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

January 1, 2017

SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2, String Quartet No 8 (arr for piano)
Giltburg • Owens • Royal Liverpool Philharmonic • Petrenko
Naxos 8.573666

Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic received tremendous critical reception for their Naxos Shostakovich symphony cycle. This time, they feature in the composer’s first two piano concertos, and there are two cherries on the cake: the first is the soloist, Naxos Artist Boris Giltburg, one of today’s most exciting young pianists, lauded for his “massive and engulfing technique, supporting interpretations that glow with warmth and poetic commitment” (Gramophone); the second is the inclusion of the first recording of Boris’ transcriptions for solo piano of Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet and the Waltz from the Second Quartet, presented by permission of the Shostakovich family. Shostakovich’s Piano Concertos Nos 1 and 2 span a period of nearly thirty years. The first is a masterful example of eclecticism, featuring virtuoso writing enhanced by the role for solo trumpet; the second, written as a birthday present for his son, Maxim, is light-spirited with a hauntingly beautiful slow movement.

BERNSTEIN Symphonies 1 & 2
Thibaudet • Baltimore Symphony • Alsop
Naxos 8.559790

Conductor Marin Alsop, once a Bernstein protégé, is recognised as one of today’s leading interpreters of his music; she is also one of Naxos’ major artists. Her recording of Bernstein’s Third Symphony (8.559742), released last year, was deemed “ … a fantastic performance and a spectacular recording” by Fanfare. Now she adds his first two symphonies: the first explores a crisis in faith with a finale that’s an anguished cry at the destruction of Jerusalem; the second, a programmatic work subtitled The Age of Anxiety, sets W.H. Auden’s poem of the same title and follows its four characters in their spiritual journey to hard-won triumph. The soloists on our recording are the world-famous pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Caro, who has performed frequently at the Met in New York.

BERG Wozzeck [Opera]
Trekel • Schwanewilms • Molomot • Berg • Houston Symphony • Graf
Naxos 8.660390-91

Alban Berg’s tragic opera Wozzeck is a 20th-century masterpiece. On hearing it for the first time, Schoenberg exclaimed: “Now that’s what I call an opera! That’s true dramatic music.” Wozzeck is an immensely powerful and heartbreaking drama. Its sublimely innovative score explores the victimisation, despair and madness of a central character who has no place in society. The cast for this production is outstanding. In the leading roles are baritone Roman Trekel (Wozzeck) who “ … has the presence and range to belong in the company of the starriest-baritones, from Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau to Bryn Terfel.” (Gramophone), and soprano Anne Schwanewilms (Marie) who was described by London’s Time Out as“ … one of the world’s finest interpreters of late romantic opera and song.” This release follows our previous successful recordings featuring the Houston Symphony Orchestra under conductor Hans Graf: Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony and Berg’s Three Pieces (8.572048), and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (8.572498).

RAVEL Orchestral Works Vol 4 – Daphnis et Chloé, Une barque sur l’océan
Spirito • Orchestre National de Lyon • Slatkin
Naxos 8.573545

Ravel described Daphnis et Chloé as “a vast musical fresco”. With its passionate music, lush harmonies and subtle orchestration, the work is considered both Ravel’s masterpiece and the epitome of Impressionism in music. The release continues our acclaimed edition of the composer’s orchestral works with the National Orchestra of Lyon conducted by Leonard Slatkin, whose 100-plus recordings have earned him seven GRAMMY® Awards and 64 GRAMMY® Award nominations. Gramophone welcomed both Volume 1 (8.572887): “...Slatkin [shapes] the music with a potent mix of the sensuous, sinuous, sinister and spirited”, and Volume 2 (8.572888): “[Slatkin] shows real empathy with this magical repertoire, and he draws playing of uncommon composure and contagious application from his scrupulously prepared Lyons band … Bring on the next instalment.” Well, here it is!

BRAUNFELS Ulenspiegel
EntArteOpera Chorus • Israel Chamber Orchestra • Sieghart • Schwab
Capriccio C9006

This DVD is the world première recording of one of the most important operas by the German composer Walter Braunfels (1882-1954), marking a significant milestone in Capriccio’s Braunfels Edition. Following a disappointing first performance in 1913, Ulenspiegel fell into neglect and remained buried in the archives of the State Opera in Stuttgart for almost a hundred years. It receives a triumphant revival here with a tremendous cast of young Austrian and German singers under the celebrated stage director, Roland Schwab and internationally renowned conductor, Martin Sieghart. The work is set in one of the darkest chapters in human history – the Spanish Inquisition in 16th-century Flanders. Promoted to become the political leader of the resistance, Ulenspiegel’s mind knows only one thing: all-encompassing revenge.

ROSSINI Armida [Opera] (NTSC)
Romeu, Scala, McPherson, Schmunck, Bernad, Smith, Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Opera Vlaanderen, Zedda, Clément
Dynamic DYN-37763

Antwerp’s Opera Vlaanderen continues its excellent Rossini opera cycle with this production of his rarely performed Armida. The work features no less than four tenors in the leading roles, taken here by the commanding voices of Enea Scala, Robert McPherson, Dario Schmunck and the young rising star, Adam Smith. The multi-award winning soprano Carmen Romeu gives a magnificent performance in the title role. All are under the musical direction of Alberto Zedda, one of the world’s leading specialists in 19th-century Italian music. Stage director Mariame Clément teams up once more for Opera Vlaanderen with set designer Julia Hansen, building on their successful production of Cavalli’s Il Giasone, which was also released on the Dynamic label (CDS663). Filmed in high definition, Armida is available in both DVD and Blu-ray video format.

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