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Classical - Released July 9, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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Entitled "The Times of Day", this programme of the tenth volume in the complete recording of Haydn’s 107 symphonies on Alpha Classics is devoted to Symphonies No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8, whose individual names translate as "Morning", "Noon" and "Evening". Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, who commissioned the work, is said to have wanted to show his guests that his orchestra was of excellent quality and that "his" Haydn was highly inventive. Giovanni Antonini’s orchestra, Il Giardino Armonico, once again rises to the challenge! This triptych following the sun’s course is prolonged into the night by the work of another composer: Mozart’s Serenade in D major, nicknamed "Serenata notturna", probably written for a masked ball at Salzburg Town Hall in February 1776. Jérôme Sessini of the Magnum agency, who has won awards for his work on the cartel wars in Mexico and the opioid crisis in the United States, took the photographs featured in this volume. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released July 9, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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Handel is best known to the wider public for his large-scale choral and orchestral works, but his organ music is equally precious. It was the Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels who, diverting him from a career in the law, spotted his exceptional abilities on the instrument. By the age of seventeen, Handel was already the resident organist at the Domkirche in Halle, and he was later to defeat Domenico Scarlatti in a contest of virtuosity during his time in Rome. Martin Haselböck and the Orchester Wiener Akademie have recorded the Organ Concertos, Op. 4 and Op. 7 in the prestigious Vienna Musikverein, world-famous for its acoustics. Haselböck plays on the hall’s imposing Rieger organ in what is one of its very first recordings. Inaugurated in 2011, it is the fourth organ in the Musikverein since the hall opened in 1870. With its considerable dimensions – much larger than the organs Handel used to play on – the instrument offers a tonal palette rich in contrasts. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released July 9, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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Nino Rota was not only the man who wrote film scores for Fellini (La strada, etc), René Clément and King Vidor. He was also a twentieth-century great composer. A child prodigy, he studied in America with Fritz Reiner, crossed paths with Toscanini, Igor Stravinsky and many others. Éric Le Sage, Emmanuel Pahud, Paul Meyer, Daishin Kashimoto, Aurélien Pascal and their partners from the Salon de Provence festival pay tribute to his music with the Piccola Offerta Musicale ("Little Musical Offering"), composed in 1943 at the age of twenty-two, alongside a Nonet and a Trio for flute, violin and piano, both written in the late 1950s. The Trio for clarinet, cello and piano (1973) comes from Rota’s last creative period and has all the characteristics of his mature works. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released June 25, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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Olga Pashchenko is one of today’s most versatile keyboard players. Equally at home on the fortepiano, the harpsichord, the organ and the modern piano, she radiates extraordinary virtuosity and passion. Her discography has hitherto enabled her to explore the music of Beethoven, her great passion, but also that of Dussek and Mendelssohn among others. A key figure was missing until now: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. That omission has now been repaired with this recording of his Piano Concertos No. 9 and No. 17, written in 1777 and 1784. This initial collaboration with the ensemble Il Gardellino, founded more than thirty years ago by the oboist Marcel Ponseele and the flautist Jan De Winne, is scheduled to continue with other Mozart concertos in the next few years. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released June 25, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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Max Bruch was eighty years old when, in 1918, he decided to return to the chamber music genre he had frequented in his early years. Stimulated by the violin virtuoso Willy Hess, he composed two string quintets and an octet, monuments to beauty and harmony, at the end of a tumultuous personal life and in the midst of a western world on the brink of collapse. After an album devoted to Beethoven’s chamber music, the Chamber Players of the WDR Sinfonieorchester now tackle one of the last chapters of German Romantic music, with pieces that constitute Bruch’s swansong. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released June 11, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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After the success of the recent recording of works by Veress and Bartók, the Lockenhaus Festival series, curated by its artistic director Nicolas Altstaedt, continues its journey through central Europe with Antonín Dvořák and his famous "Dumky" Trio, named after a genre of Slavonic folksong generally performed by blind wandering minstrels who accompanied themselves on the kobza or bandura (twelve-string lute). Dvořák, whose father played the zither, immersed himself in this music and creatively translated its substance into his own music. This Trio was premiered in 1891 and, in response to its ecstatic reception, Dvořák decided to perform it during his grand farewell tour before leaving for the United States. Zoltán Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello (1914), which completes the programme, also bears witness to the influence of folk music. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released June 11, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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Alex Vizorek revisits Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals. The French composer never imagined that his bestiary would become one of the most famous works in musical history, a staple repertory piece on a par with Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. The Belgian comedian and actor has rewritten the text of this "grand zoological fantasy", which he narrates here alongside Duo Jatekok and the Orchestre National de Lille under the direction of Lucie Leguay. The work’s "crazy and poetic drollery" takes in the Royal March of the Lion, the Hens and Roosters, the mysterious Hemiones, the motley procession of Tortoises, Elephant and Kangaroos, the famous Aquarium which gave the Cannes Festival its signature tune, and of course the celebrated Swan. "When human beings keep their distance, animals are happy", concludes Alex Vizorek. To celebrate the centenary of Saint-Saëns’s death in 1921, Duo Jatekok also presents another of his biggest hits, the Danse macabre, in its version for four hands. Naïri Badal and Adélaïde Panaget, the orchestra and Lucie Leguay bring this colourful parade to a close with Poulenc’s flamboyant Concerto for Two Pianos, premiered at the Tenth Venice Biennale in 1932. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released May 28, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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Corruption? Betrayal? Persecution? Tyranny? These subjects resonate with the current events of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. They also provide the subject matter of many seventeenth-century musical works. Kate Lindsey has chosen to devote this second Baroque recital with the English ensemble Arcangelo directed by Jonathan Cohen (following "Arianna" in 2020) to the figure of Nero. Scarlatti, Handel and Monteverdi wrote works focusing on this tragic protagonist and his entourage, including his mother Agrippina and his wives (Poppaea and Octavia). Interpreted with incredible intensity by the American mezzo-soprano, the programme features world premiere recordings of two cantatas: Alessandro Scarlatti’s La morte di Nerone (ca. 1690) and Bartolomeo Monari’s La Poppea (1685). Tenor Andrew Staples and soprano Nardus Williams join Kate Lindsey for duets from L’incoronazione di Poppea, including the sensual Pur ti miro. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released May 28, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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200 years ago, on May 26th 1821, today's Berlin Concert Hall was inaugurated as “Königliches Schauspielhaus”. Destroyed as “Preußisches Staatstheater” during World War II, the building, located in eastern Berlin, was rebuilt during GDR times and reopened as “Konzerthaus” in 1984. The premiere of Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz on June 18th 1821 was a highlight of the opening year. The work became his most popular opera and one of the key works of the 19th century. A few days later, the composer (who died at the age of only 40 in 1826), had another piece premiered at the “Königliches Schauspielhaus”: his brilliant Concert Piece for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 79. This year the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, with its principal conductor Christoph Eschenbach, will be celebrating these historic events. Weber holds a special place in the life of the great German conductor and pianist, as Der Freischütz was the first opera he saw at the age of ten. Eschenbach is being joined in this program, which combines overtures, arias and the famous concert piece, by two artists who reside at the Konzerthaus Berlin and are also Alpha artists: soprano Anna Prohaska and pianist Martin Helmchen. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released May 28, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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The Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Mikko Franck continue their collaboration with Alpha and here invite one of the label’s flagship pianists, Nelson Goerner. The programme is devoted to Richard Strauss, coupling several of the German composer’s early works. The Burleske for piano and orchestra, written at the age of twenty, is brimming with lyricism and Romantic ardour; its tone colours herald Strauss’s operas, while the orchestration anticipates his symphonic poems. The piano part is exceptionally virtuosic: Hans von Bülow, for whom Strauss wrote it, called it unplayable! The Serenade for thirteen wind instruments harks back to Mozart’s Gran Partita, K. 361 for similar forces. This brief work in a single movement begins in a nocturnal colouring, as befits a serenade, before growing more animated and finally returning to the contemplative atmosphere of the opening. The symphonic poem for large orchestra Tod und Verklärung depicts the last hour of an artist’s life: the listener is gripped from the very first bars, which evoke the breathing and heartbeats of a dying man. Strauss allows us to experience his final moments and the transfiguration of his soul in one of the most glorious moments in the symphonic repertoire. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released May 14, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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After the past 18 months, we could all be forgiven for forgetting that our generation doesn't have the monopoly on sitting in mortal peril at the mercy of a powerful and uncontrollable natural force. However we don't. Humankind has of course both been here before, and bequeathed us the art by which to remember it – including many of the texts set by German Baroque composer Philipp Heinrich Erlebach in his Harmonische Freude musikalischer Freunde. Published in Nuremberg respectively in 1697 and 1710, these two vocal collections contain respectively 50 and 25 arias for one to four solo voices accompanied by instrumental ensemble and basso continuo, setting poems that flit between the moralistic and secular spheres; and while ultimately this is conjecture, they do at least appear to hint at their contemporary context of an era lived against the backdrop of natural disasters including Bubonic Plague, and the superstitious fear provoked in 1680 by the appearance of Europe's largest comet of the seventeenth century – an event perhaps referenced in the line, “Today bloody comets shine, Tomorrow we are free of distress”. As for Erlebach himself, he was born in 1657 in Essens, and spent almost the entirety of his life and career as one of the stars of the Thuringian court of Rudolstadt, which at that point was an aristocratic capital whose vibrant musical life kept fully abreast of European musical trends. Having been appointed Rudolstadt's Kapelldirektor as young as 24, Erlebach went on to be described by the influential music theorist Wolfgang Caspar Printz in 1696 as a musician “who among German composers gives the most satisfaction and acquits himself with great distinction”. So it's tragic that the vast majority of the huge collection of music he left behind at his death in 1714 was lost to a fire just twenty years later. Especially when what is left is so tantalisingly good, as is demonstrated by this superbly performed, sensitively engineered programme from countertenor Damien Guillon and his ensemble Le Banquet Céleste (consisting of two violins, two viola da gamba, violone, archlute and alternating harpsichord and organ). As advertised, the main meat here is Lieder from those aforementioned vocal collections: seven in total, opening with with the sombre lament, Seine Not recht uberlegen wird manch Tränen-Bad erregen – over which the poet mourns his distress before drawing comfort on the thought that heaven sees him – whose gently sighing lines are a lovely fit for Guillon's softly warm, otherworldly yet clean-edged, penetrating tones. Le Banquet Céleste is no less immediately beguiling either, as its piano violins weave searchingly around Guillon, alive to his every inflection. Onwards, and while the Lieder's atmosphere of intimate, sober reflection remains the constant, the individual flavours vary. For instance, next up is Des Tadlers stich verlache ich, a feisty, up-tempo repost to the poet's mockers, where Guillon brings fabulously crisp definition and en pointe technical control to its fast passagework – something you're also constantly appreciating over his embellishments. Plus there's more, because punctuating the Lieder are two of Erlebach's trio sonatas, published a few years before the arias. Consisting of a three-section (slow-fast-slow) sonata movement appended by a dance suite, these serve as the perfect complements and palate cleansers to the Lieder's intense emotions, all adding up to an album you're likely to find yourself making repeat visits to for some time to come. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz --------Accompanied by his ensemble Le Banquet Céleste, the countertenor Damien Guillon places his voice at the service of a programme of vocal pieces by the German Baroque composer Philipp Heinrich Erlebach, a large part of whose output was destroyed in a fire at Rudolstadt Castle in 1735. Among the works that have come down to us are the two collections Harmonische Freude musikalischer Freunde, containing respectively fifty and twenty-five arias for one to four solo voices, instrumental ensemble and basso continuo. Most of the German texts of these pieces depict humankind at the mercy of an unpredictable and volatile destiny. Alongside natural phenomena such as storms, dark clouds and withered leaves, the poet also chooses the expression "bloody comets" as a metaphor for torment and ‘the distress of the heart’. In fact, the biggest comet of the seventeenth century appeared in Europe in 1680: contemporaries feared these celestial bodies, seeing them as bad omens. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released April 23, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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Published in Amsterdam in the mid-seventeenth century, Der Fluyten Lust-Hof ("The Garden of Flute Delights") is a collection of variations for solo flute on the "hits" of European music of the time, borrowed from such composers as Caccini, Dowland, Bull and Moulinié. Its Dutch compiler, Jacob van Eyck, was born blind. As carillonist of Utrecht Cathedral, subsequently in charge of all the city’s chimes of bells, he made fundamental advances in acoustics and bell tuning. Despite this busy activity, he also found time to play the recorder as a virtuoso, especially "to entertain strollers in the garden of St John’s Church in the evening with the sound of his little flute". It was probably the repertory built up in this context that he published under the title Der Fluyten Lust-Hof. For this recording, François Lazarevitch uses instruments characteristic of Van Eyck’s time: not only the recorder, but also and above all cylindrical transverse flutes, as well as a seventeenth-century musette. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released April 16, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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The winner of the very first Queen Elisabeth Competition for cellists in Brussels in 2017, Victor Julien-Laferrière joined Alpha Classics in 2019 for several recordings. After a first recital album devoted to Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich and Denisov in the company of the pianist Jonas Vitaud, he now presents two cello concertos by Antonín Dvořák (the Second in B Minor, Op. 104) and Bohuslav Martinů (the First, H. 196), accompanied by the Liège Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Gergely Madaras. The two composers, born in Bohemia in 1841 and 1890 respectively, shared a strong attachment to the music of their homeland and a significant American experience - even if the reason for their travels was very different: Dvořák was director of the National Conservatory of New York from 1892 to 1895 (during which time he composed the "From the New World" Symphony and his Second Cello Concerto presented here) while Martinů emigrated to the United States during the Second World War and remained there until 1953, composing dozens of successful and important works. With this recording, Victor Julien-Laferrière couples two key works for his instrument by eminent members of the Czech school. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released April 9, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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Pierrot lunaire, premiered in Berlin in 1912, is a series of twenty-one short melodramas for voice and five instruments on German translations of poems by Albert Giraud. Here the composer first introduces "Sprechgesang" (speech-song), a technique that revolutionised declamation. Schoenberg wanted the piece to be ironic, at once tender and grotesque, in the manner of cabaret songs. Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the violinist who is also an occasional actress, had long dreamt of playing and reciting this unique work. It was a pain in her arm preventing her from playing the violin that one day propelled her into the role of narrator: ‘All my life I have felt that I was Pierrot. Every time I played this piece on the violin when I was a student, I would say the words in my head’. She has now played and performed Pierrot in many venues around the world, including the Berlin Philharmonie, several cities in the United States, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden. Now she has assembled a number of her musician friends and decided to record it for posterity. Schoenberg’s Phantasy Op. 47 and Six Little Piano Pieces Op. 19 complete the programme, along with works by Webern (Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 7) and Schoenberg’s arrangement of Johann Strauss Jr.’s Kaiser-Walzer, Op. 437. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released April 9, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich since October 2019, Paavo Järvi continues his complete cycle of Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies, following a first volume devoted to Symphony No. 5 and the symphonic poem Francesca da Rimini. This second volume features Symphonies No. 2 and No. 4. The Fourth, composed in 1878 and nicknamed the ‘Fate’ Symphony because of its sombre colouring, which may recall the neuroses attributed to Tchaikovsky, is one of his most frequently performed. The Second Symphony, composed in 1872 and much less frequently performed in concert, is known as the ‘Little Russian’ because Tchaikovsky drew on Ukrainian folk tunes. The very first movement begins with a solo horn version of the folksong Down by Mother Volga. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released April 2, 2021 | Alpha Classics

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During his lifetime, Rameau enjoyed a glittering reputation and was admired by all Europe, while Debussy’s Hommage à Rameau proves that his fame survived down the centuries. But what do we know about the rest of the Rameau family? After a highly acclaimed album devoted to the Forqueray family, the harpsichordist-genealogist Justin Taylor sets out on the trail of Jean-Philippe’s son Claude-François and his nephew Lazare. To be sure, Rameau’s genius dwarfs all around him, as is demonstrated by such pieces as La Livri, La Poule and L’Égyptienne, not to mention the magnificent Nouvelle Suite in A minor, but the music of his descendants has its own interest. Justin Taylor introduces us to a work by Claude-François Rameau (La Forqueray) and the Sonata No. 1 in E major by Lazare Rameau. He switches from the splendid harpsichord of the Château d’Assas (a two-manual instrument of the first half of the eighteenth century, attributed to the Lyon-based maker Donzelague) to the 1891 Érard piano of the Musée de la Musique in Paris for Debussy’s tribute to his great predecessor. © Alpha Classics