The spotlight in the April edition of NEW on NAXOS belongs to the audiovisual release of Henry Purcell’s King Arthur, featuring the critically acclaimed 2017 production from Staatsoper Berlin, directed by Sven-Eric Bechtolf and Julian Crouch. Sung in English with German dialogue, the performance was conducted by René Jacobs with a cast led by soprano Anett Fritsch and bass Johannes Weiser, with the Choir of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin.
Other highlights include: James Judd and the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic performs orchestral works by Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and Aaron Copland; the final release in Leif Segertam’s cycle of large-scale works by Ludwig van Beethoven, featuring the Mass in C major; a collection of Albéric Magnard’s orchestral miniatures, recorded by the Freiburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Fabrice Bollon; the sixth volume of Sergey Rachmainov’s complete piano recordings; and many more.
The collaboration of the poet John Dryden and Henry Purcell marked a conspicuous leap forward for English opera. Their greatest project, King Arthur, is a five-act ‘dramatick opera’, the text of which had its origins in a patriotic musical play Dryden had written in 1684 but which he radically overhauled. The result was a work that appealed to the audience’s enthusiasm for fine costumes, lavish sets, ingenious stage machinery and a cast of singers, dancers and instrumentalists, containing vocal show-stoppers such as the imperishable Frost Scene and Fairest isle. This critically acclaimed staging uses a new performing edition by René Jacobs, and is sung in English with German dialogue.
An American in Paris is one of Gershwin’s most vivacious works, an orchestral ballet saturated in homesickness and the blues. This recording, however, uses the new 2019 critical edition and offers Gershwin’s original orchestration, unheard for 75 years—leaner, more angular and transparent, it also employs the correct use of the iconic taxi horns, for a new sonic experience. The breezy vitality of Copland’s AnOutdoor Overture is balanced by Bernstein’s Songfest—written to celebrate the Bicentennial Year in America, setting the verses of 13 of the country’s poets.
The custom of marking the name-day of Princess Esterházy with a newly composed Mass began in the 1790s and for many years was carried out by Joseph Haydn. In 1807 Beethoven was commissioned and responded with his Mass in C major. Coolly received at court, it is a celebratory work of large-scale brilliance. The cantata Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt is set to Goethe’s poems and contrasts calm with exuberance. In 1803 Beethoven set two numbers from Vestas Feuer, written by Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.
Although Albéric Magnard’s oeuvre is relatively small, the uncompromising perfectionism with which he worked created a catalogue that is filled with expansive, complex and beautifully crafted music. Composed while he was still a student of Vincent d’Indy, the Suite d’orchestre dansle style ancien follows 18th-century models and is simultaneously solemn and joyful in mood, while the Chant funèbre is seen as his first true masterpiece. The importance of justice in Magnard’s life is expressed in the Hymne à la justice, while the Hymne à Vénus reflects every aspect of love, from tenderness to elation.
Heard here in its world premiere recording, The Parting is a daring opera by award-winning composer Tom Cipullo and librettist David Mason that explores the life and art of Miklós Radnóti, one of the most important poetic witnesses to the Holocaust, and one of its tragic victims. Radnóti’s poems express emotions from love and enchantment to absolute loss, and TheParting includes texts found in his jacket pocket after his death. This opera is a profound meditation on what it is about art that outlives us, that enables us to be creative even in the face of unimaginable adversity, and reminds us to guard against hatred and to celebrate what makes us human.
Valery Gavrilin was one of the most colourful and significant Russian composers of the second half of the 20th century. He was only 25 when he composed The Russian Notebook, a ‘poem of love and death’ crafted in a new musical language that doesn’t employ folk melodies but does use folkloric texts, and with a virtuosic vocal part. These stylised tunes are combined with rich melodies to form a haunting cycle heard here in a 2018 orchestration. The ten numbers from the ballet Anyuta are lively, melodious and touchingly beautiful.
After the end of his contract with Edison, the period covered in Volume 5 (8.111408), Rachmaninov signed for Victor in April 1920 and recorded for the company for the rest of his life. Victor was keen to record their star pianist in his own compositions, as well as short works by Chopin and popular encore pieces. This volume also contains the very rare test pressing of Le Cygne in Alexander Siloti’s transcription, and the premiere release first take of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 first movement, recorded acoustically in 1924.
* Naxos Historical titles are not available in the United States
Nigel Clarke has always been fascinated by virtuosity and timbre—it is the brass band genre that has lent itself most to his passion for musical athleticism. Dial ‘H’ for Hitchcock is an imaginary film score in the film noir vein, complete with classic and chilling sound effects, while the heroic, brooding and violent Swift Severn’s Flood was inspired by a line from Shakespeare. Cornet concerto Mysteries of the Horizon examines the atmosphere of paintings by René Magritte, and Earthrise celebrates one of the most iconic photographs in history and the drama of the Apollo 8 mission.
Kerry Turner made his mark on the global music community through his association with the illustrious American Horn Quartet. Turner’s compositional goal is to communicate to the listener a vivid picture through his highly melodic musical language. Many sources provided the inspiration for the works on this album, ranging from the spiritual, to the literary, and even Turner’s powerful response to the music of J.S. Bach.
Barcelona native Leonardo Balada’s creative style has been labelled ‘Dalí’s surrealism in music’—an aspect of his work explored in this programme through the technique of ‘sound transformation’ in which abstract musical materials become familiar melody. Fusing traditional and contemporary elements, Caprichos Nos. 6 and 7 engage intimately with Spanish culture and history, while the virtuoso Double Concerto, heard here in an arrangement for flute, clarinet and piano, blends well-known Mexican folk tunes with the composer’s distinctive avant-garde style.
Upon hearing a chamber piece by Joseph Michl in Munich in 1772 the English composer and music historian Charles Burney wrote, ‘I hardly ever heard a composition that discovered more genius and invention.’ Even though Michl achieved success writing for the operatic stage and his contemporary reputation rested on his sacred works, the BassoonQuartets present the epitome of urbane sophistication—elegantly constructed and full of imaginative detai—and at times resembling miniature concertos.
British composer Douglas Weiland has long been acclaimed as one of contemporary music’s most outstanding composers for the string quartet medium, and his evolving cycle has won much admiration. Composed between 2011 and 2012 the Fourth and Fifth Quartets show him at the height of his artistic powers, where he seeks connections across time, and shows a Classical commitment to form, invention and melodic beauty. His conceptions can be Schubertian in scale and scope, while also displaying the influence of Haydn and Bartók.
In his first decade in Vienna, Beethoven seems to have been preoccupied with music for wind instruments. The best-known example is his Quintet in E flat major, Op. 16, which he arranged at the same time for piano quartet. He also wrote music for dances and settings of folk songs, and reflected the public’s interest in automata by writing for musical clock. The Napoleonic wars were mirrored in Beethoven’s music of the period, especially in his military compositions such as a series of Marches and the Equali, scored for trombones, which were later played at his funeral.
Composer, conductor and pianist Thomas Adès has been described by The New York Times as ‘among the most accomplished all-round musicians of his generation’. His Concert Paraphraseon Powder Her Face reflects the glamour of the opera’s subject in the grand manner of Liszt or Busoni, while Still Sorrowing and Darknesse Visible explore John Dowland’s haunting lute works. Heard here in its world premiere recording, competition piece Blanca Variations is lyrical and flowing in character, and Traced Overhead is a vivid description of ascent and flight. Adès captures and transforms Polish style in his Mazurkas, and the spirit of Satie and Ravel in a Souvenir from the film Colette.
Chopin turned the Scherzo into a new form of piano composition: an independent virtuoso work which he laced with drama, Polish folk song, tranquillity and nuance. With their rhythmic lilt and filigree ornamentation the Impromptus are infused with Romantic freedom, while the Allegrode concert, Op. 46 was originally conceived as a movement for a projected piano concerto but was instead revised for solo piano.
The distinguished Spanish composer and pianist Sira Hernández is known especially for her involvement with multi-discipline arts projects at major international festivals and cultural events. Many of her works are inspired by Italian artists as can be heard on this album. Minimalist techniques and the significance of tonality and timbre in communicating darkness and light are heard in Iniciación a la sombra and the sewing-machine ostinatos of Fantasía parapiano. The presence of God amidst the bleak spaces of madness are expressed in Terra Santa, and the intensity of Don’t Forget About That invites us to resist oblivion.
Charles-Marie Widor was a hugely influential and venerated musician in his day, and his innovative organ symphonies are both a pinnacle of the repertoire and a testament to his creative and technical mastery of the instrument. These spectacular works are in the grand Romantic manner, but Widor was keenly aware of his musical ancestry, referring to music of the past such as Bach’s St Matthew Passion in the opening of the ThirdSymphony. The Scherzo of the Fourth Symphony is one of Widor’s finest symphonic movements, exploring the organ’s sonic beauties. The original E major Scherzo from the Symphony No. 2, which Widor subsequently replaced with a Salve Regina (see Volume 1: 8.574161), can be heard on Track 6.
All of the works in this programme were prize winners in the hotly contested 2018 Huang Zi International Chinese Piano Composition Competition, an event marking the 80th anniversary of the death of this influential composer and educator. Themes explored include the charm and unpredictability of China’s landscape, alongside elements of Chinese musical and theatrical aesthetics. Joint First Prize winners were Emile Naoumoff, whose Celestial Parade describes the composer’s wonderful experiences while in Shanghai, and Zhiliang Zhang, whose QiaoLing Liu Dan portrays six widely differing ‘Dan’ or female characters in Sichuanese opera.
Honggi Kim, winner of the 2018 Jaén Prize International Piano Competition, has chosen a fascinating recital programme for his Naxos recording debut. Both Scarbo and Los requiebros are pillars of the piano repertoire, brimming with expressive and technical challenges for any performer, as is Carl Vine’s beautifully written but rarely heard PianoSonata No. 1. Sánchez-Verdú’s Jardín de espejos (‘Garden of Mirrors’) is influenced by the multiple layers in Islamic art, the ‘mirrors’ of the title lending shape to a tradition of listening, silence and echoes. The programme concludes with Schumann’s Piano Quintetin E flat major, an outstanding work in the chamber-music literature.
Rooted in European music, native folk traditions and often infused by jazz, Brazilian music encompasses a huge variety of dance forms and songs. Prize-winning guitarist Pedro Aguiar has selected a panoramic recital to illustrate these elements which include the choro and music rich in melody and rhythmic vitality. From Villa-Lobos, whose Choros No. 1 is one of the most popular guitar solos ever written, through to the work of the revered Dilermando Reis, and on to contemporary examples of the genre, this is music of dazzling virtuosity and finesse.
From a solo piano to the huge resources required for his final symphony, here are ten works that define the last ten years of Beethoven’s creative life, exemplifying his ever more technically challenging pieces, their novel structures and the frequent incorporation of contrapuntal music that was a hallmark of giants of the Baroque period.
This introduction to the exciting world of classical music will take you on a voyage of discovery as you experience the beauty and drama of some of the most famous music ever written. This essential collection presents something for every moment: excitement, relaxation, elation and more, with critically acclaimed recordings selected from the vast Naxos catalogue. Let your mind and emotions be transported by the greatest music from the greatest composers.
The award-winning Naxos Audiobooks label offers a wide range of abridged and unabridged digital recordings of the world’s greatest literature. There are Junior Classics and numerous non-fiction titles focusing on the arts. The label also offers classic and contemporary plays, from Shakespeare to Beckett.
The New & Now playlist features all that is new and exciting in the world of classical music, whether it’s new music, new presentations or new performers. With more than 200 new releases each year, and artists from around the world, there is always something new to discover with Naxos.
We are celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday with a dynamic CELEBRATE BEETHOVEN playlist with various themes based on his life, compositional periods, types of works, and more. This month, we focus on the works that defined Beethoven’s final ten years:
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