Featured Releases -
Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873–1943)
Written over a period of 18 years, Rachmaninov’s sets of Préludes are a mirror and a record of his compositional development. With so rich a variety of character, colour, texture and mood, no two préludes are fully alike, and differentiation of tempo and register ensures that each prélude’s character is clearly defined. The first eleven pieces were conceived by Rachmaninov as a single cycle, and their full-hearted Romanticism contrasts with the significantly more angular, modernistic Op. 32. Whether evoking ballad or bell toll, the exotic or folk influences, the Préludes stand in the great tradition of works by Bach and Chopin written in all 24 major and minor keys.
Hector BERLIOZ (1803–1869)
Roméo et Juliette *
Béatrice et Bénédict – Overture • Le roi Lear – Overture
Lebègue* • Behr* • Caton* • Spirito / Chœurs et Solistes de Lyon-Bernard Tétu* • Orchestre National de Lyon • Slatkin
Of all Berlioz’s Shakespeare-inspired works, Roméo et Juliette is unquestionably his masterpiece. It is also cast in an innovative new form, a kind of ‘super-symphony’ that incorporates elements of symphony, opera and oratorio. Berlioz composed no singing roles for the central characters, but allowed others to comment or narrate, giving latitude to incarnate the lovers in a musical language of extraordinary delicacy and passion. The vivid Ball Scene and Romeo at the Capulet tomb are intensely dramatic but the heart of the work is the Love Scene, a long symphonic poem which Richard Wagner called ‘the melody of the 19th century’.
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786–1826)
Libretto by Johann Friedrich Kind
Kleiter • Liebau • König • Groissböck • Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala • Myung-Whun Chung • Hartmann
Weber was at the forefront of the rise of German Romantic opera and sought to dethrone Rossini from his position as the leading operatic composer in Europe. In his breakthrough and most popular opera Der Freischütz (‘The Marksman’) composed in 1821, he succeeded in his aim of establishing a truly German form. Turning to the folklore and folk songs of his native land he took a story of a marksman who makes a pact with the Devil, vesting it with powerful intensity – not least in the famous Wolf’s Glen scene – and an astonishing control of orchestral colour and atmosphere.
Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0092V)
Daniel-François-Esprit AUBER (1782–1871)
Libretto by Augustin-Eugène Scribe
Crousaud • Lorthiois • Flabat • Teyssier • Setti • Mayenobe • Calatayud • Les Métaboles • Orchestre des Frivolités Parisiennes • David Reiland
WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING
Auber earned international adulation in the late 1820s for his revolutionary grand opera La Muette de Portici and by the time he composed La Sirène, the success of which inspired potpourris of its melodies, he occupied a central place in French musical life. The mysterious siren of the title is part of a plot that abounds in fantastic comedy, love, betrayal, farce and festivity in the lineage of Italian popular theatre. The German poet Heinrich Heine wrote that ‘La Sirène was received with resounding bravos … The author and the composer know how to amuse us agreeably, and even to enchant us, or to dazzle us by the luminous facets of their spirit.’
Leó WEINER (1885–1960)
Toldi – Symphonic Poem
Budapest Symphony Orchestra MÁV • Csányi
Leó Weiner’s influence as a teacher in Budapest was exceptional and his pupils were some of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. But it’s only in recent years that his compositions, with their synthesis of German Romantic and Hungarian elements, have been brought to wider appreciation. Like Csongor and Tünde (8.573491), the symphonic poem Toldi was inspired by a masterpiece of Hungarian literature. Cast in twelve sections, the music follows the epic poetry in a way that seems to notate the text musically, a unique achievement. Weiner considered Toldi one of his most significant compositions, and he also composed two suites from the work which are available as a digital download on 9.70284.
Eduard STRAUSS I (1835–1916)
A Centenary Celebration, Vol. 2
Aus der Studienzeit • Freie Gedanken • Schmeichelkätzchen
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice • Georgiadis
WORLD PREMIERE ORCHESTRAL RECORDINGS
Eduard Strauss was overshadowed by his more famous elder siblings Johann II and Josef but his music from the 1870s and 1880s easily stands comparison with theirs, and in the dance genres of the quick polka and the galop he was in a class of his own. These world premiere recordings of ‘handsome Edi’s’ music include the beguiling waltz Freie Gedanken or ‘Free Thoughts’ written for the ‘Hesperus’ Artists’ Association, and the charming polka-mazurka Schmeichelkätzchen (‘Little Flatterer’), which was popular enough with Viennese audiences to be reprised throughout that season. Volume 1 of this edition (8.225369) was considered ‘energetic and beautiful’ by the American Record Guide.