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The highly-acclaimed Naxos American Classics series boasts a unique catalogue of both well-known and rarely recorded masterpieces, featuring the greatest American composers. During the month that celebrates American Independence Day, on 4 July, it's appropriate to shine a spotlight on the edition.

Accordingly, we're adding three new recordings to our tremendous collection this month, with programmes of orchestral music by Christopher Rouse (a fitting testament to the composer who passed away last September), chamber/vocal music by Ian Krouse, and a collection of works for clarinet and soprano that has at its core three song cycles by Lori Laitman.

Christopher ROUSE (1949–2019)
Symphony No. 5
Concerto for Orchestra

Nashville Symphony
Giancarlo Guerrero

Few contemporary artists have been as significant as Pulitzer Prize and GRAMMY Award winner Christopher Rouse, whose imaginative approach made him one of the most frequently performed composers during his lifetime. The Concerto for Orchestra is a ‘hyper-concerto’ that gives each player a chance to shine, while the mournful intimacy and passion of Supplica unfolds somewhat like the slow movement of a Bruckner or Mahler symphony. Rouse’s Fifth Symphony fondly recalls Beethoven’s mighty Fifth but blurs the lines between tradition and modernity, transporting the listener from turbulence to serenity. It was described as “brilliant, exciting and at times hauntingly beautiful” in The Dallas Morning News.

Listen to an extract from Concerto for Orchestra

Christopher Rouse (1949–2019) was one of America’s most prominent composers of orchestral music. His works won a Pulitzer Prize (for his Trombone Concerto) and a Grammy Award (for Concert de Gaudí), as well as election to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters. He created a body of work perhaps unequalled in its emotional intensity, which The New York Times described as ‘some of the most anguished, most memorable music around.’

Ian KROUSE (b. 1956)
Nocturnes • Invocation

Jessica Rivera, Soprano • Vladimir Chernov, Baritone
Movses Pogossian and Guillaume Sutre, Violins • Richard O’Neill, Viola
Antonio Lysy, Cello • Christopher Hanulik, Double Bass
Maryanne Kim, Piano

Ian Krouse has been acclaimed by Gramophone as “one of the most communicative and intriguing” of today’s composers, his style drawing on historical and traditional influences as well as being innovative and modern. With references to Beethoven and Schubert, metaphors of darkness and light are conveyed with powerful emotion in Nocturnes, which sets four texts by well-known Armenian poets to form an odyssey through the mind of a man at mid-life. With profound sadness at its heart, Invocation explores the intangibility of love, contrasting atonality and tonality to express emotional outpourings that ultimately remain ephemeral and elusive.

Listen to an extract from Nocturnes, Op. 60:
No. 4. The Hymn

Ian Krouse is widely recognised for his pioneering efforts in the development of the guitar quartet while, over the past few years, his vocal works have also begun to receive considerable attention. He is a Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of California where he currently serves, in addition to his teaching responsibilities as an Academic Associate Dean for the Herb Alpert School of Music.

Lori LAITMAN (b. 1955)
The Secret Exit
I Never Saw Another Butterfly • Living In The Body

Kalmen OPPERMAN (1919–2010)
Un seul

Diana ROSENBLUM (b. 1983)
Winter Rain

Kristine Hurst-Wajszczuk, Soprano • Denise Gainey, Clarinet

This collection of songs with voice and clarinet has at its heart Lori Laitman’s profoundly moving cycle I Never Saw Another Butterfly, which sets the words of hope and desolation written by children imprisoned in the Terezín concentration camp. Inspired by this poignant music, Kristine Hurst-Wajszczuk and Denise Gainey commissioned a follow-up, The Secret Exit, on poems by Nobel Laureate Nelly Sachs that reflect on life and death. Newly arranged for voice and clarinet, Living In The Body is a cycle about love, memory and resilience. The program is completed with Diana Rosenblum’s delightful setting of Winter Rain and Kalmen Opperman’s haunting Un seul.

Listen to an extract from I Never Saw Another Butterfly:
No. 4. The Garden

Lori Laitman has composed operas, choral works and hundreds of songs setting texts by classical and contemporary poets, including those who perished in the Holocaust. Her music is widely performed, including at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Benaroya Recital Hall, the Concertgebouw and Wigmore Hall, and has generated substantial critical acclaim. In May 2018, she was the recipient of the Yale School of Music’s Ian Mininberg Alumni Award for Distinguished Service.

Other recent recordings from the Naxos American Classics Series
An American in Paris
An Outdoor Overture

Wolf Trap Opera
National Orchestral
Institute Philharmonic • Judd
‘James Judd and the musicians of the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic ... are aware of the importance of their innovative interpretation [using the new critical edition]. Their performance is outstanding.’
Pizzicato ★★★★★
Symphonettes Nos. 2-4
Spirituals for Orchestra

ORF Vienna Radio
Symphony Orchestra • Fagen
‘This is a lovely collection of fine music that is under-represented in the catalogue, and Naxos’s
well-balanced and rich sound, along with excellent notes by Frank K. DeWald, complete the picture. My recommendation is enthusiastic.’
Sanctuary Road

Mitchell • Bryce-Davis • Blue
Merriweather • Burton
Oratorio Society of New York
Chorus and Orchestra • Tritle
‘The relevance of Sanctuary Road (2017) in our present century cannot be overstated … the haunting premiere performance, at Carnegie Hall in 2018 with a finely balanced quintet of soloists, forms the basis of this marvellous recording. Recommended.’

Souza • Nash • Bermel
Juilliard Jazz Orchestra
Albany Symphony • Miller
‘The Albany Symphony Orchestra, with their various partners, play superbly—and idiomatically—throughout. Fine sound, too. Recommended.’
Flute Concerto
Air • Second Symphony

Peabody Symphony Orchestra
Alsop • Slatkin
‘Piccinini’s performance of Air will take your breath away. I was also left breathless at the brilliance and precision of the Peabody Orchestra. No doubt some of that excellence had to do with those two master conductors, Leonard Slatkin and Marin Alsop, at the helm. Seeing these two great musicians on the same disc gave me pause to reflect on the contributions both of them have given to music.’
Boston Symphony Commissions
Andres • Nathan
Shepherd • Tsontakis

Sheena • Boston Symphony Orchestra • Nelsons
‘These four performances evince all of the BSO’s fabled elegance, couched in the warm embrace of Symphony Hall’s acoustic. Enthusiastically recommended to all!’

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