With Thanksgiving behind us and this being the last day of November, the Christmas Holiday Season is officially upon us! From now until Christmas our new VoxBox Edition download-exclusive release - A Classical Christmas - will be available for 99 CENTS in the United States!! (This album is also available in other national markets, but pricing will vary from region to region.) This collection features nearly ten hours of Christmas music, both sacred and secular, from the Vox archives. Click on the cover image above (or the Amazon button below) to see complete track listing and to purchase this extraordinary set.
This Album Contains Christmas Oratorio (JS Bach) Messiah (Handel), excerpts The Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky), excerpts Vaticini di Pace (Christmas Cantata) (Antonio Caldara) Historia der Geburt Jesu Christi (Heinrich Schütz) Magnificat (Monteverdi) 40 other sacred and sacred Christmas favorites!
The superb music website ClassicsToday.com – "the world’s first and only classical music daily" – has just published a gushing an very enthusiastic review of our recent release Scarlatti Recreated, solo piano transcription and homages of the piano sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti performed stunningly by pianist Sandro Russo. The record was given an outstanding 10 out of 10 rating for both artistic quality and sound quality by Classics Today reviewer Jed Distler, who is himself an accomplished pianist and composer in addition to music writer. We are very pleased to reproduce the text of the article below, but please visit their site by clicking on the Classics Today logo aboveor by clicking here. (Click on the cover image above to visit our catalogue page for Scarlatti Recreatedor click here.
What a wonderful idea: Here’s a program that features transcriptions of Domenico Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas along with original works that use the sonatas as a jumping-off point. Many Classical- and Romantic-period composers and pianists felt the need to update Scarlatti's keyboard textures by filling in chords, adding double notes or octaves, or spicing up the harmonies. Politically incorrect by 21st-century standards, true, but "inauthenticity" can be fun, especially in the hands of a pianist like Sandro Russo.
Benjamin Britten, one of the towering musical figures of the twentieth century and one England's greatest composers, would have turned 100 today. His musical legacy is as broad as it is influential, his work spanning all genres: orchestral, chamber, and solo instrumental works; compositions for voice; music for films and folk song arrangements; the sacred and the secular. His most significant musical monuments are his opera Peter Grimes and the War Requiem, one of the most stirring meditations on the horror of war ever written. His The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra has been a staple of musical education for many decades, a fixture of classrooms everywhere. We are extremely proud to feature several excellent recordings of Britten's music in our catalogue.
Please click on the cover images below to visit each album's catalogue page for more information and links to find these recordings on Amazon and iTunes.
It was the opera Peter Grimesthat gave the young Britten his first international acclaim, praised as one of the few true operatic masterpieces of the twentieth century. This is perhaps the definitive recording of this opera, featuring Peter Pears in the title role (which he originated), an outstanding cast, and the chorus and orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conducted by Britten himself.
Orchestral gems, again conducted by Britten himself. As Britten wrote, the Spring Symphony is "'the progress of Winter to Spring and the reawakening of the earth." It integrates many songs for solo voice and chorus into its four movements and is "the composer's ecstatic response to the manifold beauties of springtime, of innocence and eager youth" (Gramophone magazine). The Simple Symphony was penned by Britten at the precocious age of twenty and manifests his already-considerable talents. The Four Sea Interludes are selections from Peter Grimes which Britten himself arranged into a suite.
Though Britten was remarkably prolific, his concertante works are few. He wrote only one Piano Concerto (Op. 13, 1938) and one Violin Concerto (Op. 15, 1939) in addition to a Cello Symphony, a Double Concerto for violin and viola, and a handful of concertante suites. These two recordings come highly praised by the Penguin Guide – in the Piano Concerto Annette Servadei "gives a strong dedicated muscular performance." Likewise its review of this disc applauds violinist Sergej Azizian: "He adopts a manner at once lighter in the quicksilver bravura passages and more intimate and poetic in the lyrical writing, ending in a deeply felt account of the closing pages, one of Britten’s deepest inspirations"
Britten is perhaps at his best when writing for the voice. Many of his orchestral masterpieces (such as the War Requiem) employ his deft sensitivity for this most perfect instrument. His more intimate works for voice are no less stunning. This digital-download exclusive album features two of England's great voices of the late-twentieth century, founders of the Pro Cantione Antiqua early music ensemble, countertenor Paul Esswood and tenor James Griffett, in a superb selection of fifteen arrangements of classic British folksongs for accompanied solo voice (piano or guitar), his suite Songs from the Chinese for voice and piano, and Abraham & Isaac (Canticle II) a remarkable and lengthy piece for two voices, accompanied by the Ridgeway Trio.
Sviatoslav Richter and Yuri Bashmet are perhaps the two greatest performers from the Soviet Union, with Richter as one of the most outstanding pianists of the recorded era and Bashmet (recorded here as a young man along with the legendary Richter) as one of the finest interpreters of the viola. Though nearly 40 years younger than the legendary pianist, Bashmet's command of the viola matches perfectly with Richter's ferocious keyboard approach. One of the works on this stunning recording is Britten's Lachrymae for viola and piano, a magnificent reflection on a song of Elizabethan-era composer John Dowland. Bu uniting the pre-Classical beginnings of British music with the contemporary, Britten not only completes the circle of musical history (of which he himself is an integral part) but but presents its unbroken lineage.
The other day we highlighted three exceptional new recordings now available on the Musical Concepts label. Here are four newly released albums on our Alto imprint. Click on the cover images below to visit each album's catalogue page for more information and links to find these recordings on Amazon and iTunes.
Mozart's Wind Serenade No. 10 - better known as the 'Gran Partita' - is perhaps best known to the general public from the 1984 biopic Amadeus in which the character of Mozart's rival Antonio Salieri describes hearing the Gran Partita – "Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing, it had me trembling. It seemed to me that I was hearing the very voice of God." Does more need to be written than this? Here the London Mozart Players Wind Ensemble under the remarkable direction of Jane Glover deliver a brilliant performance described as "first-rate" and "beautifully played." This is paired with original arrangements of several pieces from Mozart's operas Le Nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte (New York Philomusica Winds/Robert Johnson).
The Missa Papae Marcelli is Palestrina's most famous and arguably greatest mass setting. The laudable Pro Cantione Antiqua under the direction of Mark Brown here present this mass with stunning eloquence and clarity. In its exceptional 3-Star review Penguin Guide writes that compared with other versions of this mass the PCA recording "has special claims, and its outward severity does not preclude depth of feeling rather the reverse." Palestrina's Missa Assumpta est Maria for the feast of the Assumption may be less well known but is also a magnificent composition which is expertly brought to life by the PCA.
Legendary Russian conductor Konstantin Ivanov was no big fan of recording and much preferred the practice of public performance, but at the highly coveted position of conductor of the USSR State Symphony Ivanov release some recordings through the state-owned Melodiya label. These recordings were (and remain) very rare in both the West and Russia. We are very proud to release, for the first time in the West, Ivanov conducting Dmitri Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony called Leningrad. This stunningly powerful masterpiece is one of Shostakovich's most enduring works, seen as a resistance piece to the Nazi invasion of Eastern Europe. The four movements cover a vast range of technique and subject matter, and it is still regularly performed at the Leningrad Cemetery in memory of the millions who lost their lives in the war.
A two-disc set (also available for digital download) that contains every Tchaikovsky work for string quartet, performed peerlessly by the esteemed Shostakovich Quartet. These pieces have all been very well reviewed byGramophone Magazine and the Penguin Guide, the latter of which writes that "The Shostakovich Quartet are masterly." In addition to Tchaikovsky's three numbered quartets and the Quartet in Bb Minor, this set also includes Four Early Pieces for quartet, Adagio molto for quartet and harp, and the Adagio Cantabile from Souvenir de Florence.
November is a very busy month for Musical Concepts and Alto with many exciting new releases throughout the month. Some are already available through retailers, and we will be highlighting them here on our blog. First up, we have three new albums on our Musical Concepts label, all brand-new recordings. Click on the cover images below to visit each album's catalogue page for more information and links to find these recordings on Amazon and iTunes.
World-renowned pianist and conductor Dirk Joeres performs on a brand-new album of German piano rarities by Heinrich Schenker and Johannes Brahms. This album is a joint production between Musical Concepts and Deutschlandfunk, a major public radio broadcaster in Germany. Schenker was a composer, pianist, critic, and music theorist who is best known for his work with analyzing tonal music now known as Schenkerian analysis. Brahms is one of Germany's greatest composers and along with Bach and Beethoven round out the lauded "Three Bs."
Czech pianist Radoslav Kvapil is featured heavily in the Alto catalogue, and this earlier blog post on Kvapil highlights his extensive performances on our label where he plays the music of his Czech and Bohemian countrymen, including Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana, Leos Janacek, andVitezslav Novak. He is known as a champion of Czech modernism and his performing repertoire has also featured these works extensively. With this new recording he turns to some of his other biggest inspirations, specifically three of Beethoven's piano sonatas: No. 10 in G Major, No. 17 "Tempest", and No. 21 "Waldstein". Kvapil is a true master of the piano, and he is brilliant on these canonical works.
Like Radoslav Kvapil, Russian cellist Marina Tarasova also appears many times throughout the Alto discography, where she performs brilliantly on albums of Karl Davidov cello concertos, Myaskovsky cello works, Khachaturian concertos, and also an album of compositions by Kabalevsky. She has been lauded as "one of the leading cellists of her generation" and her knowledge and command of the Russian cello canon is unquestioned. We are excited to release this album of music for cello and piano featuring this superb musician. Composers represented on this disc are Sergei Prokofiev, Boris Tchaikovsky, Sergei Chebotarev, Yuri Shaporin, Alfred Schnittke, and Rodion Shchedrin.
Today's newest release from our VoxBox Edition digital download series, unbeatable-priced albums assembled from the archives of Vox Records, is Mozart: Complete Symphonies. This collection features all 47 symphonies written by Mozart in chronological order, clocking in at over 12 hours of music. For a limited time, this album is available at the astounding price of only 99 CENTS on Amazon.com (US only). You can find it on Amazon by clicking the Amazon button below or by clicking on this text. (Please click on the cover image above to visit our catalogue page for this album.)
This remarkable collection was just remastered for this release from original Vox sources and features the Mainzer Kammerorchester under the direction of Günter Kehr for the first 41 symphonies (chronologically, not by opus number), and the Philharmonia Hungarica and Peter Maag contributing the final six. This is a reference-quality set of recordings and at such a low price it is s must-have for any music lover. Buy it today!
In a blog post last week, we announced that we had released Scarlatti Recreated, an album of 19 piano transcriptions of and homages to Baroque composer Domenico Scarlatti, whose 555 keyboard sonatas demonstrate remarkable inventiveness and an outstanding virtuosic mastery of the keyboard. Pianist Sandro Russo has put together this project and is absolutely stunning on this album. We invite you to listen to the sample below, a homage to Scarlatti by renowned French-Canadian composer Marc-André Hamelin, then visit the catalogue page for Scarlatti Recreated by clicking here, where you will find a complete track listing, a link to the CD booklet, and links to purchase this album.
Five recent releases of classic recordings, available in all markets outside the United States.
First up is an album that not only features the music of Benjamin Britten, it is also conducted by him! Rave reviews of these recordings in Gramophone and the Penguin Guide, the latter of which calls these performances "memorable as [they are] joyous." This album features two of Britten's symphonies – the Spring Symphony and the Simple Symphony – and also includes four orchestral interludes from his opera Peter Grimes. This year on November 22 marks the 100th anniversary of Britten's birth, which will be celebrated by series of concerts across the globe (including a four-month program at New York's Trinity Church).
Hungarian-born conductor Antal Doráti enjoyed a long illustrious career which saw him hold the position of principal conductor at many of the finest orchestras across the United States and Europe. His contributions to music were so great that Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1983. We present two albums conducted by Doráti each featuring the works of iconic and essential twentieth century composers, Ottorino Respighi and Aaron Copland. The Respighi album has all three suites of his Ancient Airs and Dances series, which borrow from and are based on lute compositions from the Renaissance, and his beloved work The Birds. Aaron Copland is one of the most important American composers, and here we have Doráti conducting ballet suites and dance sequences from Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid, and Rodeo. As with many of the budget re-releases in the Alto catalogue, these albums were specially compiled from multiple sources to maximize the total playing time of the album, with each of these two discs clocking in over 78 minutes in length!
There are many albums available featuring opera highlights of great arias performed by soaring divas or booming tenors, and many of these are indeed exquisite; we offer several such discs on our Alto imprint. What makes this album – Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves – a rarity is that it focuses not on arias but on the great choruses of the opera. Twenty of the most memorable choruses from the masterpieces of opera are on this album, and a complete listing is available on the catalogue page here. If you would prefer a complete opera, we are also offering Turandot. Giacomo Puccini's final opera (completed after his death by Franco Alfano) would also be one of his greatest works; its aria Nessun dorma is one of the most popular and well-known arias of the twentieth century. This legendary recording features astounding performances by Birgit Nilsson, Jussi Björling, Renata Tebaldi, and Giorgio Tozzi as the main personae.
Please click on the cover images above for more information on each of these albums, including track listings, reviews, and links to purchase these albums from our retail partners.
Musical Concepts has been pleased to be the North American physical and worldwide digital distributor for England's Griffin Records. The laudable Griffin Records specializes in choral and organ music from the great cathedrals and abbeys in the United Kingdom as well as early music, often utilizing original period instruments and instrumentation and historical sites across the UK. We are proud to be partnered with this wonderful label.
Griffin's latest issue is Christmas-time Carols, 24 carols for the Christmas season from the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, under the direction of David Willcocks and accompanied by renowned organist Simon Preston. Through Musical Concepts, this album is now available on compact disc in the United States and Canada (soon to be available globally) and is already available worldwide for digital download through iTunes, Amazon, and most other online music vendors. Please click on the links below to find this album on Amazon and iTunes, and get an early start on Christmas music!
Complete Track Listing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing J.S. Bach: Invitatory While Shepherds Watched Adam Lay Ybounden Once in Royal David's City I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing By Gabriel's Message God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen Sussex Carol In Dulci Jubilo Away in a Manger O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles) Johannes Brahms: Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen (solo organ) Come Thou Redeemer Twas in the Year that King Uzziah Died Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding A Spotless Rose I Sing of a Maiden Remember O Thou Man On Jordan's Bank Up! Awake! King Jesus Hath a Garden The Blessed Son of God O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Baroque composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757) was a master of the keyboard, particularly the signature instrument of the era the harpsichord. He was an exact contemporary of Handel and Corelli, and by an early age was already a fixture in the important creative circles of Rome. It was in Rome where Scarlatti met Handel, and in a somewhat apocryphal story he met Handel is a battle of keyboard supremacy; according to the tale Handel was the victor on the organ, but Scarlatti bested him on the harpsichord.
Scarlatti spent half of his life serving the royal courts in Lisbon and Madrid, and his most important musical contributions are his 555 keyboard sonatas, written for the harpsichord. (Many of his other compositions, including numerous operas and vocal or choral works, are lost.) These works demonstrate a remarkable inventiveness in their use of native Iberian folk music, irregular chord progressions, dissonance, and most of all in the employment of his own masterful (and often idiosyncratic) technique. Scarlatti’s distinctive style and the works that he penned have remained a source of inspiration and debate for performers and composers up to this very day. In fact, his status has grown tremendously since the mid-nineteenth century, when he and his works were largely forgotten, and especially through the course of the late-twentieth century.
Scarlatti Recreated is a project brought to fruition by pianist Sandro Russo, who is based in both New York and his native Italy. This album contains nineteen pieces by ten composers, including four world-premiere recordings. There are six piano arrangements of the keyboard sonatas by a trio of mid-nineteenth century composers (two each): Carl Tausig, Louis Brassin, and Ignaz Friedman. In the early 1900s Spanish pianist and composer Enrique Granados loosely arranged 26 Scarlatti sonatas into his Ventiséis Sonatas Inéditas para clave, adding his own editorial sensibility and embellishments. His luxurious writing exalts in full the Spanish aromas of these sonatas, adding imaginative melodic and rhythmic ornamentation. Scarlatti Recreated presents seven of these works.
Of the six hommages to Scarlatti on this album, Carl Czerny's Sonata in the Style of Domenico Scarlatti is the earliest, a reevaluation of Scarlatti's oeuvre and legacy through the "Beethovenian" lens of the early-nineteenth century. Czerny was a student of Beethoven and a teacher to Liszt, a prolific pedagogue of the first order who was renowned for his ability to play in the style of any period or performer. Pianist Charles Valentin-Alkan's compositions are often technically demanding, and his inscription of "Alla D. Scarlatti" on the manuscript for his Duettino is ostensibly a cue to keep in mind the turbulent structures and often-dazzling fingerings of Scarlatti’s sonatas.
Scarlatti was largely ignored for a century, but since the mid-twentieth century has found favor among a growing number of composers and performers. French Canadian pianist and composer Marc-André Hamelin, renowned for championing lesser-known composers, lauds the "marvelous invention and amazing variety" of Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas; though his Omaggio a Domenico Scarlatti treats the subject in a less-than-serious manner, it is an affectionate tribute which captures the spirit of Scarlatti’s ebullient and acrobatic style. Jean Françaix is well-remembered for his exceptionally lively virtuoso performances, making Scarlatti a perfect fit for his repertoire; his Hommage à Domenico Scarlatti, which is taken from a suite of six homages to composers, demonstrates Françaix's dexterity and sensitivity to Scarlatti’s idiosyncrasies. Raymond Lewenthal is considered the father of the "Romantic Revival" of the 1960s, and his Toccata alla Scarlatti employs Scarlatti's signature dissonances and irregularity but is still a thoroughly twentieth century piece. The final work on this album, Michael Habermann's Homage to Domenico Scarlatti, is marked with humorous and mischievous twists, full of dissonant phrases and repeated elements as in Scarlatti's own compositions.
Sandro Russo's sparkling virtuosic skill is perfectly matched to this oft-demanding repertoire. The composer Lowell Liebermann wrote of Russo, "There is no technical challenge too great for him, but it is his musicianship that ultimately makes the greatest impression." Russo conceived of this project and has executed it brilliantly. Due to the more dynamic nature of the piano, these compositions add rich textural and timbric elements to the harpsichord works from which they were based. Upon this Russo adds imparts his own pronounced signature, revealing his own considerable artistry and sensitivity as well as the exceptional technical adroitness needed to realize these pieces. We are excited to release this remarkable album, and greatly look forward to working with Sandro on future projects.
Please click on the cover image above, or click here, to visit the catalogue page for Scarlatti Recreated for a complete track listing, links to purchase this album, and a downloadable PDF of the liner notes from this release.
When Mozart wrote "The Catalogue Aria" for Don Giovanni in 1787, the booklet in question was a list detailing the licentious nobleman's sexual conquests, as related by Don Giovanni's servant Leporello. In 2013, Swedish retailer IKEA has other ideas for this aria. They have taken our Karaoke Opera recording of "Madamina" – available on Karaoke Opera 5: Mozart for Men – and replaced Leporello's account of his master's seductions with an invitation to check out all the new products in IKEA's latest catalog. Watch the video below! (Make sure to turn on captions by clicking the CC button at the bottom of the video to read the translation.)