This month’s NEW ON NAXOS celebrates the 450th birth anniversary of Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi, with the penultimate volume of his Madrigals cycle – Book 8, ‘Madrigali guerreri e amorosi’– with the Delitiæ Musicæ and Marco Longhini, who are also the featured artists of our critically acclaimed set of Gesualdo’s Madrigals.
Other highlights include Carlisle Floyd’s opera Susannah, recognized as the second most-performed American opera next to Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, recorded live from the 2014 production of the St Petersburg Opera Company conducted by Mark Sforzini and directed by Michael Unger; Antoni Wit’s recordings of Dvořák’s Mass in D and Te Deum, with vocal soloists Ewa Biegas, Marina Rodríguez-Cusí, Javier Tomé and José Antonio López, and the award-winning vocal ensemble Orfeón Pamplonés. This album also highlights Wit’s first recording collaboration with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra, of which he has been Music Director since 2013; Volume 2 of our Saint-SaënsPiano Concertos series – Piano Concerto No. 3, Rhapsodie d'Auvergne, Africa, Wedding Cake Waltz – featuring French pianist Romain Descharmes with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra and Marc Soustrot; and the Villiers Quartet’s third album on Naxos, performing the works of Edward Elgar and Frederick Delius.
The Eighth Book of Madrigals, subdivided into a substantial series of vocal and instrumental partbooks, contains some of Monteverdi’s greatest music. In this sumptuous collection, the material is carefully arranged by category into madrigals of war, love, and those for the stage, with a wide array of human passions and compositional styles. This is the first recording to present Book Eight in its original, uncut form, also incorporating instrumental sinfonias and dances by Biagio Marini (1594-1663) to round off Monteverdi’s design. In keeping with seventeenth-century practice, the madrigals are performed entirely by male voices, including a boy soprano in the role of Cupid.
Carlisle FLOYD (b. 1926)
Susan Hellman Spatafora • Stefanie Izzo • Aleksandra Ritums, Sopranos
Melissa Misener • Robyn Rocklein, Mezzo-sopranos • Scott Wichael
Anthony Wright Webb • Stanley Wilson, Tenors • Fred Frabotta, Character Tenor
Todd Donovan, Baritone • Benjamin Bloomfield, Bass-baritone
Brian Wehrle, Bass • St. Petersburg Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Michael Unger, Stage Director • Mark Sforzini, Conductor
Carlisle Floyd is one of America’s foremost composers. Though he has also written in other forms, he is renowned for his operas, for which he also writes the libretti. The most famous and popular is his third opera, Susannah, premièred in 1955 and the second most performed of all American operas. Updated and set in Tennessee, it is loosely based on the Apocryphal tale of Susannah and the Elders. The work is rooted in vernacular folk melodies and hymns and contains soaring melodic beauty.
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Mass in D*
Ewa Biegas, Soprano • Marina Rodríguez-Cusí, Mezzo-soprano*
Javier Tomé, Tenor* • José Antonio López, Baritone • Orfeón Pamplonés
Igor ljurra Fernández, Chorus-master • Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra
Antoni Wit, Conductor
A native of Bohemia, Antonín Dvořák contributed much to the re-establishment of Czech national musical identity in the 19th century. It was the popularity of his choral music in England, however, that led to the development of the Mass in D from its smaller-scale original into a movingly dramatic and jubilant masterpiece with full orchestra. Dvořák’s celebratory Te Deum is comparable in form to a four-movement symphony.
Antoni Wit is considered by ClassicsToday.com to be ‘the best conductor around these days for big choral works’. His acclaimed recording of Dvořák’s Requiem is available on Naxos 8.572874-75.
The Third Piano Concerto has been considered the ‘Cinderella’ among Camille Saint-Saëns’ five works in this genre, but owes its comparative neglect to an adventurous approach to harmony. Daring enough in the first movement, the search for tonality in the second was such an extreme experience that it caused unrest in the audience at its première. Saint-Saëns also composed for piano and orchestra in more rhapsodic forms, exploring folk tunes and rhythms from Africa, and revealing his playful side in the charming Wedding Cake Waltz. Volume 1 can be heard on 8.573476.
Romain Descharmes has established himself as one of the foremost French pianists of his generation. Highly regarded by fellow musicians and in constant demand for concerts with orchestras, for recitals, and chamber music, he has also “sensitively accompanied” (The Strad) violinist Tianwa Yang for Naxos in Mendelssohn’s Sonata in F Minor (8.572662).
The legacy of the First World War left its mark on the music of near contemporaries Edward Elgar and Frederick Delius. The powerful outer movements of Elgar’s String Quartet in E minor frame a wistful and somber Andante piacevole. Delius was dissatisfied with the first, three-movement version of his Quartet and revised the score. On this recording the final 1917 version is followed by the original versions of the opening movement and of the Late Swallows slow movement, offering a rare glimpse into Delius’s compositional workshop.
Composed in 1940, Pizzetti’s Symphony in A was one of the works commissioned to celebrate the 2600th anniversary of the accession of the legendary first Emperor of Japan. This powerful and unsettling work, Pizzetti’s only Symphony, is notable for its ominous mood, its compositional progress between February and June 1940 mirroring the unfolding European conflict and Italy’s own declaration of war. Written twenty years later for Italy’s leading harpist Clelia Gatti Aldrovandi, the sunny Harp Concerto is, by contrast, both lyrical and vivacious.
Lázsló Lajtha was one of the most significant Hungarian composers of the 20th century, yet his international recognition suffered under Communist suppression and his remarkable oeuvre remains neglected. Described by the composer as “very tragic, epic, like a ballad”, the Fifth Symphony is a heartfelt and forceful statement reflecting persecution and the elusive nature of hope. With its moments of nocturnal enchantment and sparkling humor, the Sixth Symphony is enriched by uniquely colorful orchestration. These moods are also present in the wittily brilliant overture to Lajtha's ballet Lysistrata.
Time, place and mood are explored in this unusual programme that reveals the inventive curiosity of the Arabella Quartet, lauded by the Boston Musical Intelligencer for its “freedom, drive, and risk-taking”. The geographical span is wide, from Spain to Russia, and traditional staples by Schubert sit alongside meditative statements on human themes by Puccini, Turina, Webern and Nielsen. Shostakovich’s Two Pieces for String Quartet were rediscovered in the 1980s and broaden the expressive range of this fascinating disc.
Frederick Delius and Arnold Bax both made significant contributions to the partsong repertoire, each leaving a compelling testament to their highly individual creative personality. Delius’ earlier choral songs are nostalgic for the worlds of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Grieg, while the brooding contours of On Craig Ddu results in one of his most remarkable creations. The allure of landscapes and elemental forces was powerful for both composers; the subtle tensions and gorgeously layered harmonies of Bax’s settings also evoking historical remoteness and other-worldly enchantment.
One of the most gifted and prominent of all twentieth-century Lithuanian musicians, Balys Dvarionas was a musical polymath who excelled as a composer, pianist, conductor and teacher. He viewed his native country’s folklore as a fundamental part of his artistic heritage and his aesthetic ideas were formed under the influence of nineteenth-century Romanticism. His violin works occupy a special place in his oeuvre. The Sonata-Ballade is his violin masterpiece, full of idiosyncrasies and luminous warmth, while the miniatures encompass subtle charm and effortless virtuosity.
Liszt first met Hector Berlioz in Paris before the première of the Symphonie fantastique in 1830 and at first their mutual esteem was unbounded. Liszt proceeded to transcribe the music of his friend and the two movements of his innovative transcription of the Symphonie are heard in this recording. Each transcription reveals a different facet of Liszt’s art, from the faithful reflection of the concert overture King Lear, through the dramatic panache of the popular overture to Les Francs-Juges, to the beautiful Pilgrims’ March from Harold en Italie.
Sergey Rachmaninov’s songs rival his piano works in terms of popularity, and are the culmination of a uniquely Russian lyrical tradition. Piano transcription became a fashionable art form following Liszt's pioneering works in the genre, and Rachmaninov’s elaborate piano parts make his romances ideal for solo performance in works that express effortless sensuality as well as darkness and loss. Unearthed in 2002, Rachmaninov’s own transcription of his remarkable Suite in D minor explores both tragic depths and light-hearted bravura.
*All Historical titles are not available in the United States
NA0255 • 5-CD Set
NA0265 • 13-CD Set
NA0266 • 6-CD Set
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!
Antonín Dvořák: Mass in D Major, Op. 86, B. 175: Agnus Dei (Orquesta Sinfonica de Navarra, Wit)
Frederick Delius: String Quartet in E Minor: IV. Very quick and vigorously (revised 1917 version) (Villiers Quartet)
Giacomo Puccini: Crisantemi (Arabella Quartet)
Franz Liszt: Berlioz - Symphonie fantastique: IV. Marche au supplice, S470a/R136 (Feng Bian)
Sergey Rachmaninov: 6 Songs, Op. 4: No. 4. Do Not Sing to Me, Beautiful Maiden (arr. S. Kursanov for piano) (Julia Severus)