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

November 1, 2016

WAGNER Die Walküre
Goerne, DeYoung, Skelton, Melton, P. Lang, Struckmann, Hong Kong Philharmonic, van Zweden
Naxos 8.660394-97
Also available in Blu-ray: NBD0051

Set to follow the success of the opening instalment of our Ring Cycle last year, critics will again be reaching for the superlatives after hearing Die Walküre (The Valkyrie). The Hong Kong Philharmonic is conducted by their music director Jaap van Zweden, who is also music director designate of the New York Philharmonic. The first volume in the four-year project, Das Rheingold, was released in 2015 on 8.660374-75 and on Blu-ray audio NBD0049. Siegfried and Götterdämmerung will be released in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Valkyrie again features an all-star international cast: Stuart Skelton (Siegmund) won the 2014 International Opera Awards for Best Male Singer; Matthias Goerne (Wotan) is a supreme interpreter of song and has appeared on opera stages since his Salzburg debut in 1997; Michelle DeYoung (Fricka) is a multi-GRAMMY® award winner and a regular performer at the Met in New York. London’s The Sunday Times selected Das Rheingold as its Album of the Week, praising the recording’s “thrilling sense of drama”, while BBC Music Magazine noted that “Van Zweden conducts with an easy sweep that would carry one along in the opera house, drawing some splendid sound from the orchestra”, and Gramophone observed that “Matthias Goerne sings Wotan beautifully, with much baritonal sophistication, predictable (from an experienced Lieder recitalist) care for words and able negotiation of trickier moments”.

Brass Septet Music – JS BACH, HANDEL, RACHMANINOV, WARLOCK (Christmas with Septura)
Naxos 8.573719

Of all the new releases on offer each Christmas I feel that this CD, more than most, is likely to become a gift that will remain in demand for many years to come. Septura pushes its brass septet colours and combinations to the limit in re-imagining this selection of Christmas music from the past 450 years. The result is a virtuosic and varied programme of festive favourites. The skilful arrangements give even the most familiar tunes a timeless quality. Septura’s four previous recordings for Naxos have all attracted glowing reviews: “noble performances” (Gramophone on Vol. 1, 8.573314); “Stylistic perfection” (Brass Band World on Vol. 2, 8.573386); “deliciously witty… full of contrast… poetic” (The Guardian on Vol. 3, 8.573475); and “The players are so fundamentally good—such stable tone at all times, such ease of tuning and blending with each other.” (American Record Guide on Vol. 4, 8.573526)

PAGANINI Complete Edition
Various Artists
Dynamic CDS7734.40

This 40-CD boxed set of Paganini’s entire output on Dynamic brings together all the composer’s known works for both violin alone, in chamber combinations and in works with orchestra. The stellar list of artists and ensembles is like a Who’s Who of violinists, string quartets and conductors – all of them leading interpreters of Paganini’s music. The recordings are a mix of archive treasures (think Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, Yehudi Menuhin) and performances by contemporary artists such as Leonidas Kavacos, Stefan Milenkovic and Franco Mezzena. The six Violin Concertos and the world première recordings of a number of rare pieces are played on Paganini’s own violin. An extensive booklet by the Italian musicologist Danilo Prefumo gives an authoritative overview of Paganini’s life and works. This milestone production has been many years in the making, but now anyone wanting to know the true Paganini can discover the legacy of a man and a composer whose performances and compositions represented a crucial turning point, not only for the violin, but also for the history of music.

VERDI Rigoletto, La Traviata

Goldmund Quartet
Naxos Blu-ray Video NBD0052-54
Also available in DVD: 2.110374-77

The three unique productions in this product were the fruit of Andrea Anderman’s vision to perform and film Verdi’s La traviata and Rigoletto, and Puccini’s Tosca at the actual places and hours of the day specified in the libretti, namely in Paris, Mantua and Rome respectively. The singers were acting and singing live on location while conductor Zubin Mehta and the orchestra performed miles away in a studio, connected to the singers only by monitors and hidden speakers. The project involved some of the most complex audio-visual operations ever attempted. The results garnered prestigious Emmy, Prix d’Italia and Bafta awards and remain unsurpassed milestones for the genre of operatic film. The star casts include Plácido Domingo, Julia Novikova, Vittorio Grigolo, Ruggero Raimondi, Catherine Malfitano, José Cura and Eteri Gvazava. The performances are delivered in luxurious boxed sets as Blu-ray audio (3 discs) or video (4 DVDs). The accompanying160-page, hard cover book provides background information on the productions, plus a lavish photo collection.

WHITBOURN Missa Carolae, Choral Music for Christmas
Westminster Williamson Voices, Jordan
Naxos 8.573715

James Whitbourn is a GRAMMY® nominated composer whose music is internationally admired for its direct connection with performers and audiences: “... a truly original communicator in modern British choral music.” (The Observer) Fans of choral music looking for a fresh approach to the traditional music of the season should not miss this Christmas release. Carolae is a fusion of the great Christmas traditions at King’s College, Cambridge and Princeton University Chapel. The GRAMMY® nominated conductor is James Jordan, one of America’s pre-eminent choral directors; renowned American tenor Eric Rieger has sung leading roles with opera companies throughout Europe and beyond; and Daryl Robinson was both the First Prize and Audience Prize winner at the 2012 American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition.

GRÉTRY L’Épreuve villageoise (The Village Trial)
Opera Lafayette Chorus and Orchestra, Brown
Naxos 8.660377

This release carries the impressive stamp of authority of Ryan Brown and Opera Lafayette, who are among the world’s leading exponents on disc of music of this period and style. Grétry was a master of 18th-century opéra comique, yet only excerpts from his operas are available on disc today, and those are largely instrumental movements. This world première recording of L’épreuve villageoise was one of Grétry’s most popular works and was widely performed for a century after its première in 1784. It even travelled to the New World, where it captivated audiences in New York with its sophisticated wit and huge charm.

BRAHMS Piano Quartets Nos 1 and 3
Barakhovsky, Zemtsov, Schmidt, Nebolsin
Naxos 8.572798

For the first time, Naxos is embarking on a set of Brahms’ complete piano quartets to add to his well-represented symphonic and chamber works in our catalogue. Volume 1 will be followed by a second release with the same artists in February 2017 (8.572799). The recordings feature the acclaimed award-winning pianist Eldar Nebolsin at their centre. His many highly-regarded recordings for Naxos include Liszt’s Piano Concertos and Totentanz with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko (8.570517), which earned top place on the Naxos Bestsellers’ Digital Platform for six consecutive months. The other members of the quartet boast equally impressive credentials. Considered “a violinist ahead of his time” by the Washington Post, Anton Barackhovsky has been principal concertmaster of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks since 2009; violist Alexander Zemtsov is a professor at some of the finest music education establishments in Europe; while cellist Wolfgang Schmidt was described by Mstislav Rostropovich as “one of the leading cellists of his generation”.

HERRMANN Souvenirs de Voyage
DEL TREDICI Magyar Madness

Lethiec, Fine Arts Quartet
Naxos 8.559796

Bernard Herrmann is remembered chiefly for his dramatic film scores, but it’s the reserved and lyrical beauty of his chamber music that we feature on this new release. Souvenirs de voyage for clarinet quintet was Herrmann’s final concert work, each of the three movements having roots in a different artistic work – A.E. Houseman’s On Wenlock Edge, Synge’s novel Riders to the Sea and the Venetian watercolours of J.M.W. Turner. David Del Tredici’s clarinet quintet, Magyar Madness, fuses passion and wit, its long finale a wild ‘Hungarian frenzy’. Clarinettist Michel Lethiec’s Penderecki disc for Naxos (8.557052) was acknowledged by MusicWeb International: “[his] ... abilities are displayed in all their glory … Recommended.” This is the Fine Arts Quartet’s fifteenth recording for Naxos; previous releases have featured the music of a wide range of composers, from Beethoven to Bruckner, Glazunov to Glass, Schumann to Saint-Saëns.

DONIZETTI Roberto Devereux
Orchestra and Chorus of the The Teatro Carlo Felice, Lanzillotta
Dynamic DYN-57755
Also available in DVD: DYN-3775

This performance on DVD and in Blu-ray audio gives a reflection of the impact that Donizetti’s opera made in its time: the work enjoyed an uninterrupted 10-year run after its première in 1837, and this performance, recorded in March this year, enjoyed a 30-minute ovation at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa. While the applause was for the entire impressive cast under conductor Francesco Lanzillotta, there was a standing ovation for soprano Mariella Devia who shone in the role of Elisabetta, her pure voice and impeccable intonation complementing her highly intense and expressive stage presence. The video subtitles are available in Italian, English, French, German, Japanese and Korean.

SAARIAHO Chamber Works for Strings Vol 2
Meta4, Freund
Ondine ODE1242-2

Kaija Saariaho (b. 1958) is one of Finland’s leading contemporary composers and this release is the long-awaited second volume of her chamber works performed by the award-winning Meta4 string quartet. Meta4 is one of Finland’s most successful string quartets and the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2012 Emma Award (the Finnish GRAMMY®) for Classical Album of the Year. The ensemble is joined by soprano Pia Freund in three of Saariaho’s songs. Freund is a well-known interpreter of the composer’s works. She has sung roles in her operas and appeared as a soloist at the première of her oratorio, La Passion de Simone. Freund has previously recorded vocal works by Saariaho for Ondine on ODE 1049-2 and ODE 1189-2.

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