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MARCH 2017
Higdon: All Things Majestic, Viola Concerto & Oboe Concerto (Live)
Díaz, Roberto; Button, James; Nashville Symphony Orchestra; Guerrero, Giancarlo
Naxos 8.559823

Jennifer Higdon is one of the most distinguished composers working in America today, and her music is a perfect fit for the Nashville Symphony, which has long maintained a commitment to championing the country's most important voices. All Things Magestic is a four-movement suite which vividly captures the breathtaking beauty of the American landscape, and her wonderfully expressive concertos for viola and oboe bring out the unique textures and sonorities of these frequently overlooked solo instruments.

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Puccini: Complete Songs for Soprano & Piano
Prinz, Maria; Stoyanova, Krassimira
Naxos 8.573501

Through Puccini represents the late-Romantic apex of the Italian operatic tradition, his songs are much less well known and, in their pared simplicity and emotional restraint, could hardly be more different from his stage works. The nineteen complete songs for soprano (two in duet with a mezzo) and piano cover themes typical of lyric poetry including life, death, personal resolution, love, nature, home and religious faith. There are also rare salon pieces and examples of Puccini's secular juvenilia, written between 1875 and 1880.

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Wagner: Symphony in C Major
MDR Sinfonieorchester; Märkl, Jun
Naxos 8.573413

Although he is best known for his innovative operas and iconic music dramas, Richard Wagner maintained a keen interest in symphonic composition throughout his career. Written in his late teens and early twenties, these two symphonies stand as a tribute to Wagner's passion for his great idol Beethoven. The Symphony in C major absorbs the engertic fire and rhythmic dynamism of Beethoven's Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, while the Symphony in E major was alas left unfinished at its beautifully warm and lyrical Adagio cantabile.

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Saint-Saëns: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Descharmes, Romain; Soustrot, Marc; Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Naxos 8.573476

The sheer attractiveness of Saint-Saëns's music has ensured its immortality in the canon of French romantic composers. Spanning almost four decades, his five piano concertos vary widely in character but offer some of his most exciting if unorthodox creations, and represent an important evolutionary phase in the French piano concerto. The Piano Concerto No. 1 in D major, widely considered the first by a major French composer, is a youthful and exuberant piece, and the virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor is one of Saint-Saëns's most popular and frequently performed works in any genre.

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Bériot: Works for Violin & Orchestra
Halász, Michael; Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Tsuji, Ayana
Naxos 8.573734

In 1896 The Strad described Charles Auguste de Bériot, whose playing created a sensation in London and Paris, as 'the founder of the modern Franco-Belgian school'. His Violin Concertos include plenty of innovative features, such as ricochet bowing, double-stops and harmonics. These techniques and other innovations in formal structure are, however, all in the service of expressive communication and stylish elegance. The romantic Scène de ballet is perhaps Bériot's best known work, while the Air Varié, Op. 5 follows a long tradition of writing variations on popular themes.

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Mademoiselle: Première audience – Unknown Music of Nadia Boulanger
Shrader, Alek; Houbart, Francois-Henri; Cabell, Nicole; Crossley-Mercer, Edwin; Mauro, Lucy; Peled, Amit
Delos DE3496

Delos has the tremendous honor of issuing the first-ever album devoted to the wonderful compositions of Nadia Boulanger: truly a release of great historical importance. None dispute that Boulanger was by far the twentieth century’s most influential composition teacher. Yet “Mademoiselle,” as she has long been known in the music world, dismissed her own works as “useless,” with the result that they are almost completely unknown to the musical public today. But not anymore. Music lovers everywhere can now hear Boulanger’s complete works, published and unpublished (including 13 world premieres), in the genres of the art song, solo piano, cello and piano, and organ, as performed by an all-star array of musicians. Mademoiselle’s music, with its beauty and originality, will amaze listeners everywhere.

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Tango Under the Stars
C Major 739608

Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic accent the colors, rhythms and passion of music by leading composers from Argentina in this invigorationg evening at the Hollywood Bowl - Astor Piazzolla, the master of Nuevo Tanog, who's four tangos feature on stage the dance company Tango Buenos Aires, known worldwide as the most authentic and uncompromising representative of the tango, Alberto Ginastera, one of the most important 20th century classical composers of the Americas and Piazzolla's first teacher, and Lalo Schifrin, who, beside his concert music, is the composer of the famous scores of "Mission: Impossible" and "Dirty Harry". His "concerto for Guitar and Orchestra", a world premiere recording, is composed for Angel Romero, an iconic master of the classical guitar.

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Heroines of Love & Loss
Nordberg, Jonas; Hughes, Ruby; Yamahiro-Brinkmann, Mime
BIS BIS-2248

The women appearing before our ears throughout this program range from the Virgin Mary and Dido, queen of Carthage, to Shakespeare's Desdemona and the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, waiting for her execution in the Tower of London in 1536. But the disc also features four other heroines - the Italian composers Claudia Sessa, Francesca Caccini, Lucrezia Vizzana and Barbara Strozzi. All active between 1590 - 1675, they will have required great courage to rise above the social conventions of the time, but this surprisingly productive period for female composers also offered an opportunity that would disappear in later centuries: the all-female environment provided by the convent. More than half of the women who published music before 1700 were nuns, including Sessa and Vizzana, who are here represented by brief meditations on teh suffering and death of Christ. Caccini and Strozzi, on the other hand, lived very much in the secular world - Caccini at the Florentine court and Strozzi as a free-lance musician and cmoposer in Venice. Unhindered by the restrictions imposed by the church on sacred music they both adhered to the new stile moderno championed by Claudio Monteverdi. Celebrated for their singing, they composed vocal music which makes 'the words the mistress of the harmony and not the servant', to quote Monteverdi's brother Giulio Cesare. The soprano Ruby Hughes has already made her name for herself in a wide-ranging repertoire, but has a special love for the constellation of lute, cello and voice. With Jonas Nordberg and Mime Yamahiro Brinkmann - who also contribute instrumental solos - she here reveals in the dramatic and expressive potential offered by this trio combination, and by the music by these female composers and their English colleagues Henry Purcell and John Bennet.

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Andreas Schaerer: The Big Wig
Andreas Schaerer: The Big Wig
Schaerer; Tschopp; Wenger; Reising; Muller; Steiner; Orchestra of the Lucerne Academy; Fliegen; Chiacchiarini

Andreas Schaerer is currently one of the most talked-about vocal artists on the international music scene. He recently was awarded the title of International Vocalist of the Year at the 2015 ECHO Jazz Awards. Schaerer uses his voice in the manner of a juggler, a magician. He can not only make it sound forth in contrasting stylistic idioms and vocal registers, he can also produce all kinds of sounds and imitate a whole range of instruments. He can do beatbox percussion, or he can stack up polyphonic vocal parts on top of each other in a way which seems unfeasible. On top of all that, he is also a hugely impressive composer. When the Lucerne Festival chose “humor” as its 2015 theme, they approached Schaerer and Hildegard Lernt Fliegen. This release is the result. Schaerer composed a six-movement orchestral work with parts for 66 players just for this event. The partnership between symphony orchestra and jazz combo turns out here to be both stimulating and compelling. “The Big Wig” is a masterpiece by this multi-talented musician.

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Signals from Heaven
Signals from Heaven
Wasserfuhr, Julian; Berwaerts, Jeroen; Salaputia Brass
Audite AUD97725

This release showcases Jeroen Berwaerts' musical versatility on several levels: he developed the concept of this album, performs as a trumpet soloist and jazz vocalist and directs the ensemble. Jeroen Berwaerts and Salaputia Brass prove congenial partners on the same wavelength. The Belgian musician does not believe in genre boundaries. He performs early music equally naturally as he does new music or jazz. No matter how diverse the musical styles, Berwaerts always looks for, and finds, one element in particular - a soulful profundity. "Signals from Heaven" combines spirituals and spiritual music by Takemitsu, Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Gershwin and Ellington. Historically, stylistically and geographically speaking, these musical styles could hardly be further apart. Listening carefully, however, it becomes apparent how close they can be. Defying the confines of epochs, continents and genres, they form a new harmony. This search for a soulful profundity in music unites all participating artists, as well as the aim of connecting people through music. Jeroen Berwaerts' concept does not represent "crossover" but a combination of voices which have something to say to one another. And they do - the concept is audibly successful.

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British Tone Poems, Vol. 1
British Tone Poems, Vol. 1
BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Gamba, Rumon
Chandos CHAN10939

Alongside their British Isles Overtures series, the BBC NOW and the conductor Rumon Gamba launch a project to bring often neglected symphonic poems by British composers to wider attention and fame. This first volume presents some of the most individual, yet rarely heard, British tone poems written in the early twentieth century, by composers ranging from the long-established Ralph Vaughan Williams and William Alwyn to Balfour Gardiner and Granville Bantock, giants in their time. Works include Bantock's atmospheric The Witch of Atlas, based on a poem by Shelley, Frederic Austin's symphonic rhapsody Spring, Gardiner's evocatino of summer A Berkshire Idyll, recorded here for the first time, and Gurney's mysterious A Gloucestershire Rhapsody, never performed before 2010.

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