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Naxos Named Label of the Year for 2010 by MusicWeb International

December 2, 2010

As for the last two years, Naxos is Label of the Year, with EMI second and Deutsche Grammophon third.

MusicWeb International Recordings Of The Year 2010

This is the eighth year that MusicWeb International has asked its reviewing team to nominate their recordings (or music books) of the year. Reviewers are not restricted to discs they had reviewed, but the choices must have been reviewed on MusicWeb International in the last 12 months (December 09–November 10). 139 selections have come in from 26 members of the team, the choices as always reflecting a remarkable diversity of music: all periods and style of music are well represented. Among these are several albums from Naxos and the labels we distribute:

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 10
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko, conductor

NAXOS 8.572461

What a year it has been for Shostakovich; I had already selected Mark Wigglesworth conducting the Fourth symphony (review) only for this to be displaced by another superb recording from Liverpool. The 10th was the first symphony I bought as an experiment back in the days of mono LPs (Ancerl) and have heard many, many performances since then. However I had become jaded and could no longer recapture the thrill of that initial discovery. Petrenko has made the symphony come alive for me again as he recaptures the sense of inevitably in this work. The recording is finely detailed.

Also available:
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies, Vol. 1
– Symphony No. 11, “The Year 1905”
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies, Vol. 2
– Symphonies Nos. 5 and 9
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies, Vol. 3
– Symphony No. 8
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies, Vol. 4
– Symphony No. 10

HOLMBOE The Complete String Quartets
Kontra Quartet
DACAPO 8.207001

Vagn Holmboe’s twenty string quartets, written between 1949 and 1996, are masterly creations. They are concise, modelled after Haydn, carry a Bartók inflection and are benignly irradiated with a sense of landscape and nature. This unique cycle by the Kontra Quartet was issued individually at full price on Da Capo during the 1980s and 1990s. It now surfaces as a most rewarding intégrale and at a favourable price. A lifetime of discovery is guaranteed.

William SCHUMAN The Symphonies and selected orchestral works
Seattle Symphony • Gerard Schwarz, conductor

William Schuman’s symphonies have at last met their fulfilment on disc in a complete set from Naxos. While I would still go to Bernstein on Sony for the Third the others here are searingly done and make no mistake, Schwarz’s way with the Third is in no way deficient. It’s all here across eight surviving symphonies and a miscellany of other works. Open sesame for fierce intensity, raging violence, sable-dark melancholy and nervy kinetic euphoria. Let me also put a word of recommendation in for Joseph Polisi’s magisterial Schuman biography.

Gomalan Brass Quintet
NAXOS 8.572244

To end with some fun do try Moviebrass from Gomalan Brass. I wouldn’t normally go for brass quintet recitals—yet this one is a delight! Tirelessly enjoyable stuff, elite playing with a smile and cheer. The recording is nothing short of superb—never a moment of distortion. Whoop it up with the Gomalan.

FREITAS BRANCO Orchestral Works Vol. 3
– Symphony 3, The Death of Manfred, Suite Alentejana 2

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra
Álvaro Cassuto, conductor

NAXOS 8.572370

One of two unknown (to me) composers in my list this year. I was a convert to Branco’s countryman and contemporary, Joly Braga Santos a number of years ago, so just how good this music was perhaps should not have been such a surprise. The symphony is grandly impressive, the Suite is full of Iberian sunshine, Manfred a work for strings in the best British tradition. Now to investigate the first two volumes and await the next.
David Barker

Also available:
FREITAS BRANCO Orchestral Works, Vol. 1
– Symphony No. 1, Scherzo fantastique, Suite alentejana No. 1
FREITAS BRANCO Orchestral Works, Vol. 2
– Symphony No. 2, After a Reading of Guerra Junqueiro, Artificial Paradises
FREITAS BRANCO Orchestral Works, Vol. 3
– Symphony No. 3, The Death of Manfred, Suite alentejana No. 2
FREITAS BRANCO Orchestral Works, Vol. 4
– Symphony No. 4, Vathek

BLAKE The Passion of Mary, Four Songs of the Nativity
Patricia Rozario, soprano • London Voices
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Howard Blake, conductor

NAXOS 8.572453

The story of the Passion told from Mary’s point of view in ecstatic music of great beauty and originality. Blake is one of this country’s unsung musical heroes. On the strength of this, he won’t be for much longer.
Bob Briggs

FRIED Präludium und Doppelfuge, Die Auswanderer, Hänsel und Gretel Fantasy, Verklärte Nacht
Salome Kammer, narrator • Katharina Kammerloher, mezzo-soprano • Stephan Rugamer, tenor
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Matthias Foremny, conductor


If the Berlin born Oskar Fried is remembered today for anything it is for his conducting prowess not for his composing. A valued member of Gustav Mahler’s circle Fried is certainly a composer worthy of attention. The feature work is the recently rediscovered Die Auswanderer (The Emigrants) an affecting melodrama for speaker and large orchestra that had been stored in the KGB archives for decades. It seems likely that Verklärte Nacht and Präludium together with the recently unearthed full score of Auswanderer are receiving their first recordings. When I recently attended a Berlin performance of Auswanderer under maestro Eliahu Inbal he used a male narrator.
Michael Cookson

RUEDA Symphony 3, Imaginary Journey
Asturias Symphony Orchestra
Maximiano Valdés, conductor

NAXOS 8.572417

This dense and dazzling post-minimalist masterpiece from Spanish composer proves that creativity can open doors into new worlds. This music is vividly picturesque without ever relying on a program to sustain and develop its ideas. This world premiere recording, though a little in-your-face, is visceral and committed.
Mark Jordan

MASCAGNI Cavalleria Rusticana

Cavalleria Rusticana: Liliana Nikiteanu (Lola) • Cheyne Davidson (Alfio) • Irène Friedli (Lucia) • José Cura (Turiddu) • Paoletta Marrocu (Santuzza)
Pagliacci: Boiko Zvetanov (Peppe) • Gabriel Bermúdez (Silvio) • Carlo Guelfi (Tonio) • Fiorenza Cedolins (Nedda) • José Cura (Canio)
Zurich Opera House Chorus and Orchestra
Stefano Ranzani, conductor


Striking performances of opera’s Siamese twins, with Cura in superb voice whether as love rat (Cav) or deluded drunkard (Pag). Both his leading ladies give as good as they get, both vocally and dramatically, and the supporting roles are also well filled. These filmed performances more than hold their own in a very competitive field.
Rob Maynard

BRUCKNER Symphonies 4 & 7
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
Christian Thielemann, conductor

C MAJOR 701908

Filmed live at Baden-Baden, these two performances demonstrate Thielemann’s intensity and skill at communicating effectively with his players. On the basis of these filmed live concerts, one can see why his admirers rate him the leading Brucknerian of his generation. The interpretation of the fourth symphony is especially involving, but both it and the seventh demonstrate the Munich players’ empathy with the music, technical abilities and sheer artistry.
Rob Maynard
Picking just six recordings from a good crop is difficult enough, but when it’s a bumper one it’s well-nigh impossible. Reluctantly discarded in the final round were Casella’s Second [Symphony] from Francesco La Vecchia (Naxos) [among albums from other labels].
Dan Morgan

NØRGÅRD Der göttliche Tivoli (The Divine Circus)
Andrea Stadel, soprano • Fabienne Jost, alto • Daniel Szeili, tenor • Hubert Wild, baritone • Steffen Kubach, baritone • Bernd Gebhardt, bass • Matthias Kuhn, cello • Genova Dessislava, synthesizer • Hans-Kristian Kjos Sorensen, percussion • Ferdinand Heiniger, percussion • Oliver Schar, percussion • Daniel Scheidegger, percussion • Adrian Schild, percussion • Franz Rufli, percussion • Dorian Keilhack, Conductor
DACAPO 6.220572–73

Schizoid fantasies don’t come weirder or more whimsical than this. A celebration of ‘outsider art’, The Divine Circus dips into the double world of Swiss artist and asylum inmate Adolf Wölfli. It’s a richly rewarding work, presented by a small band of singer/dancers and percussionists. Oddly life-affirming; top-notch performance and sonics.
Dan Morgan

PALOMO Dulcinea
Ainho Arteta, soprano • Cheri Rose Katz, mezzo-soprano • Burkhard Ulrich, tenor • Kotchinian, Arutjun, bass
Chorus & Orchestra of Deutsche Oper Berlin
Miguel Angel Gómez Martínez, conductor

NAXOS 8.572577

A live recording of the 2006 premiere of a work its composer describes as a ‘Cantata-Fantasy for a Knight in Love’; it is based on poems by Carlos Murciano derived—of course—from Don Quixote. Ainhoa Arteta is an entrancing Dulcinea and Arutjun Kotchinian an heroically bewildered Don Quixote. Humorous, profound and beautiful by turns (and frequently more than one of these at any one moment).
Glyn Pursglove

DORMAN Mandolin Concerto, Piccolo Concerto, Concerto Grosso, Piano Concerto
Metropolis Ensemble • Andrew Cyr, conductor
NAXOS 8.559620

Is it hyperbole to call this my favorite disc of music by a living composer? No, because I play it more often, and enjoy it more happily, than any other. Avner Dorman’s concertos are a winning combination of modern, “neo-baroque,” jazz, and folk idioms which never sounds forced or weird, and they are written with those rarest of compositional gifts: grace and wit. I particularly love the piccolo concerto and the homage-to-Ravel slow movement of the piano concerto. In a decidedly humorless new-music climate, Dorman is a breath of fresh air. Outstanding performances, too.
Brian Reinhart

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 10
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko, conductor

NAXOS 8.572461

Just released, and an instant classic. The deep, rich, vibrant, clear sound quality is enough to make this reading a must-have, but Vasily Petrenko’s ingenious direction and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s world-class playing forced me to make this Tenth a last-second addition to my Recordings of the Year. Listen for special moments like the swooping violin portamenti at 00:26 in the scherzo, the spunkily klezmer-influenced clarinet solo at the start of the allegretto, or Petrenko’s superb balancing of orchestral sections in the last four bars. Perfect!
Brian Reinhart

WAGNER Götterdämmerung
Jennifer Wilson • Lance Ryan
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana
Zubin Mehta

C MAJOR 701108

I choose this as a symbol for the whole of the Valencia Ring, the best DVD cycle to come our way since Copenhagen. It’s a production that skilfully combines 21st Century video technology with the ancient myths that inspired the composer. With first rate singing and outstanding orchestral playing, it’s a Ring to treasure, marred only by some infuriatingly fragmented camera work at times.
Simon Thompson

Also available:
WAGNER Der Ring des Nibelungen (Complete) (NTSC) 703808
WAGNER Der Ring des Nibelungen (Complete) (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 703904

WAGNER Der Ring des Nibelungen (Highlights) (NTSC) 704608
WAGNER Der Ring des Nibelungen  (Highlights) (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 704504

WAGNER Das Rheingold (NTSC) 700508
WAGNER Das Rheingold (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 700604

WAGNER Die Walküre (NTSC) 700708
WAGNER Die Walküre (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 700804

WAGNER Siegfried (NTSC) 700908
WAGNER Siegfried (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 701004

WAGNER Götterdämmerung (NTSC) 701108
WAGNER Götterdämmerung (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 701204

WEISS Lute Sonatas Vol. 10
Robert Barto, baroque lute
NAXOS 8.572219

I’ve been following lutenist Robert Barto throughout his Naxos campaign on behalf of Weiss’s sonatas. Each volume is full of marvels; the music and the playing. My admiration therefore for Volume 10 stands for the series as a whole, but Barto’s ability to suspend time, phrasally speaking, reaches heights here in the C major. This is indeed distinguished music making.
Jonathan Woolf

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies Nos. 5 & 9
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko, conductor

NAXOS 8.572167

Petrenko’s Shostakovich series continues with stunning accounts of these two popular symphonies and at bargain price, too. The Ninth is especially fine and for me goes to the very top of the preferred versions.
Leslie Wright

Also available:
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies, Vol. 1 – Symphony No. 11, “The Year 1905” 8.572082
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies, Vol. 2 – Symphonies Nos. 5 and 9 8.572167
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies, Vol. 3 – Symphony No. 8 8.572392
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies, Vol. 4 – Symphony No. 10 8.572461

LIGETI String Quartets 1 & 2, Andante and Allegretto
Parker Quartet
NAXOS 8.570781

This young quartet has nothing to fear from the competition in these works, either in the Bartókian first quartet or the more radical second. The early Andante and Allegro is a balm to the ears after the quartets and a good way to conclude this bargain.
Leslie Wright

ROUSSEL Symphony 4, Rapsodie flammande, Petite Suite, Concert pour petit orchestre, Sinfonietta
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Stéphane Denève, conductor

NAXOS 8.572135

This conclusion to Denève’s Roussel symphony series may well be the best of all, as it contains five works from the composer’s maturity in outstanding performances at a low cost to the consumer. I can think of no better introduction to the composer.
Leslie Wright

Also available:
ROUSSEL Bacchus et Ariane (Bacchus and Ariadne), Symphony No. 3 8.570245
ROUSSEL Symphony No. 1, “Le poeme de la foret”, Resurrection, Le marchand de sable qui passe 8.570323
ROUSSEL Symphony No. 2, Pour une fête de printemps, Suite in F major  8.570529

SOURCE: MusicWeb International


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