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Featured Releases - January 2020

ROSSINI, G.: Zelmira [Opera]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
Libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola

Dalla Benetta • Comparato • J. Stewart • Süngü • Sacchi • Dall’Amico • Górecki Chamber Choir, Kraków • Virtuosi Brunensis • Gelmetti

Zelmira was the last opera Rossini wrote for Naples, knowing it would also be his calling card to Vienna where he had been assured performances. Keen to reconcile the alleged incompatibility between ‘Italian’ melody and ‘German’ harmony, Rossini employed exciting and daring harmonies and a raft of dazzling orchestral effects in this tragedy in which a daughter saves her father, the king, and her son, from usurpers to the throne. The opera was acclaimed wherever it was heard, and this recording presents the revised and triumphant Paris version.

BEETHOVEN, L. van: König Stephan • Leonore Prohaska (excerpts) • Opferlied • Germania
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
König Stephan
Leonore Prohaska (excerpts) • Opferlied • Germania

Various Soloists • Key Ensemble • Chorus Cathedralis Aboensis • Turku Philharmonic Orchestra • Segerstam

Aside from his only opera Fidelio, Beethoven’s general link with the theatre in Vienna came about largely with incidental music or songs to be inserted into the works of other composers—insertion arias. König Stephan was written to celebrate the politically significant opening of a new theatre in Pest, its triumphant mood honouring the ruling Austrian Emperor. Standard-bearer of female heroism Leonore Prohaska is commemorated with a Soldier’s Chorus and a Romance with harp accompaniment. In Friedrich von Matthisson’s poem Opferlied (‘Sacrificial Song’), a young man prays to Zeus to bestow upon him beauty and goodness in youth and old age. Two of Beethoven’s four settings are heard on this wide-ranging programme.

MAGNARD, A.: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2
Albéric MAGNARD (1865–1914)
Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2

Philharmonisches Orchester Freiburg • Bollon

The tragic death of Albéric Magnard, killed defending his home against German troops in 1914, brought a premature end to the composer’s life but not before he had completed four powerfully expressive symphonies (the Third and Fourth are on 8.574082). Symphony No. 1, with its strangely beautiful chorale, was first performed in 1893 but was then not heard again for a century. Symphony No. 2 caused a scandal at its premiere due to its length and complexity, but in its revised version offers radiant serenity and a dazzling confidence that reveals Magnard’s true compositional voice.

CIMAROSA, D.: Overtures, Vol. 6
Domenico CIMAROSA (1749–1801)
Overtures, Vol. 6
Il matrimonio segreto • Penelope • Artemisia
I traci amanti • L’impegno superato

Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice • Gallois

Domenico Cimarosa’s operas were remarkably successful, being staged and re-staged in opera houses all over Europe. Success in his home town of Naples led to court appointments and royal commissions, including his best-known work Il matrimonio segreto (‘The Secret Marriage’) composed for Austrian emperor Leopold II. Other hits include L’impegno superato (‘The Broken Engagement’), an instant success and soon to become one of the most frequently performed of Cimarosa’s comic works, and Penelope that was produced as far away as London in 1817. The Cantata per Ferdinando IV was, however, written as an act of repentance, Cimarosa having made the mistake of backing the failed republican government in 1799.

BACH, J.S.: The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 (BBC Proms, 2017)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750)
The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1
From the 2017 BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall

Sir András Schiff

Johann Sebastian Bach was undoubtedly the greatest musical thinker of his age. Dubbed ‘the Old Testament of music’ by the conductor and pianist Hans von Bülow, the Well-Tempered Clavier is acknowledged to be one of the most significant works ever written for the keyboard. Each of these 24 preludes and fugues encapsulates its own mood, and Bach’s delight in mixing technical strictness with freedom of expression has made this work an indispensable element of Western culture for centuries. Sir András Schiff is heralded as one of the finest Bach interpreters today, and this first complete performance at the prestigious BBC Proms was summed up as ‘stupendous’ by The Independent.

Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0104V)

LISZT, F.: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 54 – Later Piano Works
Franz LISZT (1811–1886)
Complete Piano Music, Vol. 54
Historical Hungarian Portraits

Jenő Jandó

This latest album in the Complete Piano Music series of Franz Liszt is devoted to memorialising the dead. Historical Hungarian Portraits dates largely from 1885 and commemorates significant figures in the country’s recent past, including politicians, a poet and a musician. The mood is powerfully sombre. Liszt marked his son-in law Wagner’s death with Am Grabe R. Wagner (‘At the Grave of Richard Wagner’) using a theme from Parsifal. But the most intense and forward-looking of these pieces is Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, a foretaste of the experimental piano writing to come.

MORAVEC, P.: Sanctuary Road (Oratorio)
Paul MORAVEC (b. 1957)
Sanctuary Road
An oratorio based on the writings of William Still
Libretto by Mark Campbell

L. Mitchell • Bryce-Davis • J. Blue • Merriweather • Burton • Oratorio Society of New York Chorus & Orchestra • Tritle


After the success of his opera The Shining, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec has once again collaborated with librettist Mark Campbell to create the second of his “American historical oratorios.” Sanctuary Road draws on the astonishing stories to be found in William Still’s book The Underground Railroad, which documents the network of secret routes and safe houses used by African American slaves to escape into free states and Canada during the early- to mid-1800s. The epic nature of these stories of courage, perseverance and sacrifice is transformed into an enthralling saga, heard here at its world premiere performance at Carnegie Hall—a performance acclaimed by BroadwayWorld for its “riveting, pulsating wall of sound [and] stellar soloists.”

GLASS, P.: Violin Concerto No. 2, ‘American Four Seasons’ • Violin Sonata
Philip GLASS (b. 1937)
Violin Concerto No. 2, ‘American Four Seasons’
Violin Sonata

Plawner • Vila • Berner Kammerorchester • P. Bach

Philip Glass has become an iconic figure in American music. His works are often inspired by collaborations with other leading musicians, and the proposal of an “American Four Seasons” by the violinist Robert McDuffie to reflect Vivaldi’s famous masterpiece resulted in a concerto which evokes the Baroque spirit of early 18th-century violin tradition. With the Concerto’s range of moods, listeners are invited to decide for themselves which season the music evokes. The Violin Sonata sees Glass’s melodic and harmonic language haunted by the ghosts of Brahms, Fauré and Franck, “the meditativeness of this piece bringing a unique energy” for award-winning violinist Piotr Plawner.


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