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EMI Classics & Virgin Classics April releases

Piano legend Byron Janis, soon to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, is widely recognized as the world’s leading Chopin exponent. This month EMI Classics releases The Chopin Collection, an album of Janis’s finest Chopin recordings that brings together – on a single disc for the first time – both of the “lost” waltzes that the pianist himself famously rediscovered. Also new for April 2012 are 10, the debut EMI album from innovative all-female, ten-piece Norwegian brass ensemble, tenThing, and the complete collected EMI recordings by peerless contralto Kathleen Ferrier, who would have celebrated her hundredth birthday this year. Virgin Classics presents three exciting new opera titles this month, two of them headlined by Grammy Award-winning mezzo Joyce DiDonato. On the Houston Grand Opera’s tenth anniversary staging of Jake Heggie’s seminal Dead Man Walking, she is joined by her idol, Frederica von Stade, and for the DVD release of the Metropolitan Opera’s premiere production of Rossini’s Le comte Ory, she forms an operatic dream team with Juan Diego Flórez and Diana Damrau. Also on DVD, Virgin issues Les Arts Florissants and conductor William Christie’s all-star Madrid production of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea.
The Chopin Collection 
Byron Janis, piano
CD and downloads available April 3 from EMI Classics 
“One of the greatest pianists of our time.”
New York Times
The Chopin Collection is a new compilation featuring 18 incomparable Chopin recordings by piano legend Byron Janis, who is internationally recognized as one of the world’s greatest pianists and perhaps the foremost interpreter of Chopin’s music. The album will bring together – for the first time on a single release – recordings of both the two previously unknown versions of Chopin waltzes that Byron Janis himself discovered in 1973: the “Grande valse brilliante” in E-flat major (Op. 18) and the Waltz in G-flat major (Op. 70, No. 1).
Janis’s unearthing of the two previously unpublished waltz manuscripts was one of the most important musical discoveries of the age, making international headlines; the pianist later described the discovery as “a defining moment of my life,” adding: “I felt like I was being led to them.” In addition to these two remarkable works, The Chopin Collection features his benchmark recordings of such favorites as the Impromptu for Piano No. 1 in A-flat major, the Mazurka No. 4 in B-flat minor, the meditative Nocturne No. 2 in E-flat major, and the Waltz in A-flat major – Chopin’s bittersweet farewell to his former fiancée. A full track listing is provided below.
Few musicians, classical or otherwise, can lay claim to the level of cultural and political significance that Byron Janis has maintained throughout his career. In addition to being invited to perform at the White House on six occasions by four sitting Presidents, the pianist was also recently written into the Congressional Record of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, being honored as “a musician, a diplomat, and an inspiration.” He was the first American artist chosen to participate in the 1960 Cultural Exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union, and was hailed on the front page of the New York Times as “an ambassador in breaking down ‘cold war’ barriers.” Even Cuba, which had a 40-year ban on American performers, made sure that he was the last to play before the ban and the first to return once it was lifted.
Janis has also had a profound impact in matters of personal health. He developed psoriatic arthritis in both hands and wrists in 1973, but continued to perform and record despite considerable pain, keeping his condition under wraps until Nancy Reagan announced it after a 1986 White House performance, when she named him as National Ambassador to the Arts for the Arthritis Foundation. Since then, the pianist has continued to play and inspire, standing as a powerful example of mind over matter and the triumph of the human will.
He has received a host of prestigious honors, none of which had previously been conferred on an American, including the Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (France’s highest decorations), the Grand Prix du Disque and Cannes Classical Award, the Harriet Cohen International Music Award, and the Beethoven Medal. His other honors include the National Public Radio Critics’ Choice Award for his all-Chopin CD.
Janis’s autobiography, Chopin and Beyond, was published two years ago, when a PBS documentary entitled The Byron Janis Story also first aired. The pianist is due to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award on May 30 at New York’s Walter Reade Theater, presented by the Arthritis Foundation and Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute.
Track listing:
1.   Mazurkas (4), B 89, Op. 24: No. 1 in G minor
2.   Nocturnes (2), B 152, Op. 55: No. 2 in E-flat
3.   Mazurkas (3), B 153, Op. 56: No. 2 in C
4.   Mazurkas (3), B 162, Op. 63: No. 2 in F minor
5.   Nocturnes (2), B 106, Op. 32: No. 1 in B
6.   Mazurkas (4), B 163, Op. 67: No. 4 in A minor
7.   Waltzes (3), B 64, Op. 34: No. 2 in A minor
8.   Nocturnes (2), B 161, Op. 62: No. 2 in E
9.   Mazurkas (4), B 89, Op. 24: No. 4 in B-flat minor
10. Mazurkas (4), B 105, Op. 30: No. 4 in C-sharp minor
11. Nocturnes (2), B 91, Op. 27: No. 1 in C-sharp minor
12. Nocturnes (3), Op. 15: No. 2 in F-sharp
13. Waltzes (2), B 95, Op. 69: No. 1 in A-flat, “L’adieu”
14. Nocturnes (2), B 96, Op. 27: No. 2 in D-flat
15. Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat, B 110, Op. 29
16. Etudes (12), Op. 25: No. 7 in C-sharp minor
17. Waltzes (3), B 92, Op. 70: No.1 in G-flat
18. Waltz in E-flat, B 62, Op. 18, “Grande valse brillante”
iTunes bonus track, from the Oscar-nominated short documentary God Is the Bigger Elvis:
Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2
Heggie: Dead Man Walking
Joyce DiDonato, Philip Cutlip, Frederica Von Stade, Measha Brueggergosman
Houston Grand Opera & Chorus / Patrick Summers
Two CD-set and downloads available April 24 from Virgin Classics 
Dead Man Walking makes the most concentrated impact of any piece of American music theater since West Side Story more than 40 years ago.”
Guardian, UK
“[Joyce DiDonato’s] extraordinary mix of vibrancy, gravity, and exacting nuance amounted to a portrayal that easily ranked with her finest work.”
New York Times
This live recording presents Grammy Award-winning mezzo Joyce DiDonato as Sister Helen Prejean in the Houston Grand Opera’s tenth anniversary production – described by the Houston Chronicle as “cathartic, uplifting, and humanizing” – of Jake Heggie’s opera Dead Man Walking. Both reprising the roles they themselves originally created, DiDonato shares the stage with her idol, legendary mezzo Frederica von Stade, here in the final operatic engagement of her illustrious career.
Since its premiere in 2000, Dead Man Walking has become one of the opera world’s most performed new works, with nearly 150 performances to date. Like Tim Robbins’s Oscar-winning 1995 film of the same name, which starred Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, the opera draws on Prejean’s real-life memoirs, describing her experience and spiritual journey as counselor to a prisoner on Louisiana’s death row, which led to her becoming a leading advocate for abolition of the death penalty in the USA.
As DiDonato told the New York Times, “Dead Man Walking poses questions directly applicable to our society today. … I’ve never felt a piece hit an audience so hard. There was an electricity in the theater.” The Houston Chronicle concurred, observing: “However great an operatic and theatrical experience, Dead Man Walking makes its greatest impact as a purely human one.”
For DiDonato, the production had a special personal significance. Her career was launched in the late 1990s with three years in Houston Grand Opera’s young artists program, and in Dead Man Walking she sang opposite her role model, veteran mezzo von Stade, as Mrs. De Rocher, the convicted murderer’s mother.
The results were little short of spectacular. According to Opera magazine,
“The rafters [shook], thanks to the ovations for Joyce DiDonato, Philip Cutlip [playing the convicted Joseph De Rocher], the music director Patrick Summers, and perhaps especially for Frederica von Stade, whose recreation of the role of the convicted murderer’s grieving mother in this run ended this beloved artist’s 41-year operatic career. …DiDonato sang luminously, affectingly conveying the altruistic nun’s conflicting emotions… . Von Stade was dramatically and musically heartbreaking in a role written for her, Measha Brueggergosman’s glowing soprano and spunky acting enriched her portrayal of Sister Rose. … Summers…was in total sync with Heggie’s churning, throbbing, colorful score… . Chillingly effective.”
CD and downloads available April 3 from EMI Classics
“A bit of girl power in the trumpet world is a good thing…. Enchanting.”
– Minnesota Public Radio on Tine Thing Helseth’s debut EMI album, Storyteller
10 is the debut EMI Classics album from tenThing, the ten-piece, all-female Norwegian brass ensemble founded and led by trumpet sensation Tine Thing Helseth (pronounced TEE-nah TING HELL-seth). Comprising arrangements of beloved works by Weill, Bizet, Grieg, Piazzolla, Albeniz, and Mozart, as well as original music from the late Dutch composer Jan Koetsier (1911–2006), 10 represents a fresh and innovative take on the traditional brass band model.
Founded in the spring of 2007, tenThing has established an international reputation in a wide range of repertoire, from Hindemith to Malcolm Arnold, and from Gabrieli to the Salvation Army. 10’s offerings include Koetsier’s Brass Symphony, new transcriptions by Norwegian guitarist Jarle G. Storlokken; and arrangements of such favorites as the “Habanera” and “Chanson du Toreador” from Bizet’s Carmen (see full track listing below).
At 23, the ensemble’s founder, Tine Thing Helseth, is already one of the leading trumpet soloists of her generation and a phenomenal success in Scandinavia. Her numerous honors include the 2009 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship; Newcomer of the Year at the 2007 Norwegian Grammy Awards, where she was the first classical artist ever nominated; second prize in the 2006 Eurovision Young Musicians Competition; and Stockholm’s prestigious Prince Eugen Culture Prize. This past February, she made her New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall. According to the Arts Desk (UK), “Helseth’s musicality is a joy.”
A video introduction to Helseth and tenThing is available on YouTube, here.
Track listing:
1.   Prelude; “Les Toreadors”; “Habanera”; “Danse bohème”; “Chanson du Toreador” from Bizet’s
      Carmen, arranged for ten-piece brass ensemble by Roger Harvey
2.   Albeniz: “Asturias” from Suite Espanola
3.   Piazzolla: Invierno Porteno (“Buenos Aires Winter”)
4–10. Weill: Suite from Die Dreigröschenoper (“The Threepenny Opera”)
      (Overture; “Moritat of Mack the Knife”; “Instead-Of Song”; “Ballad of the Easy Life”; “Polly’s
      Song”; “Tango-Ballad”; “Cannon Song”
11. Grieg: “Bestemors menuet” (‘Grandmother’s Minuet’) from Lyric Pieces, Book IX, Op. 68, No.
12. Grieg: “Gjendines badnlat” (‘Gjendine’s Lullaby’) from 19 Norwegian Folksongs, Op. 66, No. 19
13. Grieg: “Troldtog” (‘March of the Dwarfs’) from Lyric Pieces, Book V, Op. 54, No. 3
14. Piazzolla: Verano Porteno (“Buenos Aires Summer”)
15–17: Jan Koetsier: Brass Symphony, Op. 80
18. Mozart: “Rondo Alla Turca,” third movement of Piano Sonata No. 11 (K.331)
19. Jan Koetsier: Grassauer Zwiefacher, Op. 105, No. 3 (folksong)
Rossini: Le comte Ory
Joyce DiDonato; Diana Damrau; Juan Diego Flórez
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra / Maurizio Benini
DVD available April 3 from Virgin Classics
This new DVD from Virgin Classics captures a landmark production of one of Rossini’s less frequently performed operas. In April 2011, following Bartlett Sher’s previous success at the Metropolitan Opera with Il barbiere di Siviglia and Les contes d’Hoffmann, the Tony Award-winning director staged the company’s premiere production of Le comte Ory. With Rossini specialist Maurizio Benini on the podium, the opera was headlined by an indomitable all-star trio: bel canto sensation Juan Diego Flórez in the title role; soprano Diana Damrau as his love interest, Countess Adèle; and mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in breeches as his pageboy, Isolier.
The critical response was unanimous. The New York Times praised the “terrific cast,” citing Damrau’s “lustrous, agile coloratura soprano voice, and charisma galore,” and admiring the way DiDonato, “who sang with plush sound and impeccable passagework, sent top notes soaring and conveyed all the swagger of a smitten page.” The Financial Times pronounced Flórez “a bel-canto paragon virtually without peer. He attacks and/or floats top tones with laughing ease, phrases with slender grace, and exudes charm even when impersonating a singing nun.” Similarly, the Wall Street Journal observed: “It was a treat to hear Mr. Flórez navigate the vocal extremes of the role, popping out high Cs while adopting a rascally but winning demeanor.”
The production also boasted a strong supporting cast, featuring French baritone Stéphane Degout as Ory’s bibulous conspirator Raimbaud, Italian bass Michele Pertusi as the Count’s long-suffering Tutor, and – formidable as Adèle’s housekeeper Ragonde – the Swedish dramatic mezzo Susanne Resmark. With set design by Michael Yeargan and flamboyant costumes by Catherine Zuber, Sher’s innovative staging presented the action as an opera within an opera. As the director explained, the world of Le comte Ory is “a place where love is dangerous. People get hurt. That can be very funny and very painful. Rossini captures both – with the most beautiful love music he ever wrote.”
Monteverdi: L’incoronazione di Poppea
Philippe Jaroussky; Danielle de Niese; Anna Bonitatibus; Max Emanuel Cencic
Les Arts Florissants / William Christie
DVD available April 3 from Virgin Classics
Virgin Classics’ new DVD presents L’incoronazione di Poppea, the culmination of a three-year Monteverdi project led by conductor William Christie and director Pier Luigi Pizzi at Madrid’s Teatro Real. Leading a starry cast, Danielle de Niese, Philippe Jaroussky, Max Emanuel Cencic, and Anna Bonitatibus grace the production described as “surely one of the best possible displays of Monteverdi operas anywhere in the world” (MusicWeb International).
Poppea boasts a potent blend of sex, politics, high drama, and comedy. Eminent period ensemble Les Arts Florissants anchored the Madrid production, performing a new edition of the opera by musicologist Jonathan Cable. The title role’s upwardly mobile temptress was undertaken by glamorous American soprano Danielle de Niese, who, in the words of the New York Times, is “seductive enough to woo gods as well as mortals.” French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky gave an “overwhelming” (El País) interpretation of the capricious Emperor Nero (Nerone), with Croatian countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic as Nerone’s rival for Poppea’s love, Ottone. As Nerone’s discarded wife, Italian mezzo Anna Bonitatibus proved herself “an incandescent Ottavia who vouchsafed a superb example of singing and of theater” (ForumOpera).
Founded in 1979 by William Christie, Les Arts Florissants – who recently triumphed in New York City with their brilliant revival of Lully’s Atys at the Brooklyn Academy of Music – is one of the most influential and celebrated ensembles in the world. As its director, Christie has won international renown with new interpretations of neglected and forgotten rarities, recording exclusively for Virgin Classics since 2002.
Kathleen Ferrier: The Complete EMI Recordings
Three-CD set and downloads available April 24 from EMI Classics
“Kathleen Ferrier was surely the best-known and most-loved singer of her day.”
Sunday Times (UK)
A legend in her own lifetime, Kathleen Ferrier rose from obscurity to become one of the most sought-after contraltos of the 20th century. This three-CD set, released to celebrate the centenary of her birth, presents her complete recorded legacy for EMI Classics. From Ferrier’s signature operatic role of Orfeo in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice to previously unreleased takes from her revered 1949 Kindertotenlieder recording, the collection makes a fitting tribute to the great British singer whose expressive voice continues – despite her premature death from breast cancer at only 41 – to captivate listeners today.
CD One includes rare test recordings of works by Gluck, Brahms, and Elgar, recorded by producer Walter Legge in 1944, as well as two arias by Baroque composer Maurice Greene that were featured in the contralto’s first commercial release. The second disc offers her portrayal of Orfeo ed Euridice’s hero in a complete 1951 live radio broadcast from Amsterdam. Finally, CD Three concludes with the first and fifth movements of Mahler’s song cycle Kindertotenlieder. Issued here for the very first time, both tracks derive from Ferrier’s fruitful 1949 collaboration with Bruno Walter. The conductor famously remarked: “The greatest thing in music in my life has been to have known Kathleen Ferrier and Gustav Mahler – in that order.”
EMI Classics and Virgin Classics artists on tour, Spring 2012
April 6, 10, 14, 18, 21, 25, 28; May 2
Natalie Dessay: Verdi’s La traviata (Violetta)
New York, NY (Metropolitan Opera)
April 10
Thomas Adès: Adès’s The Four Quarters
Arditti String Quartet
Washington, D.C. (Library of Congress)
April 12 &13
Gautier Capuçon: Dutilleux’s Tout un monde lointain with Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Charles Dutoit
Chicago, IL (Orchestra Hall)
April 13
Thomas Adès: Adès’s The Four Quarters
Arditti String Quartet
San Francisco, CA (SF Community Music Center)
April 16
Thomas Adès: Adès: Dances from Powder Her Face with Cleveland Orchestra, Franz Welser-Möst
San Francisco, CA (Davies Hall)
April 19
Thomas Adès: Adès: Dances from Powder Her Face with Cleveland Orchestra, Franz Welser-Möst
Palm Desert, CA
April 20
Thomas Adès: Adès: Dances from Powder Her Face with Cleveland Orchestra, Franz Welser-Möst
San Diego, CA
April 20–22
Nicholas Angelich: Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Gianandrea Noseda
Pittsburgh, PA (Heinz Hall)
April 21
Thomas Adès: Adès: Dances from Powder Her Face with Cleveland Orchestra, Franz Welser-Möst
Las Vegas, NV
April 21, 27, & 29; May 2 & 4
Joyce DiDonato: Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda (title role)
Houston, TX (Houston Grand Opera)
April 22
Evgeny Kissin: recital
Chicago, IL (Symphony Center)
April 23
Leif Ove Andsnes: Mahler, Shostakovich with Matthias Goerne
San Francisco, CA (Herbst Theatre at the War Memorial)
April 25
Leif Ove Andsnes: Mahler, Shostakovich with Matthias Goerne
St. Paul, MN (Ordway Center for the Performing Arts)
April 26, 28, & 29
Simon Rattle conducts Philadelphia Orchestra
Brahms Symphony No. 3, Webern Six Pieces for Orchestra, Schumann Symphony No. 3, “Rhenish”
Philadelphia, PA
April 27
Leif Ove Andsnes: Mahler, Shostakovich with Matthias Goerne
Kalamazoo, MI (Dorothy U. Dalton Center)
April 27
Simon Rattle conducts Philadelphia Orchestra
New York, NY (Carnegie Hall)
April 28
Leif Ove Andsnes: Mahler, Shostakovich with Matthias Goerne
Detroit, MI (Seligman Performing Arts Center)
May 1
Leif Ove Andsnes: Mahler, Shostakovich with Matthias Goerne
New York, NY (Carnegie Hall)
May 3
Evgeny Kissin: Recital: Beethoven, Barber, Chopin
New York, NY (Carnegie Hall)
May 3–6
Simon Rattle conducts Los Angeles Philharmonic in Bruckner, etc.
Los Angeles, CA (Walt Disney Concert Hall)
May 17, 19, 20
Vasily Petrenko: Elgar, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Kirill Gerstein
Los Angeles, CA (Walt Disney Hall)
May 23, 25
Thomas Adès: Adès: Concerto for Violin
Atlanta, GA (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra)
June 7-11, 14
Leif Ove Andsnes
Music Director, Ojai Festival 2012
Ojai, CA (Libbey Bowl)
For further information:
Visit EMI Classics’ YouTube channel for video previews of many of its new and recent releases:
Glenn Petry, 21C Media Group: (212) 625-2038, [email protected]
Andrew Ousley, EMI Classics: (212) 786-8607, [email protected]
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© 21C Media Group, April 2012



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