The spotlight release for the May edition of NEW ON NAXOS is an extraordinary collaboration by three of Naxos’ top artists – violinist Tianwa Yang, cellist Gabriel Schwabe and conductor Antoni Wit – in a recording of Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto and Double Concerto, with the Deutsches-Symphonie Orchester Berlin. Each of the three artists have deep association with Brahms: the Violin Concerto is a significant part of Tianwa Yang’s concert repertoire; Schwabe’s debut album features the composer’s cello sonatas and songs; and Wit’s previous Brahms recordings were generally praised and highly acclaimed by critics and publications (‘Wit conducts with considerable insight and interpretative command’ – International Record Review on Ein Deutsches Requiem).
Other highlights include: the world premiere recording of Jonathan Leshnoff’sFourth Symphony featuring the Violins of Hope; incidental music by Vincent d’Indy conducted by Darrell Ang; the latest instalment in the Havergal Brian Complete Symphonies series; award-winning choreographer Angelin Preljocaj’s La Fresque on DVD/Blu-ray; Antonín Dvořák’s oratorio Saint Ludmila featuring the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir; the original version Manuel de Falla’s El amor brujo with renowned flamenco cantaora Esperanza Fernández; a collection of variations on opera themes by Ludwig van Beethoven, and many more.
Brahms’ string concertos are indissolubly linked with the musicians for whom the works were written. He wrote his Violin Concerto for Joseph Joachim, and in it he combined what a contemporary critic termed ‘the great and serious’ with songful lyricism, melodic beauty, and a fiery Hungarian finale. To mend a breach with the violinist, Brahms later composed a concerto with the unusual combination of violin and cello, the latter played at the premiere by Joachim’s colleague Robert Hausmann. Neither instrument predominates in a work of reconciliation that embodies both drama and reflection.
Distinguished by The New York Times as ‘a leader of contemporary American lyricism,’ composer Jonathan Leshnoff is renowned for his music’s striking harmonies, structural complexity and powerful themes. Leshnoff’s works have been performed by more than 60 orchestras worldwide, including commissions from Carnegie Hall, the Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, and Nashville Symphony orchestras, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the IRIS and Philadelphia orchestras. Jonathan Leshnoff’s Symphony No. 4 is a powerful new work written for the Violins of Hope, a collection of restored instruments that survived the Holocaust (www.violinsofhopensh.com). The composer draws inspiration from an ancient Jewish mystical text, Heichalos, to explore spiritual and ethical questions at the heart of the Jewish experience. This world premiere recording also features his energetic Starburst and his Guitar Concerto, a stunning virtuoso showcase for soloist Jason Vieaux.
Described by Gabriel Fauré as the ‘Samson of Music’, Vincent d’Indy enriched French musical culture considerably as it made its transition into the 20th century. His orchestral works in particular demonstrate great skill and creativity, with his eclectic style often drawing inspiration from other composers, especially Wagner. At other times his music integrates Gregorian chant or French folk tunes, as in two of the works that feature on this recording, Médée and Karadec, both drawn from his incidental music for plays. Based on a poem about a lonely fairy, d’Indy’s superbly crafted symphonic poem Saugefleurie is permeated by Wagner’s influence while remaining quintessentially French.
The famous traditional Chinese tale of La Fresque (’The Painting on the Wall’) tells of two travellers who take shelter at a small temple, one of whom becomes so enraptured by the image of a beautiful girl in a fresco that he is transported into another dimension. Angelin Preljocaj, one of France’s leading contemporary choreographers, explores this mysterious relationship between representation and reality with a spectacular and unforgettable ballet filled with dynamic action, emotive lyricism and powerful responses to the music of Nicolas Godin, one half of the celebrated music duo Air. La Fresque has been admired for its ‘breath-taking scenes’ (La Terrasse) and its ‘dark and splendid beauty’ (L’Humanité).
Antonín Dvořák’s success in Europe during the 1880s led to invitations to visit England and the commissioning of his oratorio Saint Ludmila for the Leeds Festival. It tells the moving and turbulent story of Ludmila’s conversion to Christianity, an important event in Bohemian history that led to her becoming Bohemia’s patron saint. Written for large forces and with a predominant part for the chorus in the tradition of Handel, Saint Ludmila is full of Dvořák’s typical warmth and melodic beauty, and stands alongside his Stabat Mater and Requiem as one of his greatest works.
Manuel de Falla is renowned as the greatest Spanish composer of the early 20th century, melding diverse stylistic, folk or literary influences into distinctive new musical languages and forging masterworks that have become cultural emblems of his homeland. This synthesis can be found in the original 1915 version of El amor brujo, a heartfelt representation of a young Roma woman’s dramatic quest to free herself of the ghost of her lover. The mini-opera El retablo de Maese Pedro pays homage to Cervantes’ beloved Don Quixote using instrumentations and rhythms that conjure both Spain’s Golden Age and the vibrant energy of new European music in the 1920s.
Havergal Brian’s late creativity is almost unparalleled in musical history – in the last two decades of his life he wrote 25 symphonies. No. 7, the last of his truly large-scale symphonies, was inspired by Goethe’s autobiographical account of his time as a student in Strasbourg. Symphony No. 16 is a tough single-movement work, evoking Ancient Greece and the savagery of the Persian Wars. In bright contrast The Tinker’s Wedding is a sparkling comedy overture based on the play by J.M. Synge.
Even so great a composer as Beethoven wrote music that is now almost completely neglected and unperformed. This sequence brings together a portfolio of such works that focuses on his variations on popular operatic music of the time by Giovanni Paisiello, Peter Winter and André Grétry, and includes the witty and inventive variations on an arietta by Vincenzo Righini. The Piano Sonata in C Major, WoO 51 was found among Beethoven’s papers after his death and published in 1830. While it lacks a finale, it too offers a revealing look at an overlooked composition as do the two charming and unusual waltzes.
Alfonso Romero Asenjo’s distinguished career has resulted in numerous awards and distinctions, highlighting an unmistakable and very particular musical language whose appetite for spirituality and selective use of the avant-garde is now an established aspect of the so-called ‘Generación del 51’. The String Symphony has a cinematic restlessness that conjures hauntingly unsettling images, while the Cello Concerto pits the luminous and extended melodic phrases of the soloist against dense darkness from the orchestra. The Concerto for Two Violins is in part a tribute to J.S. Bach’s work in the same setting, endowing Baroque resources with a mysterious and attractive modernity.
Spanish music has been enriched in recent years by a series of striking and exciting double concertos featuring the country’s emblematic instrument, the guitar. Leading composer Antón García Abril has written prolifically for the guitar and Concierto de Gibralfaro offers three evocative vignettes for two guitars. Mistral by David del Puerto is written for the highly unusual combination of guitar and accordion, a single movement concerto of great colour and dynamic palette. Guereña’s Concierto ecuánime, for guitar and vibraphone, embraces the rhythmic influence of jazz while employing the tuning used in the rondeña form of flamenco.
Acclaimed soloist and First Prize winner at the 2017 Tárrega International Guitar Competition, Alejandro Córdova has chosen a programme that presents five acknowledged masterpieces of the guitar repertoire, while also paying tribute to the great Andrés Segovia an inspiration to composers such as Manuel Ponce, whose Sonatinameridional evokes the lyrical warmth of Iberia. Covering a wide range of techniques and expressive forms that reveal the guitar’s sheer versatility, the distinctive Spanish moods and rhythms of Torroba, José and Tárrega are further contrasted by Johann Kaspar Mertz’s deeply eloquent Elegie.
This programme presents the first integral recording of the complete published and manuscript duets by the Catalan master José Ferrer, last of the charismatic Romantic guitarist-composers, whose light-touched skill at creating music of elegance, charm and nuanced shading made him a darling of cultured society. Taking us from languorous dances to the glamour of Italian grand opera, this is mesmerisingly beautiful music redolent of a lost era of soirées and gallantry, Iberian salons and forgotten Parisian boudoirs.
Astor Piazzolla’s name is synonymous with Nuevo Tango, an experimental compound of traditional and contemporary influences, and this recording offers a bouquet of his finest music in wholly original arrangements for classical accordion and piano. This selection includes the unforgettable Milonga del ángel as well as the evocative suite The FourSeasons of Buenos Aires. The Double Concerto ‘Hommage à Liège’ is one of Piazzolla’s most classically orientated works, by turns playful, catchy and lyric, while the examples drawn from his film music are among his most enduring.
Hans Pfitzner was one of the most important composers of Lieder in the Romantic period. Many of the songs on this album address subjects associated with withdrawal and introversion: the recollection of the happiness of past love, melancholic images of nature, and an awareness of the finite nature of human existence. Included is the world premiere recording of Weihnachtslied, his only setting inspired by a genuine folk song. But at this collection’s heart are the two remarkable cycles, Opp. 35 and 40, that are full of harmonic sophistication, impassioned expression, technical daring, and profoundly human understanding.
All of the composers on this album were part of a new ‘English Style’ that blended traditional lyricism with wider influences from Europe and Scandinavia. They shared a rebelliousness against established musical conservatism and created vivid responses to nature and the living folk heritage of England and Ireland. From Vaughan Williams’ enchanting textures, via Bax and Bridge’s harmonic surprises, to Delius’s return to his roots at the end of his life – this is a rich collection of shimmering gems from the British Isles.
Acclaimed violinist Ellen Jewett’s explorations of Turkey’s musical traditions led to her discovery of Saygun’s Partita, a dense and expressive sister to Bartók’s solo sonata that weaves a beautiful tapestry of colours by combining a rich Romanticism with traditional folk elements. Onur Türkmen’s Beautiful and Unowned is inspired by the unique dreamlike atmosphere of Cappadocia, while Mahir Cetiz’s Soliloquy is a monologue that ranges from cries to whispers. Both of these recent works were commissioned by Ellen Jewett, and the entire programme was recorded in the unique acoustics of a hand-carved Cappadocian cavern.
Over a four-decade span Liszt turned to a sequence of transcriptions drawn from operas by Verdi and Auber. Auber’s La muette de Portici (‘The Mute Girl of Portici’) marks the beginnings of French grand opera, to which Liszt responded with two versions of a Tarantelle that differ relatively little from each other but offer formidable challenges to the performer in their increasingly complex virtuosity. His elaborate variations on Auber’s La fiancée and his concert paraphrase on Verdi’s Ernani and on a prayer from I Lombardi (called Jérusalem in the French staging) offer their own profoundly expressive textures.
When his pupil, the Infanta Maria Bárbara married the heir to the Spanish throne, Domenico Scarlatti travelled with her from Lisbon to Madrid, a move that led to the completion of hundreds of single-movement sonatas or exercises (‘Essercizi’). Designed for her to play, and containing some of his greatest music, the sonatas offer a plethora of features that have ensured their lasting popularity and influence. In this volume one can encounter effortless use of repetition, imitation and arpeggio figuration, dynamic left-hand octave writing and hand crossing, some, as in the Sonata in C Minor, of spectacular velocity.
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!
Manuel de Falla: El amor brujo, Act II: Danza y canción de la bruja fingida: Danza y canción del juego de amor (Fernández, Perspectives Ensemble, Gil-Ordóñez)
Javier López de Guereña: Concierto ecuánime: III. – (Trápaga, Arias, Oviedo Filarmonía, Díaz)
José Ferrer: Mélancolie, Op. 23 (version for 2 guitars) (Skogmo, Franke)
Ahmet Adnan Saygun: Violin Partita, Op. 36: II. Scherzo (Ellen Jewett)
Johannes Brahms: Double Concerto, Op. 102: II. Andante (Tianwa Yang, Gabriel Schwabe, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Wit)
Antonín Dvořák: Svatá Ludmila, Op. 71, Part I: Aria: Od dětství ku oltáři mne vodil svatý cit (Kohútková, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Svárovský)
Alfonso Romero Asenjo: Concerto for 2 Violins: II. Lento (Teslya, Torre, Cammerata Orchestra)
Astor Piazzolla: Double Concerto, “Hommage à Liège”: III. Tango (arr. A. Šenderovas, G. Draugsvoll and M. Rasmussen) (Draugsvoll, Rasmussen)
Havergal Brian: Symphony No. 7: II. Allegro moderato ma maestoso (New Russia State Symphony Orchestra, Walker)
Vincent d’Indy: Médée, Op. 47: V. Le Triomphe auroral (Malmö Symphony Orchestra, Darrell Ang)
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