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

When Korngold began work on Das Wunder der Heliane, he was at the pinnacle of his fame, with opera houses clamouring to stage his works; notably, Lotte Lehmann was among the star cast for the 1927 premiere of the work. Korngold’s music, that lies stylistically somewhere between Richard Strauss and Franz Schreker, was largely forgotten after his death, so I’m both happy and confident that this recording will provide another milestone in Korngold’s revival as a significant figure in Western musical heritage. Rarely performed, the work is known today mainly from a single album recording. This performance of Korngold’s opulent score by Freiburg Opera boasts a strong cast featuring soprano Annemarie Kremer (Heliane), tenor Ian Storey (The Stranger), and award-winning baritone Aris Argiris (The Ruler). Conductor Fabrice Bollon directs a fine performance that is certain to do much to revive interest in this neglected masterpiece.

Christmas may not be just around the corner, but a choral evergreen such as J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio merits attention at any time of the year. Collectors have already heard the superb quality of the Mainz Bach Choir & Orchestra of Mainz, conducted by renowned Baroque specialist Ralf Otto, in our April 2018 recording of Bach’s St John Passion (8.573817-18), “a very dramatic, almost operatic account” (Pizzicato). The narrative of the Christmas Oratorio is again led by Georg Poplutz as the Evangelist (“...arias delivered with great dynamic breadth and color.” Fuldaer Zeitung, with contralto Katharina Magiera, a leading member of the Frankfurt Opera, and baritone Thomas E. Bauer. If you're looking for an early stocking-filler, look no further.

There are only a handful of DVD recordings of Britten’s Death in Venice available; even fewer on Blu-ray. Cue for this tremendous new recording of the composer’s final, haunting opera to become the market leader, not only by dint of the superb musical performances, but also for the visual magnificence of Willy Decker's Teatro Real production, described as
“one of his most brilliant stage works… a remarkable technical feat.” ( The demanding principal role of Aschenbach receives an impressive performance from John Daszak, widely considered one of Europe’s most versatile tenors. And there are stand-out performances in the numerous supporting roles, particularly from countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo as the Voice of Apollo, and Leigh Melrose (The Traveller), “the emergent specialist of 20th-century opera” (The Financial Times).

Verdi’s Macbeth was a triumph at its first performance, with its pace and attention to detail far surpassing his previous works. Its popularity remains undiminished, so it’s unsurprising that there are a number of DVD/Blu-ray recordings of the work currently on the market. All of these are now challenged by our latest release that features a formidable cast of leading Verdi singers in a production from Teatro Massimo, directed by Emma Dante. Prominent among these is baritone Roberto Frontali, who has sung at all the leading European opera houses for the best-known conductors, and soprano Anna Pirozzi who is likewise a major Verdi exponent. Conductor Gabriele Ferro has already recorded opera on DVD for Naxos, making his mark with Jommelli’s Vologeso (2.110395-96).

This well balanced programme will serve as an excellent introduction to a composer whose approachable idiom often comes as a pleasant surprise to those unfamiliar with his work. Franz Schreker was a prominent figure in early 20th-century Austro-German music, his reputation as an opera composer rivaling that of Richard Strauss. Naxos has done much to restore that reputation with its pioneering recordings of his stage works: Der ferne Klang (8.660074-75) was the first-ever commercial recording of a Schreker opera, “strongly recommended” by The Penguin Guide; we also released the world premiere recording of Die Gezeichneten (8.223328-30), noted as “a highly recommendable recording” by Gramophone, and a collection of Overtures (8.555246) considered “irresistible” by Schreker’s several styles are showcased in the orchestral works collected here, from the expressionist Vorspiel zu einem Drama to the popular Romantische Suite. The Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, ranked among the finest German radio orchestras, is conducted by GRAMMY® Award-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta.

Pulitzer Prize-winner John Harbison is one of America’s most admired and prominent composers. His Requiem is a major work: emotive and colourfully orchestrated, it draws deeply on the tradition of Latin sacred music. The text ranges freely between sections of the mass, scripture and medieval poetry. The Boston Globe has described it as “a particularly radiant work.” Completed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Requiem is full of dramatic passages for singers and instrumentalists alike, with many opportunities for vocal soloists, brass and percussion to shine. Naxos has already released a number of Harbison discs that have been critically acclaimed. Our programme of his chamber music performed by Spectrum Concerts Berlin (8.559173) was well received by Fanfare: “The disc of John Harbison’s chamber music is an absolute winner... Everyone who loves chamber music needs this disc.”

This is one of two newly produced discs (see below for the other) originally released as part of our celebrations for Leonard Bernstein’s centenary. This took the form of an 8-disc box set (8.508018) of all the Naxos recordings of his works conducted by his protégé Marin Alsop. The programme features music from some of Bernstein’s best-loved scores together with seldom heard occasional works and premiere recordings. CBS Music, for example, has not been heard since the broadcasting giant’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 1978, while the Birthday Bouquet, commissioned to celebrate Bernstein’s 70th birthday, comprises affectionate musical vignettes by eight great composers. The 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Suite presents highlights from the Broadway musical, while Slava! celebrates Bernstein’s friend and colleague, the cellist/conductor Mstislav Rostropovich.

This release complements the programme detailed above, being the second of two new releases forming part of our 8-disc centenary box set of works by Leonard Bernstein. The conductor is his protégé Marin Alsop, whose long association with the composer gives her unique insights into the music. The collection (8.508018) was praised by Classical CD Choice for its “readings of great style and panache – not to mention recorded with the greatest possible fidelity short of the surround sound medium.” This particular programme includes the first recording of orchestrations of eleven of Bernstein’s Anniversaries for piano, the sparkling overture to his 1956 musical Candide, the suite from his ballet Fancy Free, and the rip-roaring swing rhythms and big tunes from the musical Wonderful Town.

We now reach Volume 6 in Septura’s acclaimed series of programmes that feature exquisite arrangements for brass septet of music representing historical periods and national styles. This latest volume is devoted to British music from the first half of the 20th century. Septura has selected and arranged orchestral and vocal works by four of the greatest composers of the time – Elgar, Finzi, Parry and Walton. Vol. 5 (8.573619) focused on French music and was extremely well received. American Record Guide wrote: “Septura always sounds terrific – tone qualities, blend, and intonation are always wonderful, ensemble always precise.” You can expect similar praise for this latest innovative programme with its truly remarkable performances.

This 8-album box set offers a generous selection of recordings by the German conductor, Herbert Kegel (1910–1990). The complete Beethoven symphonies form the centrepiece, and are notable in part because the cycle was the first to be digitally recorded for the then new medium of the compact disc. The performances are characterised by Kegel’s painstaking precision in achieving an engaging transparency for the listener. While his slow tempi may be initially surprising, the poetry and clarity he evinces from Beethoven’s scores have rarely been shown to greater advantage. Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and Choral Fantasia, Brahms’s A German Requiem, and a disc of 11 short pieces featuring a range of composers, from Gluck to Grieg, complete the compilation.

Composed in 1835 to mark the death of Vincenzo Bellini, Donizetti’s Requiem received this 2017 performance to mark the 220th anniversary of the composer’s birth. It’s the only modern recording currently available and was made at the 2017 Donizetti Festival in a production by Italy’s Fondazione Donizetti. Scored for orchestra, chorus and five soloists, this wonderful performance is conducted by Corrado Rovaris, who received the 2016 Abbiati Prize, an award made by Italian critics and recognised as the highest acknowledgment for classical music excellence in Italy. “On the podium a very inspired Corrado Rovaris directed the Orchestra Donizetti Opera, setting lively tempi ... achieving skillful colouring ... and a well-balanced support for the quintet of soloists.” (OperaClick)

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