This month’s NEW ON NAXOS spotlight recording is Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Bianca e Gernando, recorded for the first time in its original version, from the Rossini in Bad Wildbad Bel Canto Festival. Cast include soprano Silvia Dalla Benetta and tenor Maxim Mironov on title roles, the Camerata Bach Choir Poznań and Virtuosi Brunensis, conducted by Antonino Fogliani.
Other highlights include conductor Yuri Serov’s third recording for Naxos, which features Georgy Sviridov’s song cycle Russia Adrift, cantata Snow is Falling, and Music for Chamber Orchestra. World première recordings of George Tsontakis’ three concertante works – Anasa, True Colors, and Unforgettable – performed by the Albany Symphony and conductor David Alan Miller; Eduard Strauss I – A Centenary Celebration, performed by the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice and conductor John Georgiadis; the world première recording of Lori Laitman’s new opera The Scarlet Letter, based on the classic novel of same title, with libretto by long-time collaborator David Mason. Portland State Chamber Choir’s first recording on Naxos, featuring choral works by renowned Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds conducted by Ethan Sperry; and the fourth volume of Eckerle Piano Duo’s Schumann Arrangements for Piano Duet series, including Symphony No. 2, Overtures and Konzertstück for Four Horns and Orchestra.
Vincenzo Bellini was among the most important Italian opera composers of the early 19th century, and the quintessential representative of its bel canto tradition. Despite his enduring renown, his official operatic debut Bianca e Gernando was known only in its revised version of Bianca e Fernando until this rediscovery and revival at Bad Wildbad in July 2016. Set in the ducal palace of Agrigento and with its tale of secretive plots and triumph over tyranny, this original version of the opera presents both unknown music and significant differences from the revised version, giving its dramatic shape a distinctive new character.
Georgy Sviridov was a celebrated figure whose vocal works, along with those of his teacher Shostakovich, are considered to be among the most important in twentieth-century Russian music. His ‘small cantata’ Snow is Falling includes passages of hypnotic stillness as well as folk-like warmth, while the major song cycle RussiaAdrift evokes landscape, mysticism and religious faith, ending in a solemn hymn to the Motherland. Sviridov’s prolific output included symphonic suites as well as theater and film scores. The angular and impassioned Music for Chamber Orchestra reveals his mastery of non-vocal music.
Over the last few years American composer George Tsontakis, winner of the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, has crafted three distinctive and exciting additions to the contemporary concerto repertoire. Anasa, for clarinet and orchestra, combines elements of the Klezmer tradition with dance themes inspired by the lyra and lauto, traditional Cretan instruments. In True Colors the trumpet journeys in harmonically vivid, jazz-tinged directions, while Unforgettable balances the meditative with the playful, moving from ballad to phantasmagoria in a double concerto of drama and drive.
Throughout his life, Eduard Strauss’ compositions were unfavorably compared with those by his elder brothers, Johann II (1825–1899) and Josef (1827–1870), yet many of his works, especially those dating from the 1870s and 1880s, easily stand comparison with those crafted by his two famous siblings. Moreover, in two particular dance genres – the quick polka and the galop – Eduard was in a class of his own. As the Strauss authority Professor Franz Mailer stated: “Posterity must make restitution to Eduard Strauss.” It is to be hoped that, at the very least, this present recording will encourage a reassessment of “handsome Edi’s” unique musical genius.
“David Mason’s beautiful verse adaptation of Hawthorne’s classic novel, The Scarlet Letter, astutely portrays its characters amid the Puritan society of 17th-century New England. My music – lyrically expressive and intricately orchestrated – dramatizes the psychological underpinnings of this story. Though Hester is shamed for adultery, her steadfast strength of character reveals a true moral sense, while the weaknesses of both her lover and estranged husband ultimately yield their self-destruction.” – Lori Laitman
Lori Laitmanhas composed multiple operas and choral works, and over 250 songs, setting texts by classical and contemporary poets (including those who perished in the Holocaust). Her music is widely performed, internationally and throughout the US, and has generated substantial critical acclaim.
The Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds has rapidly become one of the world’s most performed choral composers. His ability to bring a dramatic text to life through textures that are lush yet permeated with a more stringent and angular aesthetic has ensured a steady stream of commissions from leading orchestras and choral forces. The four works here reflect an interest in the beauty of nature, religious faith and legend. The First Tears explores an Inuit story and employs subtle instrumental coloration from jaw harps and Native American flutes, whilst Passion and Resurrection is a profound and powerful exploration of Christ’s death and Resurrection.
Demand for piano duet material in the nineteenth century was such that the market expanded to an unparalleled extent. The preparation of an easily playable four-hand piano reduction was of critical importance to a work’s dissemination and Robert Schumann, himself a keen duet performer, wrote for the medium with enthusiasm. He arranged his Symphony No. 2 himself, aided by his wife Clara, expending considerable time and effort on the work. The overtures show the variety of arrangers involved, such as his brother-in-law Woldemar Bargiel and the organist Robert Pfretzschner, both of whom Schumann held in the highest regard.
Stephen Dodgson’s work embraced a wide variety of genres but, encouraged by Julian Bream in the 1950s, he became one of the most prolific and respected 20th-century composers for guitar. Including a première recording of the ingenious Change-Ringers, the chamber works on this recording make use of a fascinating palette of tonal colors, taking us on an unconventional and often witty journey of rhythmic excitement, serenity, dissonance and beauty.
In 1781 Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf conceived a ground-breaking, multi-media project to compose and have published a series of fifteen symphonies based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Each symphony was to be graced by newly commissioned engravings and synopses. In the event, only six symphonies were published (and without engravings) and these are the only works from the set to survive in orchestral form. The works heard here are four-hand arrangements of three of the lost symphonies, possibly Dittersdorf’s attempt to salvage something from the project. These fascinating works juxtapose conventional structures with fluid, unconventional music transforming Ovid’s ‘tableaux’ into dramatic structures teeming with incident and wit.
Dominick Argento is widely considered to be one of America’s leading composers of lyric opera and choral music. The two major song cycles on this recording demonstrate Argento’s flair for setting unusual texts to music. From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, which won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Music, is based on eight of the writer’s confessional journal entries, while The Andrée Expedition sets diaries and letters from an ultimately tragic balloon expedition to the North Pole in 1897.
“For me, all music begins where speech stops.” – Dominick Argento
Fernando Sor was one of the greatest guitarists of his era and his works are still extremely popular today. His songs, however, are much less well known. They demonstrate the superb flair of Sor’s vocal writing, in three languages, as well as the variety of his virtuosic guitar accompaniments. The three groups of songs presented here (in addition to Sor’s setting of two patriotic texts) offer distinct styles of composition, ranging from arrangements of arias from Mozart’s Don Giovanni to the dance elements of Spanish folk song.
This programme by Andrea González Caballero, winner of the 2016 Alhambra International Guitar Competition in Spain, has been carefully chosen for comparison and contrast. Containing a wide range of compositional styles from the romantic 19th century to the present, it includes characteristic Spanish music by Tárrega and Albéniz, freshly minted works by some of today’s most important composers from Cuba, Spain and Brazil, as well as one of the most significant mid-20th-century works for guitar, the Nocturnal by Benjamin Britten.
When Xianji Liu became the first Chinese-born winner of the prestigious Francisco Tárrega International Guitar Competition in 2016, a new star emerged in the world of the classical guitar. Spanning the centuries and crossing the globe from Argentina to Britain, his recital includes some of the most beguiling and evocative pieces ever written for the instrument as well as four transcriptions so idiomatic to the guitar that they sound utterly natural on the six plucked strings.
NA0272 • 8-CD Set
NA0273 • 24-CD Set
NA0287 • 4-CD Set
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.
This month, there are some fantastic new additions to the playlist!
Ēriks Ešenvalds: Rivers of Light (Portland State Chamber Choir)
George Tsontakis: Anasa: I. Donya - Pistoli (Krakauer, Albany Symphony Orchestra, D.A. Miller)
Lori Laitman: The Scarlet Letter, Act I: Interlude: Time Passing (Opera Colorado Chorus and Orchestra, Pelto)
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