This month’s NEW ON NAXOS spotlight recording is Leonard Slatkin and the Orchestre National de Lyon’s recordings of two more of Ravel’s operas – L’Heure espagnole and Don Quichotte à Dulcinée – following the critically-acclaimed release of Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges and Ma Mère l’Oye on Naxos 8.660336.
Other highlights include the world première recording of Leo Weiner’s Csongor and Tünde, heard here in its final 1959 version and theBallad for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 28, of which the version for viola and orchestra is included in this recording, performed by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra MÁV, and directed by Valéria Csányi; Haydn’s opera overtures, with the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, conducted by Michael Halász; a new album from one of the most highly regarded composers of his generation, Mohammed Fairouz’s No Orpheus; and Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s world première recordings of Francis Chagrin’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2.
Maurice Ravel’s stage works are as subtle and expressively poised as can be imagined. In the Spanish-tinged L’Heure espagnole he breathes new life into the Italian genre of the opera buffa, enhancing the comedy in the plot by giving it a gentle human poignancy and poetic presence. The clarity of Ravel’s vocal writing, and his signature harmonic magic and luminous orchestration, make this opera a delight for the ear. Don Quichotte à Dulcinée was Ravel’s last composition, imbuing Cervantes’s famous character with aristocratic Spanish swagger as well as a kind of heroic tenderness and vulnerability. Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges from Lyon can be found on Naxos 8.660336.
For over half a century at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, Leo Weiner taught successive generations of Hungary’s leading musicians, and won his country’s highest awards. As a composer his career was comet-like in its early brilliance and his music marked by an imaginative use of colour, masterful instrumentation and lyrical emotion. He regarded Csongor and Tünde as his magnum opus and its incidental music was later to take independent form as a ballet, heard here in its final 1959 version. The impressionistic Ballad, Op. 28 for viola and orchestra derives from an earlier work for clarinet and piano.
Haydn’s operas are little-performed today though many of them were immensely popular during his lifetime, being staged far beyond the wealthy Esterháza court for which they were written. They range from dark, supernatural dramas to light-hearted capers, one even including a character tricked into believing he is on the moon. These overtures give free rein to Haydn’s musical gifts and dramatic flair, encapsulating in miniature the emotional range of the operas themselves.
Mohammed FAIROUZ (b. 1985)
Kiera Duffy, Soprano • Kate Lindsey, Mezzo-Soprano
Christopher Burchett, Baritone • Margaret Lancaster, Flute
Emily Ondracek, Violin • Ashley Bathgate, Cello
David Moody • Russell Miller, Pianos
Mohammed Fairouz has rapidly become one of the most highly regarded composers of his generation, receiving wide acclaim for works such as Native Informant (Naxos 8.559744) and his 4th symphony, In the Shadow of No Towers (Naxos 8.573205). These songs, representing a decade of vocal writing, deal with powerful social issues and sensual celebrations of life and being human. From Refugee Blues to After the Revels, the above themes span texts from ancient times to world war II. The theme of loss is also compellingly expressed, with the intense, distilled narrative of No Orpheus, a portrait of departed family members, and concluding with Edgar Allan Poe’s last completed poem, the hauntingly mournful Annabel Lee.