We welcome the New Year with the first issue of NEW ON NAXOS for 2020. Our spotlight release is the latest offering from the Rossini in Wildbad Festival, with a live recording of Gioachino Rossini’sZelmira, conducted by Gianluigi Gelmetti. Featuring soprano Silvia Dalla Benetta in the title role, this production also includes tenors Joshua Stewart and Mert Süngü, mezzo Marina Comparato, basses Federico Sacchi and Luca Dall’Amico, with the Górecki Chamber Choir, Kraków and Virtuosi Brunensis. Gelmetti’s previous recording of Eduardo e Cristina was described as ‘Bel canto at its best.’ (The Northern Echo)
This month’s highlights: Leif Segerstam’s latest Beethoven recording, leading the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra in König Stephan; Albéric Magnard’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 presented by the Philharmonisches Orchester Freiburg and conductor Fabrice Bollon; volume 6 of Domenico Cimarosa’s Overtures performed by Patrick Gallois and the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Sir András Schiff’s 2017 BBC Proms concert of J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1on DVD and Blu-ray; and many more.
Zelmira was the last opera Rossini wrote for Naples, knowing it would also be his calling card to Vienna where he had been assured performances. Keen to reconcile the alleged incompatibility between ‘Italian’ melody and ‘German’ harmony, Rossini employed exciting and daring harmonies and a raft of dazzling orchestral effects in this tragedy in which a daughter saves her father, the king, and her son, from usurpers to the throne. The opera was acclaimed wherever it was heard, and this recording presents the revised and triumphant Paris version.
Aside from his only opera Fidelio, Beethoven’s general link with the theatre in Vienna came about largely with incidental music or songs to be inserted into the works of other composers—insertion arias. KönigStephan was written to celebrate the politically significant opening of a new theatre in Pest, its triumphant mood honouring the ruling Austrian Emperor. Standard-bearer of female heroism Leonore Prohaska is commemorated with a Soldier’s Chorus and a Romance with harp accompaniment. In Friedrich von Matthisson’s poem Opferlied (‘Sacrificial Song’), a young man prays to Zeus to bestow upon him beauty and goodness in youth and old age. Two of Beethoven’s four settings are heard on this wide-ranging programme.
The tragic death of Albéric Magnard, killed defending his home against German troops in 1914, brought a premature end to the composer’s life but not before he had completed four powerfully expressive symphonies (the Third and Fourth are on 8.574082). Symphony No. 1, with its strangely beautiful chorale, was first performed in 1893 but was then not heard again for a century. SymphonyNo. 2 caused a scandal at its premiere due to its length and complexity, but in its revised version offers radiant serenity and a dazzling confidence that reveals Magnard’s true compositional voice.
Domenico Cimarosa’s operas were remarkably successful, being staged and re-staged in opera houses all over Europe. Success in his home town of Naples led to court appointments and royal commissions, including his best-known work Il matrimonio segreto (‘The Secret Marriage’) composed for Austrian emperor Leopold II. Other hits include L’impegno superato (‘The Broken Engagement’), an instant success and soon to become one of the most frequently performed of Cimarosa’s comic works, and Penelope that was produced as far away as London in 1817. The Cantata per Ferdinando IV was, however, written as an act of repentance, Cimarosa having made the mistake of backing the failed republican government in 1799.
Johann Sebastian Bach was undoubtedly the greatest musical thinker of his age. Dubbed ‘the Old Testament of music’ by the conductor and pianist Hans von Bülow, the Well-Tempered Clavier is acknowledged to be one of the most significant works ever written for the keyboard. Each of these 24 preludes and fugues encapsulates its own mood, and Bach’s delight in mixing technical strictness with freedom of expression has made this work an indispensable element of Western culture for centuries. Sir András Schiff is heralded as one of the finest Bach interpreters today, and this first complete performance at the prestigious BBC Proms was summed up as ‘stupendous’ by The Independent.
This latest album in the Complete Piano Music series of Franz Liszt is devoted to memorialising the dead. Historical Hungarian Portraits dates largely from 1885 and commemorates significant figures in the country’s recent past, including politicians, a poet and a musician. The mood is powerfully sombre. Liszt marked his son-in law Wagner’s death with Am Grabe R. Wagner (‘At the Grave of Richard Wagner’) using a theme from Parsifal. But the most intense and forward-looking of these pieces is Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, a foretaste of the experimental piano writing to come.
After the success of his opera TheShining, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec has once again collaborated with librettist Mark Campbell to create the second of his “American historical oratorios.” Sanctuary Road draws on the astonishing stories to be found in William Still’s book The Underground Railroad, which documents the network of secret routes and safe houses used by African American slaves to escape into free states and Canada during the early- to mid-1800s. The epic nature of these stories of courage, perseverance and sacrifice is transformed into an enthralling saga, heard here at its world premiere performance at Carnegie Hall—a performance acclaimed by BroadwayWorld for its “riveting, pulsating wall of sound [and] stellar soloists.”
Philip Glass has become an iconic figure in American music. His works are often inspired by collaborations with other leading musicians, and the proposal of an “American Four Seasons” by the violinist Robert McDuffie to reflect Vivaldi’s famous masterpiece resulted in a concerto which evokes the Baroque spirit of early 18th-century violin tradition. With the Concerto’s range of moods, listeners are invited to decide for themselves which season the music evokes. The Violin Sonata sees Glass’s melodic and harmonic language haunted by the ghosts of Brahms, Fauré and Franck, “the meditativeness of this piece bringing a unique energy” for award-winning violinist Piotr Plawner.
Mario Pilati was a leading member of the Italian generation of composers born around the turn of the 20th century. His love of the Baroque can be felt in the sunny and joyful immediacy of Preludio, aria e tarantella, originally conceived for violin and piano. His other abiding passion was for the folk traditions of his native country, exemplified by his beautiful settings of Quattrocanzoni popolari italiane—light, elegant, and suffused with subtle humour—and the delightful Bagatelles. In the strikingly inventive Divertimento for brass ensemble, he draws on cinema, jazz and the vibrancy of Neapolitan street life. Pilati’s Concerto for Orchestra and Suite for Stringsand Piano can be heard on 8.570873.
Boris Tishchenko, often considered to be the direct musical heir of Shostakovich, maintained a prolific output across all genres. The concise vocal trios—one written in memory of the composer’s brother—are alternately plaintive and urgent. The five movements of the HarpConcerto are played without pause, and the work is significant for expanding the harp’s expressive range and requiring the soloist to alternate between two instruments.
The string quartets of Beethoven are among the greatest works of their kind, but he composed other works for quartet which have been neglected. This album is dedicated to these intriguing rarities. Alongside the wild and monumental Grosse Fuge, in many ways the culmination of Beethoven’s achievements in the string quartet genre, this recording further displays his mastery of counterpoint by bringing to light brilliant yet forgotten original versions of his quartets Op. 18,No. 1 and Op. 131, plus six virtually unknown miniatures, including his Preludes and Fugues.
This selection of chamber music by leading Portuguese composer Pedro Faria Gomes was written between 2007 and 2018. The works encompass themes of memory, change and waiting, with the concept of time being a central preoccupation. Though he has drawn on music from his country’s folk traditions – in Memória and in the Sonata it is always with new harmonic insights and subtlety, creating undeniably invigorating additions to contemporary chamber music repertoire.
Jacques Castérède was one of many composers who refused to abandon tonality and traditional forms amid the stormy avant-garde of the 20th century. The Quintette for winds was written in 1953, the same year that Castérède won the Prix de Rome, and touches of Gershwin appear among its witty colours. Neo-Classical restraint in the Sonate en forme de Suite contrasts with the grittier and more modernist Musique for flute, harp and string trio, and La Belle Époque takes us on a whistle-stop tour of Classical repertoire, parodying famous tunes by Haydn and Mozart.
William Mathias was one of the most significant and prolific Welsh composers of the 20th century. His flexible and highly approachable style can be heard in the holiday mood of the SuiteParisienne, the brilliance and lyricism of the Capriccio for flute and piano and the wonderfully rhapsodic Sonata for Harp. Mathias’s songs are among the most communicative settings of their kind, including Pan Oeddwn Fachgen (‘A Dream of Youth’), considered by the composer to be ‘one of the finest lyrical poems in modern Welsh’.
William Mathias wrote some of the most imaginative, communicative and joyful choral music of the mid-to late 20th century. These qualities are perhaps most clearly represented in his substantial catalogue of works for choir and, in particular, his settings of sacred texts, notably the invigorating A Babe is Born and the hauntingly beautiful Ave verum corpus, one of his last compositions. This selection also includes the both serious and entertaining sequence of Riddles and the rapt, ecstatic A May Magnificat. More Mathias choral music can be heard on 8.573523.
Alexandre Tansman’s guitar music was almost exclusively created as the result of his friendship with the legendary Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia. The true extent of this catalogue has only recently become apparent, with unknown works emerging from archive sources. Performed after careful research into the original manuscripts, Andrea De Vitis’s programme brings together pieces that reference Tansman’s favourite musicians from history, in particular Bach and Chopin—masterfully intertwining personal affections with sophisticated techniques to create some of the most important guitar repertoire of the 20th century.
The music of award-winning composer Paul Reale has a truly authentic American voice: eclectic in its cultural references and having a respect for tradition, but with a knife-sharp edge that keeps listeners alert. This collection of piano pieces represents the widest possible variety in his catalog chosen together with soloist John Jensen, a pianist with whom Reale has worked for most of his life and considers his ideal interpreter. Atmospheres of jazz infused bar-life, Piazzolla’s tangos and a comic pastiche on Beethoven contrast with the dark and austere Stroke of Midnight, the chiming bells of which confront the harsh realities of mortality.
Anton Rubinstein was the equal of Liszt as a pianist and a technically gifted composer but, in his own words, he was perceived by his contemporaries as too German to be Russian and too Russian to be German, and his music was frequently disparaged. Although occasionally derivative, the first two sonatas are impressively bravura and passionate works which pianist Han Chen approaches as if reading a 19th-century Russian novel, digging down to the very essence of the human soul. It is perhaps an irony of the history of taste that Rubinstein’s very real achievements are beginning to be valued only some 125 years after his death.
During his unprecedented 64 years as organist at Saint-Sulpice in Paris, Charles-Marie Widor developed a powerfully symphonic approach to music for the organ, finding new combinations of colour, sonority and texture. The ten symphonies for organ are central to his repertory for the instrument. Featured on this first volume are the Symphony No. 1 inC minor, with its homage to Bach, luminous and ceremonial and with virtuoso flourishes; and the Symphony No. 2 in D major offering a fascinating series of contrasts with some spectacular effects. Wolfgang Rübsam plays at the restored E.M. Skinner instrument at The University of Chicago, the largest pipe organ in Midwest America.
This compilation spotlights the symphonic journey and stylistic progression from Beethoven’s Second Symphony to his Ninth Symphony, ‘Choral’. The majority of the works were written during Beethoven’s 40s and are interspersed with engaging examples of his other accomplishments in orchestral writing.
* Available soon on download and streaming platforms
‘Idil Biret’s repertory which extends from Bach to Boulez and Ligeti, including complete works of Chopin, Brahms and Rachmaninov, has an impressive dimension and also diversity. Massenet and Franck now enrich the discography of this pianist with untiring curiosity… One returns to familiar territory with the Variations symphoniques and Les Djinns of Franck. There again, Idil Biret demonstrates a taste that avoids any excess, any facility which these pages may lend itself to.’ – Jean Roy LE MONDE DE LA MUSIQUE, France 2006
‘Anyone who begins a programme with Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata, ends with Prokofiev’s Toccata, and throws in Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit has a prodigious technique. As she demonstrated yesterday afternoon the Turkish pianist Idil Biret must rank as a virtuoso. With unflagging energy, she produced a series of supercharged performances.’ – THE TIMES, UK 1976
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!
Jacques Castérède: Wind Quintet: I. Allegro con spirito (Antero Winds)
Alexandre Tansman: Inventions, ‘Hommage à Bach’: I. Passepied: Allegro con moto (Andrea De Vitis)
Ludwig van Beethoven: König Stephan, Op. 117: Chorus: Auf dunkelm Irrweg… (The Key Ensemble, Turku Philharmonic, Segerstam)
Domenico Cimarosa: Il matrimonio segreto: Overture (1792 Vienna version) (Czech Chamber Philharmonic Pardubice, Patrick Gallois)
Franz Liszt: Historische ungarische Bildnisse, S205/R112: No. 1. Széchenyi István (Jenő Jandó)
Charles-Marie Widor: Organ Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 13, No. 1: I. Prélude (Wolfgang Rübsam)
William Mathias: A Babe is Born, Op. 55 (St. John’s Voices, H. Crook, G. Walker)
Mario Pilati: Tarantella (Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Adriano)
Paul Reale: Piano Sonata No. 10: III. Waldorf Astoria (John Jensen)
Paul Moravec: Sanctuary Road: Rain (Mitchell, Bryce-Davis, J. Blue, Merriweather, Oratorio Society of New York Orchestra, Tritle)
Anton Rubinstein: Piano Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 12: I. Allegro appassionato
Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet in F major, Hess 32: IV. Allegretto (Han Chen)
Traditional: Tôn y Melinydd (The Miller’s Song) (arr. W. Mathias for voice and piano) (J.H. Williams, P. Fan)
Albéric Magnard: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 4: IV. Molto energico (Freiburg Philharmonic, Bollon)
Pedro Faria Gomes: Nachtmusik: I. Slow and freely (Thurlow, Picado)
Boris Ivanovich Tishchenko: Zaveshchaniye (Testament), Op. 96 (Khassenova, Marinutsa, Homenya)
Philip Glass: Violin Concerto No. 2, ‘The American Four Seasons’: III. – (Plawner, Bern Chamber Orchestra, P. Bach)
We are celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday with a dynamic CELEBRATE BEETHOVEN playlist with various themes based on his life, compositional periods, types of works, and more. This month, we focus on his symphonies and other orchestral works:
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