The March edition of NEW ON NAXOS marks the release of the world premiere recording of Johann Strauss II’s rarely heard operetta Blindekuh (‘The Blind Man’s Buff’), restored and conducted by Dario Salvi. Accompanied by the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, the outstanding cast includes bass-baritone Robert Davidson, sopranos Kirsten C. Kunle and Andrea Chudak, mezzo-soprano Emily K. Byrne, tenor Julian Rohde and more. Performed without dialogue, Salvi has restored this dazzling music and drawn evocative performances from the singers, chorus and orchestra.
Other highlights include: the DVD/Blu-ray release of Ottorino Respighi’s La bella dormente nel bosco (‘The Sleeping Beauty’) from Teatro Lirico di Cagiari; Ludwig van Beethoven’s Cantatas recorded by the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra and Leif Segerstam; the world premiere recording of Richard Danielpour’s new oratorio The Passion of Yeshua presented by the award-winning Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra and conductor JoAnn Falletta; the Portland State Chamber Choir’s newest recording of choral works by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds; Mieczysław Weinberg’sClarinet Concerto featuring soloist Robert Oberaigner; and many more.
Blindekuh (‘Blind Man’s Buff’) was Johann Strauss II’s sixth operetta and his least known. Neglected for well over a century, it was revived by Dario Salvi and the forces on this album in January 2019. The work’s initial lack of success is hard to explain but it may have been caused by a confusing libretto—the music itself is vibrant and captivating with waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, marches and bel canto arias. Performed in a concert version without dialogue, and in accordance with performing traditions, this production restores the work to the status of one of Strauss’s most melodically seductive works.
Ottorino Respighi’s La bella dormente nel bosco (‘The Sleeping Beauty’) was originally commissioned by the renowned puppeteer Vittorio Podrecca. The revised version we hear today preserves much of the kaleidoscopic approach and magnified characters and emotions of that original; now enhanced by the composer’s matchless orchestration. This famous story in which the Princess pricks her finger on a spindle and sleeps for centuries until kissed by her Prince is given a magical atmosphere through director Leo Muscato’s colourful staging, and the superb cast of this Teatro Lirico di Cagliari production truly inhabits an enchanted realm.
By the time of Emperor Joseph II’s death in 1790 Beethoven was a member of the court musical establishment in Bonn. To mark the occasion, Beethoven was commissioned to write two cantatas, one to mourn Joseph’s death and the other to celebrate the accession to the throne of Emperor Leopold II. Although Beethoven was only 19 years old at the time, both works show the embryonic marks of his greatness: intense expression and control of structure in one, and an almost operatic panache in the other. Neither piece was performed during Beethoven’s lifetime.
Richard Danielpour’s dramatic oratorio The Passion of Yeshua—a work which has evolved over the last 25 years—is an intensely personal telling of the final hours of Christ on Earth. It incorporates texts from the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Gospels inspiring extraordinarily beautiful music that stresses the need for human compassion and forgiveness. Danielpour returns to the scale and majesty of Bach in this oratorio, creating choruses that are intense and powerful, and giving both Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene a central place in a work of glowing spirituality. Conductor JoAnn Falletta considers The Passion of Yeshua to be “a classic for all time.”
The multi-award-winning Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds’ 21st-century choral sound is both exquisite and angular, and in this album he explores ideas of ‘translation’, legend and the divine. With his expanded tonality and employment of shimmering singing handbells in Translation, and the angelic use of the viola and cello in In paradisum he creates music of ravishing refinement. In Legendof the Walled-In Woman Ešenvalds transcribes and employs an authentic Albanian folk song.
Mieczysław Weinberg was familiar with the clarinet from his youth, given its prominent place in klezmer bands and theatre ensembles, and he wrote three works specifically for the instrument. In the Clarinet Concerto he draws a wide range of textures from the accompanying strings, over which the soloist explores the clarinet’s extremes of register in virtuosic fashion. Despite having been written when Weinberg was still in his mid-twenties, the Clarinet Sonata is a mature work with Romantic and folkloric elements. His last completed work was the Chamber SymphonyNo. 4, an impassioned piece with a wrenching chorale theme and role for obbligato clarinet.
The music of Eugene Zádor is both warmly expressive and colourful. The composer took great delight in writing for overlooked solo instruments, as his Trombone Concerto, garnished with elements of Hungarian folklore, clearly shows. The easy-going, gypsy-influenced Music for Clarinet and Strings is a beautifully proportioned quasi-concerto. The Sinfonia Technica, composed much earlier when he was living in Vienna, and something of a one-off, is an enchanting and exuberantly orchestrated example of ‘industrial music’.
Morton Gould was an American musical phenomenon, equally at home in classical, crossover and film genres, and the recipient of both GRAMMY and Pulitzer awards during his long and distinguished career. The Symphonettes represent Gould’s best crossover work—the Symphonette No. 4 deriving its character from Latin-American dance forms to make it one of his most popular compositions. The first movement of Symphonette No. 3 has been described as ‘a collection of dance band licks, full of bent notes and syncopations’ and the central Pavanne of Symphonette No. 2 with its bluesy trumpet motif is one of Gould’s biggest hits. Spirituals forOrchestra utilizes the strings as a choir, with antiphonal responses in the rest of the orchestra.
Domenico Scarlatti’s distinguished career included a royal post in Rome where he competed against Handel, the latter being declared the better organist and Scarlatti the better harpsichordist. Written for his pupil the Infanta Maria Bárbara, Scarlatti’s legacy of hundreds of single-movement keyboard sonatas forms a valuable resource for performers today. This collection includes a wealth of Spanish dances with virtuoso leaps, unusual modulations, flourishes and ornamentation, as well as Scarlatti’s irrepressible verve and energy.
2020 is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, and this album presents three works that reshape the composer’s awe-inspiring music for the 21st century. The Sonata for Orchestra considers how the Violin Sonata No. 7 would sound had it been written for orchestra, while A Fidelio Symphony transforms vocal lines into symphonic textures to take us through the entire arc of the composer’s sole opera. Based on the famous Ode to Joy of Beethoven’s final symphony, BEETHOVEN9 Symphonic Remix uses loops, grooves and musical transformations to create a contemporary tribute to Beethoven’s universal message.
Contemporary American music for wind band continues to offer a rich combination of colour and variety. David Maslanka was one of the most prolific and admired of all wind band composers, and in Liberation he utilises plainchant in a moving exploration of death, the afterlife and the continuance of hope. Inspired by Walt Whitman, Aaron Perrine’s In the Open Air, In the SilentLines creates a rich sense of space, while Kevin Walczyk’s moving Symphony No. 5: Freedom from Fear– Images from the Shoreline is unified by its themes of adoption, segregation and immigration.
Tomás Bretón’s distinguished career as an opera composer and leading figure in Madrid’s musical life at the turn of the 20th century has tended to overshadow the significant contribution he made to Spanish chamber music. He remained true to the historic roots of the string quartet genre—his First String Quartet being a tribute to the Viennese tradition in its Classical poise. The Third String Quartet exudes Mendelssohnian inspiration in its first movement with overtly Spanish idioms, the Allegro no mucho third movement also having been turned into a version for piano trio as the Scherzo andalou. This is the first of two albums of the complete string quartets.
The insatiable demand for sheet music for domestic use in the 19th century meant that popular works were widely disseminated in piano duet form. Robert Schumann’s own arrangements of the ‘Spring’Symphony (in collaboration with his wife Clara Schumann) and the Fourth Symphony balance playability and fidelity to the original with tremendous skill. Clara considered the Fourth Symphony to be ‘another work from the innermost depths of Robert’s soul’, a symphony that has become one of the most quintessential of the Romantic era.
Political crises and rising antisemitism in Europe during the first half of the 20th century prompted many leading musicians to immigrate to America. An influx of refugees formed a flourishing artistic community centred within a few square miles near Hollywood and this exceptional gathering of composers transformed America’s musical landscape. This survey explores their diverse output through music for cello and piano, including arrangements by the composers and their fellow expatriate performers never before heard on the cello.
Written over the course of a quarter-century, these four flute works reflect the individual approaches to the flute sonata taken by their composers. Hindemith’s aim was to offer new music of buoyancy and brio, tempered by elegiac moments. Prokofiev’s famous sonata has Classical formal elegance, while the sonatas of Denisov and Nagovitsyn are single movement works that explore the flute’s extreme registers, as well as its dynamic contrasts and virtuosic capacities.
In this second volume of André Jolivet’s complete works for flute (Volume 1 is on 8.573885), Kobe International Flute Competition winner Hélène Boulègue explores further examples of some of the most individual and important of all 20th-century works for the instrument. The Flute Concerto No. 1 exemplifies Jolivet’s genius for liquid melodic lines and frenetic bravura. The intricately scored Suite en concert for flute and four percussionists is one of the most fascinating in the repertoire, whilst the Sonatine is both trance-like and rhapsodic.
Leo Brouwer is universally acclaimed as an innovative composer, and this fifth volume of his complete guitar works contains some of his longest and most ambitious pieces. Danzas Rituales y Festivas Vol. 2 covers the gamut of virtuosic techniques and includes a movement dedicated to Pedro Mateo González, while Brouwer considers the Sonatadel Pensador to be ‘one of my most valuable pieces’. Rich in Cuban rhythms, introspection and astonishing virtuosity, Brouwer’s work is the result of a lifetime of musical exploration alongside a passion for music of the past.
The technical and musical demands Beethoven makes of his concerto soloists shine centre-stage in this compilation of wonderful performances of movements from his five Piano Concertos, his Violin Concerto, and the Triple Concerto for violin, cello and piano. The line-up of soloists is world-class; and there’s the bonus of several other Beethoven works written in concertante form that are generally less well-known.
The Naxos World label has two new releases in March: a fusion album from the Mauritian band Noukilla, and an album which explores the rich variety of Taiwanese aboriginal folk music.
Noukilla are five friends from the island of Mauritius who moved to Shanghai in 2005. They make warm, happy, energetic, feel-good music in the uniquely Mauritian styles of Sega and Seggae, inflected with a touch of jazz.
The fifth volume of the Folk Music of China series features folk songs from the Austronesian aboriginal ethnic minority groups living in Taiwan. Listening to this album in its entirety feels like flying across the island: one minute you are put into the scene of a sacred ceremony, the next into a hunting trip or a wedding.
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!
Richard Danielpour: The Passion of Yeshua: Part 1, Scene 1: Prologue (Chorus) (UCLA Chamber Singers, Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra, JoAnn Falletta)
Tomas Bretón: String Quartet No. 3 in E minor: I. Allegro cómodo (Bretón String Quartet)
Leo Brouwer: Danzas Rituales y Festivas, Vol. 2: I. Danza de los Ancestros (Dance of the Ancestors) (Pedro Mateo González)
Ludwig van Beethoven: Cantata on the death of the Emperor Joseph II, WoO 87: Aria with Chorus: Da stiegen die Menschen an’s Licht (‘Then mankind climbed into the light’) (Reetta Haavisto, Chorus Cathedralis Aboensis, Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Leif Segerstam)
André Jolivet: Petite suite: IV. Allant (Hélène Boulègue, Jean-Christophe Garzia, Nicolas Tulliez)
Ēriks Ešenvalds: O salutaris hostia (Portland State Chamber Choir, Ethan Sperry)
Mieczysław Weinberg: Clarinet Concerto, Op. 104: III. Allegretto (Robert Oberaigner, Dresden Chamber Soloists, Michail Jurowski)
Leopold Godowsky (arr. J. Heifetz): Triakontameron: No. 11. Alt Wien (Brinton Averil Smith, Evelyn Chen)
Ludwig van Beethoven: Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C major, Op. 56: II. Largo (Dong-Suk Kang, Maria Kliegel, Jenő Jandó, Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia, Béla Drahos)
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata for Orchestra in C minor, Op. 30, No. 2b (from Violin Sonata No. 7, arr. G. Schumann & Y. Segal): I. Allegro con brio (BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Yaniv Segal)
Morton Gould: Symphonette No. 4, ‘Latin-American Symphonette’: I. Rhumba (ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Arthur Fagen)
Aaron Perrine: In the Open Air, In the Silent Lines (Univeristy of Kansas Wind Ensemble, Paul W. Popiel)
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 concertos and other works for soloist and orchestra:
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