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Klaus Heymann Recommends May 2024

This month’s highlights from the Naxos Music Group include Lukas Foss’ orchestral works presented by multiple GRAMMY-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta; Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera L’Africaine – Vasco da Gama conducted by Antonello Manacorda; Gioachino Rossini’s Armida from the Rossini in Wildbad festival; Vol. 62 in Franz Liszt’s Complete Piano Music series presented by Martin Cousin; and more. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.


Naxos 8.559938

There are meaningful interconnections in this album – between composer, performers and repertoire. Major Naxos artist JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic pay tribute to composer Lukas Foss, who was born in Germany but settled in Philadelphia as a teenager. Foss served as musical director of the Buffalo Philharmonic from 1963 to 1970, and one of the works on the programme (Renaissance Concerto) was written for the renowned flautist and Juilliard School professor Carol Wincenc, who premiered the work with Foss and the orchestra in 1986. For many years, Foss held a leading position in American music, and he freely explored diverse compositional styles, including minimalism and electronic possibilities in his later years. Three of the works on this recording, however, fall into his early neo-Classical period and are immediately inventive and engaging.

Listen to an excerpt from Renaissance Concerto: II. Baroque Interlude (after Rameau)

Naxos 8.660558-60

Here’s an opera recording that will catch the attention of many collectors. Giacomo Meyerbeer changed the name of his opera L’Africaine to Vasco da Gama shortly before its completion on the day before he died in 1864. The Belgian musicologist François-Joseph Fétis then made changes to the extensive score material and prepared a performing version for the opera’s premiere in April 1865, reverting to the title L’Africaine. The plot concerns the famed Portuguese navigator and his series of love entanglements, while the work is cast as a magnificent grand opéra. This 2018 Frankfurt Opera production, featuring the outstanding tenor Michael Spyres as Vasco de Gama, was based on the critical edition of the full score that reflects Meyerbeer’s original intentions. It was extremely well received, both for the performance and production: ‘[The] singing reached spectacular levels.’ (Mundoclassico.com); ‘Tobias Kratzer’s stage work is remarkable, with admirable direction and some brilliant moments.’ (Seenandheardinternational.com)

Listen to an excerpt from Act I: No. 3. Le Conseil d’État: Morceau d’ensemble: Il faut avec ardeur seconder sa vaillance!

Naxos 8.660554-55

Naxos’ long-term project to record all of Rossini’s completed operas – there are 39 of them – has proved a significant and highly successful one. The release of Elisabetta regina d’Inghilterra (8.660538-39) in February together with June’s scheduled release of Ermione and this recording of Armida takes us tantalisingly close to completing the task. I look forward to being able to announce the eventual release date of Adina which will literally represent the final act of the undertaking, although it's possible that Rossini’s two pastiche operas (Ivanhoe and Robert Bruce) may also be recorded in the not too distant future, even though they lie outside the official Rossini canon. Armida continues our series of recordings from the Rossini in Wildbad Festival. It’s an opera known to connoisseurs for star performances by coloratura sopranos such as Maria Callas and Renée Fleming, but with its cast of six tenors and a single, highly demanding female title role (superbly sung here by Ruth Iniesta), it's also a production that is notoriously difficult to cast. I have no doubt that this outstanding recording will therefore be eagerly sought out by all Rossini fans.

Listen to an excerpt from Act I: Lieto, ridente oltre l'usato

Naxos 8.574546

Volume 62 of our extensive Liszt Complete Piano Music edition adds to the wealth of transcriptions already featured in the series, which will eventually comprise some 100 volumes. They always carry a special appeal on account of the many rarities that receive a welcome airing. The pianist is Martin Cousin. He recorded the previous volume in the series which featured bravura opera transcriptions, adding to his two 2023 Naxos albums of works by Anton Rubenstein. You may also remember his contributions to our highly successful series of Haydn Piano Trios as pianist of the Aquinas Trio. This latest programme offers a rarely heard glimpse into Liszt’s spiritual side, with gems such as the simple but telling setting of Mozart’s well-known Ave verum corpus, and a transcription of the love scene from Goldschmidt’s oratorio Die Sieben Todsünden. The latter is an achingly beautiful and delicate rendering which includes moments that are reminiscent of Liszt’s own Second Ballade. I can thoroughly recommend this album as a treasure trove of unexpectedly intimate treasures.

Listen to an excerpt from Cantico del Sol di San Francesco d’Assisi, S499/R191

Capriccio C5510

Maria Herz was born in Cologne in 1878 and by the 1920s she had become recognised as a dynamic element on the city’s contemporary music scene. She enjoyed a close association with luminaries such as Gregor Piatigorsky, Otto Klemperer and Hans Rosbaud, but during her lifetime only five songs (1910) and a transcription of Bach’s Chaconne for string quartet (1927) were published. Her life as a composer was brought to a sudden halt when forced into exile by the Nazis, but the manuscripts of her art songs and chamber works survived, along with her solo concertos and 30 orchestral works, four of which make up this programme, including the Four Short Orchestral Pieces, which were premiered in 1929 by the distinguished conductor Hermann Abendroth and probably marked the pinnacle of her career.

Listen to an excerpt from Four short orchestral pieces for large orchestra, Op. 8: I. Allegro commodo

Capriccio C8094

Having spent years pursuing academic credentials, Bruckner was finally rewarded with an honorary doctorate from the University of Vienna in 1891. In return, he dedicated his First Symphony, which he had completed in 1866, to the university. The second revised version of the work, known as the ‘Vienna’ version, was subsequently premiered in 1891. Although the revisions for that version weren’t very extensive, the 1891 autograph score is the composer’s final word on how he wanted his First Symphony to be performed and understood. This recording of the work continues Capriccio’s Complete Versions Edition of Bruckner’s symphonies either published or to be published under the auspices of the Austrian National Library and the International Bruckner Society in the Neue Anton Bruckner Gesamtausgabe (New Anton Bruckner Collected Works Edition). The project concludes later this year, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of Bruckner’s birth. The sole conductor for the project is Markus Poschner. Of the two orchestras used throughout the project, he here directs ‘the very fine Bruckner Orchester Linz.’ (Infodad.com on C8089, Symphony No. 2, 1877 version)

Listen to an excerpt from Symphony No. 1 in C minor: Allegro

Dynamic DYN-38004 [DVD]

Francesco Cilea’s opera Gloria recounts the ultimately tragic story of two lovers caught up in a conflict in 14th-century Siena. It’s performed here in Antonio Albanese’s inventive staging of its 1932 revised edition. Although rooted in the Italian opera tradition, Cilea’s score also reflects Russian, French and German influences, producing a ‘sound [that] is unique in its melodic sensuality, and passion that often dissolves into rapture… harmonically sophisticated, and structurally highly complex, though always remaining tonal.’ (OperaToday.com) This 2023 production from Teatro Lirico di Cagliari boasts a fine line-up of singers ‘[whose] voices are beautiful, theatrical and expressive’, while ‘Francesco Cilluffo conducts the Cagliari Orchestra with passion and vehemence in a work as musically beautiful as it is complex and rich in influences.’ (musicandosite.com) I warmly recommend this release as a rare opportunity to get to know an unjustly neglected masterpiece.

Also available on Blu-ray Video (DYN-58004)


Oehms OC1728

This album of 19th-century sacred vocal music features Singer Pur, one of the world's leading international a cappella ensembles, whose concert tours have taken them to some 60 countries across six continents. The programme takes the listener on a journey through the century’s constantly evolving musical styles, featuring music by composers that are both well-known and unfamiliar, from Franz Liszt to Luise Adolpha Le Beau. Although the individual composers no doubt differed widely in their attitudes to faith and spirituality, Singer Pur’s level of performance is uniformly outstanding throughout the nineteen tracks. Their previous releases on the OehmsClassics label include Among Whirlwinds (OC1723) which received an Opus Klassik award, and an album of Renaissance music by Ludwig