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Featured Releases - Juin 2020

MASSENET, J.: Don César de Bazan [Opera] (Frivolités Parisiennes, 2019)
Jules Émile Frédéric MASSENET (1842–1912)
Don César de Bazan
Libretto by Adolphe d’Ennery, Dumanoir and Jules Chantepie

Naouri • Dreisig • Lebègue • Bettinger • Helmer • Moungoungou • Ensemble Aedes • Orchestre des Frivolités Parisiennes • Romano

Don César de Bazan is an opéra-comique with a narrative of dashing Spanish chivalry and romance. Its plot revolves around deception and comedies of reversed identity, with a struggle between true nobility and wicked selfishness maintaining an animated momentum throughout. This was the young Jules Massenet’s first full-length opera and yet it is filled with the composer’s mature symphonic style, his gift for melody, feeling for the picturesque, and vivacity of rhythm. These distinctive qualities reveal an operatic feast whose time has at last arrived.


LANDI, S.: La morte d’Orfeo [Opera] (Dutch National Opera, 2018)
Stefano LANDI (1587–1639)
La morte d’Orfeo
Libretto by an anonymous author
After La favola d’Orfeo by Agnolo Ambrogini (Poliziano)

Molinari • Dolcini • Miminoshvili • Petrone • Fabius • Gatell • Szelążek • Gonzales Toro • Vitale • Pluta • Les Talens Lyriques • Rousset • Audi

Stefano Landi was an influential early opera composer, and La morte d’Orfeo is regarded as a milestone in the development of the genre. The narrative starts where Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo ends, taking us through the remaining adventures of Orpheus in the underworld. Beaten to death and torn apart by the fearsome maenads, Orpheus survives as a wandering soul and is finally reincarnated as a star in the sky. Landi succeeded in turning Greek tragedy into timeless music-drama, the starting point of all opera, and Seen and Heard International declared that it had ‘never before encountered such technical perfection’ in Pierre Audi’s Amsterdam production.

Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0111V)

CIMAROSA, D.: Overtures, Vol. 7
Domenico CIMAROSA (1749–1801)
Overtures, Vol. 7
Judith • Il convito • Amor rende sagace
Il trionfo della fede • Il martirio • Absalom

Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice • Halász


Domenico Cimarosa was a prolific composer of church and instrumental music, but his reputation rests principally on his operas. During the second half of the 18th century, and until the arrival of Rossini, he was the most successful and performed operatic composer in Europe, and one of the last exponents of the Neapolitan School. His bracing and vivacious overtures in this final volume include the hugely popular Il convito (‘The Banquet’), a triumph in Venice and Florence, as well as some examples of his expressively moving overtures for oratorios.


FIBICH, Z.: Orchestral Works, Vol. 5 – Symphony No. 3 • Overtures • The Bride of Messina: Funeral March
Zdeněk FIBICH (1850–1900)
Symphony No. 3 in E minor, Op. 53
Šárka – Overture • The Tempest – Overture to Act III
The Bride of Messina – Funeral March

Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava • Štilec


Zdeněk Fibich’s three symphonies project very different qualities: No. 1 (available on 8.572985) prizes structural integration, and No. 2 (8.573157) cyclical unity. Symphony No. 3, written only two years before his untimely death, but at the zenith of his powers as one of the Czech Lands’ leading composers, reveals Fibich’s sustained melodic and atmospheric powers as the music pursues the ‘darkness to light’ trajectory synonymous with the symphony during the 19th century. The remaining pieces, drawn from his best stage works, showcase operatic qualities that extend the dramatic lineage of Smetana. This is the final volume in this series.


DAWSON, W.L.: Negro Folk Symphony • KAY, U.: Fantasy Variations • Umbrian Scene

William Levi DAWSON (1899–1990)
Negro Folk Symphony

Ulysses KAY (1917–1995)
Fantasy Variations • Umbrian Scene

ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra • Arthur Fagen

William Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony was premiered by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1934 to huge enthusiasm. Its traditional form houses a continuous process of variation and introduces little-known spirituals in fragmentary form, while the work’s recurring motifs, remarkable transitions and syncopations are enhanced in Dawson’s 1952 revision heard here. The Fantasy Variations by composer and teacher Ulysses Kay employs dissonance with great expressivity in a work of textural and coloristic variety. Umbrian Scene, despite its pictorial suggestion, is lean and sombre.


KERNIS, A.J.: Color Wheel • Symphony No. 4 ‘Chromelodeon’
Aaron Jay KERNIS (b. 1960)
Color Wheel
Symphony No. 4 ‘Chromelodeon’

Nashville Symphony • Giancarlo Guerrero


Pulitzer Prize recipient and GRAMMY award-winner Aaron Jay Kernis is one of America’s most performed composers. Both works on this album exemplify his creative approach to orchestral composition, sharing elements in common, such as virtuoso percussion writing and the use of variation form. Color Wheel is an exuberant miniature concerto for orchestra with a wide array of contrasts, while Symphony No. 4 ‘Chromelodeon’ explores the coexistence of opposing musical forces to powerful, pensive, and touching effect.


VIEUXTEMPS, H.: Works for Violin and Orchestra
Henry VIEUXTEMPS (1820–1881)
Works for Violin and Orchestra
Souvenir de Russie • Old England • Duo brilliant • Andante et rondo

Kuppel • Bogatyrev • Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra • Bosch

Henry Vieuxtemps was a towering figure in the line of 19th-century violinist-composers, receiving admiration from Wagner, Chopin and Berlioz. A virtuoso in the Paganini tradition, Vieuxtemps was also one of the first to employ a full Romantic orchestral palette in his concertante works and to imbue them with a true ‘symphonic’ conception, as these examples show. They include the Duo brillant, Op. 39—a dramatic and expressive mini double concerto for violin and cello, the bravura caprice Old England, Op. 42 and the Air varié, Op. 6 with its rich lyricism, four variations and dashing coda.


SCARLATTI, D.: Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 24
Domenico SCARLATTI (1820–1881)
Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 24

Alon Goldstein

Domenico Scarlatti is best remembered for the hundreds of single-movement keyboard sonatas he composed for his pupil the Infanta Maria Bárbara, who married the heir to the Spanish throne in 1728, taking her music master with her from Lisbon to Madrid. Scarlatti’s panache and inventiveness is always on show in these compact sonatas, their delicacy and refinement hiding some surprising explorations of unexpected keys, and technical demands such as hand-crossing and chains of sixths and thirds that would have posed some interesting challenges to his clearly talented pupil.



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