This month’s NEW ON NAXOS spotlight recording is the third chapter of Richard Wagner’s epic opera cycle Der Ring de Nibelungen – Siegfried – performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Jaap van Zweden. Recorded live in concert, this production features some of today’s best Wagnerian singers including tenor Simon O’Neill in the title role, soprano Heidi Melton as the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, and tenor David Cangelosi as the gnome Mime. This is also the third and final appearance of bass-baritone Matthias Goerne as The Wanderer. Goerne was praised by many critics for his “deep, powerful portrayal of Wotan” (Fanfare).
Other highlights include violinist Tianwa Yang’s newest recording, performing Saint-Saëns’Works for Violin and Orchestra, with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra and conductor Marc Soustrot; the final volume in our highly acclaimed Heitor Villa-LobosSymphonies cycle – Nos. 1 and 2 – by the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Isaac Karabtchevsky; Shostakovich’s complete film score to The Gadfly by the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz and conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald; the latest instalment in Septura’s Music for Brass Septet series, featuring works by MauriceRavel, GabrielFauré and ClaudeDebussy; world premiere recordings of Terry Riley’s The Palmian Chord Ryddle for electric violin and orchestra, and organ concerto At the Royal Majestic – recorded by the GRAMMY® Award-winning Nashville Symphony and conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, with soloists Tracy Silverman (electric violin) and Todd Wilson (organ); and many more.
Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) is one of the most remarkable achievements in all music, and Siegfried, the third in the cycle, contains some of the greatest moments in Wagner’s entire output. Wagner conceived Siegfried as a heroic ‘man of the future’, and his fantastical tale is one in which the human dramas of treachery and violent struggles for power become magnified in a world of gods, dragons and magic. The previous opera in this cycle, Die Walküre (Naxos 8.660394-97), was acclaimed in The Guardian as ‘thrillingly vivid… easily maintains the high standard and promise of Das Rheingold’ (Naxos 8.660374-75).
Tianwa Yang is ‘an artist of exceptional technique and musicianship’ (BBC Music Magazine) and has established herself as a leading international performer and recording artist, winning the Annual Prize of the German Record Critics 2014 for her acclaimed recordings of Sarasate’s complete violin works. Her ‘stunning effortless virtuosity’ and ‘uncanny affinity for Spanish music’ (All Things Strings) make her the ideal advocate for the music presented on this recording. The Introduction et Rondo capriccioso is a glittering showcase imbued with the passion of Iberian dance, while the Havanaise in E Major is a languorous habanera. Less frequently heard are the evocative Capriceandalou, the songful Romance in C Major, the rhapsodic Morceau deconcert, and the improvisatory La Muse et le Poète.
Heitor Villa-Lobos’s first two symphonies take the European tradition head-on, absorbing French models prevalent in Brazil in the early 20th century. The confident swagger of the First Symphony is characteristic of Villa-Lobos’s ‘Brazilianness’, while the cyclical Second Symphony filters myriad influences including the music of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Debussy and Puccini. Its slow movement heralds the affecting melodic content that would later become the trademark of the Bachianas Brasileiras [Naxos 8.557460-62]. This is the sixth and final volume of an acclaimed complete edition of Villa-Lobos’s symphonies in which ‘Karabtchevsky leads the way’ (Gramophone).
Set in mid-nineteenth-century Italy during a turbulent period of pre-Unification political unrest, The Gadfly drew from Shostakovich one of his most dazzling and popular film scores, heard hitherto on record only in a suite arranged and re-orchestrated by Levon Atovmian. This recording presents the full, original score for the first time, as closely as possible to Shostakovich’s original conception. Reconstructed by Mark Fitz-Gerald from the original manuscript and the Russian film soundtrack, it calls for a large orchestra including church bells, an organ, two guitars and a mandolin, all excluded from the Atovmian suite.
The excerpts from The Counterplan, which marked the fifteenth anniversary of the 1917 Revolution, include the infectious hit-tune The Song of the Counterplan.
Born into a working-class family, George Dyson became one of the most important musicians and composers of his day. The previously unknown Choral Symphony was written as an examination work while Dyson was studying at Oxford, and it was only recently discovered at the Bodleian Library. Dyson relishes his dramatic chosen text from Psalm 107 on the expulsion from and homecoming of the Jews to Israel, a narrative that inspires trademark features that would make his later works so attractive. Its seascape finale links neatly with St Paul’s Voyage to Melita, another vivid text from which Technicolor musical images are conjured.
Septura turn to one of the most groundbreaking periods of music history: France at the outset of the 20th century. In this fertile compositional field solo brass instruments flourished, but the chamber music landscape was barren. And so the group reimagine works by the three composers who defined France’s unique musical direction: Fauré, Debussy and Ravel. Conjuring the full kaleidoscope of colours possible from seven brass instruments, they trace the origins of Impressionism, from Fauré’s masterful mélodies through to the iconic piano works of Debussy and Ravel.
Terry Riley’s name will always be associated with his breakthrough work In C, but his influence on modern music has stretched far beyond minimalism. Both of the works on this recording reveal Riley’s spirit of exploration and his close collaboration with remarkable musicians. Commissioned by the Nashville Symphony, The PalmianChord Ryddle is a kind of musical autobiography in which electric violin pioneer Tracy Silverman’s “one-man string quartet” sets the pace for the sparse, translucent orchestration. At the Royal Majestic is another recent example of Riley’s work with a symphony orchestra and a virtuosic soloist, in this case organist Todd Wilson. Its title refers to “the mighty Wurlitzer housed in grand movie palaces,” and the music draws on a wide variety of genres including gospel, ragtime, Baroque chorales, and boogie.
Jacques Offenbach is best remembered for his operettas, but the dramatic Ouverture à grand orchestre is a rarely heard early piece that presages his future in musical theatre. The enduring popularity of Orpheus in the Underworld is due in no small part to the Can-Can, now one of the most iconic pieces in Western classical music. Orpheus was Offenbach’s first full-length operetta, and TheDrum-Major’s Daughter was to be his last, those in between including the popular vaudeville of Monsieur et Madame Denis, humorous satires on Parisian life, and La belle Hélène, an instant success that enjoyed an initial run of 700 performances.
László Lajtha is recognized, along with Bartók, Kodály and Dohnányi, as one of the great Hungarian composers of the first half of the 20th century. He established his reputation as his country’s foremost symphonist but also showed a strong affinity for the stage, writing his one-act ballet Capriccio in 1944. Despite the darkness of the times the ballet is filled with light and set in the period around 1700, the age of Watteau. Taking commedia dell’arte as his model, Lajtha’s characterisation brims with wit and elegance.
Commissioned in 2012 to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, Timothy Hamilton’s Requiem draws its inspiration from the Roman liturgy. In twelve movements, it conjures up a vivid sequence of images depicting both the horror of war and the calmness and eeriness of the aftermath of battle, interspersed with moments of sombre and contemplative reflection most notably in the plangent setting of Isaac Watts’ Give us the wings of faith and the orchestral interlude Lest We Forget. The work builds to a powerful and moving conclusion with soprano and then chorus welcoming the souls of the fallen into paradise.
Although he is a prolific composer of operas, symphonies and concertos, songs lie at the core of Daron Hagen’s output. With over 350 published art songs, he has embraced and extended the great lineage of American song exemplified by Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and Ned Rorem, and is now considered one of the foremost 21st-century composers for the voice. The meticulously crafted and wholly idiomatic examples included here have been recorded under the composer’s supervision with his chosen performers, members of Lyric Fest, Philadelphia’s renowned song series.
Arthur Benjamin and Edgar Bainton were linked by a genuine love for humanity, curiosity about wider cultures and a willingness to travel in the cause of their calling as musicians. Both were also caught up in the traumas of World War I. Best known for his JamaicanRumba, Benjamin’s vocal music is imbued with a sense of refinement and impeccable craftsmanship, as well as the rhythmic vitality and colour expected from a virtuoso pianist. Bainton’s hallmarks also include sensitive and harmonically imaginative piano writing, his devotion to poetry resulting in settings with an artistic instinct for beauty that is quite outstanding.
The Viennese–born Carl Czerny, student and confidant of Beethoven and teacher of Liszt, found fame in his native city by writing a series of fashionable pieces, among which numbered fantasies and potpourris as well as a series of important pedagogic studies. His large-scale pianistic works are of great interest and include the First Piano Concerto in D Minor, which expertly balances foreboding, pastoral richness and exuberant brio, a bravura Introduzione e Rondo Brillant and a vivacious salute to Weber’s Euryanthe. ‘Tuck is dazzlingly articulate and secure in the countless runs and fast passagework Czerny asks of her’, wrote MusicWeb International of 8.573417.
In addition to his operatic achievements, Franco Alfano composed an impressive body of chamber and instrumental works, including the little-known music for piano heard on this recording. His early career as a virtuoso pianist is reflected in works ranging from the Quatre Pièces, with their tributes to Schumann and Mendelssohn, to the Dansesnapolitaines, inspired by the Neapolitan canzone, the neo-classicism of the Cinq Dansesde Cléo de Mérode and the quirky rhythms of the Danses roumaines. Recordings of Alfano’s chamber music can be heard on Naxos 8.570928 and 8.572753. His opera Cyrano de Bergerac, with Plácido Domingo in the title role, is available on Naxos DVD 2.110270 and Blu-ray NBD0005.
The third of this four-volume series unites distinguished composers of the older generation with some of the most promising voices in Spain today, amply justifying claims for a modern Spanish renaissance of the classical guitar. Performing works dedicated to and commissioned by himself, award-winning guitarist Adam Levin puts his flawless technique and gorgeous tone to the service of music whose soul and poetry are the unmistakable products of a common and illustrious ancestry. Volumes 1 and 2 are available on Naxos 8.573024 and 8.573409.
The full splendour of Baroque spatial and sonic drama is encountered in these performances of Heinrich Biber’s polyphonic masterpiece, the Missa Salisburgensis, and the Venetian choral works of Monteverdi, from which it takes inspiration. Composed in an astonishing 53 parts in 1682, the Mass celebrated the acoustic possibilities of the newly completed Cathedral in Salzburg, the very building in which it is performed here. The authentic 360-degree surround sound sends the music ricocheting from platform and galleries in a dazzling display that exploits acoustics and architecture alike.
“When I heard Idil Biret play, I was fascinated, I had tears in my eyes.”
– Arthur Rubinstein
“I have admired all the discs in Idil Biret’s Brahms series … There is always the right kind of gravity, one that does not exclude charm and warmth but still represents a Northern kind of utterance.” – Gramophone
NA0268 • 3-CD Set
NA0278 • 24-CD Set
NA0279 • 6-CD Set
NA0290 • 4-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!
Camille Saint-Saëns: Introduction et Rondo capriccioso in A Minor, Op. 28 (Tianwa Yang, Malmö Symphony Orchestra, Soustrot)
Heitor Villa-Lobos: Symphony No. 1, "O Imprevisto": I. Allegro assai moderato
Daron Aric Hagen: After Words: No. 4. The Rain Stick (Aronson, Gaines, Ward)
Terry Riley: The Palmian Chord Ryddle: II. Iberia (Silverman, Nashville Symphony, Guerrero)
Richard Wagner: Siegfried, Act III: Selige Öde auf sonniger Höh'! (O'Neill, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Zweden)