This month’s NEW ON NAXOS spotlight recording is a special 8-CD box set, which includes a bonus DVD, celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s birth centennial. This set consists all of the highly acclaimed recordings by his protégé Marin Alsop with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and São Paulo Symphony Orchestra – as well as new world premiere recordings of Bernstein’s CBS Music, Birthday Bouquet, and the orchestral version of the Anniversaries. A bonus DVD of Georg Wübbolt’s award-winning documentary Leonard Bernstein – Larger Than Life is also included featuring interviews with Bernstein’s children, and colleagues and collaborators such as Stephen Sondheim, Gustavo Dudamel, Marin Alsop and many more.
Other highlights include the audiovisual release of Valery Gergiev and the Münchner Philharmoniker’s BBC Proms concert from 2016, with pianist Behzod Abduraimov and actor Alexei Petrenko; orchestral music by Camille Saint-Saëns recorded by the Basque National Orchestra and Jun Märkl; world premiere recordings of three early works by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari performed by the tenor Rainer Trost, baritone Joan Martín-Royo, Coro El León de Oro and the Oviedo Filarmonía, conducted by Friedrich Haider; GioachinoRossini’s rarely heard opera Ricciardo e Zoraide from the Rossini in Wildbad Bel Canto Festival, starring tenor Maxim Mironov and soprano Alessandra Marianelli in the title roles, conducted by José Miguel Pérez-Sierra; Baroque specialist Ralf Otto’s recording of J.S. Bach’s St John Passion in its final 1749 version, with the Bachchor Mainz and Bachorchester Mainz; Orlandus Lassus’ St Matthew Passion performed by the Danish vocal ensemble Musica Ficta and founder-conductor Bo Holten; and many more.
Leonard Bernstein was without question the greatest musician America ever produced. As an inspirational teacher and renowned conductor he was the nation’s musical ambassador to the world, and his work as a composer bridged gaps and broke down barriers, reaching audiences way beyond the normal boundaries of classical music. This celebration of Bernstein’s centenary brings together all of the acclaimed Naxos recordings of his music conducted by his protégée Marin Alsop as well as new and world premiere recordings, and an insightful documentary DVD in which colleagues and family sum up this boundlessly brilliant and charismatic musical giant of the 20th century.
Valery Gergiev, fresh from his appointment as chief conductor of the Münchner Philharmoniker in 2015, takes his new ensemble to the BBC Proms for a concert of the utmost in drama and vivid musicianship. The brilliant young Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov performs Rachmaninov’s thrillingly virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 3, while the Russian stage and film actor Alexei Petrenko recites the text in Galina Ustvolskaya’s resonant and profound Symphony No. 3 ‘Jesus Messiah, Save Us!’. The programme also features a hypnotic Ravel Boléro, an alternately tender, florid and witty Rosenkavalier Suite, and the rousing Hungarian March by Berlioz.
Saint-Saëns’ travels often resulted in geographically themed works, such as the Suite algérienne: this exotic musical picture postcard – full of perfumed sensuality and the brazen confidence of march themes – reflects the composer’s visits to colonial North Africa. The two suites on this recording are both structured around dance movements and were originally scored for different forces – the Suite in D Major, Op. 49 for harmonium, the Suite in D Minor, Op. 16 for cello and piano. The engaging Serenade, Op. 15, rarely performed with its original, exotic scoring, is heard here in an orchestral transcription.
Before he sprang to international fame as an operatic composer, Wolf-Ferrari had embarked on an important sequence of choral works. The very early Otto cori, Op. 2, set to Italian and German texts, contain some of the most beautiful music he ever wrote, revealing his love of Italian Renaissance music through grace, bucolic melancholy, humorous wit and sublime characterisation. In Talitha Kumi!, Op. 3, the title derived from an Aramaic quotation from Mark’s Gospel, the voice of an Evangelist carries the biblical narrative of Jesus bringing the daughter of Jairus back to life against a rich orchestral backdrop.
Based on an epic poem by Niccolò Forteguerri and set in the times of the Crusades, Ricciardo e Zoraide is a drama full of infatuations and jealousy, imprisonment and murderous plots, concluding with a gallant rescue and a benevolent outcome. The problems of such a complex and intense libretto were solved by Rossini through sheer dramatic skill, sophisticated melodic inventiveness, an emphasis on contrasts between dark and light, and the innovative and extensive use of on-stage musicians. This rarely heard opera is a true bel canto feast that reinvents the long tradition of chivalrous tales that still fascinate us today.
Johann Sebastian Bach’s St John Passion is, along with the St Matthew Passion, without doubt one of the most important works he ever composed. It established a new tradition for Good Friday vespers in Leipzig, and with sublime skill Bach managed to retain a spirit of church worship while creating an almost operatic narrative that movingly depicts Christ’s trial, death, and ultimate apotheosis. Bach’s numerous revisions always demand a certain amount of scholarly decision-making, and this recording of the St John Passion uses the final 1749 version that not only draws on and reinforces the best of Bach’s original concept, but incorporates the additional movements of the 1725 version.
Orlandus Lassus was one of the greatest and most celebrated musicians of his day, and a teacher whose influence extended into the Baroque period and beyond. Although the St Matthew Passion is almost always associated with J.S. Bach’s towering masterpiece, earlier settings developed from plainchant into polyphony throughout the 16th century. Lassus composed four Passions of which this is the most elaborate. His sublimely interwoven polyphonic settings are here placed alongside a traditional Roman Catholic Passion chant through which the roles of Jesus and the Evangelist unfold in a seemingly timeless meditation. Certain key moments in the otherwise austere Passion story are further illuminated in this recording by the inclusion of motets and a spiritual madrigal.
These three concertos share a traditional three-movement structure and owe their origins to composers who are acclaimed and highly respected in their field, but this is as far as their similarities go. Frank Ticheli’s Clarinet Concerto pays homage to Gershwin, Copland and Bernstein in its jazzy influences and song-like central movement, while Brad Warnaar’s Horn Concerto is based entirely around the diatonic or ‘white’ scale, reverberating with bell motifs and concluding with jocular musical banter between soloist and orchestra. Behzad Ranjbaran is a native of Iran, and his Flute Concerto is packed with exotic color, expressing contrasts of grief and joy, dream-like tenderness, and festive energy.
Contemporary music is alive and well in innumerable forms and genres, and the flexibility and colorful sonorities of the flute have attracted composers of every style. This collection of beautiful chamber music with flute is performed by award-winning soloist Alice K. Dade and includes four premiere recordings. These take us from Aaron Jay Kernis’s Air, the composer’s ‘love letter in music,’ via the youthful memories of Michael Fine’s Skipping Stones, the Baroque and jazz elements in Noam Elkies’ E Sonata and the breathtaking mountain scenery of Jennifer Margaret Barker’s Na Trì Peathraichan, to the novel and mysterious musical mirroring of Dan Coleman’s Pavanes and Symmetries. This is a program to tease the imagination and stimulate the senses.
One of Spain’s most internationally admired living composers, Lorenzo Palomo is the natural successor to Joaquín Turina. His orchestral music shares a sense of rhapsodic freedom with Turina’s, perfectly exemplified by the Sinfonía Córdoba. This rapturous portrait of the city conjures its architecture and spirit with dance rhythms and vivid, poetic lyricism. Written for the unique combination of guitar, violin and orchestra, Fulgores skilfully blends these three voices in music that possesses a wealth of tonal colour and expressive beauty.
Joaquim Homs is recognised as the leading pioneer of twelve-tone composition in Spain, but the products of his long life and career were always grounded in romantic expressiveness. On this album of his complete guitar works, French impressionism can be heard in the earliest, Suite d’Homenatges, and the influence of Bartók in Entre dues línies. His atonal works of the 1950s absorbed the spirit of Webern while still communicating Spanish poetic warmth, but his definitive style emerged after the tragically early death of his wife in 1967, with works such as the Soliloquies exploring introspection, concision and silence.
Jia Daqun is one of his country’s most internationally admired composers, whose Flavor of Bashu was named Chinese Classic Musical Composition of the 20th Century by the Chinese government. The evocative percussion works here exemplify his ability to combine a variety of musical cultures and instruments in a single work. In Pole this is achieved through the fusing of Chinese traditional percussive instruments and those from the West, whilst in The Song without Words a panoply of vivid instrumentation celebrates the quarter-century of diplomatic relations between China and Japan. Jia draws on elegant folk customs and uses evocative native instruments such as gongs, ban-drum and muyus (Chinese temple block) in the exotic Sound Games.
Throughout the 20th century Venezuelan composers created a repertoire of guitar works that, with their vivid rhythms, folkloric elements and brilliant colours, captured the country’s musical soul – a process that continues to this day. These elements can be found in the rich lyricism of the folk songs arranged by guitarist Nirse González, in the charm of Inocente Carreño’s suites, or in the sophisticated synthesis of Latin American styles evoked by Federico Ruíz. Ceremonial ritual and use of the joropo dance are expressive features of Pedro Mauricio González’s Tetralogía.
Franz Liszt was born in Raiding, Hungary, and gypsy music fascinated him from childhood. After studies, concert tours and romantic adventures abroad, Liszt returned to his native country in 1839 and was hailed as a champion of its national identity. This program presents Liszt’s original Hungarian Rhapsodies from the Magyar Dalok collection, introducing themes used in later volumes. The inspiration he found in gypsy music-making created virtuoso piano works that assimilate its melancholy drama and wild dances, imitating local rhythms and colorful instruments such as the cimbalom, and elaborating on melodies of the day in a refined and spectacular act of national storytelling.
The period 1940–44 covered in this fourth volume of the piano music of the progressive and fiercely independent Italian composer Camillo Togni saw him rethinking elements of twelve-tone technique, chromatic harmonies and lyrical impulses. The result was a unique synthesis of competing styles reflected in the inner diary of his Serenatas, of which three are heard here. The imposing Serenata No. 2, Op. 11 is a complex nocturne and the companion works are both meditative and lively. His fondness for the music of Casella is reflected in the Baroque-tinged Suite, Op. 14a whilst Busoni haunts the attractive Quattro Pezzi, Op. 22.
NA0294 • 42-CD Set
NA0296 • 6-CD Set
NA0301 • 11-CD Set
NA0300 • 26-CD Set *digital pre-release
NA0297 • 39-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: Suite in D Major, Op. 49: IV. Romance (Basque National Orchestra, Märkl)
Brad Warnaar: Horn Concerto: III. Tarantella (Norton, Nashville Symphony, Guerrero)
Leonard Bernstein: A Bernstein Birthday Bouquet: To Lenny! To Lenny! (São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Alsop)
Gioachino Rossini: Ricciardo e Zoraide, Act II: Sarem noi sempre insieme (Beltrami, Marianelli, Mironov, Virtuosi Brunensis, Pérez-Sierra)