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Zane Turner
MusicWeb International, February 2005

"Sales for recorded classical music represent only a small market segment that is in decline. The challenge for those companies representing classical music is to find ways of arresting the decline and expanding market share against competitors.

The Naxos series “Art and Music” is another example of creative marketing whereby an anthology of works from various composers based on specific criteria is compiled in “sampler” format. Entrance criterion in this case is based on the lifetime of Francisco Goya (1746-1828). Others in the series include Van Gogh, Breughel, Picasso, Turner and Monet. A lavishly illustrated, informative and well-written booklet accompanies the Goya CD.

In the main, the target audience for such releases is the less experienced and committed classical music listener. In that context such compilations have merit facilitating a broader listening experience and a “whetting” of the musical appetite at very modest expense.

The programme presented here is very broad and covers orchestral, choral, ensemble and works for solo instruments. The performances in each case represent the high standards for which Naxos has become renowned.

A “tour de force” must be the extracts from Messe des morts by François-Joseph Gossec (Naxos 8.554750-51) and the rendition from Rossini’s Tancredi by Ewa Podles (Naxos 8.660057-38) is most enjoyable and well performed. Interestingly some of the music presented also has its origins in anthologies from the same recording company eg. Marcos Antonio Portugal’s Overture to Il duca di Foix- (Naxos 8.567207).

It is musically incongruous that along with Gossec (Messe des morts) and Paganini (Opus 1 no 24) Naxos would include the “light-weight” items for guitar, Aguado lesson 26 (track14) and Sor Minuet Opus 11 no. 6 (track 12). This is not a criticism of the music per se or of the excellent renditions by Norbert Kraft, but an observation on contextual appropriateness that belies the solo guitar’s repertoire. A positive aspect of these inclusions is that of providing additional exposure for a less familiar instrument that holds so many delights for the uninitiated. There are however far more germane items in the Naxos guitar catalogue which would do the instrument greater comparative justice in such an anthology, particularly if the disc is purchased in isolation.

This writer has made a firm and concerted effort always to resist the marketing ploys of companies dedicated to expanding an already bulging personal collection of recorded music, and such tactics as described here never work on him. Having said that the inclusion of the Gossec disc on the “next to buy” list is purely co-incidental!

For listeners wishing to expand their musical experience and knowledge this anthology represents a most worthwhile acquisition. If unfamiliar with the Gossec work, this alone will richly reward you for the investment."

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group