We begin 2019 with an exciting issue of NEW ON NAXOS, with some great titles! Our spotlight release is Boris Giltburg’s newest recording, performing Franz Liszt’s highly virtuosic Transcendental Etudes, with the Rigoletto Paraphrase and La leggierezza. Boris’ previous recordings have been highly acclaimed, with his album of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 most recently winning the Best Solo Performance (20th Century) at the inaugural Opus Klassik Awards.
Other highlights include: Russian Cello Concertos featuring acclaimed cellist Li-Wei Qin; audiovisual release of Giuseppe Verdi’s Stiffelio staged by award-winning director Graham Vick; Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Les Fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour on DVD from Opera Lafayette; the world premiere recording of Alfred Cellier’s opera Dorothy conducted by Richard Bonynge; Florence Price’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4 performed by the Fort Smith Symphony Orchestra and conductor John Jeter; Bedřich Smetana’s three Swedish Symphonic Poems presented by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra under Leoš Svárovský; a special 6-album boxed set of John Field’s Piano Concertos, Nocturnes and Sonatas recorded by Benjamin Frith, and many more.
Liszt’s Études d’exécution transcendante enshrine the spirit of High Romanticism, embodying extremes of expressive drama and technical virtuosity. His encyclopedic approach to technique is shown at its most dazzling in this cycle, heard here in the 1852 revision which Liszt himself declared ‘the only authentic one’. Integration of musical and technical elements is absolute, and the music’s narratives are supported by dramatic physicality, an orchestral richness of sonority, and an exceptional colouristic quality.
Russian composers have made a significant contribution to the repertoire of music for cello and orchestra. Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, deftly scored for an 18th-century orchestra, reveals his admiration for Mozart whereas the Pezzo capriccioso is full of ripe charm. In the year of Tchaikovsky’s death, Rimsky-Korsakov composed the attractive Serenade, Op. 37 and his student, Glazunov, both absorbed and continued the great Romantic lineage with his own sonorous and beautiful Concerto ballata, the poignant Chant du ménestrel, and the iberian evocations of the Sérénade espagnole from Deux Morceaux.
Verdi’s Stiffelio is a tense moral drama in which a Protestant minister learns of his wife’s betrayal and is torn between a thirst for revenge and his religious duty of forgiveness. These themes of adultery and divorce were social taboos in 1850, and Stiffelio was met with such censorship and disapproval that it was soon withdrawn. Today we can appreciate both the title character’s significance as the first true Verdi tenor, and the many wonderful moments in this ‘most unjustly neglected of Verdi’s operas’. This unique and dynamic production from Parma was acclaimed for taking us to ‘a whole new theatrical world’ (Huffington Post), and as ‘nothing short of a coup’ (bachtrack.com).
Les Fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour was Rameau’s first exploration of the world of Egyptian mythology. Its libretto called for magic, gods and extraordinary natural effects to which he responded with one of his most comprehensively brilliant scores, blending a gallant and pastoral inspiration of extreme refinement with powerful vocal and orchestral writing. In his use of a fluid and continuous flow of music, in the theatrical deployment of choruses, and in the blurring of the distinction between recitatives and airs, Rameau entered a new and pioneering stage of development. The score heard in this performance is the authoritative version.
Alfred Cellier was a contemporary of Arthur Sullivan as a Chapel Royal chorister, and would later conduct several Gilbert and Sullivan productions. With its rural tale of disguise and romantic scheming, its jaunty tunes, lively characters and farcical comedy, Cellier’s light opera, Dorothy, has been almost entirely forgotten today. It had the longest run of any 19th-century piece of musical theatre, seeing off The Mikado and Ruddigore, and became such a popular hit in its day that the box office profits were able to fund the building of the Lyric Theatre on London’s Shaftsbury Avenue.
Florence Price was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and studied at the New England Conservatory, but it was in Chicago that her composing career accelerated. The concert in 1933 at which her Symphony No. 1 inE Minor was premiered was the first time a major American orchestra had performed a piece written by an African American woman. Influenced by Dvořák and Coleridge-Taylor, she drew on the wellspring of Negro spirituals and vernacular dances, full of lyricism and syncopation. The Symphony No. 4 in D Minor demonstrates her tight ensemble writing, her distinct sense of orchestral colour, her Ellingtonian ‘jungle style’ language and her penchant for the ‘juba’ dance.
The symphonic poems Smetana wrote during his stay in Sweden were composed during a pivotal time in his life. Financial prospects at first seemed better in Gothenburg than in his native country, while the dual influences of Berlioz and Liszt were informing the direction of his music. Richard III is not a programmatic drama, but focuses instead on the haunting scene before the Battle of Bosworth in Shakespeare’s play. Wallenstein’s Camp is symphonically structured, while Hakon Jarl dramatises the life of the tyrannical Viking warrior with memorable flair.
Irish by birth, John Field gained an international reputation as one of the finest pianists of his time, with an influential delicacy and nuance in his playing that is expressed in his innovative and poetically lyrical Nocturnes. Field’s earlier Sonatas are more classical in feel, but their sense of flow and dramatic narrative exhibit qualities that are developed and given added virtuoso panache in his fine Piano Concertos, works admired by Liszt, Chopin and Schumann. ‘Benjamin Frith has done a stellar job in bringing these concertos into the sunlight, brilliantly supported by the Northern Sinfonia under David Haslam’ (Pianist magazine).
These world premiere recordings of works by award-winning composer David Gompper reflect his recent interest in the concerto, as well as his evolution of approach through increasing complexity in time and space, textural landscape and narrative detail. The Double Concerto‘Dialogue’ covers moods from lyrical to argumentative and inconsequential chatter to deeper reflection, while the Clarinet Concerto relates to the energy and skill of the Parkour runner. The explosive colours of Sunburst are associated with the star-shaped proportions of the Farey numeric series. Gompper’s exquisite Violin Concerto can be heard on Naxos 8.559637.
The impetus of the Mexican Revolution galvanised the use of indigenous melodies in a new and original wave of musical compositions that loosened dependence on European models. José Moncayo’s infectiously joyful Huapango, one of Mexico’s best-known works is, in its distinct national character, deeply rooted in folk music. Silvestre Revueltas’s La noche de los mayas is a symphonic suite derived from film music that employs Mexican percussion instruments in a vividly inventive way. The process of linking folk influence with classical techniques continues to the present day with Hebert Vázquez’s El árbol de la vida which uses the folk style known as the son.
Nikolai Kapustin’s music is renowned in contemporary circles for its witty and seamless fusion of jazz idioms and formal classical structures. In recent years, the composer has forged a formidable association with American flautist Immanuel Davis, who here interprets his highly sophisticated FluteSonata, Op. 125 with great virtuosity. Divertissement explores the different jazz harmonies available from the four instruments, contrasting with the textural transparency of A Little Duo.
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Johann Sebastian’s eldest son, enjoyed a reputation as one of Germany’s finest organists, but his career was one of mixed fortunes and he died in poverty. The dating of his Six Duets is the subject of speculation, but their level of technical sophistication is quite remarkable. Each instrument is given equal status in music that is full of the kind of joyous brilliance, passion and free-mindedness of spirit that transcends virtuosity and the stylistic boundaries of W.F. Bach’s period.
This album brings together a selection of religious compositions by Giacomo Meyerbeer, including several works presumed lost until their recent discovery. These rediscovered pieces stand out for their masterful quality and highly individual style, such as the Hymne An Gott, which demonstrates Meyerbeer’s sensitivity and skill with text. Other gems include the luminous Pater Noster and the melancholy Prélude et Cantique, which draws on the spirituality of the late Middle Ages and was of great significance to the composer.
On 14 December 1918, women were permitted to stand for Parliament and were granted the vote for the first time in British history. As part of the centenary celebrations for this milestone and to raise awareness of persistent inequalities in society, Hilary Campbell and the distinctive choir, Blossom Street, present repertoire by famous and lesser-known female composers, ranging from Rebecca Clarke’s moving AveMaria to Stef Conner’s haunting setting of Hildegard von Bingen’s text O splendidissima gemma.
This second volume of Pfitzner’s Complete Lieder (Volume 1 is on 8.572602) covers the period between 1884 and 1916 and shows why he was considered such a key figure among composers of his generation. A central theme of the songs is the archetypical Romantic focus on the portrayal of nature as a reflection of human feelings. The youthful and enduringly popular Ist der Himmeldarum im Lenz so blau (Is the sky so blue in the spring) reflects his greatest qualities as a song composer – a memorable tune and rich, flowing harmonies. Favouring the bold use of colour, Pfitzner’s songs are characterised by a lively, pulsing rhythm and sweeping, ecstatic melodies.
Muzio Clementi saw the piano evolve from relative fragility in the 18th century to its dominance at the beginning of the Romantic era – his influence in developing the instrument’s virtuoso possibilities cannot be overstated. These works embrace this progression, illustrating Clementi’s earlier Classical style in the Sonata, Op. 1, No. 3, introducing more scintillating virtuosity in Op. 8, No. 2, and taking us to the dramatic final sonatas including Op.50, No. 3, which narrates the story of Dido, Queen of Carthage.
Antonio Ruiz-Pipó was one of the bravest and most progressive of the Spanish composers to escape the Franco dictatorship. His Andalusian background, Catalan training, residence in Paris and an enduring admiration of his ‘saint’ Manuel de Falla have all shaped his œuvre. These solo and chamber works offer an overview of his career, from the poignant Estancias to the Mediterranean-influenced Trio en miniaturas which also represents Ruiz-Pipó’s fascination with the music of antiquity. Infused with elements of French lyricism and sultry Spanish moods, Ruiz-Pipó’s complex but humane musical idiom is richly deserving of discovery.
Dale Kavanagh is one of the most prominent classical guitarists of her generation. As a soloist and a member of the acclaimed Amadeus Guitar Duo she has performed all over the world and is the dedicatee of numerous compositions. Domeniconi’s Variations are based on a famous Anatolian folk song, while the highly original language of Britten’s evocative Nocturnal has its starting point in a song by John Dowland. Cooperman’s Walking on Water was inspired by Peter Sellers’ last film Being There, and Ponce’s Folia de España is often considered one of the most magnificent guitar pieces ever written.
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!
Franz Liszt: 12 Études d’exécution transcendante, S139/R2b: No. 8 in C Minor (Boris Giltburg)
Florence Beatrice Price: Symphony No. 4 in D Minor: III. Juba Dance (Fort Smith Symphony, Jeter)
Bedřich Smetana: Triumphal Symphony in E Major, Op. 6: III. Scherzo (Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Svárovský)
Giacomo Meyerbeer: An Gott (arr. D. Salvi) (Chudak, New Prussian Philharmony Berlin, Sawicki, Salvi)
Roxanna Panufnik: The Sweet Spring (Blossom Street, Thwaite, Campbell)
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