The December NEW ON NAXOS offers a plethora of exciting new releases to cap off another wonderful year. This month’s highlights includes orchestral works from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, a collection of youthful keyboard sonatas, and a documentary about a pianist of fierce integrity and communicative power.
This month’s highlights: three orchestral works by Pancho Vladigerov, presented by the Rousse Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Nayden Todorov; the first volume of Dario Salvi’s new Auber Complete Overtures cycle with the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Tony Banks’ Five, his third release on Naxos featuring the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and Choir conducted by Nick Ingman; the newest instalment in the Clementi Keyboard Sonatas series performed by award-winning pianist Soyeon Kate Lee; an audiovisual release of a documentary about the young and very-talented pianist Lucas Debargue; and many more.
Pancho Vladigerov is considered by many to be the most influential composer that Bulgaria has yet produced, gaining fame between the World Wars and earning the admiration of Shostakovich. The three works recorded here are a testament to Vladigerov’s mission to bring Bulgarian music to international attention, successfully combining elements of folk music with European classical tradition. The Vardar Rhapsody has been called ‘the Bulgarian equivalent of Chopin’s Polonaise in A’, and the lively and exotic Seven Symphonic Bulgarian Dances is among the most notable of a series of works that fuse joyous regional melodies with sophisticated Western orchestration.
Daniel-François-Esprit Auber’s music radiates both his amiable personality and the Parisian elegance of his times. The huge success of his operas resulted in a popularity for these overtures that rivalled that of Rossini, who was an early influence. Auber’s brilliant and energetic style infuses tales of romance both rustic and aristocratic, with moods ranging from dramatic heroism to dashing ballroom dances—all portrayed with the signature charm that made him a standard bearer of musical stylishness and good taste. Auber’s opera La Sirène can be found on Naxos 8.660436. This is the first volume of a project to record all the overtures to his 31 opéras-comiques, seven opéras, three drames lyriques and seven other stage works.
Tony Banks, the renowned founder member and keyboard maven of the rock band Genesis, continues his acclaimed series of orchestral compositions with Five. The suite opens with Preludeto a Million Years, originally commissioned for and performed at the Cheltenham Music Festival. Banks’ signature melodic gifts and feel for cinematic scale are all in evidence in Five, just as they were in Six (8.572986) and Seven (8.557466), ‘a work of stirring beauty’ (ProgSheet).
Muzio Clementi was born four years before Mozart and outlived Beethoven by the same span. His legacy to pianists as a composer and teacher was a significant one, introducing new virtuosity and exploring the expressive possibilities of the piano, a recently developed instrument. Clementi dedicated his youthful Op. 1 sonatas to his benefactor Peter Beckford, and the brilliant Sonata in F major, Op. 24, No. 1 is the partner work to Op. 24, No.2 played in the famous contest between Clementi and Mozart. In her recording of Scarlatti’s Keyboard Sonatas (8.573795) Soyeon Kate Lee ‘applies her playful imagination to each one, polishing it into a unique gem’ (The WholeNote).
A performer of fierce integrity and dazzling communicative power, young French pianist Lucas Debargue became the most talked-about artist of the fifteenth International Tchaikovsky Competition. This film offers unique insights into Debargue’s life as a musician at the beginning of a remarkable career, with rehearsals and concerts from Moscow to Chicago via Weimar and Salerno, revealing talents as a composer and jazz improvisor and his first-time entry into a world of recording studios, touring and fame, in a crucial year of discoveries.
Laurent Petitgirard’s eclectic career as a composer of lyrical and intensely French symphonic music, operas and chamber music is matched by conducting activities at the highest level—experience that accounts for the colourful richness of his orchestration. The rhapsodic concerto États d’âme explores the saxophone’s vocal expressiveness. Of the three symphonic poems Le Marathon is an allegory in which the runners represent birth, love and death, while Flaine is a poignant and inspiring journey through art and culture. ‘Anyone enjoying accessible contemporary music will find much to enjoy here.’ (MusicWeb International on Petitgirard’s Concertos for StringInstruments, 8.557602)
In addition to his influence as a pianist and leading keyboard composer in Vienna, the Bohemian Leopold Koželuch wrote an important body of symphonies that rank among the most significant of their time. The four examples here, heard in original, corrected editions, show consummate mastery of proportion, instrumental control and thematic development and all exude characteristic freshness and sophistication. The Symphony in B flat, titled L’Irrésolu is especially noteworthy not only as his most unusual work in the genre but for its sheer boldness of expression. Volume 1 can be heard on 8.573627 and Volume 2 on 8.573872.
The Piano Quartet by much-admired Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks is one of his longest and most imposing chamber works. Unfolding with inexorable expressive force, it utilises dance-like motifs and folk-inflected themes throughout. The pieces by Lithuanian composer Arvydas Malcys form a cohesive sequence akin to a three-movement piano quartet in which specific sound effects, emotional power and colourful textures are in perfect alignment.
The music on this recording exudes a warmth and humanity that lifts the spirit at a moment when the threads that bind the communities of our planet are becoming increasingly fragile. Daniel Herskedal has travelled through Syria, Lebanon and Palestine to study and absorb the heritage of a region fractured by conflict, and has created a suite of music that celebrates the depth of ancient traditions, and the sheer resilience and dignity of a people threatened by forces beyond their control. Through the prism of Ramallah, Behind the Wall evokes these traditions in exquisitely crafted music that is steeped in Daniel’s insight into a culture that is far too often misunderstood by many in the West. But this is far away from being a simple political statement—rather, its strength derives from landscapes visited and friendships made, reflected by the music’s lyricism and exuberance.
Winterreise is one of the greatest, most compelling and intense of all vocal song cycles. For the first of his explorations into the world of art song, Matthew Gee has turned to Schubert’s work in this unique arrangement for trombone and piano. English titles are used for the poems to emphasise the fact that text is no longer the primary expressive vehicle here. Instead, it is entrusted to the trombone, an instrument whose vocal qualities and ability to employ glissando, vibrato, portamento and microtonal inflections—allied to the use of various mutes—offers an astonishing array of tonal possibilities.
Camillo Schumann, a pupil of Carl Reinecke in Leipzig, enjoyed an admired career as an organist, pianist and prolific composer. He pursued a traditional path that reflected his own training, interests and beliefs – barely acknowledging the tumultuous contemporary musical world of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Instead, his works for horn and piano enshrine the finest qualities of German Romantic music. Sur la montagne by Laurent Ménager, a leading Luxembourgian composer, is a richly evocative depiction of a mountain landscape.
Award-winning Atanas Ourkouzounov is one of Bulgaria’s foremost composers and has written prolifically for the guitar. These five sonatas reveal elements of Bulgarian national music—sometimes through a textured soundscape that includes percussive elements—cast in forms that are often rhythmically asymmetric. Teeming with complex harmonies, contrapuntal effects and poignant depth, the sonatas are a vivid contribution to the contemporary guitar repertoire.
Moscow-born Nikita Koshkin won international fame for his 1980 score The Prince’s Toys and has since established himself as one of the greatest creative composers for the contemporary guitar. His 24 Preludes and Fugues for Solo Guitar, of which this is the first volume, is a compendium of musical styles, colours and effects. It is both a virtuosic tour de force and an expressively complex undertaking that demands unremitting technical command and absolute interpretative clarity from the performer.
Louis Spohr’s reputation as one of Germany’s leading violinists was at its height when he composed his Duets for Two Violins, Op. 39, and while it appears his intention was to finance an Italian concert tour with marketable duets, the publishers complained of their technical difficulty. Spohr defended this aspect by stating his ‘desire to give my duets more inner value, more richness of harmony’ than is usual in this genre. Indeed, a contemporary critic exclaimed that ‘it is no exaggeration to say that the ideas and artistry required for these works would be sufficient… to create three concertos.’
Lori Laitman is one of America’s leading vocal composers. These 49 songs were composed between 1997 and 2017 to texts by celebrated poets including Elizabeth Bishop, Paul Celan, Dana Gioia, David Mason, Sylvia Plath, and Joyce Sutphen, on topics that range from the profound emotional impact of the Holocaust, to humorous truths of everyday life, and the comedy and tenderness of childhood. The recording also includes two instrumental pieces for saxophone and piano. This stunning program of world premiere recordings is performed by an all-star cast that includes the composer herself.
The works in this selection were composed during the first 30 years of Beethoven’s life. The programme of recital, chamber, concerto and symphonic works gives a clear indication of what was yet to come from his progressive pen.
* Available only on download and streaming platforms
‘For years, Debussy’s Études, which are dedicated to ‘the memory of Frederic Chopin’, had been distanced from the programs of pianists, seen as dry, abstract, annoying pieces. However, apart from their importance in piano learning, these études are actually concise, emotional colorful masterpieces that are products of imagination.’ – Ilhan Mimaroğlu (from an article on Debussy), Turkey 1961
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!
Lori Laitman: I Am In Need of Music (Gruber, Scarlata, Rosenblum)
Pancho Vladigerov: Bulgarian Suite, Op. 21: III. Chorovodna (Rousse Philharmonic Orchestra, Todorov)
Louis Spohr: Duet for 2 Violins in D Minor, Op. 39, No. 1: II. Adagio (J. Cooper, J. Dickenson)
Muzio Clementi: Keyboard Sonata in E Major, Op. 1, No. 6: II. Rondeau (Soyeon Kate Lee)
Daniel-François Auber: Le Séjour militaire, S. 3: Overture (Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, Salvi)
Leopold Koželuch: Symphony in A Major, P. I:10, ‘À la française’: I. Allegro di molto (Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, F. Dvořák, Štilec)
Arvydas Malcys: Milky Way (Ippolitov-Ivanov Piano Quartet)
Tony Banks: Five: II. Reveille (arr. N. Ingman) (T. Banks, Czech National Symphony Orchestra and Choir, N. Ingman)
Daniel Herskedal: Moosiqa Alsalam – Peace Music (Meland, Robak, Hjertvik)
Nikita Koshkin: 24 Preludes and Fugues, Vol. 1: Prelude No. 10 in C-Sharp Minor (Asya Selyutina)
We are celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday with a dynamic CELEBRATE BEETHOVEN playlist with various themes based on his life, compositional periods, types of works, and more. This month, we focus on the music from his early compositional period:
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