The spotlight release for the March 2019 issue of NEW ON NAXOS is the final volume of Claudio Monteverdi’s Complete Madrigals – the Ninth Book and Scherzi Musicali – performed by Delitiæ Musicæ and Marco Longhini. The first volume released in 2002, the series has been highly acclaimed by many critics and publications, with ClassicsToday.com declaring these recordings ‘the versions of choice’.
Other highlights include: Aaron Copland’s ballet works Billy the Kid and Grohg, recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin; a collection of Russian songs sung by mezzo-soprano Margarita Gritskova accompanied by Maria Prinz; audiovisual release of Vincenzo Bellini’s popular opera I Puritani, filmed from a production by Staatsoper Stuttgart directed by the award-winning tandem of Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito; J.S. Bach’sSt Matthew Passion presented by the Bachchor and Bachorchester Mainz conducted by Ralf Otto; the world premiere recording of Ian Krouse’sArmenian Requiem performed by the Lark Master Singers and UCLA Philharmonia under Neal Stulberg; the second volume of Wolfgang Rihm’s works for violin and orchestra, recorded by the award-winning violinist Tianwa Yang; and many more.
Monteverdi’s Ninth Book of Madrigals, published posthumously, and the 1632 Scherzi musicali (‘Musical Jokes’) are thematically linked by the recurring theme of war for the sake of love. Prefaced with a Sinfonia by Biagio Marini and featuring one of Monteverdi’s towering masterpieces, Zefirotorna, the Ninth Book comprises the few remaining late madrigals, a number of canzonette, as well as works with the same titles and verses from the earlier Eighth Book (available on 8.573755-58), here performed in completely different musical settings. Recorded complete, and in historically informed fashion, this is the final volume in this series.
Aaron Copland did as much as anyone in establishing American concert music on the world stage, and his ballet scores proved to be among his most important and influential works. Grohg is the most ambitious example of his Parisian years, a precociously brilliant one-act ballet scored for full orchestra, inspired by the silent expressionist film Nosferatu. The first example of Copland’s new ‘Americanized’ music of the 1930s was Billy the Kid, based on the life of the 19th-century outlaw and heard here in its full version. This was the first fully fledged American ballet in style and content: brassy, syncopated, filmic and richly folk-flavoured.
The songs on this album are not as well known as other works by these three composers, but this more intimate form of expression often goes straight to the heart and soul of their work. Tchaikovsky wrote songs throughout his life, and it is easy to find autobiographical parallels in his chosen themes of love and longing. Rimsky-Korsakov’s songs are characterised by tender lyricism, while Rachmaninov’s wordless Vocalise has become one of his most famous melodies.
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s prolific early career succeeded in launching a fundamental renewal of opera buffa, offering a clear alternative to the dominance of Wagner and Puccini, while his Venetian upbringing inspired a songlike and lyrical style. With its subtle orchestration and vivacious Mediterranean charm, Il segreto di Susanna (‘Susanna’s Secret’) is a magical comic opera that became a box office success in its day and remains one of Wolf-Ferrari’s most frequently performed works. The early Serenade reveals his innate gift for inspired melody, expressing both carefree bliss and bitter melancholy.
L’Étoile did much to establish Chabrier as a major force on the Parisian stage and his contemporary Henri Duparc praised him specifically for creating a French comic genre, both funny and musical – described as something of a French Die Meistersinger. The fanciful story is set in an imaginary kingdom and all, naturally, ends well. However, despite the slight plot line L’Étoile is something of a pivotal work, a unique example of French 19th-century light opera, orchestrated with great sophistication and flooded with gossamer wit.
I puritani is one of Bellini’s most creative and influential masterpieces, a bel canto opera stamped with vocal and orchestral writing of intoxicating beauty and dramatic intensity. Set in England in the Civil War shortly before Oliver Cromwell’s triumph, it involves romantic and political intrigues that drew from Bellini music of melodic raptness and melancholic depth. It also inspired him to compose some of his most breathtakingly virtuosic passages, notably Elvira’s Mad Scene, that call for the utmost in theatrical power. This production includes for the first time all the music performed at the work’s Paris premiere.
Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion is widely recognised as one of the greatest masterpieces in Western sacred music. With its double orchestra and chorus this is a work of enormous proportions in every sense, and Bach was extremely resourceful in treading a fine line between creating the almost operatic spectacle valued by the secular authorities in Leipzig, and the elevated religious atmosphere sought by the clergy. This inspired mix of moving drama and theological discourse led Leonard Bernstein to declare that ‘there is nothing like it in all of music’.
Composed to mark the centenary of the genocide of 1915, the ArmenianRequiem is a large-scale sacred work structured around the liturgical chants encountered in requiem services appended to the traditional Armenian Mass. It is written in a form that, uniquely for the music of the country, is not based wholly on the model of the Latin Mass. Instead, taking the precedent of Britten’s War Requiem, Ian Krouse embeds poems as interludes, and his work – a poignant meditation on loss couched in a marriage of Western and Armenian forms – offers both conciliation and hope.
Wolfgang Rihm, one of the foremost contemporary composers, has created a powerful body of music for the violin. Gesungene Zeit is one of his most performed works, and it demonstrates why Rihm is so admired: music that begins and ends in ethereal lines while embracing agitation and threnody alike. The beautifully transparent and sensuous LichtesSpiel is ‘light, but not lightweight’ in the composer’s words, and COLL’ARCO takes the soloist to the extremes of virtuosity in his largest concertante work for the violin, teeming with reminiscences, intricacy and drama. Volume 1 can be heard on 8.573812.
David Popper was one of the most important cellists of the 19th century and is remembered for the études of his High School of Cello Playing (8.557718-19). Popper premiered chamber works by Brahms and championed Schumann’s Cello Concerto, and his own four concertos span an illustrious 50-year career. Each shares a lyrical Romantic spirit: the playful First Concerto, an enjoyable prelude to the more dramatic and virtuoso Second, and the single-movement Third a masterpiece in melodic compactness. The Fourth Concerto was dedicated to ‘my great colleague’ Alfredo Piatti and is recorded here in its version with piano.
Agustín Barrios Mangoré’s first public appearance was as ‘the Paganini of the guitar from the jungles of Paraguay’. This flamboyant image was soon retired, but his legacy as a composer has endured and flourished, as have the recordings he made as the first guitarist to take advantage of new technology from as early as 1910. Ranging from romantic enchantment to fearsome virtuosity via works with Bach-like restraint, this programme embraces Barrios Mangoré’s art from his earliest known piece, Abrí la puerta mi china, to the reconstruction of the substantial Diana Guaraní from a recording made in 1943.
Spanning over 40 years of composition, Volume 18 reveals Sousa to be a master of operetta and the ‘humoresque’ just as much as the marches for which he is still revered the world over. Stag Party depicts a students’ night out via a string of imperishable popular melodies, while Among My Souvenirs sees the song lengthened into a vivid narrative ‘sketch’. There is also the IncidentalSuite from The Charlatan, one of his best-known operettas, and March of thePan-Americans, Part 2, the national anthem spectacular (Part 1 can be heard on 8.559811).
The chamber music of contemporary American composer Truman Harris is informed by his experience as an orchestral musician; it is idiomatic, exciting, and frequently cast for unusual combinations of instruments. One such example is the unique Sonata for Two Bassoons and Piano, flavoured with jazz, romance, and waltz-like elegance. Rosemoor Suite is a captivating ‘story without words’ moving from nostalgia to vitality, and the two Concertinos explore rich lyricism and playful virtuosity. Vibrant colours and a sense of vivid fantasy suffuse the radiant AulosTriptych.
This collection of recent works by Tamara Konstantin brings together short piano and chamber pieces, all of which share her inclination towards miniature forms, flowing melodies and unpretentious charm. Many of these are inspired by the beautiful countryside and coastline of Konstantin’s Dorset home, evoking an elegiac wistfulness peculiar to English pastoral music. Others reflect moods or emotions both universal and specific, such as the powerful Third Piano Sonata dedicated to the suffering experienced by the members of Konstantin’s family who were exiled to Siberia by Stalin, and the evocative and lyrical Love Ballad.
Grace Williams is widely considered to be Wales’ foremost female composer. She studied with Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music and Egon Wellesz in Vienna, composing in many genres throughout her life. Her chamber music, recorded here for the first time, spans 40 years.
Carl Reinecke’s melodic gift, mastery of counterpoint and idiomatic command of chamber repertoire, in particular, exemplify why he was acclaimed as one of the great representatives of German High Romanticism. His Cello Sonatas were composed over four decades. The First teems with freshness and a Schumannesque lyricism, while the Second is a more experimental work, with a notably quizzical slow movement. Virtuosity, solemnity and caprice are features of the Third Sonata, while the Three Pieces, Op. 146 offer an enticing contrast of songfulness and dance.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote that ‘the cello is an instrument I’ve always particularly loved’, and this is reflected in the deft way he exploits its colours and techniques in chamber works recorded here that include unpublished gems and a world premiere. The sophisticated Cello Sonata and Sonatina also reveal the composer’s skill as a pianist, giving equal roles in a symbiotic relationship that tests both players’ virtuosity. Impressionist flavours in I nottambuli or ‘Night Owls’ contrast with a Toccata that blends fireworks with lyricism, as does the Jewish soulfulness of the popular Chant hébraïque with the playful Scherzo that uses the English traditional tune Sumer is icumen in.
This programme represents most of Pablo Ortiz’s recent choral writing, the multifaceted variety of which reflects the composer’s intense emotional connection with the past. Maizal del gregoriano uses a musical language that is reminiscent of Benedictine chant, while The Darkling Thrush absorbs Thomas Hardy’s melancholy depiction of the end of an era. Mozart is referenced in the operatic Teatro MartínFierro Suite, as are the beauties of 16th-century madrigals in E ne la face de’ begli occhi accende. The final Metamorphoses is a remarkable superimposition of Medieval motets, expressing the essence of Ortiz’s belief in music as the ultimate time machine.
First Prize winner of the prestigious Eighth International Organ Competition Musashino-Tokyo, Amanda Mole, has selected music that fully exploits every aspect of the excellent Marcussen & Søn instrument at this venue. Buxtehude’s remarkable Praeludium and Bruhns’ chorale fantasia on the Advent tune Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland connect with the old French traditions evoked in Alain’s Variations, while Reger uses the entire dynamic range of the organ in his Toccata. The programme is topped by Messiaen’s expression of sheer joy in the rapturous conclusion to La Nativité du Seigneur.
Best Loved Series Your Introduction to Classical Music Favourites
For those who are new to an instrument, the first question is often: where to start? The ‘Best Loved’ series offers an easy answer to that question and a perfect introduction to the wonderful, varied world of classical music. Spotlighting individual instruments in some of the best-loved pieces ever written, and with a mix of solo, chamber and orchestral works, the series provides a convenient introduction to classical music’s infinite variety of instrumental sounds and styles.
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!
Aaron Copland: Billy the Kid: Celebration (Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Slatkin)
David Popper: Cello Concerto No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 24: III. Allegro molto moderato (Rummel, Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, T.Evans)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Cello Sonatina, Op. 130: I. Allegretto (Dindo, Marangoni)
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