This month’s NEW ON NAXOS spotlight recording is the first issue of our Wagner Ring cycle – Das Rheingold. This four-year collaboration with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of acclaimed conductor Jaap van Zweden, will see a release from Wagner’s monumental cycle each year until 2018. Recorded live, this album, available in both CD and Blu-ray audio formats, features riveting performances by a star-studded cast, including Matthias Goerne as Wotan, Michelle DeYoung as Fricka, and Peter Sidhom as Alberich.
Other highlights include the sixth and last release in our acclaimed series of Sibelius’ orchestral works, featuring Sibelius’ complete ballet Scaramouche with the award-winning Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by leading Sibelius interpreter Leif Segerstam; JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic’s vivid performance of Florent Schmitt’s incidental music for Antoine et Cléopâtre; the fourth volume of Antonio Vivaldi’s sacred music with the Aradia Ensemble, conducted by Kevin Mallon; the penultimate release of John Philip Sousa’s music for wind band, which includes four world première recordings; a rare recording of Rossini-contemporary Pietro Generali’s Adelina, recorded at the ‘Rossini in Wildbad’ festival, with the Virtuosi Brunensis and conductor Giovanni Battista Rigon; and Takako’s second of the seven recordings of the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto,conducted by Henry Shek and written by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao.
Richard WAGNER (1813–1883)
Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold)
Anna Samuil, Eri Nakamura, Sopranos • Michelle DeYoung, Deborah Humble, Mezzo-sopranos • Aurhelia Varak, Hermine Haselböck, Mezzo-sopranos
Kim Begley, Charles Reid, David Cangelosi, Tenors • Matthias Goerne,
Peter Sidhom, Oleksandr Pushniak, Baritones • Kwangchul Youn,
Stephen Milling, Basses • Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
Jaap van Zweden
First performed as a cycle of four operas in 1876, Wagner’s visionary Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) is one of the greatest works of art. Centred around a ring which offers its bearer ultimate power and the attempts of various people to acquire it, the Ring cycle explores the relationship between love and earthly power and the themes of yearning and loss, all within a setting of medieval legend. The Prologue Das Rheingold depicts the theft and subsequent surrender of the ring forged from the Rhinemaidens’ gold by the Nibelung dwarf Alberich.
The eloquent power of Jean Sibelius’s symphonies and other core orchestral works has overshadowed his prolific output in other genres, including significant scores for the theatre. The commission to compose music for the tragic pantomime Scaramouche caused Sibelius much stress and frustration, but on its première the composer was able to note “great success in Copenhagen” in his diary. With the exception of his one opera, Scaramouche is Sibelius’s only continuous dramatic score, the story of the sinister hunchbacked dwarf’s bewitching musicianship and evil intent taking us from innocent charm to a nightmarish conclusion.
A student of Massenet and Fauré, winner of the Prix de Rome in 1900 and friend to Ravel and Satie, Florent Schmitt had a style that blended influences and inspiration from wherever the spirit took him. His incidental music for Antony and Cleopatra originally formed ballet scenes between the acts, evoking and enhancing Shakespeare’s saga of rivalry between the Roman Empire and Egypt, and the tragic consequences of star-crossed love. Schmitt’s The Haunted Palace follows the nuances of Mallarmé’s translation from Edgar Allan Poe in lush orchestration and a sound-scape of enigmatic symbolist imagery.
In Vivaldi’s astonishing worklist there are numerous sacred choral pieces and around forty cantatas. Much of this music was written for the soloists and choir at the girls’ orphanage in Venice where he worked and taught. The motets and psalm settings in this volume, despite being religious works intended for performance during Mass, are often strikingly operatic. Invicti bellate is a bravura setting and whilst In turbato mare irato demands a wide vocal range and the use of opera-derived melismas, all the works display Vivaldi’s vivid musical imagination and his dramatic word setting.
No one embodied the qualities of the American band master more supremely than John Philip Sousa. In this penultimate volume of an internationally admired series, a wide variety of his compositions can be heard, a number in world première recordings. The music ranges from the early Across the Danube March to music from his operettas, taking in a Chopin arrangement and the stirring Yorktown Centennial March. Also included are those inventive works, such as Pet of the Petticoats March, in which Sousa experimented with the march form itself. This recording coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy in 2015.
The great hit at Venice’s San Moisè theatre in the autumn season of 1810 was Pietro Generali’s Adelina. This ‘melodramma sentimentale’ was the latest work by an important contemporary of Rossini, who enjoyed a vogue in early nineteenth-century Italy. The plot concerns the trials of a girl who is seduced and abandoned by her lover, Erneville, has a child out of wedlock, and is rejected by her father who, thanks to the intervention of a kindly friend, then forgives her after she marries Erneville. Brimming with vivacious writing, Adelina reflects powerful cultural attitudes in vogue in early nineteenth-century Italy.
The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto was written in 1958 by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao while they were students at the Shanghai Conservatory. Musically, it's a synthesis of Eastern and Western traditions, although the melodies and overall style are adapted from traditional Chinese Opera. The solo violin employs a technique that recalls the playing of the erhu, a Chinese two-string fiddle; and the work is cast in the form of a one-movement programmatic concerto. This is the second of Takako's seven recordings of this work. She has recorded a wide range of Chinese violin music, including concertos dedicated to her by leading Chinese composers. She was the only non-Chinese violinist to perform the concerto at the official anniversary concert at the Great Hall of the People in 2008.