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Cheap, but extremely cheerful

November 1, 2008

Naxos releases a dozen newly recorded classical CDs every month, as well as some beautifully transferred historic issues, and it is getting near to the point where even the most demanding classical music buff can find his tastes fully satisfied by Naxos’s catalogue alone.

Left to right: Ilya Kaler, Vasily Petrenko, Leroy Anderson, Eldar Nebolsin, Leonard Slatkin

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has garnered three Grammy nominations with Naxos since 2004, and their latest offering features the exceptional Russian violinist Ilya Kaler, a Tchaikovsky competition winner, in virile performances of the evergreen concerto of Brahms and the almost unknown one by his mentor, Schumann. This 72-minute CD would be competitive at any price. [8.570321]

Naxos has recently started recording in Liverpool, where the Philharmonic is enjoying a long-overdue revival under the hugely talented Russian Vasily Petrenko. His CD of one of Tchaikovsky’s most delicious problem children, the Manfred Symphony, is truly exceptional. [8.570568] I also thoroughly enjoyed their Liszt programme comprising two piano concertos and Totentanz, with a commanding soloist in Eldar Nebolsin [8.570517]…

Naxos researches its output very thoroughly, and rarely does even a minor anniversary pass it by. All this year it has been releasing what is now a five-CD tribute to the American light music composer and arranger Leroy Anderson, who was born 100 years ago. Leonard Slatkin, a first-rate American conductor, is an Anderson specialist and draws loving performances throughout from the excellent BBC Concert Orchestra [Vol 1 8.559313, Vol 2 8.559356, Vol 3 8.559357, Vol 4 8.559381, Vol 5 8.559382].

There are also celebrations of two 70th birthdays released this month. The American composer John Corigliano is an important voice [A Dylan Thomas Trilogy 8.559394, Mr. Tambourine Man / 3 Hallucinations 8.559331, The Red Violin Caprices / Violin Sonata 8.559364]…[and] our own Howard Blake, an outstanding craftsman with a fine melodic gift, as many people will remember from The Snowman. Recently, Blake has returned to some delightful chamber music he wrote in the Seventies, and thoroughly revised it. This generous 74-minute CD will give great pleasure; the slow movement of the Piano Quartet is really beautiful [8.572083].

Left to right: Antoni Wit, John Corigliano, Chloë Hanslip, Mieczyslaw Karlowicz, Antonio Bazzini

The Pole Mieczyslaw Karlowicz was ahead of his time in one respect; he managed to get himself killed in a skiing accident, now quite a fashionable thing to do, as long ago as 1909. Last year, Nigel Kennedy brought out, on EMI, a brilliant account of his violin concerto which whet my appetite for more. And Naxos now provides me with two CDs, available separately, of his symphonic poems, both authoritatively conducted by Poland’s top carver, Antoni Wit [Vol 1 8.570452, Vol 2 8.570295].

Finally, the outstanding British violinist Chloë Hanslip has now reached the grand old age of 20, and celebrates it with a terrific recital of music by the 19th Century Italian virtuoso Antonio Bazzini. Most of us only know his Dance of the Goblins, but the rest of this 71-minute CD is equally joyous [8.570800].

- David Mellor, The Mail on Sunday, 19 October 2008

BRAHMS / SCHUMANN: Violin Concertos

TCHAIKOVSKY: Manfred Symphony / Voyevoda

LISZT: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Totentanz

ANDERSON: Orchestral Music, Vol 1 - Piano Concerto in C major / The Golden Years / Fiddle-Faddle

ANDERSON: Orchestral Music, Vol 2 - Suite of Carols / A Harvard Festival / Song of Jupiter

ANDERSON: Orchestral Music, Vol 3 - Sleigh Ride / The Typewriter / Plink, Plank, Plunk! / The Syncopated Clock

ANDERSON: Orchestral Music, Vol 4 - Irish Suite / Scottish Suite / Alma Mater / A Christmas Festival

ANDERSON: Orchestral Music, Vol 5 – Goldilocks / Suite of Carols

CORIGLIANO: Mr. Tambourine Man /
3 Hallucinations


CORIGLIANO: The Red Violin Caprices / Violin Sonata / THOMSON: Five Ladies / Eight Portraits

BLAKE: Violin Sonata / Piano Quartet / Penillion / Jazz Dances

KARLOWICZ: Symphonic Poems, Vol 1 - Stanislaw i Anna Oswiecimowie / Rapsodia litewska / Epizod na maskaradzie

KARLOWICZ: Symphonic Poems, Vol 2 - Powracajace fale / Smutna opowiesc / Odwieczne piesni

BAZZINI: Virtuoso Works for Violin and Piano


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