This month’s NEW ON NAXOS spotlight is on Michael Nyman’s famous chamber opera The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, performed by the Nashville Opera, with soloists Matthew Treviño, Rebecca Sjöwall and Ryan MacPherson, conducted by Dean Williamson; and the latest recording by acclaimed pianist Eldar Nebolsin, performing Tchaikovsky’s lesser-known Piano Concerto No. 2 and Concert fantasia – supported by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and conductor Michael Stern. Described by Gramophone as a “virtuoso of power and poetry”, Nebolsin is considered one of the most versatile and interesting musicians of his generation.
Other highlights include the third and final volume of Enrique Granados’ Orchestral Works series, headlined by the world première recording of the lyric poem Liliana. This series features performances by the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and conductor Pablo Gonzáles; choral music by Charles Villiers Stanford, performed by highly-acclaimed ensemble The Bach Choir, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Hill; the second installment of Aaron Copland’s Ballet Music series – including the very popular Appalachian Spring, and the rarely-heard Hear Ye! Hear Ye! – performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and American maestro Leonard Slatkin; world première recordings of Michael Daugherty’s three orchestral works – Tales of Hemingway, American Gothic, and Once Upon a Castle – featuring the GRAMMY® award-winning team of Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra; Symphony No. 2 and other works by French composer Vincent d’Indy, recorded by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud; and performances of Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale Suite, together with the Octet and the ballet Les Noces, recorded from the Virginia Arts Festival.
Michael Nyman’s one-act chamber opera The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat takes as its subject Dr P, a man suffering from visual agnosia, or ‘mental blindness’, and is adapted from the neurological study in the book of the same name by Oliver Sacks. For Nyman, Dr P ‘requires music as a lifeline, cue, clue, cure’, living as he does in a world lacking visual meaning. It is through his musical gifts that Dr P reclaims meaning from chaos, Nyman’s tautly conceived masterpiece providing a perfect medium through which the moving drama can be explored.
Tchaikovsky has long maintained his position as among the most popular of all composers, his unequalled gift for melody and colourful orchestration given added depth through a rich Russian soulfulness. The Second Piano Concerto has always lived under the shadow of the famous First but, played here in the composer’s original version, is full of life-enhancing character and emotion. Both this and the Concert Fantasia also contain beautiful chamber-music sections allowing unique interaction between soloist and orchestra.
In the last of this three volume series devoted to Granados’s orchestral music, two very different compositional strands are explored. The early Suite oriental reveals his sense of vivid orchestral colour and melodic imagination, couched in the exotic language of the time. Written in a more pared-down style, the one-act ‘lyric poem’ Liliana, a collaboration with the writer Apel·les Mestres, is a four-movement suite in which Granados conjures up a vivid, mythical world. Elisenda is another impressionistic score, both emotive and ethereal, here performed in its arrangement for piano and chamber orchestra.
Choral music was central to Charles Villiers Stanford’s life as a composer. Balancing solemnity with rapturous affirmation, The Resurrection was his first major choral work, written while he was studying under Carl Reinecke in Leipzig and anticipating Mahler’s use of Klopstock’s eponymous poem in his ‘Resurrection’ Symphony. The dramatic, at times almost operatic and Wagnerian Stabat Mater is a cantata with two purely orchestral movements suggestive of a largescale symphony, while Song to the Soul contains some of Stanford’s most exhilarating utterances, though it was never performed in his lifetime.
Aaron Copland wrote his rarely-heard ballet Hear Ye! Hear Ye! for Ruth Page, the dancer and choreographer who was to become the Grande Dame of American ballet. Its scenario is a murder in a nightclub and the ensuing trial in a Chicago courtroom. Copland infused the score with the spirit of his jazz-influenced pieces, controversially distorting part of the National Anthem, and infiltrating music from some of his earlier works. In complete contrast, Appalachian Spring is his most famous work, a true American masterpiece founded on transfigured dance tunes and song melodies. This is volume two of the Complete Ballet series. Volume One is on 8.559758.
GRAMMY® Award-winning composer Michael Daugherty creates colorful musical portraits in this recording, featuring larger-than-life personalities drawn from 20th-century American culture. Tales of Hemingway is a dramatic cello concerto, evoking the turbulent life, adventures, and literature of author Ernest Hemingway. American Gothic is a dynamic concerto for orchestra, reflecting on the creative world of Iowa artist Grant Wood. Once Upon a Castle is a virtuosic sinfonia concertante for organ and orchestra, inspired by the rich history of the Hearst Castle, built high upon the California Pacific coast by billionaire Randolph Hearst, the subject of Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane. Under the baton of Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero, the GRAMMY® Award-winning Nashville Symphony is joined by Zuill Bailey, one of the leading cellists of his generation, and GRAMMY® Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs.
Vincent d’Indy is one of the most important yet neglected figures in French musical history. Though he was celebrated as a teacher, his eclectic yet inventive orchestral music has taken longer to secure him fame. The Symphony No. 2 in B flat major has a powerful architectural design within which tensions between tradition and innovation are played out, and through which the composer draws on folk motifs and his religious faith alike. The powerful, grief-laden symphonic poem Souvenirs was dedicated to the memory of his late wife whilst Istar is a majestic series of variations. The Prelude to Fervaal, his first opera, reveals atmospheric Wagnerian writing.
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882–1971)
The Soldier’s Tale – Suite1
Octet2 • Les Noces3
Tianwa Yang, Violin1 • Rebecca Nash, Soprano3
Robynne Redmon, Mezzo-Soprano3 • Robert Breault, Tenor3
Denis Sedov, Bass3 • André-Michel Schub, Lydia Artymiw, Josu de Solaun, Anna Petrova, Pianos3 • Virginia Symphony Chorus2 • Robert Shoup, Chorusmaster3
Les Noces Percussion Ensemble3 • Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players1, 2
The three works on this recording were composed at a crucial juncture in Stravinsky’s musical life. The Soldier’s Tale, a small-scale theatrical work for instrumental septet, narrator and two speakers completed in 1918 [Naxos 8.573537]. It is performed here in the suite premièred in 1920. The Octet marked a new element in Stravinsky’s writing, inaugurating a turn to neoclassicism, whilst Les noces (The Wedding) is a ballet cantata impelled by dramatic motor rhythms, and once again saturated in his Russian background. Scored for pitched and unpitched percussion, vocal soloists, and mixed chorus, it is a pivotal work in Stravinsky’s development.
László Lajtha remains Hungary’s foremost symphonist and one of the country’s greatest composers of the first half of the twentieth century. Written when he was 44, the vigorous and optimistic Symphony No. 1, Op. 24 reveals a strong affinity with Latin and French models and with indigenous Hungarian folk-music. By 1941, when In memoriam was composed, the mood had darkened and this work is a shocking yet eloquent protest against the brutality of war. The delicious four movement Suite pour orchestre was compiled by the composer from his ballet Lysistrata.
Hermann Goetz’s lifespan was no longer than Mozart’s, and though much admired by contemporaries, as a tragic genius his music became almost forgotten, and the domain of but a few connoisseurs such as Gustav Mahler. Goetz’s style remained closer to Schumann and Mendelssohn, preferring lyricism and clarity to the more radical approaches of Liszt and Wagner. The virtuoso First Piano Concerto was a student work, its lovely central adagio sharing a use of colourful wind parts with the freshly optimistic Second Piano Concerto composed six years later.
More than any other composer, Gerald Finzi (1901–1956) has come to embody the lyrical pastoralism so associated with English twentieth-century music. This anthology includes eight critically acclaimed recordings of Finzi’s works. The themes of fragility and transient existence are expressed in three early song anthologies with words by Thomas Hardy, Finzi’s favourite poet. Intimations of Immortality is a deeply touching lament for the passing of the freshness of childhood, while the tender Dies Natalis is a setting of texts by the 17th century poet Thomas Traherne. Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice takes the listener through a feast of moods and textures and ends with one of the most sublime Amens in all choral music. Finzi’s enchanting Clarinet Concerto was completed in 1949 in response to a commission from the Three Choirs Festival and the Cello Concerto, with its elegiac slow movement, was composed when Finzi learned that he was suffering from an incurable illness and is one of his finest works.
An English aristocrat with a mixed heritage, Georges Onslow was highly regarded for his musical talents during his lifetime, being praised by Berlioz and Schumann and becoming known as the ‘French Beethoven’. Onslow composed 34 string quintets at a time when the string quartet was dominant, and his discovery of the double bass to replace the second cello was transformative. Challenging notions of stringed instruments as being merely lyrical in character, these quintets are striking for their contrasts of warm expressiveness and great dramatic intensity. They are true hidden gems to rival the great composers of chamber music in this era.
One of Australia’s greatest composers, Malcolm Williamson settled in Britain and rose to the position of Master of the Queen’s Music in 1975. He was championed by a number of prominent musical figures and wrote in almost every genre. A skilled keyboard player and a Catholic convert, he wrote for the organ throughout his life and these works reveal his deep immersion in religious music, initially inspired by Messiaen. His instinct for dramatic bravura and colourful registrations can be heard in Résurgence du Feu(Pâques 1959) whilst the beautiful poetic miniatures Little Carols of the Saints reveal deeply human qualities, elements developed more substantially in Mass of a Medieval Saint. Elegy – JFK is fittingly sombre.
Froberger was the most famous keyboard virtuoso of the mid-seventeenth century. This recording of his elegant, colourful and intricately expressive dance music in the French lutestyle, arranged here in chronological order, is the first to employ all available sources in a new edition by Glen Wilson. An online essay explores his in depth views of the many problems of performance practice, and explains the famous programmatic pieces, which shed light on events in Froberger’s life, including a near-drowning of a travelling companion in the Rhine.
This album is the first to present an entire programme of works by Debussy and Ravel, the greatest exponents of Impressionism in music, transcribed for two guitars. The arrangements bring new life to the rich canvas of sonorities and complex harmonies in these popular works. The reflective atmosphere in Debussy’s famous Clair de lune and special upper-harmonic effects in La plus que lente contrast with the ’merry romp’ of the Golliwog’s Cakewalk and Ravel’s nod to Schubert in the Valses nobles et sentimentales.
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