We have already highlighted two of this month's new releases – La Fanfare Wagnérienne and JS Bach: Complete Flute Sonatas & Partita – with their own blog posts. Let's explore the other three albums available this month on CD and digital download. As always, click on the images above for links to each title's catalogue page for more information, track listings, and links to find these on Amazon and iTunes.
Manhattan Playboys is an exciting collection of twenty American light orchestra favorites. Ranging from the 1930s onward, this album contains hits from Broadway, Hollywood, and the 'Great American Songbook,' with memorable and beloved works from Richard Rogers, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Leroy Anderson, and many others (please visit the catalogue page for full track listing). For over four decades Iain Sutherland has been one of the foremost conductors (and band-leaders) of orchestral 'pops' in the United Kingdom, often conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra on its weekly radio broadcast. Additionally, he has conducted prestigious orchestras all over the UK and Europe, and his own Iain Sutherland Concert Orchestra appears on this album. This is a collection that is sure to please all listeners.
Antonín Dvořák is one of the founding figures of Czech/Bohemian nationalist music, and is perhaps the greatest example of the Czech national style. though his compositions are firmly rooted within the idiom of the Western Classical tradition, he absorbs and borrows from the folk traditions of his native Bohemia (now roughly the Czech Republic) and discovers novel ways to integrate this vernacular into his works in both theme and composition. His first great success came with his first suite of Slavonic Dances, eight lively orchestral pieces that borrow deeply from Slavic folk music. The thirteen-part solo-piano suite Poetic Tone Pictures (Poetické nálady) follows this example, incorporating nationalist elements into this piano suite. The titles are generally self explanatory ranging from the opening folk-like depiction of a road at night and the joyous Furiant national dance (No 7) to the darker mood of the Old Castle (No 3), the grandiose Hero’s Grave and the solemn chorale-like remembrances of the final Holy Mountain. Paired with Poetic Tone Pictures on this album is Theme & Variations (Op. 36), one of Dvořák's longest single-movement compositions for solo piano. It consists of the opening theme in the tempo of a Minuet, which is then followed by eight variations in different moods ranging from the minor key (variation 3) through the Moravian folk style (4) and dramatic octave passages (5) to the final fugue-like variation with its dramatic mood, leading to a peaceful conclusion. These works are performed by renown Czech pianist Radoslav Kvapil, who has appeared on many releases for our alto imprint and has been praised by The Kennedy Center as "a magician on the keyboard." He is a significant authority on Czech modernist/nationalist music, and the works of Dvořák and his contemporaries are an important part of his repertoire (see here).
Widely regarded as Denmark's greatest composer, Carl Nielsen is best known for his symphonies and opera works. Of these, perhaps the most well-known and highly-regarded is his Symphony No. 4, subtitled "The Inextinguishable," (more closely "life-force" in Danish) referring to what Nielsen describes as "the elemental will to live." Written during the course of World War I, it is a powerful and challenging meditation on the human struggle for survival amidst the backdrop of such conflict. The work is thrilling and altogether dramatic, and this legendary 1974 performance by the London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Ole Schmidt stands as perhaps the finest version ever recorded. The Fourth Symphony is paired on the album with the unorthodox (but highly enjoyable and well-received) Fifth. This recording session of the Nielsen symphony cycle established Schmidt's position as a foremost authority on his fellow Dane's repertoire. These recordings are lauded by Gramophone magazine and the Penguin Guide and received a Three-Star rating by the latter. This album will be a cherished addition to any music collection, as this stellar recording captures the LSO at its best.
A brand-new recording of the complete Johann Sebastian Bach compositions for flute! This two-disc set (or double-length download album) contains all of the Bach Flute Sonatas (BWV 1030-1035) as well as the Partita in A Minor for solo flute (BWV 1020), which comprise all of Bach's works written to highlight this most ancient of instruments.
English flutist Jennifer Stinton is one of the foremost flutists performing and recording today. The range of her repertoire is immense, ranging from the earliest Classical compositions by Bach and Vivaldi to the most contemporary pieces from the twenty-first century. (For more on this, please click here.) She has frequently collaborated on recordings with harpsichordist David Wright and cellist Guy Johnston, who accompany her on all the sonatas on this album. These new digital recordings are brilliant and the performances are flawless, making this album a reference-quality acquisition. It surely willbe reviewed very favorably and will be an excellent addition to any music collection.
Please click on the cover image above (or here) to visit the catalogue page for this album, or click on the links below to find it online.
Between 1894 and 1909, Belgian composer Paul Gilson penned a six-piece suite for large brass ensemble, La Fanfare Wagnérienne. These works were inspired by the model for brass instrumentation created by Richard Wagner with The Ring Cycle just decades prior. In terms of style and thematic elements La Fanfare Wagnérienne was certainly wide-ranging and was an achievement in the burgeoning brass genre, one of the first important compositions for brass. This suite was performed until 1912, and was subsequently lost in its original form for almost ninety years, until it was rediscovered and reconstructed by English trombonist and conductor Eric Crees.
Eric Crees is Principal Trombone at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and served as director of London Symphony Orchestra Brass for many years regularly conducting them at the Barbican Centre. He laboriously researched the original Gilson manuscripts and wrote the individual parts, often for authentic but obsolete nineteenth-century Wagnerian horns (a process that he describes at length in his editorial procedure guide here). Crees conducted the first performance of this suite since 1912 with the Guildhall Brass Ensemble of the legendary and prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, this album recorded in early 2011 in Guildhall Music Hall, the first time that these works have ever been recorded!
This suite will surely become a fixture of brass repertoire in the coming years, and this spectacular and rousing recording will stand as an important document in its history. The CD booklet contains a great deal more detail on the performers and the work itself, and much information and links to purchase this album can be found on the product page for this album by clicking the cover artwork above or by clicking here.
Chopin Piano Works (The VoxBox Edition) is now available for digital download on iTunes and Amazon.com. This 11-hour compilation features nearly every work for piano composed by Frederic Chopin, with performances by piano masters and luminaries Abbey Simon, Ivan Moravec, Walter Klien, Grant Johannesen, and Michael Ponti. Please click here for more information, including a listing of works included in this collection, or click on the buttons below to find this on iTunes and Amazon.
Please listen to this medley sampler from this set, with performances by the great Abbey Simon.
We have just released two new big digital "box sets" at amazing prices! Also, we are proud to present four new single-album releases that are likewise exclusive to our digital vendors.
101 Opera Classicsis a "greatest hits" of opera and is available for a limited time only for $1.09 onAmazon.com(regular price $4.99). It features all the greatest and best-known opera arias, duets, and choruses combined into one great package. Chopin Piano Works (The VoxBox Edition)gathers from the Vox Records archives almost every work that Chopin composed for piano, performed by legendary pianists includingAbbey SimonandIvan Moravec, an absolute steal at $5.99. Click on the covers above for more information on these titles and links to purchase these great sets.
Our four single-album releases are a very diverse group covering hundreds of years of music. Brass in Battle features eighteen themes from war movies, military songs and marches, and other military music, including The Dambusters March, "Jupiter" from Holst's Planets suite, the R.A.F. March, and many others performed by the English Brass Consort and organist Kevin Bowyer, lead by conductor Neil Taylor. Another album of 20th-century music, Palm Court Music: "Grand Hotel" captures a vintage performance of the BBC Grand Hotel Orchestra live at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, East Sussex. The seventeen tracks on this album are all classics from the Golden Age of Light Music, including film themes and other light orchestra favorites, for splendid enjoyment and refined relaxation.
Turning back the clock several centuries, we have Johann Sebastian Bach's masterpiece for the keyboard, The Goldberg Variations, performed by esteemed English harpsichordist David Ponsford. Nearly three hundred years after they were first published, this work still stands as one of the absolute triumphs of music for the keyboard. Early Music Portraits is a collection of works from 17th- and 18th-century England and Germany, presented by acclaimed conductor and composer Christopher Ball and the Praetorius Consort. The album begins with nine Elizabethan-era "portraits" of characters and individuals, composed by such musical luminaries as John Dowland and William Byrd, followed by Erasmus Widmann's Portraits in Music suite, selections from John Maynard's Twelve Wonders of the World, and closes with Georg Philipp Telemann's Trio Sonata in C.
Whatever you like in music, one or more of these exciting new releases will fit your tastes! Click on the cover images for each album for more information, tracking, and links to find these through our digital vendors.
The tragic events of this week in Boston test the will and hearts of us all, and our thoughts and prayers go to all affected. Even as events continue to unfold, the healing process begins, and Thursday's beautiful inter-faith service at Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross was the first part of that with deeply moving addresses by religious and civic leaders as well as emotional musical performances. The Boston Children's Chorus fought back tears to deliver their beautiful music to those assembled and the world watching at home, and world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma (a Cambridge, MA resident) performed the stark and haunting Sarabande from Bach's Cello Suite No. 5 in C Minor. Ma called the piece "a struggle for hope" and that it "represents the strength of the human spirit and, today, the spirit of Boston."
There have been few people as eloquent and direct in speaking about the emotional power of music as Pablo Casals. He wrote, "Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart." The Catalan cellist, regarded as one of the greatest cellists of all time, was an outspoken advocate for peace, and lived the last 30+ years of his life in exile from his beloved Spain due to Franco's dictatorial rule. Of anyone, he would grasp the importance of music in the healing of the great city of Boston.
Gaspar Cassadó, who looked to Casals as a teacher and mentor, recorded the Bach Cello Suites in 1957 for Vox. We would like to offer this recording as a small gesture to all those affected by this tragedy.
“It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.”
Film critic Robert Ebert passed away this week at age 70, after a decade-long battle with thyroid cancer. The chief film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times for an astounding 45 years, he was best known nationally for his weekly film review shows, most notably his long-running collaboration with rival critic Gene Siskel.
In this space we rarely venture beyond the realm of music, but Roger Ebert understood and often commented on the vital aspect of music in cinema, particularly in his essential series of books The Great Movies, vols. I-III. Music is one of the tools used by filmmakers in their craft, and the right piece of music can fix a movie or scene in the viewer's mind or even the public consciousness. If film is the great art form of the twentieth century (and now the twenty-first), then it is only right that many of the finest and best-remembered compositions would come from film.
One of the Great Movies which Ebert praised is The Godfather. Please take a listen to this thrilling recording of the Royal Philhamonic Orchestra and Carl Davis performing The Godfather Theme,written by Academy Award-winning composer Nino Rota. This piece and 18 other classic film themes are available on CD and MP3 download on our album Movie Magic: Epics & Westerns.
Our friends over at MusicWeb International have just reviewed three of our recent releases on our Alto imprint (US/Canada street date 3/26). Below we have excerpts of these reviews, as well as links to the full articles. Please click on the cover images above to go to each title's catalogue page for more information, including more reviews, track listings, and links to find these great albums on iTunes and Amazon.
Gramophone magazine (gramophone.co.uk) has been a leading authority in Classical music criticism for ninety years. Its reviews are an invaluable resource to anyone trying to make sense of the seemingly infinite number of Classical recordings available, and a number of the recordings that we offer have been reviewed in its pages.
Gramophone critic Ivan March has recently reviewed one of our titles, Vitezslav Novak: In the Tatras; South Bohemian Suite; Eight Nocturnes (ALC-1999, please click here) performed by the Carlsbad Symphony Orchestra conducted by Douglas Bostock, featuring soprano Daniela Straková on the Nocturnes. Unfortunately, the whole review is only available in the print magazine or in the subscribers-only portion of their website, but I have reproduced it below. Enjoy!
Vitezslav Novák (1870-1949) is a Czech composer little known to me but one with a richly lyrical melodic vein and control of atmosphere. He might be placed together with Josef Suk and next to Dvorak, if not quite their equal. In the Tatras is an atmospherically gloomy tone-poem, its flowing lines and glowing evocation combined with a folklore-derived melodic influence. It pictures the misty Ostry mountains during a storm, at first ferocious but finally returning to peace with the setting sun. The South Bohemian Suite has much of Dvorak's lively romantic patriotism, moving from its 'Pastoral' (a set of variations) and delightful 'Reverie' to its centrepiece, an evocation of the marching of the Hussite armies in the defence of the Czech people in the 15th century, a reminder of the Nazi expansion into German-speaking Sudetenland regions in modern times. As an epilogue Novák quotes a hymn-like sequence touchingly mirroring the Czech national anthem.
The Nocturnes for voice and orchestra (1908) show Novak above all as a poet. Here he has the advantage of Daniela Straková as his sweetvoiced soloist; the simple beauty of her singing is matched by a delightful upper range. Opening with the twinkling 'Stars in the Water', the effect is ravishing, not least in the final 'Christ Child’s Lullaby' which has much in common with Mahler's setting of the 'Wiegenlied' from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.
Throughout, the Carlsbad Symphony Orchestra plays with a rich patina of tone. Douglas Bostock obviously loves this repertoire, as well as being at one with Novák's music. The well-balanced recording is difficult to resist and this triptych is highly recommended on the Alto super-budget label.
Please visit the product page for complete tracking and more information and reviews by clicking here or by clicking the cover image above.
To learn more about Novák and other Czech composers in the Alto/Musical Concepts catalogue, click here to read an earlier blog post about Czech Piano Classics.
What does a gritty police drama look like in The Netherlands? Well, apparently it includes some creative opera singing and a cup of soup!
A Dutch Cup-a-Soup television commercial recently used one of our Karaoke Opera recordings. The Karaoke Opera series lets you sing over a full orchestral backing and makes you the star of the opera. These tracks have been used in numerous films, on television, and in recordings. (Our albums also include a version of each track with full vocals.) Here Cup-a-Soup took the famous "Vesti la giubba" from Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci and added in humorous new lyrics in Italian: Parla, bastardo, o chiamar' tua mamma! (Speak up, you bastard, or we'll call your momma!) Watch it here: