This month’s NEW ON NAXOS spotlight recording is the latest instalment in Franz Hauk’s exploration of Johann Simon Mayr’s music, featuring the world premiere recordings of the Miserere in G Minor and Litaniae Lauretanae. The Simon Mayr Chorus and Concerto de Bassus are joined by members of the Bavarian State Opera Chorus and I Virtuosi Italiani in this recording.
Other highlights include Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphonic Poems, performed by the Orchestre National de Lille and conductor Jun Märkl; world premiere recordings of Lithuanian composer Onutė Narbutaitė’s no yesterday, no tomorrow and riverbank – river – symphony, performed by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, mezzo Jovita Vaškevičiūtė and tenor Tomas Pavilionis, conducted by Christopher Lyndon-Gee; violin concertos by British composers Paul Patterson, Kenneth Leighton and Gordon Jacob, all recorded for the first time, featuring violinist Clare Howick with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Grant Llewellyn; and ‘Songs of Peace and Praise’, a collection of American choral music written by former faculty members of the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, CUNY, performed by the Queens College Choir and Vocal Ensemble and TheNew York Virtuoso Singers; and many more.
Mayr had already earned esteem in Venice for his church music when, in 1802, he assumed the post of maestro di cappella at the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo. With a modest orchestra at his disposal he soon composed a Miserere in G Minor, in which solo orchestral instruments often carry on a dialogue with the vocal soloists in a succession of powerful, descriptive and beautiful arias and choruses. The Litaniae Lauretanae, cast in three parts, features wide leaping figures and sighing melodies.
Though Berlioz and, to a lesser extent, Franck wrote symphonic poems, it is Saint-Saëns who has been largely credited with introducing the genre to France. A wide orchestral palette and stirring reserves of drama are used to evoke the youthful audacity and death of Phaéton, the ultimate triumph of virtue over pleasure in La Jeunesse d’Hercule (‘The Youth of Hercules’), and Hercules’ punishment, spinning wool while dressed as a woman, for the ‘inadvertent murder’ of one of his guests, in Le Rouet d’Omphale (‘The Spinning Wheel of Omphale’). The ever-popular Danse macabre is a spooky depiction of Death playing a dance on his fiddle on a tomb in a graveyard surrounded by skeletal dancers.
Emerging from a cultural environment of silent resistance behind the Iron Curtain, Lithuanian composer Onutė Narbutaitė has become one of the outstanding Baltic artists of recent decades. Her output has developed from distinctive chamber music into the concerto-like symphonic style heard in the works on this recording. Described by conductor Christopher Lyndon-Gee as music that ‘transcends time and place… [and] resists any attempt at stylistic categorization or pigeonholing’, these works convey powerful forces that flow between symbols and associations while probing direct emotional connections. Narbutaitė’s imposing Tres Dei Matris Symphoniae can be heard on Naxos 8.572295: ‘a mind-blowing listening experience’ (American Record Guide).
Sousa, the American master of the march, also enjoyed great prestige in the realm of operetta. The suite from The AmericanMaid, set in a glass factory and culminating in scenes based on the 1898 Spanish-American War, was among the first theatrical shows to employ actual film footage. The beautiful quintet from his early operetta The Smugglers was scored for his eminent brass virtuosi. The medley of drinking songs called A Mingling of the Wets andthe Drys was composed during Prohibition, while the unusual and previously unrecorded March of the Pan Americans – Part One celebrates the independent nations of North and South America in 1915 with zest and elan.
The eighth volume in this acclaimed series of Isaac Albéniz’s complete solo piano works features a wide range of pieces from his early period. These charming works show a development from 19th century salon style towards the assimilation of Spanish folk music, including rare jewels such as the relatively unknown Minuetin G minor, and the Mallorca barcarole with its use of novel rhythmic material. The programme concludes with the virtuoso SpanishRhapsody in its less well-known solo piano version.
These three major British concertos span fully 70 years. Kenneth Leighton’s Concerto is a work of tensile urgency, scored with great imagination, and ending in an arch-like Epilogue of impassioned intensity. Written for soloist and string orchestra, the Concerto by Gordon Jacob contains at its heart a threnodic slow movement cast in long, moving paragraphs and accompanied by poetic effects. Written for (and premiered by) the soloist in this recording, Paul Patterson’s Violin Concerto No. 2, ‘Serenade’ is rich in high spirits; songlike, wistful and exuberantly sparkling.
This recording of choral works showcase a group of composers who are or were once faculty members of the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, CUNY. The widely differing languages and poetic aesthetics set by these composers represent the concept of “Songs of Peace and Praise,” from symbolic, descriptive pieces such as Bright Sheng’s Two Folk Songs from Qinghai to tender and moving interpretations of traditional texts such as Allen Brings’ In paradisum. The voices of The New York Virtuoso Singers and Queens College combine to express the universal nature of shared experience.
Count Imre Széchényi of Sárvár-Felsővidék moved in the highest echelons of the Austrian diplomatic service, in a career that ran parallel with his musical activities. Széchényi’s dances, all but three of which were composed in St. Petersburg, were popular in his day, and of a quality that saw them placed in concert programmes by his friend Johann Strauss II. Appearing here in their premiere recordings, they reveal a brilliant collection of mazurkas and polkas with a keen sense of humour and deep feeling in their arching musical brush strokes and romantic melodies.
Friedrich Seitz was a noted violinist who served as concertmaster of the Bayreuth Festspiele, toured widely as a soloist and also composed a series of works, principally for violin and piano. He is best known for his Concertos for Violin and Piano, or Schüler-Konzerte (Student Concertos). Designed as an introduction to violin technique, they can be divided into two kinds: those wholly in the first (and easiest) position and those employing more advanced positions. Containing delightful melodies, short cadenzas, double-stops, trills, staccato bowing and much else, the concertos have proved enduringly popular vehicles for young performers since the day they were published.
William Bolcom was awarded the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his 12 New Etudes for piano, and his music has always revolved around works for the instrument on which he still performs as a soloist and accompanist. This collection of mostly premiere recordings reveals student pieces that negotiate 20th-century musical battles between the avantgarde influences of Boulez and Messiaen and Bolcom’s love of Schumann, as well as later work that embraces the 1960s ragtime revival and draws inspiration from friends and colleagues in every phase of his distinguished six-decade career. Elegantly performed by friends of the composer, this wide-ranging program is summed up by Bolcom as ‘cleaning house’ in the Charles Ives tradition.
The internationally admired Spanish composer Ramón Paús has written a sequence of music for piano that clearly reflects his wide-ranging and creative personality. Both Piano astrolabio and Piano al origen share passages that are poised between dream and wakefulness, with lush and transparent melodies evoking religious elements in music of transcendent expressivity. Inspired by Dreams, a film by Akira Kurosawa, Piano en Arlés reflects a journey in search of light through shadow and doubt, the music brightened by Paús’ characteristically exciting absorption of jazz elements.
Even after his death in 1827 Beethoven continued to dominate European music and was held in great respect by composers such as Liszt and Schumann. The latter’s ‘greatest work in large form for piano solo,’ the sonata-like Phantasie was originally intended as a contribution to Beethoven’s monument in Bonn. This is reflected in its use of fragments from An die ferne Geliebte, Liszt’s transcription of which preserves the song’s mood of longing and resignation. Liszt’s innovative Sonata in B minor is a remarkable summary of his characteristics as a composer and a performer. In 2015 Spanish pianist Juan Pérez Floristán won the First and the Audience Prizes at the Santander International Piano Competition and the First Prize at the Steinway Competition, Berlin.
Contemporary American music for wind band is among the most varied, colorful and brilliant to be heard anywhere, not least when performed by one of the genre’s leading young ensembles. Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph Schwantner is represented by his evocative concerto Luminosity. David Maslanka has helped to reshape the wind band sound and Hosannas, some of which are based on chorale melodies, are full of moments of selfreflection. These qualities of quiet and timelessness are shared by the first movement of Steven Bryant’s Alchemy in Silent Spaces.
Recorded live at the spectacular Grande Auditório of the Fundação Gulbenkian in Lisbon, this unique occasion brings together the voices of celebrated early music soprano Ana Quintans and popular fado singer Ricardo Ribeiro in an exotic journey through time and place. The music combines baroque period sonorities with the distinctive sound of the Portuguese guitar, introducing stylistic elements from Arabic and Galician music and ranging from medieval cantigas to traditional fado in its purest form. The result is a vivid portrait of Portuguese musical identity from the 13th century to the present.
“Using her own enthusiastically expanded version of the original commentary, Dame Edna Everage is sure to draw any young possum into the world of the orchestra. Her exuberance offsets any twee moments, and the Melbourne Orchestra illustrate vivid instrumental descriptions with splendidly alive and colourful playing. The Naxos recording is excellent and, with its highly enjoyable couplings, this inexpensive triptych is warmly recommendable.” – The Penguin Guide
NA0291 • 6-CD Set
NA0311 • 2-CD Set
NA0293 • 23-CD Set *digital pre-release
NA0295 • 6-CD Set *digital pre-release
NA0298 • 14-CD Set *digital pre-release
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!
Camille Saint-Saëns: Le Rouet d'Omphale, Op. 31 (Lille National Orchestra, Märkl)
Isaac Albéniz: Mallorca, barcarolle, Op. 202 (Miguel Ángel R. Laiz)
Paul Patterson: Violin Concerto No. 2, “Serenade”: I. Toccata (Howick, BBC Scottish Symphony, Llewellyn)
Allen Brings: In paradisum (New York Virtuoso Singers, Rosenbaum)
William Bolcom: Dance Portraits No. 3. Abbacadabra (Ursula Oppens)