Michael Daugherty is one of today’s leading American composers. His previous recordings for Naxos have proved exceptionally successful, attracting many glowing critical comments and no fewer than seven GRAMMY® awards (see 8.559635, 8.559165 and 8.559798). I’m delighted that we now have another disc of his intriguing and highly attractive music on offer. It features three recently completed concertos, respectively for flute, tuba and percussion. It boasts a rare line-up of female soloists and a release date that coincides with Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (March 8). Trail of Tears describes the five-month forced march of the Cherokee in 1838-39 with flautist Amy Porter as soloist (“If you have not heard her playing, you should.” American Record Guide); Dreamachine pays tribute to the imagination of inventors and their real or surreal machines and features world-renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie; while Reflections on the Mississippi evokes memories of family excursions and presents soloist Carol Jantch, principal tuba of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the first female to hold such a prestigious orchestral position.
“I am very excited about my latest Naxos recording with the Albany Symphony, which explores the relationship between machines, humanity and nature in three unique concertos performed by three amazing women soloists. Dreamachine for solo percussion and orchestra is a colorful tribute to the imagination of inventors who dreamed of new machines, both real and surreal. The flute concerto Trail of Tears dramatizes the tragic governmental forced relocation of Native Americans in 1838 and meditates on how the human spirit discovers ways to deal with adversity. Reflections on the Mississippi for tuba and orchestra is a colorful, musical voyage down the legendary Mississippi River from Iowa to Louisiana.” – Michael Daugherty
Marin Alsop, one of our longest established Naxos artists, has generated a substantial and distinguished discography. Following her recently completed and highly acclaimed cycle of Prokofiev’s symphonies, we now have the icing on the cake with her recording of Prokofiev’s music for the ballet Romeo and Juliet. Recordings of the complete score don’t come along that often; Naxos’ last visit was back in 1995 (8.553184-85). Written in a period of artistic turmoil under a Soviet regime, Romeo and Juliet was remarkably audacious in its day. It has since proved to be his best loved and commercially most successful work for the stage. Marin Alsop’s association with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has brought us numerous successes. I predict that this new release will add to that tally.
I have every hope and confidence that this recording will help secure a much wider audience for the two featured works that remain virtually unknown outside Eastern Europe. Kara Karayev was one of the most prominent 20th-century figures in the music of Azerbaijan, and an inspiration to subsequent generations of Azerbaijani composers. His atmospheric First Symphony reflects the orchestral colours of his mentor Shostakovich. The Violin Concerto, with its notable shift in style, explores serial techniques that add astringency and inventive depth to his already rich palette. Soloist Janna Gandelman has performed widely alongside the likes of Gidon Kremer, Isaac Stern and Sol Gabetta. The Kiev Virtuosi Symphony Orchestra, one of Ukraine’s leading ensembles, is conducted by the GRAMMY® nominated cellist and conductor Dmitry Yablonsky.
Although Beethoven went on to establish himself as a giant in music history for his symphonies, piano sonatas and string quartets, we should not forget his earlier works, composed when he was also carving out a role for himself as a virtuoso pianist. This release of chamber music from the period fills that niche with works scored for flute and other instruments in duos and trios, showcasing Beethoven’s facility as a creator of light and entertaining music. The pieces are rarely found on recordings; there are no current releases that have all three of the Duos WoO 27, for example. The works are clearly as enjoyable to perform as they are to hear, not least when in the capable hands of two such fine flautists as Patrick Gallois and Kazunori Seo. Both artists already have numerous, well-received Naxos recordings to their credit.
Many works by the Argentinian composer Martín Palmeri owe their inspiration to the tango nuevo style, both in terms of form and harmony. This includes his tango mass, Misa a Buenos Aires, composed in 1996 and scored for mezzo soprano, choir, bandoneon, piano and strings. The combination of distinct traditions—ancient Latin liturgical texts and the everyday music of Palmeri’s homeland—results in a highly colourful case of old wine in new bottles. Works by compatriots Ismael Spitalnik and Arturo Piazzolla complete the programme, including Oblivion, one of Piazzolla’s most popular tangos.
When pianist Wilhelm Backhaus won the 1905 Anton Rubinstein competition at the age of 21, Béla Bártok was the runner-up. Backhaus thrilled professionals and audiences alike with his stunning performances of standard repertoire. After the Second World War, however, he concentrated on the works of a few ‘über-composers’, including those on this release, that were recorded live between 1953 and 1962. Beethoven’s Hammerklavier sonata and Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto fill two discs of the three-CD set. Backhaus met Brahms when he was 11 years old, an artistically significant moment that retained its influence throughout Backhaus’ performing career.
This recording is the final volume in Ondine’s new cycle of Beethoven’s piano concertos featuring soloist Lars Vogt, music director of the Royal Northern Sinfonia since September 2015. Conducting the orchestra from the keyboard, Vogt’s fresh interpretations of the works have been widely welcomed, and he was recently nominated for the 2017 Artist of the Year award by Gramophone. Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto was actually the first to be written and was used by the composer as his calling card; while it shows Mozart’s influence, there are clear signs of Beethoven’s development as a composer in his own right. The Fourth Piano Concerto is much more of a revolutionary work and is considered by many as his best achievement in the medium. Vogt’s debut solo recording on Ondine with Bach’s Goldberg Variations (ODE 1273-2) proved a major critical success; the album’s tracks have been streamed online over six million times, which probably says it all.
We hope you will enjoy these selections and more from Naxos Records.