This month’s NEW ON NAXOS spotlight is on Henning Kraggerud’s recording of the newly rediscovered violin concerto by Johan Halvorsen, paired with another concerto by Carl Nielsen and Johan Svendsen’s Romance. This album also features renowned Norwegian conductor Bjarte Engeset leading the Malmö Symphony Orchestra.
Other highlights include the second of two recordings of Brahms’ piano quartets, this time featuring his Second Piano Quartet in A major, Op. 26 plus Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A minor, performed by pianist Eldar Nebolsin, violinist Anton Barakhovsky, violist Alexander Zemtsov, and cellist Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt; Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra’s newest recording includes excerpts from three ballet works Hrabina, Halka, and The Haunted Manor by Polish composer Stanisław Moniuszko. Richard Strauss’ suites from Ariadne auf Naxos (arranged by D. Wilson Ochoa) and Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, performed by JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; acclaimed English composer Patrick Hawes’ choral works – including Revelation, Beatitudes, and Quanta Qualia – presented by the Elora Singers and conductor Noel Edison; and a special 3-CD boxed set of the Amar Quartet’s recordings of Paul Hindemith’s Complete String Quartets.
In his day, Johan Halvorsen was one of Norway’s most talented violinists and an internationally renowned conductor and composer. With its beautifully lyrical themes and Norwegian character including Hardanger fiddle effects, his Violin Concerto was described by contemporary critics as ‘an outstanding work’ and performed to great acclaim in 1909. It was considered lost, only to be rediscovered in 2015 in the archive of its original soloist. With its equally confident opening and symphonic proportions, Nielsen’s Violin Concerto combines emotive power with a delightfully pastoral character, while Johan Svendsen’s spontaneously inventive and melodic Romance has become one of his best-loved works.
After a period as a court composer at Detmold, Brahms returned to the city of his birth, Hamburg, in January 1860. Here, in relative tranquility, he explored the then rare piano quartet repertoire. The Piano Quartet No. 2 received a very sympathetic hearing in Vienna, Clara Schumann even preferring it to its immediate predecessor, the Piano Quartet, Op. 25 [Naxos 8.572798]. Its lyricism is heightened by a romantically beautiful Adagio. Mahler’s vibrant Piano Quartet in A minor dates from 1876, the end of his first year at the Vienna Conservatory, where the only completed movement was first performed.
Stanisław Moniuszko was Poland’s leading nineteenth-century opera composer, and has been called the man who bridges the gap between Chopin and Szymanowski. In addition to operatic works he also composed purely orchestral music, and this recording reveals that his essentially lyric style could function perfectly in the non-vocal medium. There is thematically memorable music from the comic opera Hrabina (The Countess), as well as enduring Polish-flavored dance scenes from his most popular and famous stage work, Halka. The spirited Mazurka from Straszny Dwór (The Haunted Manor), Moniuszko’s crowning operatic achievement, draws freely and inventively from his national heritage.
Richard Strauss’ Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme suite was one of his own favorite scores, an absolute jewel of incidental music that combines the composer’s romanticism with his love of the Baroque music of Jean-Baptiste Lully. D. Wilson Ochoa has created a new symphonic orchestral suite from Strauss’ opulent Ariadne auf Naxos, enabling the orchestra to revel in music of extreme beauty and sensuous luxury, studded with gorgeous instrumental solos and the composer’s incomparable blend of poignancy, humor and melodic richness.
Patrick Hawes has emerged in recent years as one of England’s most popular and inspirational choral composers. ‘The nine pieces that form Revelation are the result of my deep love of the Book of Revelation and its powerful imagery. Where else do you get thunder, lightning and demons as well as a gentle lamb? Another of my favorite New Testament texts is the Beatitudes from St Matthew’s Gospel – these are, quite simply, some of Christ’s most comforting and beautiful words.’ Quanta Qualia had such a profound impact on the audience at the 2015 Elora Festival that the choir insisted on its inclusion in this recording.
From the bracing dynamism of the earlier quartets to the technical sophistication of the later works, Paul Hindemith’s seven String Quartets include some of his supreme chamber music masterpieces and form one of the 20th century’s greatest quartet cycles. The award-winning Amar Quartet is named after Hindemith’s own eminent ensemble of the 1920s, and their acclaimed performances explore and express every aspect of the composer’s passion and intellectual rigor in this genre. ClassicsToday.com considers these recordings ‘outstanding… an endless source of pleasure… there is little doubt that this will become the reference edition in this music.’
Enrique Soro rose to great esteem not only as Chile’s leading composer but as a distinguished pianist, conductor and teacher. The Sinfonía romántica was the first symphony to be composed in Chile and remains the most important example of the genre in the country’s musical history. Soro’s melodic distinction, mastery of orchestration and his sense of form are equally distinguished. The Tres aires chilenos espouse a kind of nationalism, fusing Chilean folk music, specifically the tonada, with the European classical tradition. The rousing Danza fantástica is a perfect concert opener.
Can Attila is one of the leading Turkish composers of his generation. Success in film and television music has been accompanied by comparable achievement in the orchestral repertory. The Gallipoli campaigns in the First World War have always held particular significance for Atilla, and Symphony No. 2 ‘Gallipoli’ – The 57th Regiment is a war symphony, composed for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the battle. This powerful elegy, in which the first two movements have an important role for solo cello, commemorates the tragic Turkish 57th Regiment and is also dedicated to the Anzac soldiers who perished in the battle.
French composer François Devienne enjoyed great esteem with his successful operas in the Revolutionary years of 1792-97, but it was as a composer for wind instruments that he has won his place in musical history. The four Flute Concertos in volume 2 of the complete set show a combination of melodic elegance and graceful virtuosity that characterises much of his work. Especially notable in this respect is No. 6 in D major, a compositional tour de force, rich in thematic material and panache, and one of the finest wind concertos of its epoch.
Louis Spohr’s innovative approach to symphonic writing began with the programmatic Symphony No. 4 (8.555398) and was further broadened by Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 121 which he subtitled ‘The Earthly and Divine in Human Life’. Jettisoning traditional symphonic form, this work is in effect a daring symphonic poem in three movements with a small orchestra representing the ‘divine’ and the full orchestra the ‘earthly’. The more traditional Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 137 – enshrining both tragic lament and sweet serenade – enables us to compare Spohr the innovator with Spohr the formalist.
Benefitting from the afterglow of the 1949 Koussevitzky Prize for his First Symphony, Peter Racine Fricker’s original and striking First Quartet was premièred later that year to international acclaim. The Second Quartet shares a formal clarity and kinship with the tonality heard in the First, but evolving in range, technique and eloquence of expression. The symmetrical Third Quartet with its intricate variations is finely crafted in the serial style of Fricker’s later music.
Giacomo Carissimi was one of the most admired of seventeenth-century Italian composers. The maestro from Marino, near Rome, acquired a Europe-wide fame at an early age and excelled in church music. Commonly employing texts that modify or amplify passages from the scriptures, rather than taking those texts verbatim, Carissimi employed all his genius for vocal melodic lines and accompanying instrumentation to fashion a sequence of spellbinding masterpieces. Foremost among these is Usquequo peccatores which, through its size and length, blurs the very distinction between motet and oratorio. This is the fourth Naxos release of music by Carissimi from this ensemble.
Pupil and friend of Beethoven and teacher to Liszt, Carl Czerny, whose pedagogical works are still widely in use today, was a key figure in European musical life. Czerny’s organ music builds on the traditions of J.S. Bach and Mendelssohn, revealing his mastery of contrapuntal technique in the Prelude and Fugue, Op. 607. Czerny visited England in 1837 and his Op. 698 collection of organ voluntaries, apparently intended for the English market, varies in mood from the quietly meditative to the triumphant. The Op. 627 set, dedicated to the Bath organist James Windsor, adds contrapuntal elements and cleverly includes anthems such as God Save the Queen.
The keyboard repertoire has been immeasurably enriched by Domenico Scarlatti’s prodigious exploration of sonatas written for the Spanish court. They represent some of the greatest such works of the entire eighteenth century. In this volume of the complete edition Sean Kennard, a Laureate of the 2013 Queen Elisabeth Competition of Belgium, explores eighteen of the 555 or so extant sonatas, revealing the remarkable variety of Scarlatti’s musical imagination, and his genius for variety through constant melodic interest, lively figurations, and brilliant displays of scale passages.
NA0235 • 6-CD Set
NA0260 • 2-CD Set
NA0284 • 8-CD Set
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!
Johan Halvorsen: Violin Concerto: III. Allegro moderato
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