gentle pieces with the dramatic Dante Sonata, before rounding off with the spectacular Mephisto Waltz No. 1. And then there‘s the pianist: Goran Filipec, who is making his third appearance in the collection. His dazzling performance of the Paganini Studies (8.573458) was awarded the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque of the Liszt Society and admired by Gramophone: “With a technique that makes you forget just how exacting these pieces are to play, Filipec not only generates the thrill of a live performance but does so with a disarming swagger and playfulness.” This title was also a MusicWeb International Recording of the Month for being “superb in every respect.”

If you’re new to the music of Estonian composer Toivo Tulev, there‘s probably no better introduction than this release from the GRAMMY® Award-winning Latvian Radio Choir. The group is acknowledged as one of the best professional choirs in Europe and their long-time conductor, Kaspars Putniņš, is widely regarded as a leading exponent of Tulev‘s music. The programme on this release draws on a wide emotional palette – from serenity to turbulence – and the world premiere recording of his intensely expressed Magnificat demonstrates why Tulev is one of contemporary music’s most compelling voices.

Enescu’s oratorio Strigoii (Ghosts) remained a forgotten work until the manuscript, lost like many others in the turmoil of the First World War, was returned to the public domain by the director of the Enescu Museum. Scored for narrator, soloists and orchestra, the work proved to be the ‘missing link’ between the composer’s early songs and his great opera Oedipe and exhibits musical affinities to contemporaries such as Alexander von Zemlinsky and the young Alban Berg. The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Gabriel Bebeşelea, who predicts: “When an audience hears the work for the first time, they will immediately want to hear it live.” For now, however, you will have to be content with this outstanding world premiere recording.

When Vivaldi completed Orlando furioso in 1727, his fine reputation as an opera composer was already firmly established throughout Italy. He was clearly inspired by the libretto and produced a succession of inventive arias, many of which are used as a vehicle for spectacular vocal virtuosity. The climax of the work is the magnificent scene of Orlando’s madness, where the traditional recitative and da capo aria structure give way to freer forms and moments of surprising dramatic effect. Conductor Diego Fasolis leads I Barocchisti, the internationally renowned period instrument ensemble, while the cast includes Italian Baroque specialists contralto Sonia Prina, mezzo soprano Lucia Cirillo, baritone Riccardo Novaro, and two brilliant countertenors, Konstantin Derri and Luigi Schifano.

Audio-only version available for streaming and download (CDS7803.03). Also available in Blu-ray (DYN-57803).

This release is a real celebration of Finland and its music, featuring the world premiere recordings of two works by one of the country’s leading contemporary composers, Magnus Lindberg. With the Violin Concerto No. 2 (2015) we have an example of Lindberg’s late lush orchestral style reminiscent of the tradition of great romantic violin concertos. It was written for and premiered by the soloist on this recording, Frank Peter Zimmermann, who is widely regarded as one of the foremost violinists of his generation. The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra similarly commissioned and premiered Tempus fugit to mark the centenary of Finland’s independence at a gala concert in 2017. The work is dedicated to Hannu Lintu, the orchestra’s chief conductor, who directs the work here.

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