The spotlight release for the August edition of NEW ON NAXOS is the DVD and Blu-ray release of Charles Gounod’s Gothic melodrama La Nonne sanglante (‘The Bleeding Nun’) in a highly acclaimed revival by Opéra Comique, directed by David Bobée. Conductor Laurence Equilbey leads her vocal ensemble accentus and the Insula orchestra, with world renowned soloists Michael Spyres (tenor), Marion Lebègue (mezzo-soprano) and Vannina Santoni (soprano).
Other highlights include: Franco Faccio’s opera Amleto recorded live at the 2016 Bregenz Festival; world premiere recordings of three new works by composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel; a rare recording of Ludwig van Beethoven’sThe Creatures of Prometheus in its version for solo piano; the final volume of Leopold Hofmann’s complete Flute Concertos; and many more.
The plot of Gounod’s opera La Nonne sanglante (‘The Bleeding Nun’) is drawn from Matthew Lewis’ once famous 1796 novel The Monk. The subject is a Gothic melodrama featuring warring families, two lovers, and the vengeful spectre of the Nun, to which Gounod responds with music that fuses Romanticism with the supernatural on the grandest scale. This ground-breaking production features memorable set pieces enhanced by the stark drama of the stage setting and brilliant cinematic lighting effects.
First performed in 1865, Amleto (‘Hamlet’) represented a radical new development in Italian opera, the nuovo melodramma. Composer Franco Faccio and his librettist Arrigo Boito sought a greater degree of musical unity in staged productions and a more equal relationship between text and music. In Hamlet, a play that many then considered un-operatic, they found the perfect medium through which to explore the work’s philosophical and dramatic power – not least the great set-piece scenes: Amleto’s soliloquy ‘Essere o non essere!’ (‘To be or not to be’), Ofelia’s Mad Scene and the fight scenes – in a way that strikingly prefigures the verismo operas yet to come.
Migrations provides a generous view of Derek Bermel’s superb craftsmanship and eclectic style, in which classical forms, world music, jazz, blues and American folk music create a mix that reaches directly into the body and the heart. Commissioned by Wynton Marsalis, Migration Series has its roots in African American music, its impeccable counterpoint and biting rhythms expressed through orchestration that sounds like a city coming to life. Mar deSetembro was inspired by Luciana Souza’s bell-toned voice and the intense feelings of Portuguese saudade, while A Shout, a Whisper, and a Trace honours Bartók’s last years in New York, referring to the Concerto for Orchestra as well as to jazz and Balkan music.
In addition to his world-famous marches, John Philip Sousa was a master of the piquant Humoresque, of which there are two examples here. The first, On the 5.15, is a popular song detailing the travails of a commuter, while the second, The Band Came Back, introduces popular tunes in witty fashion. The sonorous Second Fantasia from El Capitan showcases the band’s bravura qualities and TheFighting Race draws on a trombone solo. There are charming detours to explore rural Americana in the form of Sheep and Goat (‘Walkin’to the Pasture’) and the evergreen classic, Turkey inthe Straw.
Leopold Hofmann was among the most prominent Viennese composers of his generation, his music performed all over Europe. Hofmann’s radiant flute concertos follow the conventions of the day with superlative elegance and a deceptive facility. The solo writing has a lightness, grace and agility perfectly suited to the instrument’s strengths, particularly in the lovely and often rhapsodic slow movements. It is hardly surprising that musicians and audiences found these concertos so beguiling, and they have lost none of their magic today.
Over four decades the American composer Louis Karchin has produced a much-admired portfolio of compositions. His one-act opera Romulus (8.669030) won numerous accolades. Jane Eyre is his largest project to date, in which he and librettist Diane Osen fashion Charlotte Brontë’s beloved novel into a vivid and moving opera cast as a fluid and continuous entity. Karchin’s wide-ranging harmonic language and his flair for contrast ensure that the novel’s drama, its pastoral elements, and most importantly its characterization are fully developed via arias, monologues, ariosi and a quartet, to create a boldly engaging new work.
This world premiere recording of four recent orchestral works by acclaimed composer Dan Locklair opens with the powerful Symphony No. 2 ‘America’, the orchestral fireworks of which celebrate three significant american holidays. This work was summed up by Classical Voice North Carolina as ‘soon-to-be-a-hit’ for its highly rhythmical and lyrical character, typical features of Locklair’s music. Hail the Coming Day is a festive celebration of the consolidation of the towns of Winston and Salem in 1913, while the antiphonal dialogues of PHOENIX celebrate new life. The Concerto for Organ and Orchestra movingly unites ancient and modern musical techniques to create a work of dazzling and exquisite beauty.
Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is the quintessential national virtuoso showpiece, but other Russian composers have contributed strongly to the genre of works for solo violin and orchestra. Tchaikovsky’s student Taneyev, who rose to eminence in Moscow, wrote a memorable Suite deConcert that followed the model of the Baroque suite while infiltrating it with warm lyricism and brilliant variations. Earlier, Rimsky-Korsakov had written a Fantasia on Two Russian Themes that explored virtuoso potential in a concerto form that is both seductive and vibrant.
The music of George Kontogiorgos generates a mystical soundworld inspired largely by the stories and creatures of Greek mythology. Although primarily tonal, his compositions encompass a broad spectrum of music from minimalism to atonality. Dancing with Centaurs contains melodic elements found in fragments of ancient Hellenic music and traditional songs from Asia Minor, interwoven with the pentatonic scale. Night Walk is redolent of the Hellenic mainland in its structure and freely expressive performance, while the Concertino ‘Testosterone’ features novel sound effects including saxophone multiphonics.
Carl Maria von Weber’s achievements as a composer were considerable and influential, demonstrating new possibilities in opera and orchestration, particularly in the handling of wind instruments. His attractive, lyrical style is ideal for the making of arrangements, and the impressive and beautifully proportioned Flute Sonata is a virtuoso masterpiece, as is the operatic Grand Duo Concertant. There is a feeling of solemnity in the G minor Trio, an unusual work with an enigma at its heart: the song-like Schäfer’s Klage or ‘Shepherd’s lament’ – the origins of which remain a source of conjecture.
Thomas Simaku, whose music has been described as ‘visionary and entirely original’ is one of the most fascinating and important of contemporary composers. His blend of intensity and modernism is exemplified in this selection of chamber and instrumental works, all performed by the dedicatees, each of which reveals different facets of his art. Playfulness of texture can be savoured in Signals, whereas virtuosity is a feature of Capriccioso. The architecture and vocal quality of ENgREnage show the rich variety of contrasts and harmonic colours that Simaku evokes in his music.
Ferdinand Ries is remembered as Beethoven’s one-time pupil, secretary and copyist, but the discovery of his many compositions showed him to be a forward-looking composer in his own right. The 1799 Cello Sonata in C minor is among the first of its genre, the 15-year-old Ries already showing remarkable talent in its ‘Sturm und Drang’ moods. The Trio, Op. 63 was admired in its day for its ‘ingenuity of modulations’, and fashionable London society lapped up the exotic themes of works such as Introduction and a Russian Dance and the virtuosic Trois AirsRusses Variés. Volume 1 of this edition can be found on Naxos 8.573726.
A central element in Franz Liszt’s life was his religious conviction, these deepest of sentiments being expressed in much of his music. One of the greatest achievements from among his astonishing quantity of religious works is a cycle of pieces entitled Harmonies poétiques et religieuses. These were inspired by the poetry of Alphonse de Lamartine, and the echoes of these striking verses resound in pieces that are both impassioned and movingly meditative, the works included here presenting the cycle’s original intention to adhere closely to Lamartine’s eponymous collection of poems.
Olivier Messiaen’s Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte Trinité grew out of improvisations that he performed at the inauguration of the rebuilt organ of La Trinité in 1967. It became his largest cycle to date and marks Messiaen’s first use of ‘communicable language’, in which each letter of the alphabet is assigned a unique pitch and note-value, thereby translating text into music. Haunting harmonies, awe-inspiring monumental grandeur and the deepest profundity of expression are contrasted by the innocence of birdsong with the recurrent call of the yellowhammer, a tranquil voice from nature amid kaleidoscopic Biblical themes.
Alí Arango, First Prize winner of the 2018 Tárrega International Guitar Competition, Benicàssim, has selected the repertoire for this recital in tribute to his years in Cuba where he learned many of these works. He has chosen Tárrega’s brilliant Gran jota, Barrios Mangoré’s masterpiece, La catedral and the powerful Sonata No. 1 by his fellow Cuban, the contemporary master Leo Brouwer with whose music Arango is strongly associated. Also included is the guitarist’s own Tríptico para guitarra, a large-scale work that embraces sarabande-like motifs, polyphony and Afro-Cuban influences.
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!
Derek Bermel: Migration Series: II. After a Lynching (Juilliard Jazz Orchestra; Albany Symphony Orchestra, D.A. Miller)
Leopold Hofmann: Flute Concerto in A Major, Badley A1: III. Allegro (Grodd, Pardubice Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, F. Dvořák, Halász)
Ludwig van Beethoven: Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus, Hess 90, Act II: Finale. Allegretto (piano version of Op. 43) (Warren Lee)
Franz Liszt: Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S172a: II. Hymne de la nuit (1847 version) (Wojciech Waleczek)
Alí Arango: Tríptico: III. De la decisión (Alí Arango)
George Kontogiorgos: Dancing with Centaurs: V. Love Song (Mavrommatis, Panteli)
Thomas Simaku: Albanian Folk Song, ‘Moj e Bukura Moré’ (version for violin and piano) (Sheppard Skærved, Chadwick)
Ferdinand Ries: Cello Sonata in C Minor, WoO 2: II. Adagio (Rummel, Stroissnig)
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