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Next month’s set of new releases from the Naxos Music Group includes the final release in Naxos’ monumental Monteverdi Complete Madrigals cycle, plus sacred works by J.S. Bach and Ian Krouse, operas by Chabrier, Bellini and Janáček, orchestral works by Copland, Rihm and Braunfels, and a collection of Russian songs featuring an award-winning mezzo-soprano. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
8.555318
This is the much anticipated final volume in our well received edition of Monteverdi’s books of madrigals. The works in Book Nine are linked by the recurring theme of war for the sake of love. They comprise the few remaining late madrigals and a number of canzonette, as well as works with the same titles and verses from the earlier Eighth Book, but performed in completely different musical settings. Marco Longhini and Delitiæ Musicæ are amongst today’s most distinguished exponents of Monteverdi’s madrigals, renowned for the extraordinary impact of their historically informed interpretations. American Record Guide wrote of Book Eight (8.573755-58) that ‘the quality of the performances is extremely high. Technical prowess is always in the service of the music.’ You will probably be already acquainted with the performers from their acclaimed Naxos edition of Gesualdo’s madrigals, which has already reached its conclusion. These are peerless collections of sublime music that should not be missed.

8.559862
This is Volume 3 in our series featuring the ballet scores of Aaron Copland, a composer who did as much as anyone to establish American concert music on the world stage. The programme proves the opinion that ballet music was one of the most important and influential parts of his output. It puts Grohg, a precocious and brilliant early work, alongside Billy the Kid, the first example of Copland’s ‘Americanised’ music of the 1930s that is brassy, syncopated and rich with folk flavours. Heard here in its full version, the performance is by the Detroit Symphony under Leonard Slatkin, the same team that wowed the critics with their programme of Appalachian Spring and Hear Ye! Hear Ye! (8.559806): ‘a terrific American orchestra and conductor who understand [the music] perfectly.’ (American Record Guide)

8.573908
The three composers featured on this release are more usually associated with large-scale orchestral masterpieces, so this programme offers a refreshing alternative sample of their output that highlights each composer’s distinctive contribution to the Russian song repertoire. I can think of no better artist to perform these works than mezzo-soprano Margarita Gritskova, a prizewinner in various international competitions, including the Luciano Pavarotti Competition in Modena and the Spanish Concurso Internacional de Canto ‘Villa de Colmenar Viejo’. She lends a Russian authenticity to the programme’s mix of famous pieces with less well-known songs that explore more dramatically searching texts. Maria Prinz is the distinguished pianist whom you may remember from her Naxos recording of Puccini songs with soprano Krassimira Stoyanova (8.573501), performances considered by Scene Magazine as ‘nothing less than superb.’

2.110595 [DVD]
While 2019 marks the 125th anniversary of Chabrier’s death, his 1877 operetta L’Étoile was a milestone in establishing him as a major force on the Parisian stage. It's something of a pivotal work, being a unique example of 19th-century French light opera. Henri Duparc, Chabrier’s contemporary, admired it for being ‘a really French comic genre, both funny and musical.’ For the first time we can now all appreciate its charms to the full in this DVD/Blu-ray recording that gives an excellent account of the work, from its sophisticated orchestration to its lightning wit. The 2014 production is conducted by Pierre Fournillier and features the Dutch National Opera Chorus, the Residentie Orkester of The Hague, and a star cast of solo singers; the film director is François Roussillon.

Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0091V).


2.110598-99 [DVD]
This release of Bellini’s masterpiece I puritani is certainly hot off the press. It was filmed only last year at the Stuttgart State Opera, with the house resident orchestra and chorus conducted by Manlio Benzi. The noted soloists are headed by soprano Ana Durlovski, tenor René Barbera and baritone Gezim Myshketa. I puritani proved to be one of Bellini’s most creative and influential stage works, its music turning between intoxicating beauty and dramatic intensity. It also inspired him to compose some of his most breathtakingly virtuosic passages, notably Elvira’s Mad Scene, that call for the utmost in theatrical power. You should note that this production includes all the music performed at the work’s Paris premiere.

Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0093V).


8.574036-38
This recording of J. S. Bach’s magnificent St Matthew Passion featuring conductor Ralf Otto and the Bach Choir and Orchestra Mainz comes hot on the heels of their 2018 releases of the St John Passion (8.573817-18) and the Christmas Oratorio (8.574001-02). The St Matthew Passion is one of the greatest masterpieces in western sacred music, a masterful blend of moving drama and theological discourse. Leonard Bernstein said of the work that ‘there is nothing like it in all of music’. The role of the Evangelist is taken by tenor Georg Poplutz, who already has 40-plus recordings under his belt and a fine reputation for expressive performances of lied and oratorio. The part of Jesus is sung by baritone Matthias Winckhler, who was awarded both First Prize and Special Prize of the Mozarteum Foundation Salzburg at the International Mozart Competition Salzburg in 2014.

8.559846-47
Although the Armenian genocide of 1915 remains a deeply contentious political subject, I am certain there will be a unanimously positive reaction to Ian Krouse’s Armenian Requiem, composed in 2015 to mark the anniversary of the event. If you know the composer only for his works for guitar, then this alternative side to his output will certainly make an impact. While the Armenian Requiem has its roots firmly embedded in the liturgical chants used in an Armenian Mass, it’s written in a form that, uniquely for the music of the country, is not based wholly on the model of the Latin Mass. Taking the precedent of Britten’s War Requiem, Krouse embeds poems as interludes, resulting in a poignant meditation on loss couched in a marriage of Western and Armenian forms.

8.573667
Two established Naxos artists team up for this eagerly awaited second volume of music for violin and orchestra by Wolfgang Rihm, one of today's leading composers. Soloist Tianwa Yang, who featured on Volume 1 (8.573812, awarded 5 stars by Pizzicato), is joined on this follow-up release by conductor Darrel Ang. They received fine reviews for their previous recording of violin concertos by Lalo and Manén (8.573067), which also received an ICMA nomination. You can expect a similarly enthusiastic reception for this latest release with its substantial programme: Gesungene Zeit, one of Rihm’s most performed works; the beautiful, transparent and sensuous Lichtes Spiel (‘light, but not lightweight’ in the composer’s words); and COLL’ARCO, his largest concertante work that takes the soloist to the extremes of virtuosity.

C5354
Walter Braunfels’ music died twice: first, when the Nazis declared his music ‘degenerate art’; and again when post-war Germany largely rejected tonal music, with arbiters of taste declaring any form of romantic music (almost the whole pre-war aesthetic) to be tainted. This seventh volume in Capriccio’s Braunfels Edition again demonstrates the considerable range of Braunfels’ colourful music. The focus here is on his great, early orchestral work Fantastical Apparitions of a Theme by Hector Berlioz, Op. 25 (1914–1917). The first complete recording of this amazing composition is coupled with his last orchestral work, the Sinfonia brevis Op. 69 (1948).

OC 982

Janáček described his opera The Cunning Little Vixen as ‘a comic opera with a sad ending’. The story, however, is profound and poetic, while the music overwhelms with its magnificent orchestrations that reflect the work's forest setting. The music flows unhindered by set solos and ensemble pieces until it reaches an emotionally gripping finale in which Janáček immerses us in one of the most enchanting opera scenes ever written. You can be certain that this recording will be a delight from first to last. Frankfurt Opera is one of Europe’s leading opera houses that has long partnered with the OehmsClassics label to produce more than twenty acclaimed productions to date. And the fact that Frankfurt Opera was again named German Opera House of the Year in 2018 tells me that this release is going to be an unmissable treat.



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