We are very pleased to present another exciting month of new releases this June, no less than nine of which include world première recordings! Our monthly spotlight release is the first of a six-volume cycle of orchestral works by Jean Sibelius, with the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of internationally-acclaimed conductor Leif Segerstam.
Other highlights include the third and final volume of Paul Hindemith’s string quartets, performed by the Amar Quartet. Its earlier releases in the cycle have received critical acclaim. The complete guitar works of Sofia Gubaidulina, performed by guitarist David Tanenbaum, who has previously worked closely with Gubaidulina; the emotionally charged Holocaust Requiem of Boris Pigovat, with the Croatian Radio & Television Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nicola Guerini; the world première recordings of award-winning composer Xu Shuya, whose music reflects his fascination with his Chinese heritage; American composer Quincy Porter’s second volume of string quartets, with the Ives Quartet, who are well known for championing unfamiliar and eclectic repertoire; and British composer Kenneth Leighton’s complete chamber works for cello, performed by acclaimed artists cellist Raphael Wallfisch and pianist Raphael Terroni.
Jean Sibelius was the most significant figure in the formation of Finland’s musical identity. Beyond the famous symphonies and tone poems he was prolific in other genres, including music for the theatre. King Christian II and Kuolema ensured Sibelius’s fame throughout Europe, the latter including the haunting melody (track 2) which would later become the Valse triste. The Two Songs from Twelfth Night contrast the spectre of death with more comical moods, an effect also to be heard in one of Sibelius’s least performed orchestral works, the Overture in A minor.
Hindemith’s seven string quartets were produced in different phases of his compositional development, all reflecting the experience of being a distinguished and experienced string player. Influenced both by Brahmsian late-Romanticism and by the catastrophic events of the First World War, the imaginative String Quartet No. 1 reflects his concern to extend but honour traditional forms. Cast in the form of a suite, the by turns tempestuous and beautiful String Quartet No. 4 remains Hindemith’s most popular and performed quartet. This is the third and final volume of a highly acclaimed cycle. ‘As with the previous release in this series, the performances are all outstanding.’ (ClassicsToday.com / 8.572164, Volume 2)
Sofia Gubaidulina has found a soulfulness and freedom in the guitar which speaks to her musical language of expressive mood and often mysterious but precise sonorities. In both Repentance and Sotto Voce she combines guitars with lower stringed instruments, creating a virtuosic, multi-dimensional and deeply poetic role for each voice. Fascinating new sounds from the guitar are produced, from the most eloquent chorales to remarkable effects using a drinking glass. The earlier Serenade is ‘music for pleasure’, while this première recording of the Toccata reveals a work with a driving momentum that hardly stops.
Of Ukrainian origin, Boris Pigovat is now based in Israel where he has won several distinguished national awards. His Holocaust Requiem received the ACUM prize in 1995, and was premièred at a concert dedicated to the massacre of Jews at Babi Yar. Each movement is named after the Latin Mass text, the emotional symbols of sorrow, suffering and hope expressed purely instrumentally but led by the ‘human’ voice of the viola. The deliberately Russian Romantic style of Poem of Dawn was especially chosen by the composer for the work’s dedicatee, acclaimed violist Anna Serova.
With worldwide acclaim and numerous awards, Xu Shuya is one of the leading composers to emerge from the Chinese ‘New Wave’. His fascination with his Chinese heritage is eloquently expressed in pieces such as Insolation, inspired by the heroic myth of Kaufu Chasing the Sun, and Yun, which unites the famous ‘Purple Bamboo Melody’ with symphonic textures and gestures. Cristal au SoleilCouchant expresses the intensity of light and colours at sundown, while Echos du Vieux Champ conjures nostalgic memories of the composer’s homeland. Shaped by spiritual concepts and the Tibetan landscape, Nirvana evokes the ‘bittersweet pleasure’ of ‘faint distant melodies, like tunes from heaven’.
The generation of composers which proved so influential in mid-twentieth century America included Roger Sessions, Howard Hanson, Roy Harris and Quincy Porter. Porter’s much-admired orchestral music is marked by originality in its absorption of neo-classicism, but his series of nine string quartets also represents an important contribution to the genre. Quartets Nos. 5 to 8 are the works of a composer who had been a professional string player in the 1920s and are marked by rhythmic sophistication and melodic tension. ‘A very enjoyable disc which whets one’s appetite for the remaining five quartets.’ – Penguin Guide on Volume 1 (8.559305).
Kenneth Leighton’s distinctive gifts as a composer were apparent as early as the première of his Cello Concerto, when he was barely 26. It was an instrument for which he wrote with particular subtlety and often from an inner compulsion. The Elegy, Op. 5 is full of brilliance, lyricism and mystery whilst by the time he wrote the rhapsodic and expressive Sonata forSolo Cello, Op. 52, his position as one of Britain’s leading composers had long been cemented. The beautiful Alleluia Pascha Nostrum, Op. 85 was first performed by the soloist on this disc, Raphael Wallfisch.
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