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Chairman’s Choice: Klaus Heymann spotlights some of January’s new releases

January 1, 2016

SARASATE Complete Violin and Orchestral Music
Tianwa Yang, Navarre Symphony, Martínez Izquierdo
Naxos 8.504046

Naxos Artist Tianwa Yang has the critics reaching for superlatives with every new release, so it’s small wonder she was named 2015 ECHO Klassik Instrumentalist of the Year (violin) by the Deutsche Phono-Akademie. Her boxed set of the complete works for violin and orchestra by the 19th-century violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate is a delight from first to last note, confirmed by the stack of glowing reviews Tianwa has received for each volume: “Whether she’s slipping a few harmonics into insanely fast passage-work, or firing off a volley of left-hand pizzicatos, she has all of this music under firm control.” (, Vol. 1); “Sarasate is fortunate to have her, and so are we.” (MusicWeb International, Vol. 2); “Urgently recommended.” (Fanfare, Vol. 3); “I simply can’t imagine this tuneful, technically demanding music being played any better than this.” (MusicWeb International, Vol. 4).

MAYR Saffo
Brown, Schäfer, Jaewon Yun, Bavarian State Opera Chorus, Simon Mayr Choir, Concerto de Bassus, Hauk
Naxos 8.660367-68

This latest release in our extensive and pioneering series of Mayr’s music focuses on the Bavarian composer’s first opera, written during his early days in Italy and premièred in 1794 in no less a venue than Venice’s Teatro La Fenice, one of the most famous opera houses in Europe. The performance was enthusiastically received, and the music continues to thrill today, being full of surprising and striking elements, including vivid solo and choral effects. Mayr had a profound influence on 19th-century Italian operatic music and can be seen as a significant forerunner to Rossini.

SIERRA Sinfonia No 3 ‘La Salsa’
Guth, Puerto Rico Symphony, Valdés
Naxos 8.559817

This release marks the start of a series featuring the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and presents four works with the unmistakable colour and distinctive rhythms of the internationally acclaimed Puerto Rican composer, Roberto Silva. The Sinfonia No. 3 won the Serge and Olga Koussevitsky International Recording Award, which celebrates contemporary orchestral music by living composers. It’s an intoxicating mix of revelry and dance, inspired by the music of the Spanish Caribbean. The vividly scored Borikén is based on the baroque chaconne, but with a Latin twist, while El Baile invokes traditional music in a wholly distinctive way.

Piano and Orchestral Works - SEDAKA, EMERSON, ELLINGTON
Biegel, Brown University Orchestra, Phillips
Naxos 8.573490

Here we have an unusual programme that brings together four works for piano and orchestra by composers best known in the fields of jazz, popular song and progressive rock. Neil Sedaka’s Manhattan Intermezzo explores the buzz of New York, past and present, with its melting pot of nationalities; Keith Emerson’s remarkably inventive Piano Concerto No. 1fuses the composer’s classical training with the world of jazz; while Duke Ellington’s sublime New World a-Comin’, in the arrangement by Maurice Peress, envisions improved conditions for Blacks in America. The three works are here receiving only their second recording, while Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is performed in its rarely heard original version. Pianist Jeffrey Biegel’s performances have been enthusiastically received by the two living composers. Neil Sedaka called this “wonderful recording of Manhattan Intermezzo… a real feather in my cap!”, while Keith Emerson complimented the soloist, “who has captured the beauty of nature and desolation… with a sense of optimism in the final triumphant movement. This is a fantastic recording!”

DU MINGXIN Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto
Takako Nishizaki, Jandó, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Hungarian State Symphony
Marco Polo 8.225832

Born in 1928, the Chinese composer Du Mingxin studied in Chongqing, Shanghai and Russia before going on to be appointed to the teaching staff of the Central Conservatory in Beijing. His first violin concerto was written for Takako, who performs it on this recording. She gave the première in Hong Kong in 1982, followed by performances in China and further abroad, where it aroused considerable interest at a time when the work of Chinese composers was little known in other countries. Unusual for contemporary Chinese music, this technically demanding work has no programmatic basis. Du’s first piano concerto was completed and premièred six years later, also in Hong Kong, with Jenő Jandó the soloist, as on this recording. Takako and Jenő are two of the world’s most frequently recorded artists.

We hope you will enjoy these selections and more from Naxos Records.

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