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.
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.
“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.
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.
Our friends at MusicWeb International often review Musical Concepts and Alto titles. They recently featured a review of our Joan Sutherland Rare Broadcasts album, a collection of 14 exquisite tracks recorded by La Stupenda between 1956 and 1960. These recordings have rarely been heard and have never been issued on CD or digital download until now. Stephen Francis Vasta of MusicWeb gives a very erudite review of this collection. One selection:
"The lively, refreshing Exsultate, jubilate [by Mozart], a piece Sutherland didn't record commercially, shows us the capabilities of this kind of voice. The piece has received many fine recordings... but you rarely hear it sung so easily and freely, or with such bright, clear, full-bodied tone. Nor is the singing merely mechanical, or inexpressive. The phrasing is deft and shapely in the outer movements... and the central Tu virginum corona is serene. [Conductor] Alberto Erede's affectionate big-orchestra framework affords Sutherland solid cantabile support."
You can read the whole review by clicking here, and please listen to the closing Alleluia excerpt below.
Last Tuesday we released two new titles that I think you'll enjoy!
Over her long 45-year career, Tatiana Nikolayeva (1924-1993) established herself as one of the finest pianists and pedagogues that the Soviet Union has ever produced. While a star in the Soviet world, it was not until the 1980s that her talents were known in "the West." Unlike her contemporary Sviatoslav Richter who toured the globe from the 1950s until his last years, Nikolayeva was chiefly occupied with her many duties as a professor of the Moscow Conservatory (where she mentored many acclaimed pianists) and recording for the famed state-owned Melodiya record label. In 1983 she received a top honor from her government as she was named a People's Artist of the USSR. Through the last decade of her life she was in great demand across the world for performances and competitions. Though her repertoire was immense, she is best known for her mastery of Beethoven and especially Bach. This album contains excellent performances of many of Bach's signature works, and comes highly recommended by Gramophone magazine.
As part of the circle of composers known as The Five, Modest Mussorgsky was one of the leading figures in the Russian nationalist movement in music. By rejecting the orthodoxy of Western Europe in favor of a more indigenous style rooted in the works of Glinka and the folk music of their vast country, The Five established a distinct Russian style and sound. Mussorgsky created some of the best-known works of Russian Romanticism, including Pictures at an Exhibition, the mighty tone poem Night on Bare Mountain, and his masterpiece the opera Boris Godunov. Set against the backdrop of the turbulent "Time of Troubles" on late-sixteenth and early-seventeen centuries, the opera is the story of the titular regent and later Tsar of Russia who still proves to be one of the more controversial figures in Russian history. Boris Godunov is praised for its originality and its bold transgressions against the Italian/French model of opera, even as its critics point to some missteps by the young composer. Some of the coarse bleakness of Mussorgsky's composition was later refined by Rimsky-Korsakov, which made the work more palatable to an international audience. Boris still remains as a centerpiece of Russian opera, exalted for its role in establishing a national idiom. This 1982 recording (remastered 2012) comes from the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre, the most celebrated and important theater and opera house in Russia. The performance is led by the famed baritone Yevgeny Nesterenko and the entire cast is comprised of luminaries of late Soviet opera that was deeply praised by Gramophone. This complete recording of the opera is available as a 3-CD set or as a digital download, and is one of the most authentic recordings made of this work.
Please click on the covers above for more information!
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:
Habemus Papam!! We have a Pope!! Congratulations to Pope Francis, the new Bishop of Rome and spiritual leader of over a billion Catholics worldwide.
In honor of Cardinal Bergoglio's selection as Pontiff, we are posting a selection from Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli, his mass in honor of Pope Marcellus II. This mass has been used for many papal coronations, most recently for Paul VI in 1963, and is regarded as Palestrina's greatest mass setting. Enjoy the beautiful polyphony of the Pro Cantione Antiqua in this critically hailed recording.
Happy 2013! In the whirlwind of the holidays and the end of the year, we neglected to tell everyone about two titles that we released at the end of November! Since our slate of releases doesn't pick back up until February what better time than now to talk about them?
In honor of Claude Debussy's 150th birthday, we present a 4-CD collection of Debussy's Complete Piano Works. This critically acclaimed set features master pianist Martino Tirimo playing the entire cycle of Debussy's compositions for piano. Gramophone writes that Tirimo's performance 'may yet prove o the one of the finest Debussy cycles on record," and the Penguin Guide says that this set is "probably the first choice for those wanting a modern digital recording offering the complete set." This set is a must-have for a music collection, an excellent reference collection in one package.
In 1992, Henryk Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 suddenly became a worldwide phenomenon, 20 years after he had written the work. This is especially astonishing considering that the texts which are sung in the work are all in Polish. Regardless, there is something in the words and music which found particular resonance, as the prayer-like piece transcends the limitations of language. The three movements of the symphony all relate to the theme of mother and child and are beset with deep sorrow: he first is Mary's anguish over her son Jesus; the second movement are inspired by an inscription on a Gestapo prison wall, a teenage girl's final words to her mother; lastly, the third movement is the lament of a mother who has lost her son in the Silesian Uprisings for Polish independence. The power of these works is universal, and the refined composition is modern without being dissonant. This remains one of the best-selling pieces of classical music, and while the phenomenon has faded the beauty of the symphony has not.
Please click on the cover images above for more information!!