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Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include a comic opera by Adolphe Adam, a special boxed set of Monteverdi’s complete madrigals, a Rossini secular cantata, orchestral works by Auber, Benzecry, Rachmaninov, Rouse and Taneyev, J.S. Bach’s beloved Cello Suites arranged for guitar, a trilogy of outstanding performances by The Royal Ballet, and more. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
Adolphe Adam’s opéra-comique Le Postillon de Lonjumeau was a great success at its premiere in 1836; along with his ballet Giselle, it remains one of the composer’s most popular works. I can confidently predict that this new audiovisual release will prove as much of a hit for the work as performances did in its day. The production boasts triumphs of lighting, sets and costumes, all headed by director Michael Fau, who is well-known as a theatrical institution in France. The critics didn’t hold back in their praise for this 2019 co-production by Opéra Comique and Opéra de Rouen Normandie, not least for tenor Michael Spyres, one of the few artists currently able to play the title role: ‘his singing is a phenomenon and a treat.’ (NPW-Paris)
Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0112V)
The acclaimed editions for Naxos of the complete madrigals of both Carlo Gesualdo and Claudio Monteverdi represent a double triumph for Marco Longhini and Delitiæ Musicæ. The 15-disc boxed set of the Monteverdi collection is now available and will surely become a treasured possession of any lover of the madrigal genre. The editions used in these recordings are the most authentic and uncut and, in keeping with 17th-century practice, employ male voices only. Praised as ‘compelling, simultaneously controlled and imaginative’ (American Record Guide) the collection also includes pieces never before recorded.
This is the first significant recording of Rossini’s Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo in more than twenty years, and one that I am certain will capture widespread attention. Written to celebrate a royal marriage, Rossini’s youthful allegorical cantata is an intensely theatrical work which drew on some of the greatest contemporary singers, specialists in the ornamented bel canto style. This performance is under the authoritative direction of Pietro Rizzo, a frequent guest conductor at some of the world’s greatest opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Reviews of previous performances by the vocal soloists have described tenor Joshua Stewart as ‘strikingly good’ (The Guardian) and soprano Leonor Bonilla as ‘a bright, elegant soprano with oodles of charm.’ (Gramophone)
Listen to an extract from Scene 3 – Cavatina: Ovunque volgomi (Peleo, Chorus)
Music lovers unfamiliar with Auber's operas can now get acquainted with them in our series of selections from the elegant scores Auber produced for his stage works. Vol. 2 presents a programme of overtures and entr’actes full of striking melodies and haunting episodes. It includes music from Julie, his first opera, the Iberian hues of Léocadie and, by way of a contrast and a bonus, a characterful performance of Auber's Violin Concerto with its tarantella-like finale full of folk vitality. MusicWeb International judged the performances on Vol. 1 (8.574005) ‘interesting and enlightening accounts.’ The Czech Chamber Philharmonic Pardubice again features on this follow-up volume and will doubtless make a similar impact. Conductor Dario Salvi has a number of other projects in the pipeline for Naxos, so watch this space.
Listen to an extract from Fiorella – Overture
This release serves as an exciting introduction to the music of French-Argentinian composer Esteban Benzecry, already known to many of the world's greatest orchestras and artists, but yet to gain a wide public following. This programme will certainly help achieve that goal and clearly demonstrates that he stands as a worthy successor to such masters as Ginastera, Villa-Lobos and Chávez. The autobiographical Violin Concerto draws on South American folk motifs and rhythms, whereas in Ciclo de canciones Benzecry explores the meeting of two cultures, Argentinian and Japanese. The breathtaking dialogues of the Clarinet Concerto recall the sound of traditional flutes and of Andean and pre-Hispanic times. Not to be missed.
Listen to an extract from Ciclo de canciones: No. 4. La noche
American composer Christopher Rouse died last year, so I hope this release will serve as a fitting tribute to one who led the revitalisation of contemporary orchestral music. As both a Pullitzer Prize and GRAMMY Award winner, his personal mission ‘to be of use: to sing you a song, to paint you a picture, to tell you a story’ has resonated with audiences all over the world. The engaging programme on this release is brilliantly performed by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and conductor Giancarlo Guerrero; their previous releases have won six GRAMMY awards. Rouse’s Concerto for Orchestra is a ‘hyper-concerto’ that gives each player a chance to shine, while the mournful intimacy and passion of Supplica unfolds somewhat like the slow movement of a Bruckner or Mahler symphony. His Fifth Symphony blurs the lines between tradition and modernity and was described as ‘brilliant, exciting and at times hauntingly beautiful’ by The Dallas Morning News.
Listen to an extract from Symphony No. 5
J. S. Bach’s Six Cello Suites have been arranged for guitar in the past. Francisco Tárrega started the tradition in the 19th century, followed by the likes of Andrés Segovia and John W. Duarte. Each new arrangement, however, brings contemporary thinking, fresh insights and new research. Jeffrey McFadden’s superb transcriptions have already been applauded at numerous concert performances where he was able to hone his approach in advance of his recording; this release is the first of two volumes. McFadden is acknowledged as one of the finest guitarists of his generation, with concert engagements taking him throughout Canada and the United States and into Europe. His debut recording, the first in the Naxos label’s Laureate Series (8.553401), has sold thousands of copies.
Listen to an extract from Cello Suite No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009: II. Allemande
This is the fourth recording for Naxos by the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra under its artistic director and renowned Baroque specialist Barthold Kuijken. The first three were hits with the critics and there’s every expectation that history will repeat itself with The Colourful Telemann. The programme features works from different periods of Georg Philipp Telemann’s life, reflecting his lively personality and exploring his seemingly unlimited invention over a wide variety of styles and genres. From the German and French influences of the earlier Sonata to the dignified Sinfonia melodica composed in the year of his death, this is Telemann at his best.
Listen to an extract from Ouverture in C minor, TWV 55:c4
There's a good deal of Russian heft in this release of two large-scale choral works built on contrasting subjects. Rachmaninov’s symphonic poem The Bells (1913) vividly paints the individual qualities of bell-ringing in different contexts, from alarm bells to death knells, while Taneyev’s cantata Ioann Damaskin (1884) portrays man’s journey through darkness and fear to redemption at The Last Judgement; it was the first composition that drew attention to Taneyev as a talented composer. Rachmaninov’s colourful scoring and Taneyev’s notable use of counterpoint is brilliantly conveyed by conductor Dmitrij Kitajenko, who was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Classical Music Awards (ICMA) in 2015, and whose recording of works by Sibelius and Grieg for the OehmsClassics label (OC457) won the ICMA’s Best Symphonic Music category in 2018.
Listen to an extract from Taneyev’s John of Damascus, Op. 1
This is a tremendous triple bill of heritage works by three of The Royal Ballet’s most distinguished choreographers. The programme highlights the company’s versatility: from Marius Petipa’s legacy in the classical tradition to Kenneth MacMillan and Frederick Ashton, the company’s home-grown choreographers who put British ballet on the world stage. Petipa’s Raymonda Act III showcases the sparkle and precise technique of Russian classical ballet, while Ashton’s Enigma Variations is quintessentially British – from Elgar’s score, to Julia Trevelyan Oman’s period designs, and Ashton’s signature style. Concerto, MacMillan’s fusion of classical technique with a contemporary slant, completes a programme that impressively underscores the company’s singular reputation.
Also available on Blu-ray (OABD7272D)
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s artistic director Gregory Doran directs this new production of Shakespeare’s astonishingly resonant play. Although he wrote Measure for Measure in the early 1600s, parallels with today’s society are easy to draw: a young novice nun is compromised by a corrupt official, who offers to save her brother from execution in return for sex; she has no idea where to turn for help and when she threatens to expose him, he tells her that no one would believe her. The fine cast is headed by Antony Byrne as the Duke of Vienna, while ‘Stephen Brimson Lewis’ designs are full of shadows and foreboding … creating a real sense of atmosphere, complemented perfectly by Simon Spencer’s dramatic lighting and Paul Englishby's evocative music.’ (WhatsOnStage)
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