The spotlight release in the September issue of NEW ON NAXOS is the latest instalment in the Maurice Ravel orchestral works cycle by the Orchestre National de Lyon and conductor Leonard Slatkin. The sixth volume features the composer’s three works for solo instrument and orchestra – Piano Concerto in G major, Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and Tzigane – performed by soloists François Dumont (piano) and Jennifer Gilbert (violin). The series has been highly acclaimed, with ClassicsToday.com commenting that ‘Slatkin’s conducting is excellent’ (Vol. 5), and described as ‘spectacular performances’ by AllMusic.com (Vol. 4).
Other highlights include: Rossini’s highly popular opera The Barber of Seville on DVD/Blu-ray, recorded from a 2017 Théâtre des Champs-Élysées production directed by Laurent Pelly; Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 by Albéric Magnard, presented by the Freiburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Fabrice Bollon; Sonatas for Violin and Piano by Leopoldo Miguez and Glauco Velásquez, recorded by the duo of Emmanuele Baldini and Karin Fernandes; Mr. E and Me’s New Orchestral Hits 4 Kids, a collection of catchy contemporary songs recorded with Norwegian Radio Orchestra; and many more.
Composed between 1929 and 1931, Ravel’s two piano concertos reflect his enthusiasm for jazz, though one that was thoroughly absorbed into his own idiom. The Concerto in G major, originally conceived as a Basque rhapsody, is lightly scored but sports a vivacious percussion section, galvanising motor rhythms and a slow movement of astonishing beauty. The Concertofor the Left Hand, commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein who had lost his right arm in the First World War, is a single movement tour de force, as is Tzigane, a gypsy violin showpiece of dazzling virtuosity.
Slatkin on Ravel’s Piano Concertos and Tzigane
Ravel Orchestral Works series by Slatkin and the ONL
Rossini’s comic masterpiece was based on Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’s French play Le Barbier de Séville and is the ultimate opera buffa. The score is a compendium of the composer’s wittiest and most brilliant writing, and includes the famous entrance aria Largo al factotum and a raft of superbly dynamic ensembles. This vibrant and youthful production features Florian Sempey, one of the world’s best Figaros, the ‘Rossini tenor’ Michele Angelini, vivacious and critically admired Catherine Trottmann, and the award-winning team of acclaimed director Laurent Pelly and conductor Jérémie Rhorer who directs his spirited period ensemble Le Cercle de l’Harmonie.
Albéric Magnard became a French national hero when he died defending his home at the outbreak of the First World War and, although he wrote relatively little, his catalogue is full of expansive and beautifully crafted music. Magnard was a symphonist at heart, and with its evocations of landscape and expressive lyricism his Third Symphony was admired by Paul Dukas for its ‘perfect clarity’ and as an ‘all too rare creation’. The luminous Fourth Symphony is one of Magnard’s last surviving works—a masterpiece that successfully synthesises Wagnerian high drama with Classical transparency.
Leopoldo Miguez and Glauco Velásquez were both leading figures in Brazil’s classical music scene at the turn of the 20th century, bringing back influences from Europe to a homeland in a state of enormous social upheaval. The lyrical character of Miguez’s ambitious Violin Sonata, Op. 14 is developed in a far more sophisticated and contrapuntal manner to anything previously experienced in Brazil, while Velásquez’s two sonatas are even richer in nuance. The tropical Romanticism of these three works marked an important change in Brazil’s chamber music, from pieces intended largely for domestic use to works equal to the noble expression of its new Republic.
Catchy contemporary music for children performed by an orchestra is a rarity. New Orchestral Hits 4 Kids aims to open ears, new and old to the wonderful sounds of the orchestra. The songs are written, arranged and performed by two highly accomplished musicians, Mr. E aka Erik Johannessen of Jaga Jazzist fame and Me aka Martin Hagfors an acclaimed songwriter, artist and lyricist. The orchestra is The Norwegian Radio Orchestra directed by Anders Eljas of Chess and ABBA fame and by the eloquent Ingar Bergby. The orchestra is augmented by the internationally renowned Sami artist, Mari Boine, The Norwegian Girls Choir and percussionist Heming Valebjørg of The Oslo Symphony Orchestra. Enjoy!
Pulitzer Prize-and GRAMMY Award-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis’s Flute Concerto was inspired by and written for Marina Piccinini. Its four movements explore darker and lighter elements in various dance forms, most of which begin calmly but end up spiralling out of control. Kernis describes the songlike Air as ‘a love letter to the flute.’ His Second Symphony was composed at the time of the Persian Gulf War and signified a powerful shift of tone in his music. Non-programmatic but linear and compact, it forms a part of his ‘War Pieces’ of 1991–95.
Beethoven was commissioned to write his first stage work – a ballet score for Die Geschöpfe desPrometheus (‘The Creatures of Prometheus’) – for the dancer and choreographer Salvatore Viganò, nephew of composer Luigi Boccherini. In the myth, Prometheus is punished by Zeus for stealing fire for the benefit of mankind; in the allegorical ballet, Prometheus brings Enlightenment ideas of art and science to humanity. The overture remains popular and the finale – the theme of which Beethoven was later to use in his ‘Eroica’ Symphony – offers a heroic conclusion.
Most of the pieces on this album have been designated ‘WoO’ (Works without Opus Number) or bear the numbering from the Hess catalogue of unpublished or unfinished pieces. These include the piano transcription of the topically programmatic Battle Symphony (Wellington’s Victory or The Battle of Vitoria) and the genial variations on Rule Britannia and God Save the King. The Marches, Menuets and Ecossaises derive from a variety of sources, while there is a strangely tragic aspect to the Waltz in C minor.
The East-West Chamber Orchestra is the resident orchestra of the Yuri Bashmet International Music Festival and is made up of concertmasters from leading orchestras and competition laureates. On this, their debut recording, they celebrate the centenary of Mieczysław Weinberg’s birth. Weinberg’s Chamber Symphonies reflect his creativity and the dramatic times in which he lived – the formal lucidity and directness of the First and the elegiac Third – both derived from string quartets composed in the shadow of the Second World War.
The string quartet is at the very heart of 20th-century British music, encompassing some of the quintessential works of the chamber music repertory. This compendium features fine examples of the genre, revealing the precocious talents of Benjamin Britten and John Ireland, the quicksilver craftsmanship of Frank Bridge and Alan Rawsthorne, the captured sunshine’ of Edward Elgar’s writing and the evocative pastoral renderings of Arthur Bliss and Arnold Bax. Although the musical styles of each of the composers featured in this collection are unique, their contributions are unified by an innate understanding and mastery of the string quartet form. The multi-award-winning and twice GRAMMY Award-nominated Maggini Quartet’s consummate and much lauded interpretations of these works are presented here together for the first time.
Chamber music played a substantial role in the renewal of Portuguese music that took place during the 20th century. Freitas Branco’s kaleidoscopic Trio has an experimental feel, brimming with his typical rhythmic fluidity and sweeping melodic style, while Frederico de Freitas’s Prelúdio, coral e fuga is both colourful and technically impressive. Braga Santos’s infectious lyricism is evident in his Trio, and the origins of Delgado’s Trio Camoniano as a sequence of songs connects the worlds of classical music and fado. Volume 1 of Trio Pangea’s ‘superbly played’ (MusicWeb International) Portuguese Piano Trios can be heard on 8.573402.
Though he was known primarily as a symphonist, and despite his large portfolio of piano works, Raff’s first love was the violin and his pieces for the instrument were promoted by no less a virtuoso than Sarasate. The Violin Sonata No. 1 is a powerful work teeming with expressive intensity and lyrical beauty – it remained the most performed of his violin sonatas during his lifetime. The large-scale Violin Sonata No. 2 offers his characteristic lyric impulse and virtuoso fireworks.
In the interwar period, Giovanni Salviucci was recognised as one of Italy’s most talented composers alongside Luigi Dallapiccola and Goffredo Petrassi but his early successes and all future hopes were quashed by his untimely death in 1937. The Serenade for 9 Instruments, at times rhythmically restless, at others tender and cantabile, and the angular, harmonically daring, neo-Classical Chamber Symphony for 17 Instruments, are two of his most forward-looking compositions. The unpublished String Quartet, at the heart of which lies an Adagio molto of extraordinary emotional impact, is a true gem. This release of the complete published chamber music stands as a vibrant testament to a future curtailed of a composer described by Petrassi in a letter to Casella, Salviucci’s teacher and mentor, as ‘il migliore di noi tutti’ (‘the best of us all’).
Brahms’ fascination with music of the 16th to the 18th centuries was nurtured during his appointment in Vienna as conductor of the Singakademie. His own choral compositions had gradually moved from an almost pastiche Renaissance style towards a fully mature, Romantic approach, culminating in his large-scale choral masterpiece Ein deutsches Requiem. This performance is sung in a new English translation prepared by Lara Hoggard that fits the original German declamation and with the piano four-hands accompaniment written by Brahms himself.
Named after a scribe at Madrid’s royal chapel, the Guerra Manuscript is a vital source of the tonohumano, a form of secular song characteristic of and exclusive to the Spanish Baroque, from a period when solo accompanied songs were at their most popular. Accompanied by double harp or harpsichord, these texts deal with subjects such as the pain of unrequited love and the balance between suffering and joy, also drawing on mythology and the natural world to symbolise the many facets of the human condition. This is the penultimate volume in a complete edition of these 17th-century gems.
Isaac Albéniz is best known for his influential piano works and a style that draws on Spanish folk music idioms. But his remarkable catalogue of songs successfully combines tradition and modernity, adapting a myriad of compositional techniques to create a uniquely personal and innovative style. These evocative and at times introspective songs look forward to the composer’s masterpiece Iberia. Renowned mezzo-soprano Magdalena Llamas has been admired for her ‘expression and sensuality’ by The New York Times.
It was a pivotal meeting in the mid-1920s that marked the beginning of an enduring musical and personal friendship between Alexandre Tansman and the Spanish virtuoso guitarist Andrés Segovia. Tansman’s legacy for the instrument ranges over a 57-year period, inaugurated by a dazzling Mazurka and represents Segovia’s ‘most advanced commitment to modern music’. This first volume presents suites and dances inspired by Italy, Poland and Eastern Europe, and includes Suite in modo polonico, heard here in its original version, not the Segovia-authorised collage. Andrea De Vitis has meticulously researched the original manuscripts to resolve any doubts and omissions in published editions.
Representing three generations of Spanish composers, these works reveal the diversity and depth of the Iberian musical imagination. Albéniz’s Suite is a perennial evocation of Iberian Romanticism that transcribes naturally from piano to guitar, and José’s original and inventive Sonata revives a reputation cut short by the Spanish Civil War. Dedicated to Segovia, Manén’s Fantasia-Sonata is rich in Catalonian sentiment both elegiac and celebratory. Vojin Kocić’s debut recording, ‘and what a debut it is’ (TheWholeNote), can be heard on 8.573906.
Written during Peter Racine Fricker’s tenure as professor of music at the University of California Santa Barbara campus, the Serenade No. 5, Op. 81 for violin and cello was written in 1980 and juxtaposes disquietingly atmospheric harmonies with an appealingly modern expression. James Dickenson and Nicholas Stringfellow have explored Fricker’s String Quartets on the Naxos album 8.571374.
* Available only on download and streaming platforms
Beethoven’s Romance cantabile, in E minor, seems to have been intended a slow movement for a concerto. It is scored for piano, concertante flute and bassoon, two oboes and orchestra and has been dated to 1786/87, the period when Beethoven was sent for his first visit to Vienna and possible lessons with Mozart. The unfinished fragment of a Violin Concerto, in C major, belongs either to the years in Bonn or to Beethoven’s early days in Vienna. It includes an orchestral exposition, the first solo passage, a further orchestral intervention and material for the soloist, followed by a transition. It has been suggested that the movement may have been completed, but that the following pages have been lost.
* Available only on download and streaming platforms
Reflecting Shakespeare’s declaration that ‘all the world’s a stage’, Naxos is poised to significantly enhance its contribution to the platform for world music. Relaunched and breathing new life, the Naxos World label hits the ground running with recordings that represent both distinct cultures and adventures in fusion. Music lovers around the world can join in sharing the experience of contrasting sounds from unique cultures, aided by detailed and colourful introductory booklets that will inform both newcomers and aficionados alike.
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!
Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto in G Major: I. Allegramente (Dumont, Lyon National Orchestra, Slatkin)
Ludwig van Beethoven: Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus, Op. 43, Act I: Ouverture (Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Segerstam)
Martin Hagfors & Erik Johannessen: Long, Long (Boine, Mr. E and Me, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, Eljas)
Valeri Tolstov: The Sky is Cloudy (Stalder, Authentic Light Orchestra)
Papillon: Moyo (Various Artists)
Leopoldo Miguez: Violin Sonata, Op. 14: IV. Vivace (Baldini, Fernandes)
Albéric Magnard: Symphony No. 3 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 11: II. Danses: Très vif (Freiburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Bollon)
Alexandre Tansman: 3 Danze da In modo polonico: No. 2. Dumka (Andrea De Vitis)
Ludwig van Beethoven: Wellingtons Sieg oder die Schlacht bei Vittoria, Part II: Sieges-Symphonie (Victory Symphony): Intrada (Carl Petersson)
Mieczysław Weinberg: Chamber Symphony No. 3, Op. 151: II. Allegro (East-West Chamber Orchestra, Krimer)
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