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Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include several outstanding productions of operas by Gluck and Verdi, a collection of plays by William Shakespeare, piano concertos, incidental music and chamber works for winds by Beethoven, orchestral works by Weinberg, Dohnányi, Eller and Dvořák, and more. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
Naxos 2.110638 [DVD]
Gluck’s 1762 milestone opera Orfeo ed Euridice is heard here in Berlioz’s 1859 version (Orphée et Eurydice) that he prepared for the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris. It’s significant in that Berlioz exploited the score’s full potential through a synthesis of the versions Gluck had prepared for Parma, Paris and Vienna; additionally, with concert pitch changing in France, the high-tenor role of Orfeo was newly adapted for a contralto voice. The work is a true ‘drama of the soul’ with intense psychological and emotive power that remains undiminished to this day. Our recording is of Aurélien Bory’s 2018 production at the Opéra Comique, Paris, described as ‘just breathtaking’ by OperaJournal. Mezzo soprano Marianne Crebassa and soprano Hélène Guilmette shine in the title roles; the conductor is Raphaël Pichon; and François Roussillon is the video director. Available in DVD and Blu-ray formats (NBD0100V), this release will be high on any collector’s wish list.

Opus Arte OA1301BD [23 DVDs]
This extensive collection of 22 Shakespeare plays approaches some 60 hours of the best dramatic entertainment you could wish for, duly presenting the many elements of Shakespeare’s works: dazzling poetry, romance, epic power, human suffering and ingenious, raucous humour. The productions were all created between 2009 and 2015 for London’s Globe Theatre, a living theatrical experiment that has allowed audiences to experience the impact of Shakespeare’s stories in the architecture for which he wrote them. The collection features the finest actors and leading directors committed to a project designed to create ever wider access to this rich, universal cultural heritage. Everyone can now be part of that vision with The Globe Collection to hand.

Opus Arte OA1293D [DVD]
Here we have Shakespeare’s merry comedy of marriage, wealth, jealousy and lies brilliantly spiced by director Fiona Laird with new elements that may push the envelope (think hints of reality TV and burning issues of feminism) but achieve a level of blazing energy that is irresistible. The recording presents a rare opportunity to appreciate Shakespeare’s hilarious comedy of suburbia, wives and over-inflated egos with an alternative slant. David Troughton brings unforgettable zest to the buffoonish role of Sir John Falstaff, with a uniformly strong cast contributing to the hilarity. The fresh approaches that permeate the production ‘chime deliciously with the spirit of Shakespeare’s play… risky, but it all pays off.’ (The Financial Times)

Naxos 8.574151
Naxos artist Boris Giltburg has swept up numerous awards for his Liszt recordings, but one of his first releases for Naxos was of piano sonatas by Beethoven (8.573400). It certainly made an impact on the critics: ‘a powerful mix of astounding technique, gripping drama, and interpretive insight. This is great pianism and great Beethoven playing at its very best.’ (Fanfare) So, we can all look forward with confidence to the success of Boris’ next foray into Beethoven via the composer’s first two piano concertos with their abundance of lyric and virtuosic qualities. Add to this the names of conductor Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, who astounded everyone with their world-beating Naxos edition of Shostakovich’s symphonies, and we really do have a treat in store.

Naxos 8.573956
This is the third volume in our new edition of Beethoven’s orchestral works performed by Leif Segerstam and the excellent Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. It features the entire incidental music written for Goethe’s play Egmont, not just the ever popular overture. Very few alternative recordings are available of this full version, with the sequence of movements taking us through the dramatic gamut of the play, from tragic darkness to moral triumph. I have no doubt it will cement Segerstam’s assertion that he has a ‘special place for Beethoven between my ears.’ He receives excellent support here from soprano Kaisa Ranta, known internationally for her recitals and opera roles, while the narration of Egmont is strikingly delivered by the renowned Wagnerian Finnish bass Matti Salminen.

Naxos 8.573942
Beethoven again has the wind in his sails with this tremendous release of music for wind ensemble, a genre that formed a regular part of entertainment in the composer’s day. Included on the programme, for example, is his Sextet for winds in E flat major that was well received by a critic at the time for its ‘splendid melodies, leisurely harmonic flow, and wealth of new and surprising ideas.’ The works on the recording may have been frequently recorded, but never before by such a distinguished line-up of players. With professorships at leading institutions such as the Yale School of Music, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Adelphi University and others, this is as influential a team of wind players as you could imagine. I am certain that Beethoven enthusiasts and lovers of wind music will be beating a path to hear their take on these repertoire evergreens. The recording will, of course, form part of our 90-disc box set scheduled for release in November to mark next year’s 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

Naxos 8.573931
This release will prove very attractive to collectors as the first complete recording of Weinberg’s entire output for accompanied flute. Weinberg’s music was for a long time hardly known in the West, but recent years have seen it receiving a strong renaissance; Naxos has made a significant contribution to this revival through its ongoing recordings of his symphonies. The rarely heard Second Flute Concerto in its version for flute and strings lies at the heart of this programme, but the world premiere recording of the Five Pieces for flute and piano is an equally compelling feature. This is renowned flautist Claudia Stein’s debut for Naxos; pianist Elisaveta Blumina will be familiar to followers of our Grand Piano label for her recording of music by Valentin Silvestrov; while David Robert Coleman is a much sought after guest conductor throughout Europe.

Naxos World NXW76109-2
We continue the recent launch of the new Naxos World Music series with Mizu, which means ‘roots’ in Chichewa, Malawi’s national vernacular language. For the musician, broadcaster, and activist Code Sangala it marks a return to the essential sounds of his country; this is music inspired by traditional Malawian dances but treated with contemporary flair. Code rose to fame through his radio broadcasts that not only presented a wide selection of world music, but also promoted authentic Malawian music. He was a founding member of the group Kapirintiya, before embarking on a musical journey as a solo artist who wanted to further explore ways of incorporating traditional Malawian elements into his performances. In sum, this album is a uniquely captivating celebration of the country’s regional, traditional dances.

Capriccio C5386
I’m pleased to introduce people to this first album in a new Capriccio series of recordings of works by Ernst von Dohnányi that remain less well known, but are deserving of a wider audience. The main work here is the First Symphony, which was one of Dohnányi’s early successes. The symphony is well crafted throughout and imaginatively orchestrated, ending with a brilliantly composed fugue. While shades of Brahms are evident, such roots of the past are balanced by elements of the future. Dohnányi’s authoritative treatment of the large orchestra is reminiscent of Mahler and Richard Strauss, teeming in details that are a hallmark of the quality of the work.

Dynamic DYN-37845 [DVD]
The 19th-century Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Gomes was among the many musicians who travelled to Italy to master the language and conventions of opera. He returned to Brazil and became the country’s most famous living national composer of his time. Taking Brazil’s anti-slave cause as its theme, his opera Lo schiavo was a triumph at its premiere, but failed to gain popularity elsewhere and soon fell into oblivion. I’m very happy that we can now present the opera's first Italian performance in modern times, with a choice of CD (CDS7845), DVD and Blu-ray (DYN-57845) formats. This recording of the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari’s production demonstrates Gomes’ gift for rich melody and his mastery of the theatrical medium. Last but not least, it's the opera's world premiere video recording.

Ondine ODE1335-2
Estonian nature is at the heart of all these orchestral works by Heino Eller (1887–1970), one of the founders of the Estonian school of music and subsequent mentor to generations of the country’s most celebrated composers, including Arvo Pärt and Eduard Tubin. Pärt himself has acknowledged Eller’s gift for subtle and masterly orchestration, and his resultant personal style of composition. This is the second volume of Eller’s music on the Ondine label and comprises four symphonic poems, including one of his most popular orchestral works, Dawn (Koit). If you’re unfamiliar with Eller’s music, you owe yourself this introduction to its greatness. As Pärt said: ‘Heino Eller was much more than anything I can express in words. It was largely due to him that music in Estonia was able to achieve a cultural and professional dignity.’

SWR Classic SWR19083CD
The first three volumes in SWR Classic’s cycle of Dvořák’s complete symphonic works with the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie were conducted by Karel Mark Chichon. The baton now passes to the orchestra’s new chief conductor Pietari Inkinen, who began his tenure last year. The programme on Vol. 4 presents the Second Symphony alongside two opera overtures and I strongly recommend that collectors should grasp this opportunity to get to know these relatively unknown works. It was Brahms who said that Dvořák ‘has more ideas than all of us put together’, and this release proves the point, not least with the overture to his first opera, Alfred, written in 1870, and that for his last stage work, Armida, which was first performed in 1904, just weeks before Dvořák’s death.


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