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Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include concertos by Ravel, Kernis, Beethoven and Sibelius, operas by Rossini, Weber and Henze, symphonies by Magnard, violin sonatas from Brazil, a beloved ballet by Tchaikovsky, Shakepeare’s star-crossed lovers, and three releases from the all-new Naxos World Music. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
This recording continues our highly regarded series of Ravel’s orchestral music performed by the Orchestre National de Lyon under Leonard Slatkin. It’s a dazzling showcase that leads with the Piano Concerto in G major, particularly noted for the beauty of its slow movement, followed by the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, a single movement tour de force, and concluding with Tzigane, a violin gypsy showpiece of sparkling virtuosity. Piano soloist François Dumont was a prizewinner at the International Chopin Piano Competition and the Queen Elisabeth Competition; violin soloist Jennifer Gilbert is the noted concertmaster of the Orchestre National de Lyon; while the venerable Leonard Slatkin needs no introduction.
Rossini’s comic opera Il barbiere di Siviglia is a masterpiece thoroughly deserving of a masterly production, and it certainly receives that here. The work’s witty, brilliant scoring teems with memorable arias and a raft of dynamic ensembles. They're delivered in full force on this DVD/Blu-ray recording by a distinguished team of singers and directors: Florian Sempey is ranked among the world’s best Figaros; Laurent Pelly is one of France’s most sought-after directors of both theatre and opera (uniquely, he designs the costumes for all of his productions); and conductor Jérémie Rhorer, an authority on 18th- and 19th-century repertoire, directs his acclaimed ensemble ‘Le Cercle de l’Harmonie … a vibrant period ensemble.’ (Fanfare)
Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0065V).
Works by French composer Albéric Magnard (1865–1914) struggled to gain momentum during his lifetime and became neglected after his death, an unjust fate for such expansive and beautifully crafted music. I’m happy, therefore, to introduce people unfamiliar with his name to the Third and Fourth Symphonies, the more renowned of his set of four. Paul Dukas admired the Third for its ‘perfect clarity’ and as an ‘all too rare creation’; the Fourth is a masterpiece that fuses Wagnerian drama with Classical transparency. Conductor Fabrice Bollon and the Freiburg Philharmonic and orchestra have already made their mark on the Naxos catalogue, most recently with Korngold’s Das Wunder der Heliane (8.660410-12), admired by Gramophone as ‘a warm, sculpted sweep of music, the Freiburg forces clearly unfazed by the multi-layered intricacy of Korngold’s orchestral writing.’
This is Vol. 2 in our ground-breaking The Music of Brazil series, a five-year project to record around 100 mostly orchestral works by 19th- and 20th-century Brazilian composers, many in world premiere recordings. Released in February, Vol. 1 (8.574067) featured works by Alberto Nepomuceno. Gramophone declared it ‘urgently recommended’. We follow up with chamber music and three exquisite violin sonatas. Composers Leopoldo Miguéz and Glauco Velásquez were leading figures on Brazil’s classical music scene at the turn of the 20th century. They brought influences from Europe to a homeland experiencing significant social upheaval. The sonatas’ ardent Romanticism, admirably captured by violinist Emmanuele Baldini and pianist Karin Fernandes, marked an important change in Brazil’s chamber music, from pieces intended largely for domestic use to works suitable for public performance in concert halls.
The irrepressible Leonard Slatkin makes a further appearance on this next release, in a pairing with the equally high-profile conductor, Marin Alsop; both are highly respected and long-standing Naxos artists. The music is by the Pulitzer Prize- and GRAMMY Award-winning American composer Aaron Jay Kernis. The programme features his Second Symphony, a major statement composed at the time of the Gulf War, plus two pieces for flute and orchestra that are receiving their world premiere recordings. The Flute Concerto explores darker and lighter elements through dance forms; Air is a lyrical love letter to the flute. Soloist Marina Piccinini is an Italian American virtuoso who was the first flutist to receive an Avery Fisher Career Grant from the Lincoln Center.
I’m delighted to affirm the adage that ‘all the world’s a stage’ by introducing the first three releases in the newly relaunched Naxos World catalogue. Not only relaunched, but also breathing new life, it hits the ground running with a set of colourful recordings that represent both discrete cultures and adventures in fusion.
Papillon is a new artist on the East African music scene who not only writes all his own music (and in several languages) but also designs and creates his own instruments to achieve a completely new musical experience. The music on this album is inspired by the voices of Mother Nature: the singing of birds, the roaring of lions, the cries of monkeys. Once you’ve heard Papillon’s soaring voice and haunting melodies, I’m sure you will agree that he’s a notable new musical personality.
The Authentic Light Orchestra was founded in 2009 by Valeri Tolstov, a Swiss multi-instrumentalist with Armenian roots. His idea was to combine ancient Armenian folk songs with influences of classical music, jazz, rock and a touch of electronica to create a new musical form. In 2014, The Authentic Light Orchestra won the Grand Prix at the Armvision contest for Best Arrangement and Performance of a Folk Song; and in 2016 it received the first Russian World Music Award.
The recordings on the opening volume of the Folk Songs of China series are of music from the five minority ethnic groups of Qinghai and Gansu provinces. It’s the first of nineteen volumes that will visit all 55 of China’s ethnic minorities.
You should note that all Naxos World releases are accompanied by detailed and full-colour introductory booklets that will inform both experienced listeners and neophytes alike.
Carl Maria von Weber was fifteen when he wrote the comic opera Peter Schmoll. The plot unfolds over a succession of 20 engaging scenes, the usual format for musical comedies of the time. Weber experiments with instruments that were seldom used then – recorders, basset horns, piccolos and a solo trombone – and there are glimpses of the characteristic lyricism that was to distinguish his Der Freischütz, written fifteen years later in 1817. This excellent production is from the Theater an der Wien, nominated for Best Opera House in this year’s International Opera Awards. A strong team of soloists is directed by ‘Roberto Paternostro [who] led the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra with subtle wit through the score. This is how…a flagship opera house works.’ (NEWS Magazine)
Christian Tetzlaff, one of the greatest violinists of our time, performs these two cornerstone works of the violin repertoire with the DSO Berlin under the baton of its new music director Robin Ticciati. Among his lengthy tally of awards, Tetzlaff was named Artist of the Year by the ICMA in 2015, and Instrumentalist of the Year in the 2017 OPUS Klassik awards. And you will no doubt remember Ticciati as the principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from 2009 to 2018 who led the ensemble to new heights during his tenure. Both concertos are much more than virtuosic showpieces; they embody music of enormous depth and feeling that did much to immortalise both composers. These interpretations simply must not be missed.
I need hardly remind you that The Nutcracker occupies a special place in the hearts of ballet fans around the world, and Peter Wright’s interpretation has been enchanting children and adults alike since its first performance by The Royal Ballet in 1984. Lev Ivanov’s 1892 ballet and Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous score are presented here in a festive period setting with vivid designs to make this a charming and magical production. The recording features awe-inspiring dancing from the whole company, and stunning portrayals of some of the most iconic characters in classic ballet: Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov take the roles of The Sugar Plum Fairy and The Prince, whilst the Nutcracker is danced by Marcelino Sambé, who is quickly rising through the ranks of The Royal Ballet.
Also available on Blu-ray (OABD7259D).
I’m delighted to present this production from the Royal Shakespeare Company that played at London’s Barbican Centre before embarking on a 2019 national tour of the UK. The classic story of doomed lovers is told by a youthful, multicultural cast, with the action rooted in the contemporary world. Key roles are played by the opposite gender, including a standout interpretation of Mercutio from Charlotte Josephine. Bally Gill and Juliet Fishwick take the title roles (‘if ever there was a pairing you could really root for, this is it.’ – WhatsOnStage). The production enjoyed an extended reach by using young people from the different regions visited during the tour to perform as the Chorus alongside the professional cast, an element retained in this recording. The Stage described director Erica Whyman’s interpretation as ‘one of emotional and narrative clarity. It’s refreshing and accessible.’ The Daily Telegraph found it ‘Fresh...blade-sharp ... the most fleet-footed account of Romeo and Juliet since West Side Story.’
It’s taken a number of years for Henze’s magnificent oratorio to shake off the unfortunate events at its 1968 premiere that forced it to be abandoned. Henze wrote the work as a Requiem for Che Guevara, the Marxist revolutionary. Just before the performance was due to begin, a student hung a large poster of Guevara on the rostrum rail, which was torn down by an official. This led to further flag-raising by students who were eventually removed by police. The agenda behind this disruption mirrored the oratorio’s theme of overlords brutally safeguarding their interests at the expense of their underlings. Henze, then at the height of his artistic powers, combined quiet episodes of intense longing with overpowering tutti sections to achieve a thrilling synthesis that approaches an operatic dimension. A recording was made of the final rehearsal before that opening night, but no alternative has been produced since. I’m certain you will think it’s been worth the five-decade wait after hearing this performance by a team of outstanding soloists, exceptional choirs, the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie and the SWR Symphonieorchester, all under the direction of Peter Eötvös.
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