This month’s NEW ON NAXOS presents an exciting array of new releases, over seven of which include world première recordings! With this month’s spotlight release of the third album of oursix-volume cycle of orchestral works by Jean Sibelius, we’ve reached the halfway point of this acclaimed series. The Turku Philharmonic Orchestra and internationally-acclaimed conductor Leif Segerstam perform more of Sibelius’ incidental music, including Pelléas et Mélisande and Musik zu einer Szene as well as Autrefois – Scène pastorale with soprano Pia Pajala and mezzo-soprano Sari Nordqvist.
Other highlights include Piano chamber works by Krzysztof Meyer, including the world première recording of his Piano Quartet, performed by the Silesian String Quartet, and pianist Piotr Sałajczyk; Carl Czerny’s music for flute and piano, featuringflutist Kazunori Seo and pianist Makoto Ueno; the reissue of British Music Society’s original 1997 release of some of John Joubert’s music for string orchestra – The Instant Moment, Temps Perdu and Sinonietta – with the English String Orchestra, under the direction of William Boughton; the world première recordings of Taiwanese composer Gordon Chin’s Symphony No. 3 and Cello Concerto No. 1, with cellist Wen-Sinn Yang and the Taiwan Philharmonic, directed by Shao-Chia Lü; Jacques Ibert’sfirst symphonic workThe Ballad of Reading Gaol, based on a poem of the same title by Oscar Wilde, and several other orchestral works, with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Adriano; and Canadian composer Andrew Staniland’s world première recording of Talking Down the Tiger and other works for solo instruments and electronics. In this release, the composer joins other instrumental soloists, including Ryan Scott, Rob MacDonald, Camille Watts, Frances Marie Uitti and Wallace Halladay.
No sooner had Sibelius moved to the town of Järvenpää in 1904 than he was commissioned by the Swedish Theatre to write incidental music for Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande. At the time it was his most ambitious undertaking in the genre of incidental music and his setting included ten scenes, only one of which was cut when he adapted the piece as a concert suite. Dating from the same year, Musik zu einer Szene was originally intended to accompany a tableau and is full of striking contrasts. The two waltzes of 1921 are transcriptions of piano pieces, and reveal the potent influence of Tchaikovsky.
The twin series of symphonies and string quartets stand at the centre of Krzysztof Meyer’s achievement as one of the most renowned composers of our time. His mastery of the chamber medium is also revealed in the two works presented here. The Piano Quartet, Op. 112, heard here in its world première recording, is unusual in Meyer’s output for its one-movement structure with several contrasting sections. Elegy, threnody and caprice co-exist in an intense interplay of great passion. In its scale and impact the Piano Quintet recalls similar such pieces dating back to Brahms.
Virtuoso pianist Carl Czerny was a pupil and friend of Beethoven in Vienna. His prodigious output as a composer included numerous sets of variations on operatic themes, both with orchestra [Naxos 8.573254] and, as with the Trois Rondeaux, Op. 347 on themes by Rossini and Bellini, in the form of entertaining chamber music. With its cadenza and technical flourishes the Introduction, Variations andFinale, Op. 80 is composed in true concerto style, while the elegance and refined artistry of the Rondoletto and Duo concertant are both characteristic of a Classical master whose works have only recently started to gain wider recognition.
Born in Cape Town, John Joubert won a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London, his successful career as a university lecturer and composer keeping him in England thereafter. Based on a short piece composed during the composer’s late teens and inspired by Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way (from Remembrance of Things Past), Temps Perdu is an inventive set of variations ‘each of which sets out to explore some aspect of the memories evoked by the original’. The finely crafted Sinfonietta is notable for the imaginative writing for solo woodwinds, while the song-cycle The Instant Moment indelibly expresses widely contrasting reactions to the experience of love.
Gordon Chin is one of Taiwan’s leading composers, and increasingly honoured by commissions and performances from major ensembles in North America, Asia and Europe. Featuring an array of exotic Chinese percussion instruments, Symphony No. 3 ‘Taiwan’ is a dramatically powerful work cast in three movements which explore his native country’s turbulent history. Specific literary quotations from Shakespeare, Blaise Pascal and Samuel Johnson elucidate the expressive moods of the three-movement Cello Concerto No. 1.
Based on Oscar Wilde’s impassioned text Le Ballade de la Geôle de Reading, Jacques Ibert’s first symphonic work astonished and impressed audiences with its dark atmospheres of anguished madness and terror. The Trois Pièces de Ballet portray society guests with colourful music-hall wit, contrasting with the impressionistic symphonic poem Féerique and the horrors of war expressed in Chant de Folie, while the Suite Élisabéthaine introduces ancient styles to enhance Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Andrew Staniland is recognised as one of Canada’s most important and innovative musical voices, and his works are performed and broadcast internationally. He has already composed a powerful body of music for solo instruments with electronics, which reveals the exciting and evocative use he makes of sound files and ‘looping’. Talking Down the Tiger explores the ferociousness, beauty, and mystery of percussion instruments whilst Flute vs Tape is virtuosic, vivacious, and not afraid to embrace capricious fun. These qualities permeate his music and help explain why leading American writer Alex Ross calls it ‘alternately beautiful and terrifying’.