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Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include a special performance of J.S. Bach’s very popular Preludes and Fugues, large-scale works by Beethoven and Reicha, operas by Rossini, Zemlinsky and Paer, plus piano pieces by Liszt and Harsányi. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
There was considerable excitement following the announcement that Sir András Schiff would play Book 1 of J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier in a continuous performance at a late-night concert as part of the 2017 BBC Proms. The well-attended event was recorded to the BBC’s usual superlative standards: the highly-charged atmosphere, with Schiff’s every nuance captured in high definition image and sound, make this audiovisual release something to treasure. Schiff is considered one of today’s finest Bach interpreters, and this release confirms that claim. I have every confidence that viewers will be in total agreement with the critic from The Independent who commented that ‘this was the most riveting performance of the work I have ever heard.’
Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0104V)
Coming Soon: Visual albums on Apple Music
I admit to a touch of personal excitement in that this release takes us a step nearer to the completion of our edition of the complete Rossini operas; we are getting tantalisingly close to having all of them in the catalogue. Collectors will find it difficult to find any competing recordings of Zelmira, which was the composer’s calling card to the Viennese opera scene. Rossini’s response to the supposed incompatibility between ‘Italian’ melody and ‘German’ harmony was to employ exciting and daring harmonic passages and a raft of dazzling orchestral effects in a tragedy that finds a daughter saving her father, the king, and her son from usurpers to the throne. You won’t find a more skilled Rossini conductor than Gianluigi Gelmetti, who also directed our July release of Rossini’s opera Eduardo e Cristina (8.660466-67): ‘It’s good to have an experienced Rossinian, Gianluigi Gelmetti, in charge of the musical proceedings.’ (Gramophone)
Listen to an extract from Act II – Finale: Riedi al soglio: irata stella (Zelmira, Polidoro, Ilo, Chorus)
8.573852) appeared in June 2019, with MusicWeb International declaring that the ‘performance here by both chorus and orchestra is exemplary.’ It’s only the overture to König Stephan that is well known today; and, as with many of the works in this edition, alternative recordings of the songs and incidental music are often restricted to extensive box-set collections of Beethoven’s entire œuvre. The strong line-up of singers on this release includes Finnish lyric dramatic soprano Reetta Haavisto; Tuomas Katajala, one of today’s most sought-after Scandinavian tenors; and the acclaimed bass Niklas Spångberg, who was cast in the role of Peter in Beethoven’s Christus am Ölberge, cited above.
Listen to an extract from König Stephan, Op. 117: Chorus –
Auf dunkelm Irrweg in finstern Hainen (‘On a false and sombre path’)
Albéric Magnard was tragically killed defending his home against German troops in 1914, bringing a premature close to the output of a prolific composer who remains largely under-appreciated. But we can be grateful that he left us four powerfully expressive symphonies that now receive engaging performances by the Freiburg Philharmonic Orchestra under Fabrice Bollon. Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 (8.574082) were released in September 2019 (‘Fabrice Bollon delivers confident, flowing performances that fully encompass the music’s wide-ranging expressive vocabulary.’ – ClassicsToday.com). The balance comes now with his First Symphony, premiered in 1893 and then not heard again for a century; and the Second Symphony, in its revised version, that features a radiant serenity and dazzling confidence that reveals Magnard’s true compositional voice.
Listen to an extract from Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 4:
IV. Molto energico
This recording allows me the welcome opportunity to remind everyone about our edition of Cimarosa’s opera overtures, which has become one of Naxos’ more collectible series. Its popularity has encouraged ongoing releases for more than a decade and has secured a unique place for the edition as market leader in this repertoire. With overtures that are charmingly reminiscent of those by Mozart, Cimarosa’s operas were remarkably successful, being staged and re-staged in opera houses all over Europe. There can be no better advocates for this programme than the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice and conductor Patrick Gallois, who also conducted Volumes 3 and 5 of this project.
Listen to an extract from Il matrimonio segreto
(‘The Secret Marriage’)
One of the attractions of our edition of Liszt’s complete piano works is that the series features not a single artist, but a wide range of stellar performers. A particular attraction of this latest release is that the stellar performer is Jenö Jandó, one of Naxos’ most prolific recording artists. His significant number of entries in our catalogue has made him one of the most frequently represented artists in the history of classical music recording; also, one of its most appreciated and admired. Having already contributed eight critically acclaimed volumes to the series, you can be assured that Jenö’s programme of Liszt’s works memorialising the dead will attract a similarly vibrant response.
Listen to an extract from Historical Hungarian Portraits, S205/R112: Stephan Széchenyi
Zemlinsky was engaged by Mahler as his assistant at the Vienna Court Opera in 1907. Simultaneously, his third opera, Traumgörge (‘Görge the Dreamer’), was accepted for performance there. Following Mahler’s resignation, however, the opera was dropped by Mahler’s successor, even though it had already been rehearsed. It remained dormant until the 1970s when the scores and parts were discovered in the archives of the renamed Vienna State Opera, leading to its premiere in 1980. High time, then, to hear again this magnificent account of the work in its first complete recording. Gerd Albrecht directs the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and an outstanding line-up of singers in a performance that is guaranteed to impress.
Listen to an extract from Act I, Scene 1: Husch! Husch! (Grete, Görge)
This is the world premiere video recording of the first modern performance of Ferdinando Paer’s 1809 semi-serious opera Agnese. It comes in a production from the Teatro Regio di Torino and in a new critical edition, following many years of neglect. Paer is recognised as a master of semi-serious opera of the period, well demonstrated by Agnese’s sombre plot offset by a comic character brimming with eccentricities. Agnese remained popular for some thirty years (it was well received by the likes of Chopin and Berlioz) and this return to the stage after meticulous editorial work is a major step in the overdue rediscovery of its composer, and of a period of Italian opera that rarely enjoys the limelight. Spanish soprano María Rey-Joly, winner of a number of international competitions, gives a commanding performance in the title role.
Also available on Blu-ray (DYN-57850)
While the name Tibor Harsányi might be generally unknown, most collectors will be familiar with a number of his fellow ‘School of Paris’ artists, a loosely knit collection of expatriate composers that included Martinů, Tansman and Tcherepnin. This release provides a unique opportunity to get to know Harsányi’s piano music. Stylistically, it draws on diverse sources, ranging from a free-spirited absorption of Hungarian traditions to neo-Baroque expressions, the comedic, and jazz. Georgio Koukl is a well-known and much recorded Grand Piano artist. He kicks off his multi-volume survey with a programme that reflects the foxtrot, czárdás and samba, as well as peaceful nocturnes, off-beat folk songs and a wealth of colour and verve. A bonus is that none of the pieces presented here are available on alternative recordings.
Listen to an extract from La Semaine: No. 2. Pour mardi
While Fidelio will always retain pride of place among Beethoven’s stage works, I recommend that all collectors should find additional space for his highly appealing incidental music to Egmont. The score’s catchy songs and engaging orchestral interludes deserve attention equal to that usually given only to the celebrated overture. Beethoven is said to have greatly admired Reicha’s dramatic cantata Lenore, a setting of the eponymous horror ballad by the German poet Gottfried August Bürger. His endorsement is easily understood after hearing how convincingly Reicha continued in this work the epic oratorio style of his mentor and friend, Joseph Haydn.
Listen to an extract from Reicha’s Lenore: Part I –
Der König und die Kaiserin (Chorus)
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