This January, we kick off Naxos’ 30th anniversary with a spotlight on two new recordings from two Naxos artists. Rising star pianist Boris Giltburg, joined by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Vasily Petrenko, presents his fourth album on Naxos, this time tackling Dmitry Shostakovich’s two piano concertos, plus exciting arrangements by Giltburg himself for solo piano of Shostakovich’s String Quartets Nos. 2 and 8. Renowned conductor Marin Alsop leads the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in a new recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonies Nos. 1 ‘Jeremiah’ and 2 ‘The Age of Anxiety’. Award-winning artists, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano and star-pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, are also featured on the album
Other highlights include Alban Berg’s highly-popular opera Wozzeck, featuring baritone Roman Trekel on the title role, with soprano Anne Schwanewilms, tenor Marc Molomot, and bass-baritone Nathan Berg. The Houston Symphony Orchestra is conducted by its former Music Director, Hans Graf; Leonard Slatkin’s latest addition to his highly-acclaimed Ravel orchestral cycle, conducting the Orchestre National de Lyon, featuring the complete recording of Daphnis et Chloé, paired with Une barque sur l’océan; the Complete Rossini Overtures, in a four-disc boxed set, performed by the Prague Sinfonia conducted by Christian Benda; and volume 4 of The Guerra Manuscript Series, a collection of 17th Century Secular Spanish Vocal Music, performed by Ars AtlĂˇntica, sopranos Mercedes Hernández and Yetzabel Arias Fernández, and tenor Francisco Fernández-Rueda.
Shostakovich’s two Piano Concertos span a period of almost thirty years. The youthful First Piano Concerto is a masterful example of eclecticism, its inscrutable humor and seriousness allied to virtuoso writing enhanced by the rôle for solo trumpet. Written as a birthday present for his son Maxim, the Second Piano Concerto is light-spirited with a hauntingly beautiful slow movement. With the permission of the composer’s family, Boris Giltburg has arranged the exceptionally dark, deeply personal and powerful String Quartet No. 8, thereby establishing a major Shostakovich solo piano composition.
Leonard Bernstein’s legendary 1943 Carnegie Hall conducting début brought his name to national attention, and the event was followed a few months later by the triumphant reception of his Symphony No. 1 ‘Jeremiah.’ This major symphonic statement explores a crisis in faith and employs Jewish liturgical sources, its final movement, Lamentation, being an anguished cry at the destruction of Jerusalem. Sharing the theme of loss of faith, Symphony No. 2 ‘The Age of Anxiety’ takes W.H. Auden’s poem of the same name and follows its four characters in their spiritual journey to hard-won triumph. Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Kaddish’ can be heard on Naxos 8.559742.
Alban BERG (1885–1935)
Libretto by Georg Büchner
Roman Trekel, Baritone • Anne Schwanewilms, Soprano
Marc Molomot, Tenor • Nathan Berg, Bass-Baritone
Members of Houston Grand Opera Children’s Chorus
Karen Reeves, Chorusmaster • Chorus of Students and Alumni, Shepherd School of Music • Rice University • Houston Symphony Orchestra • Hans Graf
Based on real events and playwright Georg Büchner’s starkly vehement text, Alban Berg’s tragic opera Wozzeck is an epoch-making work, in stark contrast to the previous high romantic ideals of the genre, that led Schoenberg to exclaim “now that’s what I call an opera!” Immensely powerful and heartbreakingly moving as a drama, Wozzeck explores the victimization, despair and madness of a central character who has no place in society, its deeply humane message and sublimely innovative score firmly establishing it as a 20th-century masterpiece.
Composed for Sergey Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Ravel’s ‘symphonie chorégraphique’ Daphnis et Chloé is based on a classical Greco-Roman love story set on the island of Lesbos. He described the work as ‘a vast musical fresco’, and with its extraordinarily passionate music, lush harmonies and orchestration, is considered both his masterpiece and the epitome of Impressionism in music. Orchestrated from the third of his Miroirs for piano, Ravel’s Une barque sur l’océan is an evocative portrayal of the ever-changing moods of the sea.
Rossini’s musical wit and zest for comic characterization have enriched the operatic repertoire immeasurably, and his overtures distill these qualities into works of colorful orchestration, bravura and charm. From his most popular, such as La scala di seta (The Silken Ladder) and La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie), to the rarity Matilde of Shabran, the full force of Rossini’s dramatic power is revealed in these masterpieces of invention. Each of the four discs in this set has received outstanding international acclaim, with Volume 2 described as “an unalloyed winner” by ClassicsToday, and the Prague Sinfonia Orchestra’s playing described as “stunning” by American Record Guide (Volume 3).
The Guerra Manuscript, named after its copyist José Miguel de Guerra y Villegas, is a repository of one hundred of the greatest secular songs (tonos humanos) circulating in the Madrid court of seventeenth-century Spain. The songs were composed by the leading figures of the Spanish Baroque and include many by the most prestigious of all, José Marín and Juan Hidalgo. Ideally accompanied by one of the principal Spanish baroque instruments, the arpa de dos órdenes (double harp), they explore ideas of love, praise, and beauty. This volume includes perhaps the best-known song of all, Corazón que en prisión.
This programme of four colorful, contrasting but complementary works for small orchestra celebrates the lighter side of four twentieth-century Italian composers, centering on Alfredo Casella’s Divertimento for Fulvia, composed for his young daughter. Casella’s friend Gian Francesco Malipiero wrote Oriente immaginario (Imaginary Orient) for a Futurist play by Achille Ricciardi (1884-1923). Franco Donatoni once called his simply-titled Musica (Music) ‘kind of Schoenberg gone a bit neoclassical’ – but also with a great sense of humor – while Giorgio Federico Ghedini’s Concerto grosso is a twentieth-century tribute to both Bach and Beethoven.
Described by The New York Times as ‘driven by a playful, modern sensibility’, the music of Swiss composer Richard Dubugnon blends elegant Gallic transparency with the rhythmical and structural complexity of German musical culture. The result is a very individual and immediately communicative idiom, notable for its colorful orchestration. Arcanes Symphoniques is a musical game, each performance of its brief allegorical movements taking on a different meaning derived from the symbols on Tarot cards. The unusually scored Triptyque and mini-opera Le Songe Salinas use texts by Stéphane Héaume in settings both tragic and sensually exotic.
The personification of turn-of-the-century America, John Philip Sousa toured the world and won unprecedented fame. His marches are acknowledged as some of the best in the genre and The Triumph of Time embodies all the nobility of his great parade marches. Sousa the successful operetta composer is encountered in the dashing overture to The Irish Dragoon, in the spirited Circus Galop, and in selections from The Charlatan, one of his most lyrical and successful operettas. Showpieces and solos enhance a program that also features the iconic Sousa/Walter Damrosch arrangement of The Star Spangled Banner.
The three colorful works on this world première recording are a representative sample of 20th century Catalan music, all of them including popular cobla band instruments such as the tible and the tenora with their bright, piercing reeds, and the flabiol flute with its high tones. Manuel Oltra’s music is deeply rooted in Catalan tradition, and L’Alimara is a symphonic poem with medieval echoes. Both Juli Garreta’s Suite empordanesa and Joan Lluís Moraleda’s epic Tirant lo Blanc are considered milestones in Catalonian symphonic music, the latter transporting us to the fights, feasts and chivalric romance of its eponymous hero.
Hindemith’s post-war Clarinet Concerto was commissioned by Benny Goodman and showcases the composer’s distinctive harmonies and rhythmic bounce. Dedicated to Eddy Vanoosthuyse, Jan Van der Roost’s Clarinet Concerto, which here receives its première recording, reveals a work that balances the instrument’s serious and mysterious side against its acrobatic virtuosity. Richard Strauss composed his Romanze at the age of fifteen, his ambitious precocity creating music of great charm and elegance. Sergio Rosales, hailed as one of one of Venezuela’s foremost ‘El Sistema’ conductors, conducts the Central Aichi Symphony Orchestra.
Chamber music formed the central part of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ output in his later years, and the marvelously poised and largely introspective Sonata for Violin Alone, dedicated to Duccio Ceccanti, is among his final works. Also cast in a single movement, the Sonata for Violin and Piano is a fantasia that traces an imaginary walk through Rome, while the Piano Trio takes us on the lyrical wings of plainsong to the remote and craggy beauty of Fair Isle near the composer’s home in Orkney. The acclaimed Ceccanti brothers worked closely with Maxwell Davies, performing many premières of his music.
Amongst his portfolio of works for piano, Liszt wrote transcriptions and arrangements, some derived from his own scores and some based on the work of others. His own songs, of which he wrote over 80, reveal his particular gifts as a lyric composer, fully reflected in his piano transcriptions. The melancholic Il m’aimait tant! and the beautiful Ich liebe dich are Liszt’s own inspirations whilst patriotic Hungarian pieces such as Szózat and Ungarischer Hymnus (the then newly established Hungarian Anthem) demonstrate his status as a national hero.
Idil Biret Archive
[12 CDs + DVD]
Reissues of Marco Polo Chinese Classics
NA0235 • 6-CD Set *digital pre-release
NA0260 • 2-CD Set *digital pre-release
NA0284 • 8-CD Set *digital pre-release
NA0254 • 4-CD Set
NA0258 • 9-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!
Donizetti: Gloria in C Major
Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Pt. 3: Pantomime
String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110: II. Allegro molto (Arr. B. Giltburg for Piano)
Berg: Wozzeck, Op. 7, Act II: Was die Steine glänzen? (Live)
Bernstein: Symphony No. 2 "The Age of Anxiety", Pt. 2: The Dirge