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Image Overtures & Stage Music
Meyerbeer was a precocious composer and this album traces some of his very earliest works. Der Fischer und das Milchmädchen was his first stage work, a charming rural vignette that contains all the essential features of a ballet-divertissement couched in writing that enchantingly evokes the 18thcentury. Collaborating with his teacher, the Abbé Georg Vogler, Meyerbeer composed DerAdmiralin1811. The following year saw Wirt und Gast with the vivid Oriental exoticism of its Janissary music, while Romildae Constanza, his first Italian opera, shows his complete assimilation of Rossinian models.

kr 119
Image Music for the Stage - Die Reise um die Erde in 80
Franz von Suppé became famous all over the world for the easy brilliance of his operetta melodies. He also achieved great success with theatrical stage music, including this version of Jules Verne’s adventure novel AroundtheWorldin80Days. Verne’s interest in science and new discoveries reflects the optimism of the late 19th century, and Suppé’s music is a perfect reflection of the light and dark in the narrative, evocatively tracking Phileas Fogg’s enterprising and at time dangerous voyage, and taking in the exotic orient and Gold Rush America along the way.

kr 119
Image Die tote Stadt (2DVD)
The premiere of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Die tote Stadt at the Bayerische Staatsoper in autumn 2019 was praised both by press and audiences. Marlis Petersen (Marie / Marietta) and Jonas Kaufmann (Paul) sang the main roles, with the Bayerisches Staatsorchester under Kirill Petrenko’s baton, in the intense staging by Simon Stone. After the opening night, Joshua Barone wrote in the New York Times: “[The] work’s comeback may have reached its peak at the Bavarian State Opera. It’s difficult to imagine a better case for Die tote Stadt than was made in Munich.” The boundary between dream and reality increasingly dissolves as Paul, mourning his dead wife Marie, meets the dancer Marietta. With her looks so similar to Marie’s, Marietta becomes the object of the projection of Paul’s erotic desires. His grief has the traits of a ritual: The carefully composed strands of his dead wife’s hair are guarded like a relic. Following a nerve-racking “vision“ with cathartic effect, Paul is finally reeled back to reality. He can leave the Belgian city of Bruges as the place of his death cult. The original title of the piece, “Triumph des Lebens“ (Triumph of Life), is symbolic of the main character’s personal development.

kr 359
Image Robert le Diable (3CD + BOOK)
French grand-opéra specialist Marc Minkowski has at last recorded Robert le Diable, a jewel of the genre. A triumph at its premiere in November 1831, it captivated contemporaries, and its influence stretched as far as Verdi and Wagner. An imposing international cast brings this repertory cornerstone to life: John Osborn portrays a Robert at once valiant and tender, Amina Edris reveals her full resources in the perilous role of Alice, while idiomatic performances by Nicolas Courjal, Erin Morley and Nico Darmanin complete a line-up offering the most vivid contrasts of tessitura. Against the backdrop of a medieval legend, this fantastical work depicts a confrontation between Good and Evil, pitting against each other a group of protagonists torn between desire and duty. A foundational score of musical Romanticism – performed more than 750 times in the nineteenth century at the Paris Opéra alone – is now gradually emerging from oblivion.

kr 349
Image The Blue Bird (2CD)
In 1908, Maurice Maeterlinck wrote his play The Blue Bird (L’Oiseau bleu). Having proved a good source of operatic subjects before (Pelléas et Mélisande, Ariane et Barbe-Bleue), it is no surprise that composers jumped at the opportunity to write music to this latest. The French composer Albert Wolff made an opera of it that, though premiered at the MET, has since been forgotten. But even before that, in 1912, Max Reinhardt put it on as an adapted Christmas play in Berlin and he had none less than Engelbert Humperdinck write the incidental music to it. The music was never published until Steffen Tast found the score and salvaged it for us to hear. A sweet story and sweeter still music by Humperdinck newly discovered? Why, that’s in and of itself as though it was Christmas!

kr 159
Image Hummel Edition (20 CD)
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778–1837) was a pupil of Mozart, a protégé of Haydn, a friendly rival of Beethoven, and renowned throughout Europe as one of the greatest pianists of his day, a sought-after teacher who instructed some of the most distinguished 19th-century virtuosi, the author of an influential treatise on the art of pianism, and himself the composer of over three hundred works covering all musical genres (apart from the symphony). This 20CD Edition provides a cross-section of Hummel’s excellent, prolific and unjustly neglected output, with a large section of solo piano music including the complete sonatas and etudes and a rich selection of chamber music featuring violin, viola, cello, flute, and guitar with piano, as well as larger ensembles from piano trios to septets. Though not a symphonist (perhaps not wishing to compete in that arena with the undoubted genius of his contemporary Beethoven), Hummel had great skill with the orchestra, as this set proves with his many concertante works, all rivalling the well-known Trumpet Concerto, among them concertos for piano, piano and violin, bassoon, mandolin, violin (unfinished, completed by conductor–composer Gregory Rose) and the Introduction, Theme and Variations Op.102 for oboe and orchestra. Haydn’s recommendation of Hummel for the post of Konzertmeister at the court of Prince Esterhazy was the beginning of eight turbulent years at Eisenstadt. Fiercely independent, Hummel found fitting in with the manners and politics of the court difficult, and yet this was a very productive time. All his sacred music – represented on this set by a Te Deum, a Solemn Mass, the offertory Alma Virgo and the oratorio Der Durchzug durchs rote Meer for soloists, choir and orchestra – and several dramatic works including the opera Mathilde von Guise were composed during this period. The first and most comprehensive collection of works by Hummel! A long awaited tribute to a great composer with a strong appeal to a wide musical audience! A child prodigy he was taken in the household of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who taught him. This Edition contains a generous selection of his works: the complete piano sonatas and other piano works, several piano concertos, violin concerto, bassoon concerto, trumpet concerto, mandolin concerto, violin/piano concerto, chamber music, masses, an oratorio and the opera Mathilde. Played by leading musicians of our time: fortepianists Costantino Mastroprimiano and Alessandro Commellato, Solamente Naturali conducted by Hummel-specialist Didier Talpain, and many others.

kr 341 (kr 569)
Image Bridge, Britten & Debussy: Cello Sonatas
The great Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk makes a triumphal return to chamber music with his regular piano partner Håvard Gimse. The program features two English composers, Benjamin Britten and his teacher Frank Bridge, whose Cello Sonata was written during the First World War and is tinged with despair and searing emotional force. Britten composed his Cello Sonata in 1961, following his meeting with Mstislav Rostropovich, to whom he dedicated the work. Another person traumatized by the Great War was Debussy, who wrote: ‘It was cowardly to think only of the horrors being committed, without trying to react by rebuilding, insofar as my strength allowed, a little of that beauty which is currently under attack.’ His Cello Sonata (1915) was the first of a series of six sonatas for various instruments that he planned to compose, only managing to write three before his death. As a determined Moravian nationalist, Janácek did not entitle his three-movement work of 1910 ‘sonata’; he called it Pohádka (Fairy tale) and based it on a poem by Vasily Zhukovsky.

kr 189
Image Winterreise
Franz Schubert’s masterpiece, his song cycle Winterreise (‘Winter Journey’), was written shortly before his death in 1828, at the age of only 31. On his winter journey, the singer wanders as a lost soul in harsh terrain, wracked by conflicting emotions, but consoled by his memories of kinder times. Benjamin Appl commented, Every time I perform it, Winterreise feels like a new and different journey, depending on my own mood, the atmosphere in the hall, and of course the shared creativity with the all-important pianist. For singers, Schubert’s wanderer is a lifetime companion, yet a daunting one as we confront all the great recordings and performances that are already out there. The challenge for every singer is not to be inhibited, but to find fresh ways of understanding and transmitting both words and music to their own generation. Somehow, in Winterreise, Schubert has made space for that potential. As Benjamin Britten said: “Every time I come back to it, I am amazed not only by the extraordinary mastery of it, but by the renewal of the magic. Each time, the mystery remains.” Winterreise is Benjamin Appl’s first release for Alpha Classics as part of a multi-album deal. In this recording he is joined by long-time collaborator and pianist James Baillieu.

kr 189
Image Veni – Songs of Christmas, Vol. 2
December is a time of anticipation. We wait and we hope – veni, come! The songs on this album encompass many nuances and moods – from joy and jubilant celebration to deep melancholy and longing. They move between folk tunes, English carols and traditional Christmas songs from different times and parts of the world, between Bach and Ives, Bulgaria and Norway. Several of the songs refer to the passing of the year, the cycle of nature and rhythms of daily life: lullabies for peace of mind and comfort, and songs about surrendering ourselves to the unfathomable and unknowable in the midst of our everyday concerns: the stars will always shine in the sky – and dawn will come. In others, we meet the little child born in a stable – vulnerable and yet immensely powerful. In the nine years following the release of ‘Rós – Songs of Christmas’ [BIS-2029], the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir’s annual Christmas concerts under the leadership of Grete Pedersen have become a cherished tradition in their native country. They are joined on this recording by folk musicians Sondre Meisfjord and Marco Ambrosini and by their long-standing collaborator, the fiddler and composer Gjermund Larsen, who also appeared on the choir’s previous Christmas album.

kr 169
Image Christmas Eve (Bluray)
Composed using his own libretto, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov created this magical opera based on the short story by Nikolay Gogol ‘The Night before Christmas’ in which Vakula the handsome blacksmith wants to marry the rich farmer’s daughter Oksana, who in turn demands that he must first bring her the Tsarina’s shoes. Meanwhile a witch on her broomstick gathers the stars and the devil steals the moon – demonic forces trying to hinder this romantic union. There is little repertoire in musical theatre in which enchantment and enlightenment come together so happily as in Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairy-tale operas, and this Oper Frankfurt production was considered ‘a perfect seasonal tonic’ by the Financial Times.

kr 239
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