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Next month’s set of new releases from the Naxos Music Group includes Brahms’ string concertos, orchestral works by Havergal Brian, Vincent d’Indy and Karl Weigl, a folk tale ballet by Angelin Preljocaj, a collection of rarely heard piano pieces by Beethoven, an operatic masterpiece by Donizetti, and world premiere recordings of music by Kaija Saariaho. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
Although these Brahms concertos are well known and frequently recorded, we have here a chemistry between performers that will be difficult to equal, with three star Naxos artists coming together to stamp their world-beating musicianship on this much loved repertoire. Violinist Tianwa Yang has garnered an exceptional list of international credits for her Naxos recordings and has been hailed as ‘an unquestioned master of the violin’ by American Record Guide. Cellist Gabriel Schwabe has already distinguished himself in 19th-century repertoire for Naxos, not least with his recording of the Brahms Cello Sonatas (8.573489) (‘energetic and teeming with bravura’ – The Strad). Finally, the artistic overview is skilfully managed by Antoni Wit, one of Naxos’ best-selling and best-known conductors, whose recording of Brahms’ A German Requiem (8.573061 / NBD0039) was noted by Classical Net for its ‘expansive vision allowing for a huge emotional expressive range. This is really moving.’

2.110600 [DVD]
Angelin Preljocaj is one of France’s leading contemporary choreographers. La Fresque (‘The Painting on the Wall’) builds on his previous successful ballets that explore themes central to folk tales. The production also sees him repeating his highly successful collaboration with musician Nicolas Godin, with whom he worked on the spectacular Near Life Experience (2003). This is our first release of Angelin Preljocaj’s work on the Naxos label, but I am confident that collectors and fans will be blown away by the fast pace and remarkable content of La Fresque, already acclaimed for its ‘breathtaking scenes’ (La Terrasse), its ‘dark and splendid beauty’ (L’Humanité) and its ‘magnificent staging’ (La Croix). The on-stage action probes a traditional Chinese tale’s mysterious relationship between reality and an alternative dimension. It’s well served by ‘Nicolas Godin’s music [that] is about as contemporary as it comes, a mix of electronica and urban noise.’ (

Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0094V).

You will have to dig deep into decades-old back catalogues to find even a single recording of these works. This Naxos release is therefore significant in providing followers of Havergal Brian’s symphonic output with an absorbing new experience of these two symphonies, featuring a conductor and orchestra with well-established credentials for Brian's music: ‘[conductor] Alexander Walker’s track record in Brian – particularly late Brian – is almost second to none …the players of the New Russia State Symphony Orchestra sound quite at home.’ (Gramophone on Symphonies 8, 21 and 26, 8.573752) This exciting new release couples the Seventh Symphony, Brian’s last large-scale work, with the Symphony No. 16, one of his most radical pieces and one of the pinnacles of symphonic writing, full of colour and astonishing gestures.

I hope this recording will help restore some of the limelight owed to Vincent d'Indy, a great yet unheralded figure in the development of French music as it transitioned into the 20th century. He was the teacher of Satie, Roussel, Milhaud and even Cole Porter, so his mastery of orchestral music should come as no surprise. It’s well evidenced in this programme that comprises incidental music for two plays (Médée and Karadec) and the programmatic Saugefleurie, a superbly crafted symphonic poem portraying star-crossed lovers in a Wagnerian musical landscape. Conductor Darrell Ang’s first disc for Naxos was nominated for a GRAMMY® Award in 2016 (Zhou Long/Chen Yi Symphony ‘Humen 1839’, 8.570611). Since then he has released a number of authoritative recordings featuring French music: his Lalo/Manén Violin Concerto release with Tianwa Yang was a multi-award winner (8.573067), and his Offenbach overture recording (8.573694) was an American Record Guide Critic’s Choice.

If you think that everything worth saying about Beethoven has already been expressed, then think again. Having left a legacy of some of the most important masterpieces in music history, it’s understandably easy to either overlook or under-represent his less familiar works. This is something our project to record Beethoven's complete output aims to rectify, and it's already proved to be a much-appreciated undertaking by many collectors. This latest release brings together a selection of such works, for piano, and a first-rate interpreter. The programme includes variations on popular operatic music by composers of the time (Paisiello, Winter, Grétry), including the witty and inventive variations on an arietta by Vincenzo Righini. There's also Beethoven’s unfinished Piano Sonata in C major, WoO51, which was found among his papers after his death. Pianist Larry Weng is a laureate of numerous piano competitions, including the 2016 Queen Elisabeth International Piano Competition, when he was described by The New York Times as playing with ‘steely power and incisive rhythm.’

Arnold Schoenberg described Karl Weigl as ‘one of the best composers of the old generation; one of those continuing the illustrious Viennese tradition.’ This implied that the composer remained faithful to the late-Romantic aesthetic and use of tonality, shunning the more progressive contemporary trends being explored at the turn of the 20th century, as might be found in the music of Zemlinsky, Reznicek or Franz Schmidt. Weigl’s style is well reflected in this programme that pairs the first of his six symphonies (written in 1908) with Pictures and Tales, a suite for small orchestra written in 1922. This is the fourth volume in Capriccio's series of recordings of Weigl’s music; previous releases have featured concertos for violin and piano (C5232), songs (C5259) and chamber works (C5318).

DYN-37834 [DVD]
Donizetti fans will no doubt be queuing up for this world premiere video production of his opera Il Castello di Kenilworth, first performed in 1829 and unjustly neglected ever since. The performance was recorded at last year's Donizetti Festival and is available in CD (CDS7834.02), DVD and Blu-ray (DYN-57834) formats; it uses the original version of the score with a tenor in the role of Wharney (the part was later revised for baritone). The production was well received by the critics, not least for the vocal and acting skills of the whole cast, headed by first-rate soprano opera stars Jessica Pratt and Carmela Remigio, and distinguished tenors Stefan Pop and Xabier Anduaga. ‘A first-class cast, with an imaginative production team, under the musical direction of Riccardo Frizza … musically engaging, full of bel canto charm, with some wonderful melodies … dramatically convincing.’ (Operawire)

Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952) is among the most prominent names on today’s contemporary music scene. This new album by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hannu Lintu includes world premiere recordings of three of Saariaho’s works. True Fire is a song cycle that was commissioned jointly by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the NDR Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre National de France. It was written expressly for Gerald Finley (the soloist here) with a view to exploring the scope of the baritone voice. Ciel d’hiver joins the series of works by Saariaho that are inspired by aspects of the sky and space, while Trans for harp and orchestra, another joint commission, is the composer’s latest addition to a series of concertos. The soloist is Xavier de Maistre, who gave the first performance of the work in Tokyo in August 2016.

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