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Next month’s set of new releases from the Naxos Music Group features a crop of operatic masterpieces by Korngold, Lehar, Mercadante, Donizetti, Barber and Marschner, plus a new recording of Beethoven’s only oratorio, Kabalevsky’s symphonies, a comprehensive collection of early music recordings, d’Indy’s large-scale piano sonata, a tragedy by Shakespeare, and the latest edition of the Complete National Anthems of the World boxed set. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
Naxos 2.110584-85 [DVD]
When Naxos released its audio recording of Korngold’s opera Das Wunder der Heliane (8.660410-12) last year, it became only the second commercially available recording of what the composer himself considered his greatest score. We now go one better with the first DVD recording of a new production given at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 2018. It met with a 20-minute standing ovation. Written for a huge ensemble that is masterfully used, the music possesses voluptuous sweep and hyper-Romanticism. A special bonus is the inclusion of a very rare 78 rpm recording of Act III’s Zwischenspiel, recorded in 1928 by the Grand Symphony Orchestra, Berlin, a studio orchestra that included many of the musicians who had performed in the first production of Korngold’s opera at the Berlin Städtische Oper.

Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0083V)

OehmsClassics OC983
This new recording of Léhar’s The Merry Widow fizzes with superlatives. The work itself is the most popular operetta ever written. Premiered in 1905, it was an overnight success, breaking box-office records and proving an overwhelming hit with audiences. It’s since been filmed, recorded, turned into a full-length ballet and even adapted as an ice show. Now it gets even better with this outstanding performance from Frankfurt Opera, repeatedly voted Opera House of the Year by Opernwelt in the last fifteen years. Coloratura soprano Marlis Petersen sings the title role and is perfectly paired by lyric baritone Iurii Samoilov as the Count Danilo Danilowitsch. The conductor is Joana Mallwitz, who was recently appointed music director of the Staatstheater Nürnberg.

Naxos 2.110630 [DVD]
It’s a pity that Mercadante’s Didone abbandonata has never established itself in the standard operatic repertoire. Mercadante was a contemporary of Donizetti and Rossini and his prolific output helped found the dramatic techniques that were adopted by Verdi. I’m happy that this very first recording of Didone fills a genuine gap in the line of works representing the bel canto tradition. It does so with the authority of conductor Alessandro De Marchi, who performs it with the playing style and lower tuning that would have applied at its premiere. OperaLibera admired ‘the great work carried out by the director and conductor Alessandro De Marchi, who, as on other occasions, confirms himself as a scholar in this field … the splendid Academia Montis Regalis orchestra ... works to the vocal needs of the soloists with a surprising expertise.’

Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0095V)

Naxos 8.573852
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) 250th Anniversary
Christus am Ölberge (‘Christ on the Mount of Olives’) is Beethoven’s only oratorio. Cast in an Italianate form with recitatives, arias and choruses, its operatic attributes show Christ as a very human figure. This release is the first in our series of recordings of Beethoven's choral works and I can think of no-one better to stimulate interest in this neglected area of Beethoven’s output than Leif Segerstam and his Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, who are already established names in the Naxos catalogue. Early in his career, Segerstam directed a marathon performance of all of Beethoven's symphonies in one day (three orchestras, one conductor): ‘So, the Beethoven musical idiom got a special space between my ears.’ I’m delighted that he is now about to share that with us.

Naxos 8.573859
We’re building on the success of our past recordings of Kabalevsky’s piano and cello concertos (8.557683, 8.557794, 8.553788) with a fresh look at his symphonic output. Featuring Darrel Ang, Asia’s pre-eminent young conductor, and the wonderful Malmö Symphony Orchestra, this release will have little competition in terms of the standard of performance and the make-up of the programme. Kabalevsky’s First Symphony (depicting the oppression and subsequent liberation of the Russian people) and the Second (championed by Toscanini) are framed by the overture to his opera Colas Breugnon (an orchestral showpiece) and his Overture Pathétique (a rousing example of Kabalevsky’s skill in orchestration).

Naxos 8.574026
We have here a release that is truly innovative. Magna Sequentia I is the first volume in a series that presents some unique sequencing of dance movements drawn from Bach’s keyboard works – the English and French Suites and the Partitas. Whereas Bach’s suites typically contain six to eight movements, the award-winning pianist Sonia Rubinsky has selected nineteen, arranged with a tonal logic that still retains the structure of a suite. She has chosen several examples of each of the dance forms used by Bach so one can appreciate the attractive variety of both style and mood. Enhanced by her historically informed performance, Magna Sequentia I offers fresh insights into the performance of Bach on a modern grand piano.

Naxos 8.503297
[30-Disc Boxed Set]
Few collections of early music will be able to rival this 30-disc set for its comprehensiveness and standard of performance. Choral music, vernacular songs, lute songs, music for viols, organ works – all take their place in our survey of the music performed throughout Europe during a period of over half a millennium. The collection journeys from music by the 12th-century Abbess Hildegard von Bingen to the late-Renaissance world of Monteverdi. It’s an essential collection that includes critically acclaimed recordings by the leading choirs, consorts, instrumentalists and conductors of our time employing the latest historically informed performance practice. As a thorough account of a significant period in music history in a convenient format, I’m sure this collection will be of great interest to newcomers and academics alike.

Marco Polo 8.201002
[10-Disc Boxed Set]
Our first edition of the complete National Anthems of the World was released in 2000, when its popularity exceeded expectations. We now reach the fifth edition since that launch. Every time the collection is updated and released, positive reaction from the media is overwhelming, and I’m certain this latest edition, with its unprecedented number of anthems in a 10-disc boxed set, will again enjoy such a response. New anthems for four nations have been included in this 2019 edition: Mauritania, Montserrat, Seborga and Somalia. All the anthems in the compendium have been recorded using a full symphony orchestra, arranged and conducted by Peter Breiner, and digitally reproduced in brilliant sound. The accompanying booklet includes short introductions for each anthem, along with national flags and emblems for instant identification.

Dynamic DYN-37833 [DVD]
This is the world premiere video recording of Donizetti’s Enrico di Borgogna. First performed in Venice in 1818, it marked Donizetti’s stage debut. This production from the 2018 Donizetti Opera Festival was filmed in high definition and it comes in both DVD and Blu-ray (DYN-57833) formats. Conductor Alessandro De Marchi leads the period instruments of the Academia Montis Regalis and an outstanding cast led by two world-renowned mezzo-sopranos: Sonia Ganassi (‘a strong, dynamically versatile and flexible voice’ – Operawire) and Anna Bonitatibus (‘the most interesting mezzo of her generation’ – Bachtrack).  Director Silvia Paoli’s staging was hailed by Operawire as ‘a genuinely funny presentation, which had the audience laughing out loud. Everything was treated as a source of fun ... staged in a blaze of colour, fast-moving action, fabulous costumes and cleverly managed extraneous silliness.’

Grand Piano GP756
Vincent d’Indy was an important figure in the musical life of Paris in his time; a student of César Franck, he went on to found the Schola Cantorum de Paris. Although generally associated with larger orchestral forms, d’Indy also composed a certain amount of chamber music and a number of works for solo piano, including the large-scale Sonata in E minor featured on this release. The recording is given a distinct edge by the soloist Jean-Pierre Armengaud, who is today acknowledged as one of the great interpreters of French keyboard music. His past releases for Naxos include music by Roussel (8.573093, ‘outstanding vitality and expertise’ – Gramophone), Debussy (8.572979 ‘a fine set of performances’ – MusicWeb International), Poulenc (8.573170, ‘I can’t imagine a better performance of this music’ – American Record Guide) and Aubert (GP648, ‘a profoundly poetic interpretation’ – Classica).

OehmsClassics OC976
Inspired by Carl Maria von Weber (for a while he was his assistant), Marschner devoted his life to establishing a new form of German Romantic opera. Following his success with Der Vampyr in 1827, he worked with the librettist and singer Eduard Devrient to produce Hans Heiling. As with Weber’s Der Freischütz, Marschner’s new work drew on the supernatural and folklore, according to which Hans Heiling, the King of the Earth Spirits, transformed an entire wedding party, even the priest, into stone. The work premiered in 1833 with Marschner conducting and Devrient in the title role. It proved to be his most successful stage work. This new recording of a production of the Aalto Musik-Theater Essen will serve as an excellent companion to the recent Naxos video release of Weber’s Der Freischütz (2.110597 / NBD0092V). Frank Beerman conducts the Essen Philharmonic and a superb cast headed by baritone Heiko Trinsinger in the title role.

Opus Arte OA1288D [DVD]
Love, rivalry and war are to the fore in this new production of a Shakespeare rarity from the Royal Shakespeare Company featuring Gavin Fowler and Amber James in the title roles. Artistic director Gregory Doran presents a dystopian take on the tragedy that echoes the past but creates a futuristic vision of the world. And there’s a notable contribution from acclaimed percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, who creates a soundscape with an onstage musical sculpture that perfectly harnesses the spirit of battle. WhatsOnStage noted that ‘The stage bristles with sexual chemistry and nervous tension between the infatuated young couple. Amber James’ Cressida is no wallflower. In a strong, powerful performance her Cressida is a razor-sharp, street-wise and self-aware 20-something who refuses to be weakened by her feelings for Troilus.’

Opus Arte OA1289D [DVD]
This tremendous Glyndebourne production affords a rare opportunity to see Samuel Barber’s Vanessa, one of the 20th century’s great operas that sadly remains a little-known masterpiece. Written in the age of Hitchcock, with an atmospheric score and tense, psychological twists, this is the world premiere video recording of the work in a new production by award-winning director Keith Warner: ‘it’s magnificent ... a beautiful, thought-provoking production.’ (The Spectator) With soprano Emma Bell in the title role, it’s musically impressive, too: ‘Bell gives one of her finest performances to date, beautifully acted, her voice soaring with elation and anguish ... Jakub Hrůša, conducting with tremendous passion, really opens the emotional floodgates, sweeping us away in the big set pieces, while the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s playing is at once sumptuous and superbly detailed.’ (The Guardian)

Also available on Blu-ray (OABD7258D)

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