The June edition of NEW ON NAXOS sees the audiovisual release of the 2018 production of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s operatic masterpiece Das Wunder der Heliane by Deutsche Oper Berlin. Staged by the award-winning director Christof Loy, this production includes an outstanding cast, lead by soprano Sara Jakubiak, tenor Brian Jagde and bass-baritone Josef Wagner, conducted by Marc Albrecht – Conductor of the Year winner at the 2019 International Opera Awards.
Other highlights include: the DVD/Blu-ray release of Saverio Mercadante’s Didone abbandonata, recorded live from the 2018 Innsbruck Early Music Festival; Ludwig van Beethoven’s only oratorio Christus am Ölberge (‘Christ on the Mount of Olives’), presented by the ICMA-winning team of Turku Philharmonic Orchestra and Leif Segerstam; Darrell Ang’s latest recording, conducting Dmitry Kabalevsky’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2; the 2019 edition of The Complete National Anthems of the World, orchestrated and conducted by Peter Breiner; and many more.
Das Wunder der Heliane is based on Hans Kaltneker’s mystery play Die Heilige concerning an unnamed Ruler, a Stranger, the heroine Heliane and the redemptive power of love. It is Korngold’s most extravagant stage work and one that he considered to be his greatest score. Written for a huge ensemble, masterfully used, the music possesses voluptuous sweep and hyper-Romanticism. Its intensity is emphasised through an intoxicating array of effects, propulsive rhythms and glorious vocal lyricism, its arc of climaxes building from one act to another. This revelatory new Berlin staging in 2018 enjoyed an unprecedented 20-minute ovation at its premiere.
Giuseppe Saverio Mercadante was a contemporary of Donizetti and Rossini, and his prolific output of operas proved influential in founding dramatic techniques that were taken on by Verdi. Set in the ancient and besieged city of Carthage, Didone abbandonata is the dramatic and tragic tale of ill-starred lovers whose decisions ultimately place an entire populace in peril. A genuine rarity in the theatre, Didonehas strong ties to the 18th century but also points towards the bel canto innovations that were to come. This carefully researched and critically acclaimed production presents the work in the sound and playing style of Mercadante’s time.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s only oratorio Christus am Ölberge (‘Christ on the Mount of Olives’) portrays Jesus’ emotional struggles in the garden of Gethsemane before being seized by soldiers and taken for crucifixion. The work has an Italianate form with recitatives, arias and choruses, and its operatic attributes show Christ as a very human figure, a dramatic precursor to the sufferings of Florestan in Beethoven’s Fidelio. The tender and beautiful Elegischer Gesang is a memorial to the young wife of one of Beethoven’s close friends.
Dmitry Kabalevsky found his mature style and achieved international success with his first opera Colas Breugnon, the overture of which was soon picked up as an orchestral showpiece in the West. The Second Symphony was likewise championed by conductors such as Arturo Toscanini, its bittersweet sense of drama and lyricism comparable with Prokofiev. Dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, the First Symphony illustrates progress from oppression to liberation, while the later Pathétique Overture is a rousing and highly effective reminder of Kabalevsky’s skill in orchestration.
Magna Sequentia I is a unique sequencing of dance movements drawn from Bach’s keyboard works featuring pieces from the French Suites and the Partitas. Whereas Bach’s suites typically comprise six to eight movements, Sonia Rubinsky has selected 19, compiled with a tonal logic that still keeps the structure of a suite. She has chosen several examples of each of the dance forms used by Bach so one can appreciate the dazzling variety of both style and mood. Enhanced by her historically informed performance, Magna Sequentia I offers fresh insights into Bach performance on a modern grand piano.
The Early Music Collection is a wide-ranging survey that traces the history of Western music from plainchant, the music of the Catholic church, through polyphony, to the end of the 17th century. In exploring a period of over half a millennium, it includes the very greatest vocal and instrumental composers, from the 12th-century Abbess Hildegard von Bingen, to the late-Renaissance world of Monteverdi. This essential collection includes many critically acclaimed recordings made by the leading choirs, consorts, instrumentalists and conductors of our time employing the latest historically informed performance practice.
While globalisation advances, all countries staunchly retain two unique features: their distinctive national flag and a bonding national anthem. The anthems reflect an enormous indigenous diversity, but relatively few are generally known by citizens of other nations, making any comprehensive compendium a source of endless interest and discovery. We invite you to take a musical tour of Naxos’ definitive set of national and regional anthems, from Algeria to Kuwait, Lapland to Zanzibar, and all stops in between. You’ll be delighted by the gems that are waiting to be discovered and compiled into either personal or family favourites. And you can check out the flags in the process with our informative supporting booklets.
Joseph Marx was an excellent pianist: the hugely demanding solo part of his Romantic PianoConcerto, a ‘symphonic duet’ between piano and orchestra, marks him as a true virtuoso who had also absorbed the heady impressionism of Debussy, Scriabin and Delius. While having no connection with film music, Marx left a multitude of intoxicating melodies that eclipsed the wildest of Hollywood’s dreams. His second piano concerto Castelli Romani was inspired by ancient ruins in the wooded hills outside Rome, and is a magical, pyrotechnic display of Mediterranean emotions and masterfully orchestrated atmospheric pictures.
The solo concerto emerged in Northern Italy in the first quarter of the 18th century and rapidly became popular across Europe. The five works here demonstrate how concertos for the flute differ in Germany, Italy and France. Outer movements usually retain the virtuosic elements that characterise the concertos of Vivaldi, but the Frenchman Michel Blavet infiltrates an exquisite Gavotte into his work, while Telemann’s superb melodies and rich harmonies are characteristic features of his Flute Concerto in Dmajor. All five works exemplify the Baroque ideal of singing lyricism and passionate expression.
Alexander Moyzes, one of the leading Slovakian composers of his generation, created a nationally inspired style that also assimilated trends aligning his music with contemporaries such as Shostakovich. The Eleventh Symphony builds on the success of the Tenth (8.573654), intensifying its emotional impact and developing sophisticated cycles of transformation and variation. Simpler and more concise than preceding works, the Twelfth Symphony was Moyzes’ final orchestral statement and his ‘diary in music’. He said it ‘also seeks to express my attitude to life. …we have to take life as it is, with all its digressions, demands and haste.’
Jon Deak is a composer who ‘has more fun with music than anyone i know’ (New York Newsday), and all of the pieces on this album of symphonic stories for young and old alike involve the performers as narrators. These tales include the wolves of Canada and Alaska in B.B.Wolf (An Apologia), a loving tribute to the immigrants of America in Bye-Bye!, and a dramatic and virtuoso version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen Finale. The Legendof Spuyten Duyvil is a tale of old New Amsterdam that invokes the heroic spirit of trumpeter Anthony Van Corlaer.
Cello music flourished in Russia in the 19th century. Tchaikovsky was central to this profusion of composition, writing the celebrated Variations on a Rococo Theme, music of Mozartian charm, heard here in the composer’s version for cello and piano. Karl Davïdov, who Tchaikovsky called ‘the tsar of all cellists’, contributed a melodious, lyrically inventive and virtuosic Fantasy onRussian Songs. Arensky’s graceful character sketches and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Serenade are suffused with Romanticism, while the lusty Fantasy on Gipsy Songs by Konstantin Liadov (father of the more famous Anatoly) is the earliest of these pieces and the least known.
After the violence and destruction of the First World War, a new musical aesthetic developed in Paris. Following the publication of Jean Cocteau’s famous pamphlet Le Coq et l’Arlequin, Impressionist influences were denigrated and instead simplicity in expression was promoted. This album of flute music charts this new ‘Harlequin’ direction, from old school adherent Pierre de Bréville to foreign musicians such as Tansman and Antheil who flocked to the city. Foremost among the exponents are members of the famous Groupe des Six whose innovations challenged and changed French wind music forever.
The area in south-east Europe known as the Balkans has long established folk traditions rich in complex rhythms and evocative melodies. Innovative guitarist Mak Grgić has selected the music of five composers to explore the variety and piquant colours embedded in their compositions. Drawn from his evolving suite called Laments, Dances and Lullabies, Miroslav Tadić traces Macedonian folk songs, while each of the other composers brings very personal qualities. Vivid harmonies, vivacious interludes, syncopated rhythms, and a lively, jazz-like feel all combine to create a tapestry of moods and textures.
There are two aspects underlying this recording by Raphaël Feuillâtre, First Prize winner at the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America Competition in 2018: original works for the guitar and transcriptions. Among the former is Villa-Lobos’s Prélude No. 5, part of one of the most evocative and Romantic guitar cycles of the 20th century, the Chopinesque brilliance of the inventive Valse by Barrios Mangoré, and the compendium of virtuosity that is Llobet’s Variations on a Theme ofSor. The transcriptions range from Rameau, through Rachmaninov’s pianistic showcase, the Prélude No. 5, Op. 23, to the superbly evocative Alfonsina y el mar by Ariel Ramírez.
The attractiveness of Edvard Grieg’s solo piano music is strongly linked to its distinctive Norwegian character, absorbing the national instinct for compact melodic themes and combining this with the composer’s unique feel for harmony. The resulting works conjure entire worlds that range from the melancholy to the exuberant, and the passionately bittersweet to the gently pastoral. This definitive edition, performed by eminent specialist Einar Steen-Nøkleberg, encompasses the full range of Grieg’s works for solo piano, from the beloved Lyric Pieces to the epic Ballade, via inspired arrangements of familiar melodies to rarely-heard student compositions and sketches. ‘It’s almost impossible to imagine this music better interpreted.’ (BBC Music Magazine)
The 1st Chopin Festival Hamburg offers a unique opportunity to experience the keyboards of the city’s Museum of Arts and Crafts, the first festival of its kind in Europe. The individual tonal qualities of these instruments can be appreciated during recitals of Classical, Romantic and Impressionist music, with a focus on Chopin, given by six leading specialists in the museum’s own rooms. Pleyel, Brodmann and Broadwood instruments of Chopin’s time are used, as is a modern Steinway, allowing the listener to contrast the fascinatingly divergent sounds of these important historic instruments.
More lost gems are unearthed in this fourth volume of music by contemporaries of the Strauss family. This programme takes us from rousing galops and polkas to gentler salon pieces and waltzes, including music from the era of the fateful Titanic and the changing tastes of the 1920s. It includes orchestral premieres and reconstructions from scant sources, representing a vivid cross section of popular music from a century and more ago.
‘Miss Biret was soloist in an entrancing performance of Mozart’s concerto K. 482 with the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Mlle Nadia Boulanger. The variety of her playing its finely-shaded gradations and brilliant but never mechanical figurations, revealed her as already a remarkable artist. Not for many hears has a Hallé (Manchester) audience heard such perfectly balanced Mozart playing…No words can describe the wondrous finale, with its mixture of gaiety and anguish. This was a performance in which every note counted for its full value.’ – DAILY TELEGRAPH UK (1963)
Aaron Copland’s An Outdoor Overture was commissioned by Alexander Richter, music director at the High School of Music and Art in New York in 1938. Richter asked Copland to create and ‘optimistic’ work which would appeal to American youth, and the result is a bright and open triumph of Americana. The Overture’s joyful nature renders it the perfect concert opener.
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