This month’s NEW ON NAXOS spotlight recording is the first installment of Enrique Granados’s complete orchestral works featuring the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and conductor Pablo González. This new series commemorates the centennial death anniversary of the composer, and Volume 1 presents three world première recordings–Suite sobre cantos gallegos,Torrijos, and Marcha de los vencidos.
Other highlights include the complete recording of the English version of Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, featuring conductor JoAnn Falletta with the Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players, award-winning violinist Tianwa Yang, actors Jared McGuire and Jeff Biehl, and well-known American radio host Fred Child; Dmitry Shostakovich’s Three Chamber Symphonies arranged by violinist and conductor Rudolf Barshai. This recording features the debut recording of the Kiev Soloists, under renowned Shostakovich interpreter Dmitry Yablonsky; and the world première recording of Michael William Balfe’s opera Satanella, or ‘The Power of Love’, heard in Richard Bonynge’s own new performing edition.
Although he is best known as the composer of some of the greatest masterpieces of Spanish piano music, Enrique Granados also wrote a much less well-known sequence of orchestral music. The cinematic Marcha de los vencidos evokes the painful trudging of ‘the defeated’ in an unspecified battle, while the incidental music for the play Torrijos demonstrates Granados’s talent for lyrical writing and his love of the stage. The ambitious Suite sobre cantos Gallegos uses Galician folk melodies and dance rythms to reflect the landscapes of the region. This is the first recording in a series marking the centenary of Granados’s death.
Stravinsky conceived the idea of a small-scale theatrical work towards the end of the First World War. Collaborating with Swiss writer Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz and painter and designer René-Victor Auberjonois, he wrote Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale), derived from a Russian folk tale by Alexander Afanasyev. It is scored for narrator, two speakers and an instrumental septet – ‘to be read, played and danced’ as there is also a non-speaking dancing rôle. The Faustian morality tale is rendered as a music drama of extraordinary rhythmic charge and gripping power.
Rudolf Barshai’s professional association with Shostakovich lasted until the composer’s death. The success of his five transcriptions and arrangements of Shostakovich’s string quartets was a catalyst for re-workings of nearly the entire cycle from string ensemble to full orchestra. The essential naivety and understatement of the First Quartet is here discreetly underlined by the larger string ensemble. This contrasts with the broodingly autobiographical Eighth Quartet, the searing emotions of which have made it the best known of Shostakovich’s quartets. Barshai’s transcription of the Fourth Quartet is his most ambitious and interventionist, the addition of winds and percussion emphasising the work’s symphonic dimension.
Satanella was Michael William Balfe’s 23rd opera, first presented at Covent Garden in 1858 to much acclaim. It remained in the repertoire for over 60 years, touring to Sydney, New York and Philadelphia. A hybrid of classical opera with a sprinkling of stand-alone ballads, beloved by singers of the day for sheet sales promotion, the score is also notable for its Italianate flow of recitatives, moving arias, concerted pieces and ensembles and, not least, the haunting ‘Power of Love’ melody. Richard Bonynge, an acknowledged master of eighteenth and nineteenth-century opera, has edited the new performing edition.