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Christopher Dingle
BBC Music Magazine, May 2012

LANCINO, T.: Requiem (Grant-Murphy, Gubisch, Skelton, Courjal, Radio France Choir, Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, Inbal) (Blu-Ray Audio) NBD0020
JANÁČEK, L.: Glagolitic Mass / Sinfonietta (Libor, Marciniec, Bentch, Gierlach, Malanowicz, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Wit) (Blu-Ray Audio) NBD0026
SCHUMANN, R.: Scenes from Goethe’s Faust (Warsaw Boys’ Choir, Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra, Wit) (Blu-Ray Audio) NBD0015
SCHUBERT, F.: Overtures (Complete) (Prague Sinfonia, C. Benda) (Blu-Ray Audio) NBD0019

Naxos’s commitment to audio-only Blu-ray is serious. In addition to the recordings reviewed here, and in July 2011, the steady stream of releases not only includes natural fare for the surround-sound format, such as Mahler’s Eight Symphony or the Szymanowski Symphonies, but also one of the best recent accounts of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

That Naxos invests in its catalogue in major-label style is most apparent in the appearance of Thierry Lancino’s Requiem on CD and Blu-ray . Even in stereo, the Blu-ray version leaps out of the speakers with greater immediacy than CD. In surround, the experience is exhilarating when the chorus and sizeable orchestra are given full rein, but there is also the frisson that comes from hearing so many people singing and playing in a whisper. Moreover, this music is worth hearing. Lancino adds two characters, the biblical David and the Sibyl of Greek myth, amid the Requiem text. Such interspersing of texts brings to mind Britten, but his absorbing exploration of notions of mortality is also rooted in Honegger, Stravinsky and Penderecki, and bears repeated hearing in this compelling performance from Radio France ensembles under Eliahu Inbal.

After Lancino’s spectaculars, it is not too great a leap to Janáček’s exuberant Glagolitic Mass, led by one of Naxos’s stars, Antoni Wit. This is a strong performance, and the Blu-ray opens out the choral sound so that the balance of Janáček’s rich textures is more natural, without softening its edges. The Sinfonietta is a touch more recessed, but still stirs the blood.

Wit and his well-drilled Warsaw forces are also impressive in Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust. The rarity of this masterpiece is baffling, and this unaffected performance should win many friends, especially in the much-better Blu-ray sound. The Schumann and the compilation of Schubert’s complete Overtures make use of Blu-ray’s extra capacity, both fitting on to a single disc. It’s especially handy for exploring the 18 Schubert gems, two hours passing happily in the comp nay of charming performances from the Prague Sinfonia under Christian Benda. Naxos is to be applauded for investing in Blu-ray audio. If only the supposed major labels would follow suit. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine

Lawrence Schenbeck
PS Tracks, February 2012

There are a lot of great moments in it: the Scene in the Cathedral…the Midnight Scene in Part II, with its ghastly flute sounds and skittering strings as Want, Guilt, Care, and Need attempt to press a moral lesson upon Faust; the transcendant final pages, in which Goethe’s immortal “Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis” is draped in music no less fitting than that which Mahler would employ, years later, in his Eighth Symphony.

The performance was consistently good…This was one of the new Naxos Blu-Rays…with dependably terrific Antoni Wit leading his Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra plus a boatload of fine solo singers. The two sopranos (Iwona Hossa and Christiane Libor) stood out by virtue of their full, free sounds, while the Faust (tenor Jaakko Kortekangas) and Mephistopheles (bass Andrew Gangestad) more than held up their own side with incisive characterizations. Mr. Wit paced the music well, never forcing a tempo but never dawdling. Schumann demands energy, and these folks delivered it in bucketfuls. The conductor and the Naxos engineers also helped bring out those Central European wind colors that the Polish produce with such apparent ease. © 2012 PS Tracks Read complete review

Lee Passarella
Audiophile Audition, November 2011

Wit shines…in Part 3…he manages to make this section, which has the quality of pure oratorio rather than oratorio with operatic overtones, register in the company of the other parts. Neither Britten nor Harnoncourt avoid a certain tacked-on quality in Schumann’s Part 3, but Wit builds a sense of cumulative spiritual energy that gives muscle to a section that can seem overly prettified. This sense of progression, so hard to achieve in Schumann’s collection of seven cherry-picked scenes, makes Wit’s version pretty much indispensible…it’s really very nice to hear the oratorio straight through, without having to change discs following Part 2, as you have to do with any CD or SACD presentation of this nearly two-hour work.

Naxos’s Blu-ray sound is very good—open, detailed, impactive…this is an important addition to the catalog of Schumann works in high-resolution sound. Read complete review

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