The spotlight release for the December 2018 issue of NEW ON NAXOS is Bruno Monsaingeon’s documentary L’Archet Indomptable (‘The Indomitable Bow’) – a unique portrait of one of the greatest cellists in history, Mstislav Rostropovich. Known as ‘Slava’ this film chronicles Rostropovich’s life, from the international recognition he gained in the 1950s to his achievements in becoming a leading figure in 20th century music. Includes previously unreleased performances of works by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Bach.
Other highlights include: Pierre Gaveaux’s opera Léonore, ou L’Amour conjugal on DVD and Blu-ray, filmed live from a production by Opera Lafayette; Joseph Marx’s Nature Trilogy recorded by the Bochum Symphony and conductor Steven Sloane; the second instalment of Leopold Koželuch’s Symphonies, presented by the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Marek Štilec; harpist Elisa Netzer’s Naxos debut recording, and many more.
The Indomitable Bow is a unique portrait of Mstislav Rostropovich, a formidable personality as well as a complex, deeply political musician constantly engaged in a whirlwind of activities. Including unreleased documents, archive films, interviews and concert performances from this key figure of the 20th century, The Indomitable Bow is a remarkable testimony of the life and work of the legendary ‘Slava’.
A political prisoner awaits death in his cell. A woman puts herself in mortal danger to seek justice. With its atmosphere of revolution and tale of devotional romance and a dramatic rescue from captivity, Pierre Gaveaux’s Léonore, ou L’Amour conjugal was the direct forerunner to Beethoven’s Fidelio. Having been entirely overshadowed by its famous successor and lain hidden for centuries, this both darkly sombre and entertainingly celebratory opéra comique is seen here in an acclaimed modern premiere whose timeless and inspiring story of female heroism and political injustice is as relevant today as ever.
Joseph Marx was one of the leading figures of Austrian musical culture during his lifetime, but his music was out of step with 20th-century Modernism and most of his music disappeared from concert programmes after his death. The Natur-Trilogie is a richly impressionistic work that brims with lyrical passion, portraying the moods of Marx’s untouched native landscapes while displaying his magical feel for harmony and orchestration. This recording’s original release was the first time the Natur-Trilogie had been heard in its complete and original form, and was considered ‘a major discovery’ by MusicWeb International.
One of the most prominent Bohemian composers working in Vienna during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Leopold Koželuch was a prolific composer of instrumental music including seventeen symphonies. They are notable for mellifluous themes, sophisticated structures and, at times, a lyricism that seems to foreshadow the youthful works of Schubert. This unique recording draws on the original sources and corrects a number of mistakes encountered in previously published versions. Volume 1 can be heard on Naxos 8.573627.
The term ‘toccata’ is associated with virtuoso music demanding the utmost dexterity of its performer. Elisa Netzer, winner of the 2015 ‘Suoni d’arpa’ International Harp Competition in Italy, presents a wide-ranging programme which includes her own arrangement of one of Alessandro Scarlatti’s harpsichord toccatas, popular pieces such as Khachaturian’s Oriental Dance and Toccata, original works for harp such as Nino Rota’s attractively neo-Classical Sarabanda e Toccata and the premiere of the brand new Toccare composed for her by Swiss composer Stephan Hodel.
Alexander Moyzes’s symphonic cycle is the best-known by a Slovak composer. His synthesis of Slovak influences and contemporary trends in European music informs every strand of his compositions. The Symphony No. 7, Op. 50 is his largest and most powerful orchestral statement, which he dedicated to the memory of his young daughter. Peasant scenes, folk dances and exceptional lyric beauty form the bedrock of a passionate and dramatic work. Written as a response to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, Symphony No. 8, ‘21.08.1968’, Op. 64 is a brooding lament that shares affinities with Shostakovich’s symphonic writing.
Though he was, until the arrival of Rossini, the leading operatic composer of the time, Johann Simon Mayr also wrote a significant body of church music. Marked by clear formal structures and skilful instrumentation, the works on this recording were composed between 1800 and 1830, the majority when Mayr was maestro di cappella in Bergamo. There are several settings of Marian antiphons – Latin hymns to the Virgin Mary – as well as settings of sacred poetry. Elements of the writing point to his operatic experience, with rich and varied use of accompanying winds, songlike themes, and a wide vocal range.
Born in Vilnius and a student of Nadia Boulanger, Romuald Twardowski writes music which blends tradition and modernity. His writing for strings is consistently masterful, whether in the lyricism and capricious rhythms of Serenade for string orchestra, or the ‘new simplicity’ of his Violin Concerto. Fantazja hiszpanska (‘Spanish Fantasia’) shows how deeply the composer absorbed flamenco music during a visit to Spain, while Niggunim explores authentic Hassidic Jewish melodies. Capriccio in Blue is a delightful and wholly original salute to George Gershwin.
The German-Canadian Amadeus Guitar Duo and South German Duo Gruber & Maklar have known each other for many years from encounters at guitar and music festivals. Their love of varied programming prompted them to devise a concert featuring works for one, two and four guitars. Guitar Gala Night brings together the most beautiful works for guitar solo, duo and quartet in the European and Latin American guitar repertoire in a spirited evening of virtuosic, lyrical and expressive music.
As a pianist and cellist Georges Onslow had a particular affinity with chamber music, and his String Quintets are given an almost orchestral quality with their addition of the rich sonorities of a double bass. String Quintet No. 28, with an especially beautiful Adagio with more than a trace of the influence of Mendelssohn, combines Baroque poise with expressive Romantic writing, while String Quintet No. 29 is light-hearted and good-natured, with hints of Schubert in its melancholy lyricism and unexpected key changes. In praising the Elan Quintet’s first volume (8.573600) a MusicWeb International reviewer declared, ‘I cannot fault their playing: their tonal quality is ravishing, their ensemble perfect.’
“I am delighted to share the Avalon Quartet’s powerful rendition of my three string quartets on Naxos. These remarkable musicians display their uncommon insight and interpretive range throughout the album – from the introspective yet ardent journey of the expansive First Quartet, to the spiky mischief of the Second, to the enigmatic meandering through the thirteen fleeting movements of the Third. They have fully captured the stylistic diversity and dramatic intensity of these deeply personal pieces.” – Matthew Quayle
This recording showcases the breadth and variety of Brazilian music by focusing on composers who explore traditional styles and use native forms, such as the bossa nova, chôro, frevo and samba, combined with neo-Romanticism, Modernism and jazz. Looking beyond cultural stereotypes, it includes Camargo Guarnieri’s grandly Romantic Violin Sonata No. 4 and a violin arrangement of one of Villa-Lobos’s most colourful character pieces, alongside contemporary works that explore nature painting, song, and the Carnival – offering an abundance of vibrancy, dance, languorous rhythms and joyful wit.
Celebrated Georgian composer Vaja Azarashvili is part of the generation that emerged during the Soviet era in the 1960s, becoming one of the country’s most significant pioneers in the idiom of classical music and bringing international recognition to its contemporary musical heritage. Azarashvili’s intensely lyrical musical language is elegantly represented in this collection of his complete works for cello and piano, including his transcriptions of beautiful pieces including the Nocturne, Nostalgie, and the Sentimental Tango in world premiere recordings for these versions.
The music of Ravel begins and ends this recital by Chun Wang, winner of the 59th Jaén International Piano Competition in 2017. The virtuoso magic of Jeux d’eau is balanced by the dazzling beauty and wit of the Concerto in G Major. Two vividly contrasting examples have been selected from William Bolcom’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 12 New Etudes, whilst Bartók’s Out of Doors suite remains one of the 20th century’s most imaginative keyboard masterpieces. The mandatory work at the competition was Bonnín de Góngora’s FantasíaJiennense, a vivacious piece based on folk songs from Jaén.
Haydn’s career coincided with changes in the standard keyboard as the fortepiano, and then the pianoforte, replaced the harpsichord and clavichord. This album reflects these changes. Haydn probably wrote the charming 5 Variationen in D Major for the harpsichord around the mid-1750s while the Fantasia in C Major, with abundant hand crossings and effects, was intended to exploit the particular sonority of the fortepiano. In 1792 he wrote new dances for a Viennese masked ball and the Empress herself asked for keyboard arrangements which Haydn provided in the shape of the sparkling Deutsche Tänze and Menuetti.
Domenico Scarlatti, like his father Alessandro, wrote music in various genres, but he is best known for his 555 keyboard Sonatas. These remarkable single-movement works were mainly composed for his pupil in Madrid, the Infanta Maria Bárbara, who became Queen of Spain in 1746. Maria must have been a talented performer as Scarlatti was able to pour endless variety into his creations, from sparkling virtuoso showpieces with sometimes audacious harmonic clashes to sonatas of serene beauty; all demonstrating his originality and genius within the frameworks of his chosen form.
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!
Joseph Marx: Idylle (Bochum Symphony Orchestra, Sloane)
Leopold Koželuch: Symphony in G Major, P. I:8: IV. Presto con fuoco (Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, Dvořáková, Štilec)
Stephan Hodel: Toccare (Elisa Netzer)
Alexander Moyzes: Symphony No. 8, Op. 64: I. Tranquillo (Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Slovák)
Johann Simon Mayr: Regina coeli in B-Flat Major (Schäfer, Virtuosi Italiani, Hauk)
Romuald Twardowski: Capriccio in Blue (Augustyn, Toruń Symphony Orchestra, Smolij)
Manuel de Falla: El amor brujo: Danza ritual del fuego (arr. C. Gruber and P. Maklar for 2 guitars) (Duo Gruber & Maklar)
George Onslow: String Quintet No. 29 in E-Flat Major, Op. 73: IV. Finale: Vivace (Elan Quintet)
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