Five for June

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.