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

May 1, 2017

MONTEVERDI, C.: Madrigals, Book 8 (Il Ottavo Libro de Madrigali, 1638)
Delitiæ Musicæ, Longhini
Naxos 8.573755-58

This is the penultimate volume in our magnificent survey of Monteverdi’s books of madrigals. The release coincides with the 450th anniversary of the composer’s birth. The Eighth Book of Madrigals contains some of Monteverdi’s greatest music and displays a wide array of human emotions and compositional styles. This is the first recording to present Book Eight in its original, uncut form; it also incorporates instrumental sinfonias and dances by Biagio Marini (1594-1663). In keeping with 17th-century practice, the madrigals are performed entirely by male voices, including a boy soprano in the role of Cupid. Marco Longhini and Delitiæ Musicæ are among today’s most distinguished exponents of Monteverdi’s madrigals and have received sustained critical acclaim for their previous releases in this edition: “A zestful traversal of Monteverdi’s monumental Madrigal collection.” (Gramophone on Book 7, 8.555314-16); “The performances are compelling, simultaneously controlled and imaginative.” (American Record Guide on Book 6, 8.555312-13)

SATIE, E.: Piano Works (Complete), Vol. 1 (New Salabert Edition)
Nicolas Horvath
Grand Piano GP761

This exciting release is the opening volume of Nicolas Horvath’s momentous new cycle of Erik Satie’s solo piano music. It will use the Salabert Edition prepared by Satie scholar Robert Orledge. The cycle will include world premières of unknown pieces as well as significant corrections to famous and popular works such as the Trois Sarabandes; it also reappraises favourites such as the Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes. This first volume alone contains four world première recordings of unknown works by Satie, and no fewer than 22 première recordings of pieces that have been corrected and revised in the new edition. The recordings use instruments that Satie would have known and composed for during his career. These early pieces therefore use an 1881 Érard piano that also happens to have been owned by Cosima Wagner. Nicolas Horvath’s recent ‘Glassworlds’ recordings of the music of Philip Glass for the Grand Piano label have been widely acclaimed, and I confidently expect this new project to enjoy a similar reception.

FLOYD, C.: Susannah [Opera] (NTSC)
Spatafora, Izzo, Ritums, Misener, Rocklein, Wichael, Webb, Wilson, Frabotta, Donovan, Bloomfield, Wehrle, St. Petersburg Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Unger, Sforzini
Naxos 2.110381 [DVD]

Carlisle Floyd is one of America’s foremost composers and the recipient of the National Medal of Arts, awarded by the US Congress; he turns 91 this June. He is renowned for his operas, for which he also writes the libretti. The most famous and popular is his third opera, Susannah, premièred in 1955 and the second most performed of all American operas, after Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. It was also awarded the New York Music Critics Circle Award for Best New Opera in 1956. Set in Tennessee and loosely based on the Apocryphal tale of Susannah and the Elders, updated to the present time, the work is rooted in folk melodies and hymns and boasts a soaring melodic beauty. Although there are two CD versions of the opera available, there is no competing video production of the work. This first-rate live recording is therefore certain to attract much attention.

DVOŘÁK, A.: Mass in D Major / Te Deum
Biegas, Rodríguez-Cusí, Tomé, López, Orfeón Pamplonés, Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra, Wit
Naxos 8.573558

Antoni Wit is one of our most prolific and distinguished Naxos Artists, and this release is a natural partner to his 2014 Naxos recording of Dvořák’s Requiem (8.572874-75). There are very few other recordings of the Mass in D major in the version with orchestral accompaniment. It’s a movingly dramatic and jubilant masterpiece. Wit breathes new life into both of the works on this disc with the support of a strong line-up of artists: renowned operatic soprano Ewa Biegas (winner of the 1996 Polish National Vocal Competition in Wrocław); baritone José Antonio López (much in demand for leading operatic roles); and the Orfeón Pamplonés choir (recipient of the 2012 Press Association Award and The Gold Medal of Navarre).

SAINT-SAËNS, C.: Piano Concertos, Vol. 2 - No. 3 / Rhapsodie d’Auvergne / Africa / Caprice-Valse
Descharmes, Malmö Symphony, Soustrot
Naxos 8.573477

This is the second of a three-volume edition of Saint-Saëns’ piano concertosand other works for piano and orchestra. Although there are alternative recordings of the concertos on the market, this is the first complete collection to appear for at least a decade, made all the more attractive by the numerous additional works that are included. On this release, for example, there’s the folksong-based Rapsodie d’Auvergne that pre-dates Canteloube’s famous Chants D’Auvergne by around 40 years. This variety, together with the cycle’s position within our eminently collectible survey of all Saint-Saëns’ works for solo instrument and orchestra, gives our project an undeniable competitive strength. The featured soloist in the series is Romain Descharmes, one of the foremost French pianists of his generation. Conductor Marc Soustrot is a specialist in French orchestral music. His recent Naxos cycle of Saint-Saëns’ symphonies was received warmly by the critics: “Soustrot draws a splendid performance from the orchestra, yielding such effervescence, subtlety and charm…” (Classical Net on vol. 2, 8.573139).

ULLMANN, V.: Piano Concerto / Piano Sonata No. 7 / Variations and Double Fugue
Ernst, Dortmund Philharmonic, Feltz
Capriccio C5294

Viktor Ullmann was a pupil of Schoenberg and a victim of the Nazi Holocaust. He was murdered in 1944 in the Auschwitz concentration camp. It’s remarkable that he was able to rise above the trying circumstances under which he lived and worked, both before and after his deportation, to produce such a compelling catalogue of works. The Piano Concerto was composed in 1939. It displays Ullmann’s distinctive voice, while giving occasional hints of Prokofiev and Ravel. The Piano Sonata No. 7 was composed during his internment at Auschwitz; the Variations & double fugue Op. 3a, the earliest work on the programme, is based on a theme by his mentor Schoenberg. Soloist Moritz Ernst is noted for his performances of 20th- and 21st-century music and has previously recorded all of Ullmann’s piano works.

MOZART, W.A.: Requiem / Ave verum corpus / BRUCKNER, A.: Motets
Vienna Boys Choir, Chorus Viennensis, Vienna Volksoper Orchestra, Marschik
Capriccio C8018

This recording forms part of Capriccio’s Encore series, which comprises the most famous releases from the label’s back catalogue. Conductor Peter Marschik has worked with numerous choral and orchestral ensembles, including as artistic director of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, who feature on this recording together with a highly distinguished line-up of soloists. Familiar works by Mozart and Bruckner receive very special performances here, giving this disc a wide and enduring appeal.

ULLMANN, V.: Piano Concerto / Piano Sonata No. 7 / Variations and Double Fugue
Vogt, Royal Northern Sinfonia
Ondine ODE1292-2

This is the first volume in Lars Vogt’s new cycle of Beethoven’s piano concertos in which he masterfully displays the brilliance and the beauty of Beethoven’s First and Fifth Piano Concertos while conducting the Royal Northern Sinfonia from the keyboard. Vogt was appointed the first ever Pianist in Residence by the Berlin Philharmonic in 2003/04 and enjoys a high profile as a soloist and chamber musician. His debut recording for the Ondine label in August 2015 was of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (ODE 1273-2) and proved a major critical success; the album’s tracks have been streamed over six million times.

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