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

August 1, 2016

PROKOFIEV Symphony No 6, Waltz Suite
São Paulo Symphony, Alsop
Naxos 8.573518

This fifth volume in our Prokofiev symphony cycle continues the series of acclaimed recordings from the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra under its principal conductor and music director, Marin Alsop. Each release has been enthusiastically received by the critics, from volume 1’s Fifth Symphony(8.573029), which “comes up trumps in a dramatic yet highly polished performance… an outstanding achievement” (BBC Music Magazine), to volume 4’s Third Symphony (8.573452) in which “[Alsop] gets unfailingly good string playing, often more sensitively nuanced than that of her rivals…” (Gramophone).

STEINBERG Passion Week
The Clarion Choir, Fox
Naxos 8.573665

Maximilian Steinberg was Rimsky-Korsakov’s favourite student, heir apparent and son-in-law; he was also one of Shostakovich’s teachers. Passion Week is his long-lost choral masterpiece, performed here by the group that gave its first public reading in 2014. Only a handful of recordings of Steinberg’s music exist, underscoring the significance of this release. Passion Week is a tour-de-force, with its systematic use of medieval Church Slavonic chant melodies dressed in colourful choral textures. Steinberg’s music is both complex and rich, and uses a diverse and sometimes daring harmonic palette. The work comprises eleven distinctly expressive movements, revealing an artist’s search for identity in a nation that was turning increasingly hostile to the Church.

PUTS Symphony No 2, Flute Concerto
A. Walker, Peabody Symphony, Alsop
Naxos 8.559794

Kevin Puts now stands at the forefront of contemporary American composers; he’s the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his opera Silent Night. His powerful Symphony No. 2 is a musical illustration of the events of 9/11. It develops from an atmosphere of unsuspecting bliss into one of violent upheaval, ending with a reflective epilogue that’s imbued with both uncertainty and hope. River’s Rush is noted for its use of novel harmonies, while the elegant transparency of the Flute Concerto is beautifully captured by soloist Adam Walker, who gave the first performance of the work.

SOR 24 Studies Op 31, “Lecons progressives’, 6 Short Pieces Op 32
Kraft, McFadden
Naxos 8.573624

The 19th-century Spanish composer Fernando Sor was described by a contemporary critic as ‘the Beethoven of the guitar’, reflecting his stature as one of the great guitarists of his era, who has also endured as a major composer for the instrument. This release includes the first complete recording of his Méthode pour la guitar, an indispensable resource for all guitarists. The whole programme is presented by two star performers: Norbert Kraft, one of the world’s most eminent guitarists and the first North American to win the Segovia International Guitar Competition (in 1985); and the Canadian guitarist Jeffrey McFadden, dubbed “one of the guitar greats” by The Daily Telegraph (UK).

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

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