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Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include operatic masterpieces by Donizetti, Dvořák, Korngold and Rossini, orchestral music by Khachaturian, Prokofiev and Silvestrov, concertos by Guarnieri, Kapustin and Schnittke, new music by Tobias Picker and Jake Runestad, violin pieces by Fazıl Say, a rediscovered choral work by Alexander Kastalsky, a collection of recordings by legendary voices, and more. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
Naxos 2.110659 [DVD]
This vintage performance of an opera that epitomises the Italian buffa tradition is guaranteed to appeal to many opera lovers. Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is a sparkling comedy that uses characters from commedia dell’arte in ways that are entertaining, witty and playful. It was the work selected by the Vienna State Opera for its inaugural national tour of Austria in 1977. Starring famous singers on the cusp of international stardom – notably Edita Gruberova, soon to become the ‘queen of bel canto’, and the great Peruvian lyric tenor Luigi Alva. This filmed performance, sung in German, showcases an outstanding ensemble at the height of its powers.

Naxos 8.660473-75 [3 Discs]
Following the French theatrical tradition of spectacular biblical dramas during Lent, Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon was an incredible success at its Parisian premiere in 1827, and collectors should note that this performance presents the original, uncut version of the opera. We have already released the more frequently performed Italian version, Mose in Egitto (8.660220-21), which is regarded by many as a mere prequel to the spectacular and expanded French version which was designed to impress those Paris audiences. Rossini succeeded magnificently, with reports of them being overwhelmed and enchanted by the experience. His riveting score laid the foundations of grand opera, with its spellbinding finales culminating in the parting of the waves of the Red Sea. As one of Rossini’s greatest achievements, it will surely attract significant interest.
Listen to an extract from Act III – Grand roi, délivre-nous

Naxos 8.574197
Our extensive Music of Brazil series continues with Vol. 5 and an attractive programme of music by Camargo Guarnieri, who is universally recognised as the most important Brazilian composer after Villa-Lobos. Indeed, there are many who consider his richly expressive music more accessible than that of his better known compatriot. Listening to this programme of four colourful concertos, respectively for piano, bassoon, flute and violin, you can understand why. The excellent soloists are accompanied by Brazil’s finest orchestra, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra; all are under the baton of one of Brazil’s leading conductors, Isaac Karabtchevsky, who also recorded the complete Villa-Lobos symphonies for Naxos with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra.

Listen to an extract from Seresta for Piano and Orchestra: I. Decidido

Naxos 8.574123
I’m happy to contribute to the growing appreciation for the music of Valentin Silvestrov with this programme conducted by Christopher Lyndon-Gee, who has already made numerous successful recordings for our label. Silvestrov has been dubbed one of the greatest composers of our time by the likes of Alfred Schnittke and Arvo Pärt. Naxos and Grand Piano have contributed to this standing with important releases such as Moments of Memory II (8.573598), full of ‘beautiful, sensitive performances that make a strong impression even though they never raise their voices.’ (Fanfare) The programme on this new release is substantial. It includes both the Symphony No. 7 and a world premiere, that of the orchestral version of Ode to a Nightingale, a significantly altered score to its chamber music original but one that has lain unperformed since the mid-1980s. You should also note that three of the works feature the soprano Inna Galatenko, for whom Silvestrov has written all his vocal works over the last fifteen years.

Listen to an extract from Ode to a Nightingale

Naxos 8.574245
This is a very special recording of an extraordinary work by a Russian composer that lay forgotten for over a century after its premiere in 1917, a casualty of the Bolshevik regime’s ban on all sacred music. Alexander Kastalsky’s Requiem for Fallen Brothers honours those who perished in the First World War, poignantly combining Orthodox and Gregorian chant with hymns from the allied nations, even including Rock of Ages. You will be gripped throughout this performance, which is conducted by one of our most distinguished Naxos artists, Leonard Slatkin. This is the world premiere recording of the complete, revised score, with lost movements recovered and included. The Requiem was acclaimed on its premiere as a ‘uniquely Russian requiem that…gave musical voice to the tears of many nations.’ It’s not difficult to understand why.

Listen to an extract from Requiem for Fallen Brothers: Requiem aeternam

Naxos 8.559892
It’s a pleasure to introduce our first recording (and only the second ever) of music by Jake Runestad, an award-winning American composer whose works have been described as both ‘highly imaginative’ (Baltimore Sun) and ‘stirring and uplifting’ (Miami Herald). He was one of the youngest composers ever to be awarded the Raymond W. Brock Commission from the American Choral Directors Association in 2018 – the foremost commission available to composers of choral music in the USA. Anyone listening to this programme of sacred and secular choral music (some items with instrumental accompaniment and including five world premieres) will be struck by the breadth if its inspiration and the variety of its imagination. Together, they make it a sure winner.

Listen to an extract from The Secret of the Sea

Naxos 8.559853
Here we have the latest in our series of engaging recordings by our award-winning team of conductor Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. They have an impressive record of achievement in promoting the music of a string of contemporary American composers. That list now includes Tobias Pinker, who has written extensively for the stage and for symphonic forces. Both genres are represented on this release: Opera Without Words is heard in its world premiere recording; The Encantadas is cast as an orchestral melodrama that explores the enchanted Galápagos Islands in all their quietly menacing and spectacular beauty, and in which Picker himself is the narrator.

Listen to an extract from The Encantadas: III. Delusion

Naxos 8.574085
Fazıl Say has been an internationally acclaimed pianist for some twenty-five years, but he's also a much-admired composer with a substantial catalogue of works to his credit. I’m glad that we’re able to promote that latter accomplishment with this recording of his two Violin Sonatas and his Violin Concerto, in which Say shares his Turkish roots. The Violin Concerto, for example, is subtitled ‘1001 Nights in the Harem’ and features an array of Turkish percussion instruments. Soloist Friedemann Eichhorn will be remembered by many for his pioneering five-volume Naxos edition of Rode’s 13 violin concertos: ‘magnificent performances, proving [Eichhorn] is one of today’s finest up-and-coming artists. An incredible virtuoso.’ (Classical Lost and Found)

Listen to an extract from Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 ‘Mount Ida’: III. Rite of Hope

Capriccio C5362
The solo cellist on this release is Eckart Runge, a founding member of the internationally renowned Artemis Quartet. His ability to bridge the gap between great classical repertoire and popular music is at the core of his performance of Nikolai Kapustin’s fusion-style Cello Concerto. The Ukrainian composer’s music is increasingly widely performed, and this is the world premiere recording of the work. It’s paired with Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 1. Commissioned by the City of Munich for the inauguration of the Gasteig Cultural Centre in 1985–86 it, too, uses a poly-stylistic language. I have no doubt that Runge’s performance on this new release will quickly establish itself as the market-leader.

Listen to an extract from Kapustin’s Cello Concerto No. 1

OehmsClassics OC990
Here’s a rarity and a world premiere recording combined. Weinberg no doubt wrote his two-act opera Wir gratulieren! (Congratulations!) from the heart, following the widespread anti-Semitism he had to face from both politicians and the general public when he moved to Moscow in 1943. Intended as edification for the city’s Jewish community in the mid-70s, the work adopted a socialist veneer to get past the censors. This is a recording of a live performance at the Konzerthaus Berlin that uses Henry Koch’s chamber ensemble version of the work. Weinberg’s extensive output has recently become increasingly appreciated by both critics and the public. This release will surely be a most welcome addition to anyone’s collection of his works.
Listen to an extract from Act I, Scene 8 – Er hat die große Welt verlach

OehmsClassics OC471
This double-disc release presents highly attractive orchestral suites by the Soviet composer Sergei Prokofiev and the Soviet-Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian. Derived from their original scores for opera, ballet and stage works, the suites present a range of moods and variety of melodic invention that are completely engaging. The performances are exemplary. This is the Zagreb Philharmonic’s third recording for the OehmsClassics label. Their recording of Glazunov’s The Seasons (OC1889), also under the direction of Dmitrij Kitajenko, attracted much praise from the critics, including an ICMA nomination.
Listen to an extract from Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite, Op. 20

Opus Arte OA1302D [DVD]
This production of Dvořák’s Rusalka is a Glyndebourne classic. Melly Still’s bewitching interpretation relates the opera’s tale of nymphs, witches and heartbreak in a magically reimagined, contemporary context. At once evocative and unsettling, two contrasting worlds collide against the backcloth of Rae Smith’s elegant stage designs. Two Glyndebourne favourites appear for the first time in Still’s noted production: soprano Sally Matthews takes the title role of water-nymph Rusalka, with mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon as her nemesis, the witch Ježibaba. ‘It is a glorious performance of an outstanding production of a powerful opera, and the final touch was provided by Robin Ticciati conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra with great subtlety to bring out the best of Dvořák’s music to show what a real treat this can be.’ (The Daily Express)

Also available on Blu-ray (OABD7266D)

Opus Arte OA1306D [DVD]
The Royal Shakespeare Company scores another triumph with this production of As You Like It, directed by Kimberley Sykes. Her version of Shakespeare’s much-loved romantic comedy was described as ‘Inventive, playful, captivating’ by The Daily Telegraph. The characters of Rosalind (Lucy Phelps) and Orlando (David Ajao) have both been banished from court, when their paths cross in the forest. What ensues is a riotous combination of a feisty cross-dressing heroine, a tartan-clad fool, melodious songs, questionable poetry and laughs aplenty. Viewers of this performance will readily agree that ‘The Forest of Arden has rarely felt more appealing.’ (The Guardian)

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