Naxos Classical Spotlight

Naxos Classical Spotlight

Naxos Classical Spotlight explores the world of classical music. Along the way host Raymond Bisha shares the stories about the music, and the musicians who make it.... Show More

Episodes

February 12, 2021

Raymond Bisha introduces a new album of orchestral works by Žibouklé Martinaityté (b. 1973). Born in Lithuania and now based in New York City, she was awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Lithuanian Government Award in 2020. The four works on the programme were written between 2013 and 2019 and employ a fascinating use of orchestral colour, leading New York’s classical music radio station WQXR to describe her as “a textural...

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Raymond Bisha introduces a new album of 21st-century mallet percussion concertos performed by virtuoso percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong under Jean Thorel. The works by Alexis Alrich and Karl Jenkins put the marimba in the solo spotlight, while Ned Rorem’s 7-movement Mallet Concerto — written in 2003 and presented here in its world premiere recording — features Dame Evelyn in dynamic disp...

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Raymond Bisha introduces a programme of orchestral music by the Pulitzer and Erasmus Prize-winning American composer John Adams. The two works on this new album from the Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero demonstrate why Adams is one of today’s most widely performed and recorded composers. Adams describes My Father Knew Charles Ives as “an homage and encomium to a composer whose influence on me has been huge”, while Harmon...

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Choral music formed an important part of Anton Bruckner’s output throughout his career, even though the genre was widely underappreciated by a public more inclined to large-scale symphonic and operatic works. Although the big-boned structure of such music also made its presence felt in Church masses and oratorios, there was always a need for smaller sacred choral works, not only because of listeners’ preferences but also because of...

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Czech composer Vitězslav Novák (1870-1949), who was one of Dvořák’s composition students, rose to prominence with a series of increasingly ambitious orchestral works that fused elements of folk music, impressionism and late-Romanticism. Raymond Bisha introduces Vol. 1 of his orchestral works performed by Marek Štilec and the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra. The programme pairs the heady intensity of Toman and the Wood Nymph with th...

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Raymond Bisha discusses a release of music by the American composer Bernard Herrmann with Joseph Horowitz, co-founder of PostClassical Ensemble, a group dedicated to stepping across normal repertoire boundaries. The album’s programme showcases Herrmann’s talents not only as a composer of film scores, but also as a consummate provider of music for the forgotten genre of radio plays, and a composer of consequence in his legacy of con...

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November 23, 2020

Once in a while you hear such incredibly beautiful music for the first time that you just can’t understand why it has remained under wraps for so long. The Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 by the Italian-born composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco are a case in point. Originally championed in the 1920s and 30s by no less an artist that Jascha Heifetz, they now have a 21st-century advocate in the brilliant Beijing-born violinist Tianwa Yan...

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Raymond Bisha introduces a new release of Baroque violin sonatas by 18th-century Italian violinists trained in the tradition of Arcangelo Corelli, spreading his elegant, expressive and virtuosic style on their travels throughout Europe. Giovanni Mossi’s sonatas retain Corelli’s dramatic contrasts and structure, while Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli also incorporates features found in music by Vivaldi. Both composers’ works combine form...

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Raymond Bisha introduces recordings of J. S. Bach’s cello suites, transcribed for guitar and performed by Jeffrey McFadden. Bach himself made arrangements of other composers’ works, as well his own, recycling them for new uses, a practice that continues with these two new volumes. Pablo Casals (1876–1973), the eminent cellist who was pivotal in resurrecting the practice of giving complete performances of the original suites, summed...

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October 2, 2020

Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds (b. 1977) has demonstrated his versatility by writing in a variety of genres, from orchestral and film scores to electronic and multi-media works. Choral music, however, features in much of what he does. The richness of texture and variety of colour in his music for choirs reflects his practice of dividing the vocal parts into as many as sixteen parts. This complexity in construction is counterbalan...

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No lover of classical music from the Romantic period should miss an opportunity to become acquainted with the music of Hans Rott, a little known composer (even in his day), but one who made a significant impact before his untimely death at the age of 25. Improbable though it may seem, it’s likely that not a single one of Rott’s works was performed in public during his lifetime. When Gustav Mahler is on record as having said that “I...

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Peter Breiner is one of the world’s most performed composer/arranger/conductors with record sales in the millions and over 200 CD titles to his credit. Slovak Dances, Naughty and Sad, the latest of his many releases for Naxos, consolidates his outstanding reputation as an arranger. It features Breiner’s typically colourful orchestrations that include a wide variety of tuned and untuned percussion. It’s also an extraordinary mix of ...

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Considering the size of the wind band industry in the United States, the occasion of an established classical composer writing for the medium comes as a rare but highly welcome treat. Raymond Bisha introduces a programme of wind band music by Kenneth Fuchs, during which the American composer describes the progression of his experience and opportunities, from high school through college, and acknowledges the people who inspired and ...

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Alexander Kastalsky’s Requiem for Fallen Brothers was written between 1914 and 1917, during World War I, a conflict that killed more than 20 million people and injured even more. Kastalsky achieved poignancy in his memorial by using melodies and texts from many of the countries involved in the war — Russia, Serbia, Italy, England, Japan, India and even the United States. By combining all these sources he created a beautiful, moving...

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Raymond Bisha introduces a selection from the rich and varied catalogue of chamber works that Beethoven wrote throughout his life. It includes the ‘Archduke’ piano trio, examples of his violin and cello sonatas, and extracts from both his Octet for Wind Instruments and the Septet in E flat major, Op. 20, a work so popular that Beethoven himself arranged it in a trio version, no doubt to make it more accessible to a wider public eag...

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Raymond Bisha introduces a new release of orchestral music by American composer Christopher Rouse, who died in September 2019. It’s a fitting tribute to one who led the revitalisation of contemporary orchestral music with works that ranged from intensely active to wonderfully lyrical. As both a Pullitzer Prize and GRAMMY Award winner, his personal mission “to be of use: to sing you a song, to paint you a picture, to tell you a stor...

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Raymond Bisha introduces Johan Smith, winner of the 2019 Guitar Foundation of America Competition, in a recital that the Swiss artist has described as his dream programme: “It’s an exceptional album in many ways: the music is engaging, the playing is outstanding, and the recorded sound is first-rate. And the artist himself is uniquely intriguing, having some of his roots in the heavy metal band Stortregn, both as a founder member a...

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Raymond Bisha introduces a programme of Beethoven’s music for solo piano that contains some of his most visionary, groundbreaking and memorable works. Drawn from the Complete Edition boxed set (Naxos 8.500250), the selected movements from Beethoven’s best-known piano sonatas illustrate his dynamism as a composer/pianist, his gift for flowing melodic beauty, and the range of his emotional variance. The smaller pieces highlight the c...

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Raymond Bisha introduces a new release from Dutch pianist Ralph van Raat of French piano rarities by Boulez, Debussy, Messiaen and Ravel: “I heard Ralph play this same repertoire at a concert in Carnegie Hall a couple of years ago, and it was amazing. Ralph says his aim is to convince people of the ‘immense beauty and diversity of contemporary music’. Both on this album, and when you hear him live, the music simply springs to life....

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Raymond Bisha introduces Michael Daugherty’s This Land Sings: Inspired by the Life and Times of Woody Guthrie. The work celebrates The Dust Bowl Troubadour’s folk songs of love, wandering and social justice through Daugherty’s own original songs and instrumental music. These were composed after he drove for several weeks along the desolate, barren and dusty back roads of Texas and Oklahoma, where Woody once roamed, while listening ...

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