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Next month’s set of new releases from the Naxos Music Group includes Boris Giltburg’s new Liszt recording, and operas by Verdi, Rameau, Cellier and Gluck. Also included are special boxed sets of John Field’s piano music, and Erwin Schulhoff’s and Alexander Glazunov’s symphonies and other orchestral works. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
8.573981
Fans of Naxos artist Boris Giltburg are always eagerly awaiting the star pianist’s next release, and they won’t be disappointed with his latest recording. It’s a stunning performance of Liszt’s demanding technical studies Études d’exécution transcendante, heard here in the 1852 revision which Liszt himself declared ‘the only authentic one’. Boris demonstrated his singular gift for integrating musical and technical elements in another winning set of studies, Rachmaninov’s Études-tableaux, Op. 39 (8.573469) which was a multi-award winner – Gramophone Recording of the Month, BBC Music Magazine Instrumental Choice, American Record Guide Critic’s Choice. His most recent recording of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto (8.573630) was acclaimed by critics, generating keen anticipation for this next release which is guaranteed to once again reveal ‘a convergence of heart and mind, served by immaculate technique.’ (Gramophone)

8.573860
While Russian violin concertos are generally well-known, works for cello and orchestra by Russian composers are less so, being lighter in style and less expansive in character. Cellist Li-Wei Qin is a superb advocate for the programme on this release. (Note that Ross Harris’ Cello Concerto (8.573044) was inspired by his playing.) The pieces here are all by composers of the Russian romantic period – Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov. Although disparate in character, they’re unified by Li-Wei Qin’s virtuosity and rich tone. I need hardly remind you that, between them, the Czech Chamber Philharmonic, Pardubice and conductor Michael Halász have a long list of outstanding Naxos recordings already to their credit.

2.110590 [DVD]
Adultery and divorce were social taboos in Italy in 1850. Consequently, Verdi’s opera Stiffelio met with such censorship and disapproval that it was soon withdrawn. It has taken a long time to counter the neglect the work suffered as a result. This release joins only a handful of other DVD recordings of the opera that recognise its importance, but it markedly outdoes them with the advantage of Graham Vick’s 2017 staging, acclaimed for taking the audience members to ‘a whole new theatrical world’ (The Huffington Post) by immersing them in the stage action. The strong cast is led by tenor Luciano Ganci (Stiffelio), who is considered one of the top names amongst the new generation of Italian tenors, and soprano Maria Katzarava as Lina, ‘rich voiced ... erotically charged ... magnetic power.’ (bachtrack.com) This production from Parma’s Verdi Festival was shortlisted for Production of the Year in the 2018 International Opera Awards, and it’s not difficult to understand why.

Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0084V).


2.110393 [DVD]
Ryan Brown is the founder and artistic director of Opera Lafayette, an American period-instrument opera company that specialises in French repertoire. To mark the company’s 20th anniversary, he chose to perform one of Rameau’s most brilliant scores, his opera Les fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour. Set in the world of Egyptian mythology, its libretto called for magic, gods and extraordinary effects, to which Rameau responded with music that combines extreme refinement with powerful vocal and orchestral writing. This is the only DVD recording of the opera. The production’s credentials are solid, based as they are on the first scholarly edition of the work published in Opera Omnia Rameau under the direction of Sylvie Bouissou. The performance includes contributions from leading dancers and choreographers and some of America’s foremost Baroque singers.

8.660447
Alfred Cellier’s brilliant comic opera Dorothy is very much in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan’s hugely popular operettas. But with its rural tale of disguise and romantic scheming, jaunty tunes, lively characters and farcical comedy, it was an even greater hit in its day than any of its rivals. This makes its absence from record catalogues all the more surprising, and something I’m happy to rectify. Victorian Opera Northwest has been promoting the excellent yet forgotten music of 19th-century operas by British and lrish composers for the last fourteen years. This 2018 recording of Dorothy was performed by talented students and post-graduates of the UK’s Royal Northern College of Music, led by the internationally acclaimed soprano Majella Cullagh, and directed by renowned conductor Richard Bonynge.

8.559827
When Florence Price’s First Symphony was premiered in Chicago in 1933, it marked the first time a major American orchestra had performed a piece written by an African American woman. Her style reflects the influence of Dvořák and Coleridge-Taylor, drawing on a rich source of Negro spirituals and indigenous dances brimming with both lyricism and rhythmic energy. Her Fourth Symphony, colourful and tightly constructed, foreshadows the orchestral jazz style later to make Duke Ellington’s music so popular. The Fort Smith Symphony and conductor John Jeter have already made their mark on the Naxos catalogue with three recordings of symphonies by another African American composer, William Grant Still. That of Symphonies 2 and 3 (8.559676) was a GRAMMY® Award nominee, so you can count on an authoritative interpretation for this latest release.

8.573597
The conductor on this recording is Leoš Svárovský, an artist who deserves much wider recognition as a Czech music specialist. Together with the Slovak Philharmonic, of which he’s the principal guest conductor, Svárovský delivers impressive readings of the tone poems Smetana wrote during his stay in Sweden, a time when Berlioz and Liszt were influencing the direction of his music. Richard III focuses on the haunting scene before the Battle of Bosworth in Shakespeare’s play; Wallenstein’s Camp was inspired by Schiller’s Wallenstein drama trilogy; and Hakon Jarl dramatises the life of the tyrannical Viking warrior with memorable flair.

8.506033 [6 Albums]
This box set brings together our six highly successful releases of John Field’s music for piano, comprising the complete piano concertos and other works for piano solo. The inclusion of the nocturnes, sonatas and the Irish Concerto version of the Second Piano Concerto gives us quite an edge over the few other similar editions on the market. Field gained an international reputation as one of the finest pianists of his time, with great delicacy and nuance in his playing. Such refinement is faithfully recreated by Benjamin Frith, the soloist throughout our series. Excellent reviews were received for all volumes. Commenting on the Fifth and Sixth Concertos (8.554221), The Penguin Guide found them ‘exhilaratingly performed by Benjamin Frith with the Northern Sinfonia, with Frith’s sparklingly clear articulation in rapid scales and figuration magnetising the attention.’

BVE08052 [DVD]
This recording is of La Scala’s first-ever staging of the French version of Gluck’s pivotal opera Orphée et Euridice in a production by London’s Royal Opera House. It comes in both DVD and Blu-ray formats (BVE08053). The 1774 Paris version differs in a number of respects from that of the 1762 premiere in Vienna, including the addition of several dances and the arietta which concludes Act I. The performance is outstanding in all respects, with Juan Diego Flórez as Orphée making a particular impact: ‘Tireless from the first to the last moment, almost always on stage, the Peruvian tenor controlled his high register with confidence and elegance, a luminous timbre and impeccable diction, phrasing and legato.’ (bachtrack.com)

C7297 [6 Albums]
As an internationally successful pianist and composer, Erwin Schulhoff was one of the most important Czech artists in the first half of the 20th century. Over the last 25 years, his works have gradually enjoyed a renaissance, revealing him as a polystylist who was always ready to shun mainstream practices and absorb the emerging compositional styles of his time. Examples of this musical diversity are now conveniently available for the first time in a 6-album box of Schulhoff’s works, which I warmly recommend. From the early piano pieces and string quartets, to his symphonies and jazz improvisations, the collection shows how astutely he accommodated the different trends of his time.

C977195 [5 Albums]
Glazunov’s symphonies deserve a place alongside the better-known symphonic output of his successors Prokofiev, Myaskovsky and Shostakovich. Like Camille Saint-Saëns in France and Max Bruch in Germany, Alexander Glazunov was a truly progressive yet formally conservative composer, who was unwilling to sacrifice traditional symphonic form to superficial modernism. It’s now time to rehabilitate Glazunov’s symphonies with the help of this boxed set, which has a bonus of other orchestral works by the composer. Study them closely, and you’ll discover some of the finest music of their time, particularly when directed as here by the great Glazunov champion, Neeme Järvi.


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