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

April 1, 2017

THE ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION – 30 CDs to celebrate 30 years of Naxos
Various Artists
Naxos 8.503293

This milestone anniversary collection presents thirty significant Naxos releases that chart the label’s progress over the thirty years since its founding in 1987. The limited edition boxed set reflects the wide range of repertoire for which Naxos has become world-famous, from works by Thomas Tallis to music by Karol Szymanowski. Choosing just 30 discs from a catalogue of over 9,000 titles hasn’t been easy, but I’m certain that each recording will prove an impressive representation of the stellar artists and outstanding performances that are a hallmark of the Naxos collection. Solo recitals, chamber music, vocal and orchestral works are all represented. Each disc received critical acclaim, from the first new recording for Naxos, released in 1988, of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons by my tireless wife Takako Nishizaki, to Boris Giltburg’s disc of Rachmaninov piano works, released only last year.

RAVEL Orchestral Works Vol 5 – Antar (after Rimsky-Korsakov) / Shéhérazade
Dussollier, Druet, Orchestre National de Lyon, Slatkin
Naxos 8.573448

Ravel’s fascination with Oriental culture combines with the influence of Debussy in his ravishing song cycle Shéhérazade. Soloist Isabelle Druet featured on our recent recording of Ravel’s L’heure espagnole (8.660337), The Washington Post noting that “The rich-toned mezzo-soprano Isabelle Druet is a seductive ... Concepción.” Ravel used selections from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Antar alongside material of his own to produce incidental music for a theatre production. These original contributions are heard here in their première recording, revived and reconstructed alongside a new text commissioned from the French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf. The narrator’s role is taken by the distinguished French actor André Dussollier, recipient of three César Awards and the 2015 Molière Award. Conductor Leonard Slatkin’s numerous Naxos recordings of French music with the Orchestre National de Lyon have received wide acclaim. Referring to Vol. 2 of the Ravel Orchestral Music series (8.572888) Gramophone magazine acknowledged Slatkin’s “…real empathy with this magical repertoire, and he draws playing of uncommon composure and contagious application from his scrupulously prepared Lyon band.”

NOVÁK In the Tatra Mountains / Lady Godiva / Eternal Longing
Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta
Naxos 8.573683

Reminiscent of the music of Smetana and Dvořák, Vitĕzslav Novák’s works are surprisingly little known outside his native Bohemia, so this release will no doubt help raise his profile among a wider audience. Alternative recordings of the works on the programme are scarce and relatively old. Novák’s gift for rich melody and full-blown romantic orchestral colour are evident in his In the Tatra Mountains; the enchantingly evocative Eternal Longing is based on a poem by Hans Christian Andersen; and the dramatic Lady Godiva Overture, written by Novák in just two days, is considered one of his most powerful works. Conductor JoAnn Falletta’s well-received recordings for Naxos with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra represent a remarkable range of American and European repertoire. Their disc of music by John Corigliano (8.559331) won two GRAMMY® awards.

HARRISON Violin Concerto / Grand Duo / Double Music
Fain, Boriskin, PostClassical Ensemble, Gil-Ordóñez
Naxos 8.559825

Lou Harrison was a composer far ahead of his time, a versatile innovator who espoused ‘world music’ before there was a name for it. This disc documents his pioneering roles both as a composer for percussion and as an integrator of Western and Indonesian idioms. The Concerto for Violin and Percussion showcases his experimental enthusiasm in the use of non-pitched percussion; the Grand Duo for violin and piano is a majestic example of gamelan-infused chamber music; and Double Music for percussion, co-composed with John Cage, is a celebrated reminder of their San Francisco percussion concerts. The PostClassical Ensemble has notched up previous successes on Naxos, including Dvořák and America (8.559777) of which ClassicsToday wrote: “This is one of those rare “concept albums” where the concept actually works.”

DVOŘÁK Svatební košile (The Spectre’s Bride)
Šaturová, Breslik, Plachetka, Wiener Singakademie, Vienna Radio Symphony, Meister
Capriccio C5315

Dvořák’s music was regularly performed in cities throughout Britain during his lifetime, not least the works he wrote specifically for that country. His dramatic cantata The Spectre’s Bride was first performed at the Birmingham Music Festival in 1885. It’s thought that Dvořák himself conducted the choir of around 400 voices and an orchestra of 150 musicians. The work tells of a girl whose dead lover tries to lure her to his open grave; after attempts to escape his ghostly clutches, she is finally rescued by churchgoers when they find her at his graveside wearing a tattered wedding dress. The cantata received many more performances in Britain and the USA during the year following its première, helping cement Dvořák’s popularity among Anglo-American audiences, which continues today. The solo roles are taken by three award-winning singers: soprano Simona Šaturová, tenor Pavol Breslik and bass-baritone Adam Plachetka.

VERDI Otello [Opera] (NTSC)
Neill, Nuccio, Frontali, Giusti, Frizza, Azorin
Dynamic DYN-37767 (DVD)

This latest release from Dynamic, available in both DVD and Blu-ray format, scores ticks in all the boxes. A co-production between the Macerata Opera Festival and the Festival Castell de Peralada, this Otello was the winner of the Campoamor Prize for the best production of 2015. Direction and set design are in the hands of the incomparable Paco Azorin, who ingeniously utilises the entire stage area of the Arena Sferisterio with his inspiring use of lighting and projections. Conductor Riccardo Frizza, acknowledged as one of today’s finest interpreters of Italian opera, gets the best from both Verdi’s score and the lead singers: in the title role, Stuart Neill combines an imposing stage presence with his richly nuanced voice; Jessica Nuccio is a wonderfully lyrical Desdemona; while Roberto Frontali brings both fine singing and charismatic acting to the role of Jago.

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

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