Press Room

EMI Classics & Virgin Classics August releases

Headlining EMI Classics’ new releases this August is Gioachino Rossini’s final 1829 opera, William Tell, heard in its original, four-act French version in a full-blooded new live recording from Antonio Pappano that is destined to become a classic. Recorded live in Rome last fall, the new release features Pappano conducting the Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and a superb cast including Canadian baritone Gerald Finley in the title role, American tenor John Osborn as Arnold Melchthal, and Malin Byström as Mathilde. The Riccardo Muti Edition is another important offering from EMI Classics this month, comprising twelve individual releases celebrating the 70th birthday of a conducting legend. The Muti Edition features landmark complete sets of symphonies by Beethoven, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky, as well as several of the conductor’s most popular and acclaimed recordings. Also from EMI Classics this month: three sets celebrating the 200th birthday of Hungarian composer/pianist Franz Liszt, and four new titles in the label’s authoritative British Composers series.
Rossini: William Tell
Complete recording of the original four-act French version
Gerald Finley, John Osborn, Malin Byström, Marie-Nicole Lemieux
Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Antonio Pappano
Three-CD set and downloads available August 9 from EMI Classics
“Rossini’s final opera is infrequently staged, and it’s unlikely anyone will try again soon: why risk comparison with Pappano’s magisterial presentation, the latest in a string of triumphs for the maestro?… Five stars out of five.”
– Independent (UK)

Last fall in Rome, Antonio Pappano and the choir and orchestra of the Accademia Nationale di Santa Cecilia launched their new season with complete performances of the original four-act French version of Rossini’s epic opera seria William Tell. It is this rare and justly celebrated revival of Rossini’s final and longest opera – one scarcely known today, beyond the familiar climax of its overture – that EMI Classics captures live on a landmark new recording.

Joining Pappano is the Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under his musical directorship and a stellar international cast featuring Canadian baritone Gerald Finley in the title role, the American tenor John Osborn as Arnold Melchthal, and Malin Byström as Mathilde. Rounding out the cast are Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Hedwige), Matthew Rose (Walter Furst), Frédéric Caton (Melchthal), Elena Xanthoudakis (Jemmy), Carlo Cigni (Gesler), Carlo Bosi (Rodolphe), Celso Albelo (Ruodi), Dawid Kimberg (Leuthold), and Davide Malvestio (Huntsman).

EMI Classics’ beautiful three-CD clamshell set for William Tell is the latest operatic offering from Pappano and Santa Cecilia’s partnership for the label, which previously released their award-winning account of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. That 2009 recording, with Angela Gheorghiu in the title role and tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Pinkerton, won the Gramophone Award for Best Opera Recording.

The many cinematic and television appearances of the famous theme from the overture, including A Clockwork Orange, The Lone Ranger, and Bugs Bunny, makes this one of the few works to have reached so far beyond the opera-loving public. In addition to the overture, there are many other great moments to discover amongst the arias, finales, spectacular crowd scenes, choruses, and dances.

Antonio Pappano’s conducting of William Tell with his Rome forces at the BBC Proms this summer was one of the most talked-about musical events of the season. A critic for the Telegraph set the stage: “The buzz surrounding this Proms performance of Rossini’s rarely-heard final opera, William Tell, was considerable. Berlioz loved it, we were told. Even Wagner loved it – Tell’s great aria, ‘Sois immobile’ at least. Would Antonio Pappano and the Academy of Santa Cecilia, Rome persuade us to love it as well?” The critic’s conclusion: “Musically this was as persuasive an account as one is likely to hear.”
Early critical reaction to the new recording includes a rapturous five-star review in the UK’s Independent:
“There’s so much to enjoy about William Tell, and Pappano unerringly brings it all out: the story’s ingenious entwining of romance and revolution and the great range of choral parts, from Austrian soldiers to Swiss women, huntsmen to shepherds, which more than compensates for the relative infrequency of truly great arias. Malin Byström excels on Mathilde’s lonely ‘Sombre foret,’ while Gerald Finley captures Tell’s nobility perfectly in ‘Sois immobile.’ Superb.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns writes colorfully about William Tell in a recent post at his new blog for Arts Journal, observing, “Pappano’s…recording is probably the opera’s best yet.” The complete feature is available here:
Pappano introduces the recording in this brief YouTube video:
Special compilations, boxed sets, and reissues
Riccardo Muti Edition
Various composers
Twelve individual titles on CD and for download, available August 9 from EMI Classics
EMI Classics celebrates Riccardo Muti’s 70th birthday – the great Italian Maestro, now the Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was born in Naples on July 28, 1941 – with the release of the Riccardo Muti Edition. The series consists of twelve individual titles, some as single-CD releases, others as multiple CDs and boxed sets, featuring some of his most famous, acclaimed, and – in some cases – most popular recordings.
Among the highlights of EMI Classics’ new Muti Edition are his iconic recording of Beethoven’s complete symphonies, made when he was Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra between 1980 and 1992; a definitive set of Tchaikovsky’s six symphonies; his first orchestral recording, of Mendelssohn’s Symphonies Nos. 3-5; and his sweeping account of Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible, coupled with two suites from the ballet Romeo and Juliet. Rounding out the series are three essential Italian collections: two Verdi sets, including a splendidly theatrical performance of the Requiem, and soaring interpretations of Respighi’s “Roman Trilogy” of tone poems.
Throughout the featured releases, Muti demonstrates his unparalleled command of dramatic pacing and passionate intensity, making for a recorded legacy that is among the jewels of the EMI Classics catalog.
Details of each release follow:
Beethoven: The Complete Symphonies (six-CD set)
Philadelphia Orchestra
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique; Roméo et Juliette (two-CD set)
Jessye Norman, John Aler, Simon Estes; Philadelphia Orchestra
Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 6 (two-CD set)
Berlin Philharmonic
Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos. 3–5; Liszt: Les préludes (two-CD set)
New Philharmonia Orchestra; Philadelphia Orchestra
Mozart: Requiem and Ave Verum (one CD)
Swedish Radio Choir, Stockholm Chamber Choir, Berlin Philharmonic
Prokofiev: Ivan the Terrible; Romeo and Juliet Suites 1 and 2 (two-CD set)
Philadelphia Orchestra; Philharmonia Orchestra
Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé; Rapsodie espagnole; Une barque sur l’océan (one CD)
Philadelphia Orchestra
Respighi: Pines of Rome; Fountains of Rome; Roman Festivals (one CD)
Philadelphia Orchestra
Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1–4; Overtures (two-CD set)
Philharmonia Orchestra; New Philharmonia Orchestra
Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 1–6; Ballet music, etc (seven-CD set)
Philadelphia Orchestra; Philharmonia Orchestra
Verdi: Opera Choruses, overtures, and ballet music (two-CD set)
Coro & Orchestra del Teatro Alla Scala, Milano; New Philharmonia Orchestra
Verdi: Requiem and Four Sacred Pieces (two-CD set)
Renata Scotto, Agnes Baltsa, et. al; Ambrosian Chorus; Philadelphia Orchestra; Berlin Philharmonic
Franz Liszt: 200th Anniversary Collections
100 Best Liszt; 50 Best Liszt; Essential List
Specially priced multiple-CD sets and downloads available August 23 from EMI Classics
Franz Liszt (1811-86) was one of the very greatest piano virtuosos of all time, as well as one of the leading composers of the 19th century. He created works for his own instrument that not only require extreme dexterity but also demand a strong sense of emotion and musicianship. He was also the father of the single-movement symphonic poem, an influential genre using literary and visual sources to inspire compositions that rouse listeners with their Romantic passion.
Together with his sensational piano music, Liszt’s flowing hair and good looks caused audiences to adore and idolize him, but he was also an artist of questing spirituality and a forward-looking composer whose advanced harmonies opened a portal through which many future composers would pass.
To honor Liszt’s 200th birthday and celebrate the ingenuity and diversity of the great Hungarian composer’s works, EMI Classics is pleased to release three new attractively-priced sets of his music.
100 Best Liszt (six-CD set)
This is a diverse collection of the 100 best-loved masterpieces by Franz Liszt. Like other releases in the enormously popular “100 Best” series, this collection offers unbeatable value: six CDs for the price of a single disc. The first CD begins with complete performances of Liszt’s two piano concertos, both firmly established as staples of the concerto repertoire. They are followed by extracts from a number of Liszt’s other works for piano and orchestra, including Fantasy on Hungarian Folk Themes and Malédiction. The next three CDs cover Liszt’s huge output of works for solo piano, from miniatures – like “La campanella” (The Little Bell), which uses a melody by Paganini, and “Un sospiro” (A Sigh) – to the massive Sonata in B minor that was used so poignantly by Sir Frederick Ashton in Marguerite and Armand, the memorable ballet he created for Nureyev and Fonteyn. CD Five is a collection of Liszt’s songs, including the beautiful love song “O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst!,” otherwise known as Liebestraume No. 3. CD Six includes extracts from several symphonic poems, such as Prometheus, Festklänge, and Les préludes. Also represented here are other orchestral works such as Mephisto Waltz No. 1 and A Faust Symphony, as well as several of Liszt’s famous Hungarian Rhapsodies, which were originally written for solo piano but are performed here in spectacular orchestral versions that have achieved enormous popularity.
50 Best Liszt (three-CD set)
“50 Best” is a series of three-CD sets that feature music ranging from symphonies, concertos, and solo instrumental works to chamber music, songs, and operas. This new release is dedicated to 50 of Liszt’s most important and popular works. CD One presents complete performances of Liszt’s sweeping piano concertos as well as extracts from a number of his other works for piano and orchestra. The remaining two CDs showcase Liszt’s huge output of works for solo piano, from his celebrated miniatures and transcriptions to his massive sonatas and intricate études.
Essential Liszt (two-CD set)
EMI Classics adds an all-Liszt title to its popular “Essential Classics” series. The new two-CD set, Essential Liszt, showcases his best-loved and most popular works, beginning with an orchestral arrangement of probably the most widely-known of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies (No. 2 in C minor). CD One also includes the beautiful love song “O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst!,” otherwise known as Liebestraum No. 3, the Mephisto Waltz, and the Piano Sonata in B minor, one of the landmark piano works of the Romantic era. CD Two contains excerpts from the two piano concertos as well as selections from his extensive catalog of works for solo piano, including popular short pieces like “Au bord d’une source,” ‘”Un sospiro,” and “Feux follets.” The album concludes with the spectacular Totentanz for piano and orchestra, based on the “Dies Irae” melody.
British Composers Series
Four new titles
Multiple CD sets and downloads available August 23 from EMI Classics
British Composers – Sir Arthur Bliss (five-CD set)
This enthralling collection opens with the symphony that established Bliss’s name in 1922 (A Colour Symphony) and goes on to survey his ballet, film, chamber, and vocal music in authoritative recordings, many of them attended and endorsed by the composer. The final disc shows Bliss as unmatched conductor of his own music, from the occasional prelude for the 900th anniversary of Westminster Abbey to a real rarity: Dame Joan Sutherland’s first studio recording, the Song of Welcome for the young Queen Elizabeth II.
British Composers – Britten, Berkeley, and Rubbra (five-CD set)
The opening of Peter Grimes in 1945 changed British music and international opera forever. Amongst a host of premiere recordings, this set collects for the first time the 1948 scenes from Grimes, with original cast and conductor; the 1947 Glyndebourne Rape of Lucretia, also under Sir Reginald Goodall; and the early HMV recordings of the two sonnet cycles, Britten’s partner Peter Pears capturing the creative moment in virile voice. Alongside those works and Britten’s two concertos are fascinatingly-set contemporaneous recordings of music by Edmund Rubbra and Lennox Berkeley.
British composers – Guide to Britain (two-CD set)
This bright and breezy guide takes us in 50 stops from London, round Essex and East Anglia, up to Scotland, and then – via Wales and the border counties – to the west country and the south coast. Finally, back to the capital, and a quiet diminuendo as listeners drift down the Thames. Along the way they encounter the Lincolnshire Poacher, the Lass of Richmond Hill, the Wee Cooper o’ Fife, a few favorite hymns tunes, and the taste of Devonshire cream and cider.
British Composers – Best of British (five-CD set)
The very best of British music, with the finest British artists: after a disc of such evergreen light favorites as Elizabethan Serenade and the Dam Busters March, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett takes listeners from the dizzy displays of Billy Mayerl to the dark despair of Constant Lambert. The late Richard Hickox reveals the charm of the English miniature and presents three string masterpieces; in between, the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge is heard in definitive accounts of 19th– and 20th-century anthems.
For further information:
Visit EMI Classics’ YouTube channel for video previews of many of its new and recent releases:


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