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EMI Classics & Virgin Classics May 2010 releases

Two New Installments in Artemis Quartet’s Beethoven String Quartet Cycle

On the heels of a highly successful tour of Europe and North America (including concerts in twelve U.S. cities) dedicated exclusively to the music of Beethoven, the Artemis Quartet is heard this month on two new all-Beethoven releases (details follow).  For two successive seasons the group is performing and recording Beethoven on two continents, as part of a Beethoven marathon that will conclude in Spring 2011 with additional live performances and the release of a boxed set of the composer’s complete string quartets on the Virgin Classics label.


Beethoven: String Quartets Op. 131; Op. 18, No. 2; Op. 132; and Op. 59, No. 3
Artemis Quartet
Two-CD set and downloads available May 4, 2010 from Virgin Classics

In 2005, the quartet’s debut release for the label comprised Beethoven’s Op. 59, No. 1 and Op. 95.  A second release in 2008 brought together Op. 59, No. 2 and Op. 18, No. 4, and introduced the ensemble’s newest members, Gregor Sigl (violin) and Friedemann Weigle (viola).  The new release features four additional Beethoven quartets: Op.131; Op.18, No. 2; Op.132; and Op. 59, No. 3.  Originally released as two separate CDs on the Ars Musici label, these will now appear on a single two-CD set from Virgin Classics.

Reporting on Artemis’s concert this winter at New York’s Town Hall, Anthony Tommasini wrote for the New York Times, “You would think that when a string quartet changes two players the fundamental character of the ensemble would alter.  The excellent all-Beethoven concert that the Berlin-based Artemis Quartet played on Sunday afternoon…suggested otherwise.”  He continued:

“This group finds a balance between projecting musical structure and conveying immediacy.  The players cultivate unity of thought and intention but not conformity of sound and style.  Ms. Prischepenko’s playing is lustrous and expressive yet focused and honest; Mr. Sigl’s tone is velvety, his playing refined; Mr. Weigle combines dusky tone with hotblooded urgency; Mr. Runge is a supremely musical and nuanced cellist.  The Beethoven performances the Artemis offered were remarkably cogent and organic.”


Beethoven: String Quartets Op. 18, No. 6; Op. 130; and Op. 133 (“Grosse Fuge”)
Artemis Quartet
CD and downloads available May 4, 2010 from Virgin Classics

This fourth installment of the Artemis Quartet’s traversal of Beethoven’s complete string quartets features the sixth and final quartet from his Op. 18 set, as well as the Op. 130 quartet and “Grosse Fuge,” Op. 133.  The enormous, knotty and enigmatic “Grosse Fuge” was Beethoven’s original finale for the Op. 130 quartet, but because of its extraordinary technical demands and supposedly inscrutable character, his publisher convinced him to write an alternative finale.  The “Grosse Fuge” was later published separately as Beethoven’s Op. 133, and appears on Artemis’s recording as the finale of Op. 130.

Eckart Runge, cellist of the Artemis Quartet, expresses the players’ views on the composer’s quartets.

“In relation to the time in which he lived, Beethoven is the most modern, provocative, experimental, and boldest composer of all.  Many have used the string quartet to experiment, to trial, and develop their mode of composition…but none of them was more extreme than Beethoven.  Even today, the ‘Grosse Fuge’ remains one of the most incredible and most modern pieces of music ever written… . No matter how complicated the form, one can always find essential human emotion in Beethoven, whether it is hopeful longing, apprehension, exuberant joy, or shy affection.”


Father and Son – Wagner scenes and arias
Simon O’Neill, tenor
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra / Pietari Inkinen
CD and downloads available May 4 from EMI Classics

One of the most exciting tenor voices of his generation, New Zealander Simon O’Neill has recorded a solo album for EMI Classics featuring scenes and arias from Wagner’s Lohengrin, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung, and Parsifal.  Joining O’Neill on the release is Pietari Inkinen conducting the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, along with guest artists Susan Bullock, as Sieglinde and Kundry, and Sir John Tomlinson as Hagen.

“To make this CD,” O’Neill said recently, “has been a dream of mine since my first Wagner role, Siegmund in Die Walküre at the Metropolitan Opera, in which I was the cover for the great Plácido Domingo.  This album surveys Wagner’s mature career from Lohengrin in 1850 through to Parsifal in 1882.”  O’Neill continues:

“Lohengrin, the son of Parsifal, and Siegfried, the son of Siegmund, along with their magnificent fathers, represent a huge vocal development for the tenor voice… . These roles are essential to the path of a young heldentenor: from lyric moments to dramatic outbursts, Wagner offers the singer massive dramatic and vocal scope in developing the character and burnishing the instrument.  The heart of this CD is devoted to the two great tenors of the Ring, Siegmund and Siegfried.  Being given the chance to sing this music has been the highlight of my career… . It is a tremendous honor to sing these wonderful characters both on the opera and concert stage and now on this recording.”

Simon O’Neill has been hailed as one of today’s finest heldentenors.  In a matter of only a few years, he has become a principal artist with the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Salzburg Festival, appearing internationally with conductors including James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Valery Gergiev, Antonio Pappano, Daniel Barenboim, and Pierre Boulez.

Track list

1.   “In fernem Land” from Lohengrin, Act III
2.   “Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater” from Die Walküre, Act I
3.   “Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond” from Die Walküre, Act I
4.   “Siegmund heiss ich und Siegmund bin ich!” from Die Walküre, Act I
5.   “Selige Öde auf wonniger Höh’!” from Siegfried, Act III
6.   Siegfried’s Rhine Journey from Götterdämmerung, Prologue
7.   “Mime hiess ein mürrischer Zwerg” from Götterdämmerung, Act III
8.   “Brünnhilde!  Heilige Braut!” from Götterdämmerung, Act III
9.   Trauermusik from Götterdammerung, Act III
10. “Amfortas!  Die Wunde!” from Parsifal, Act II
11. “Nur eine Waffe taugt” from Parsifal, Act III


Stabat Mater: Motets to the Virgin Mary
Philippe Jaroussky, countertenor
Ensemble Artaserse
CD and downloads available May 4 from Virgin Classics

“It all fits Jaroussky’s voice deliciously well,…[his] exquisitely controlled voice floating serenely, largely without vibrato, above murmuring accompaniment from his own group, the Ensemble Artaserse (two violins, gamba, guitar, theorbo, and keyboard)… . The whole disc is a sterling example of how an almost completely neglected repertory can be brought to life anew by a performer who enters into it with the desire and talent to express its essence.”

– James Manheim, All Music Guide 

French superstar countertenor Philippe Jaroussky presents a rich selection of motets dedicated to the Virgin Mary, composed in the late 16th century and early 17th century by Italian composers (with one exception, Diego Ortiz, who was Spanish but based in Naples).  Although the majority of these composers were very famous in their time, their works are today quite unknown, and very rarely, if ever, recorded.

As with Un Concert pour Mazarin, on this album Philippe Jaroussky explores a very specific repertoire of Italian motets, which belong to the period of transition from the late Renaissance to the early Baroque.

Most of these motets are for solo countertenor voice, with a small ensemble accompaniment (here, Jaroussky’s own ensemble with which he recorded Vivaldi’s Cantatas).  However, he sings two motets with Marie-Nicole Lemieux, the Canadian contralto, whose name is gaining international recognition.  Three pieces are instrumental, and performed by soloists of the ensemble.

NB: The album was previously released with different cover artwork under the title Beata Vergine.

Jaroussky’s previous album, La dolce fiamma, was well received by critics.  David Patrick Stearns wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer, “On Jaroussky’s disc, Johann Christian Bach sounds so good that one can only assume his music simply got lost in the historic shuffle.  The Jaroussky disc is necessary for anyone interested in pre-Mozartean opera.”


Special compilations, boxed sets, and reissues

American Classics Series
Five new releases
Single CDs and two-CD sets and downloads available May 4 from EMI Classics

EMI Classics is proud to present the fourth batch from the new American Classics series – single and double-CD sets of music exclusively from American composers – featuring all genres from symphonies, concertos, and solo instrumental works to chamber music, songs, and opera.

The music of George Gershwin features prominently in this installment’s five new titles.  Arguably the best-known of all 20th-century composers, George Gershwin wrote music that effortlessly spanned both the classical and popular genres.  The new titles present a comprehensive view of Gershwin’s music from the Three Preludes for solo piano to the Piano Concerto, taking in a good selection of the show songs and improvisations.

Concerto in F; Variations on “I Got Rhythm”; Song Improvisations
Aalborg Symfoniorkester / Wayne Marshall
Songs from the Shows; Overtures
Kiri Te Kanawa; New Princess Theater Orchestra / John McGlinn
Piano Duets
Katia and Marielle Labèque
Rhapsody in Blue; An American in Paris; Latin-American Symphonette
Leonard Pennario; Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra / Felix Slatkin
Songs and Piano Music
Richard Rodney Bennett


Two new titles
Two-CD sets and downloads available May 4 from EMI Classics

EMI Classics recently launched a definitive new series of landmark recordings drawn from a treasure trove of the most revered classical recordings ever made.  Available on CD and by digital download, the series celebrates classic recordings by a “Who’s Who” of the leading artists of the 20th century.  All performances were recorded, mastered, or re-mastered at the internationally renowned Abbey Road Studios.  These are, without any need to exaggerate, some of the most famous classical recordings ever made.  Details of the two new releases in the series, of performances by Pablo Casals and Stephen Kovacevich respectively, follow below.


Pablo Casals
Bach: Six Suites for Solo Cello

Although Pablo Casals’s recorded output includes collaborations with such icons as Cortot and Thibaud, the legendary Catalan cellist made his greatest recordings alone, when he committed Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello to disc in the late 1930s.  As Gramophone magazine observed, “The Bach Suites are a monument to be studied, learned by heart, communed with, and made a part of oneself.  At least, this is the way they sound when Casals plays them, and his interpretation is a classic in the best sense of the word.”


Stephen Kovacevich
Beethoven: Popular Piano Sonatas

Gramophone Award-winning pianist Stephen Kovacevich is renowned for his renditions of core classical repertoire, and a six-concert project entitled “Kovacevich, Beethoven, and the Piano” recently paid tribute to his celebrated Beethoven interpretations.  This CD collection comprises the ever-popular “Pathétique”, “Moonlight”, “Waldstein”, “Les Adieux”, “Appassionata”, No. 25 in G major, and “Hammerklavier” sonatas, the latter performance being pronounced “one of the most commanding accounts of Beethoven’s mighty Hammerklavier – an unflinching, sometimes combative view of a titanic masterpiece” (The Classical Source).


100 Best Tchaikovsky
Various artists
Specially-priced six-CD set and downloads available May 4 from EMI Classics

With superb performances from the world-renowned vaults of EMI Classics and Virgin Classics, and an unbeatable price (six CDs for the price of one!), EMI Classics’ 100 Best series continues to be one of the best values in the world of classical music recordings.  This has helped to make the series a popular success, with over two million sets sold worldwide.

The 24th set in the series contains 100 tracks from the most familiar and best-loved works by the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93), performed by some of the world’s leading instrumentalists, singers, orchestras, and conductors.  One of the most beloved composers of the Romantic era, Tchaikovsky wrote music rich in unforgettable melodies, passion, and emotional sincerity.  Many of Tchaikovsky’s themes have been heard in major film soundtracks and TV advertisements.

100 Best Tchaikovsky begins with the sweeping opening of his First Piano Concerto, one of the most familiar works in the classical repertoire.  Also included are his three great ballet scores – Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker; substantial extracts from Symphonies Nos. 3, 4, 5, and 6; and the complete performance of his spectacular “1812 Overture”.  The six CDs are arranged as follows:

CD 1: The concertos
CD 2: The symphonies
CD 3: The ballets
CD 4: Opera and song
CD 5: Chamber and instrumental


Zen Voices
Various artists
Three-CD set and downloads available May 18 from Virgin Classics

The transporting powers of vocal music are showcased in this richly programmed three-CD set featuring great singers performing sublime works from a wide variety of composers.  Featured repertoire includes tranquil, serene, and transcendent masterpieces such as the romantic Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Samuel Barber’s heart-wrenching Agnus Dei, the meditative Gregorian chant Veni, creator spiritus, and Francis Poulenc’s masterpiece O magnum mysterium, among others.  Featured performers include Natalie Dessay, Barbara Hendricks, Monsterrat Caballé, David Daniels, Philippe Jaroussky, and Rolando Villazón. 


Zen Piano
Various artists
Three-CD set and downloads available May 18 from Virgin Classics

A companion disc to Zen Voices, Zen Piano features three generously programmed CDs in a specially-priced set designed to transport listeners into a world of aural – and spiritual – bliss.  Among the highlights are performances by keyboard stars past and present, including Piotr Anderszewski, David Fray, Aldo Ciccolini, Leif Ove Andsnes, and Nicholas Angelich.  A list of repertoire follows.


CD 1

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 21; Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring; Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23; Beethoven: “Moonlight” Sonata; Beethoven: “Emperor” Concerto; Bach: Partita No. 1; Bach: Keyboard Concerto No. 4; Scarlatti: Sonata Kk. 87; Haydn: Piano Concerto No. 7; Bach: Goldberg Variations; Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 20; Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 8; Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20; Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No. 1

CD 2

Chopin: Berceuse; Grieg: Piano Concerto; Liszt: Consolation No. 3; Tchaikovsky: Barcarolle; Dvorák: Piano Quintet; Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition; Chopin: Nocturne No. 20; Chopin: Mazurka No. 41; Schumann: “Traümerei”; Brahms: Intermezzo, Op. 117, No. 1; Schumann: Davidsbündlertänze; Brahms: Waltz No. 15; Dvorák: Slavonic Dance; Franck: Prelude, Chorale and Fugue; Rachmaninov: Lilacs; Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

CD 3

Pärt: Spiegel im Spiegel; Satie: Gymnopédie No. 1; Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte; Ravel: Concerto in G; Webern: Variations, Op. 27; Satie: Gnossiennes; Saint-Saëns: Le carnaval des animaux; Boulez: Douze notations; Poulenc: Concerto for two pianos; Janácek: In the Mists; Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 2; Fauré: Nocturne No. 1; Debussy: Petite suite; Debussy: Clair de lune


Veritas x2 series
Five new titles
Two-CD sets and downloads available May 18 from Virgin Classics

Virgin Classics’ distinguished Veritas x2 series gains five new titles this month, including Ockeghem’s most famous and often-performed composition, Requiem; the hypnotic Sanctus in D major (BWV 238) by Johann Sebastian Bach; and the last six of Joseph Haydn’s twelve “London” Symphonies, which were composed in Vienna and London for his second visit to the English capital.

Each two-CD set in the Veritas x2 series features superb performances exclusively on period instruments.  The wide range of repertoire covered in the series, from 11th-century polyphony to Bruckner, features many award-winning performances by leading artists, making it one of the finest collections of period instrument recordings available today.  That quality has also translated into worldwide sales of more than one million units.


A list of the five new titles follows.

Bach: Masses BWV 233-235; Sanctus BWV 238
Collegium Vocale Gent / Philippe Herreweghe
Haydn: Symphonies Nos. 99–104
London Classical Players / Roger Norrington
Ockeghem: Requiem; Missa “Mi-Mi”; Missa prolationum
The Hilliard Ensemble
The Art of the Netherlands
Early Music Consort of London / David Munrow
Charpentier: Messe en la mémoire d’un prince
Tabart: Requiem; Magnificat; Te Deum
Ensemble La Fenice / Jean Tubéry


Virgin de Virgin series
Five new titles
Two-CD sets and downloads available May 18 from Virgin Classics

Virgin Classics is proud to present a new batch of five titles in the Virgin de Virgin series.  These two-CD sets offer top-notch performances from the Virgin Classics catalogue encompassing works across a broad spectrum of repertoire.  The quality of the series has made it popular with consumers, with sales of over one millions units worldwide.

Among the new offerings is the Symphonie Asreal by Josef Suk, which the Czech composer wrote while in mourning for his teacher and father-in-law Antonin Dvorák; an album of Schumann piano works; and a double-bill of Handel oratorios.  The complete list of new titles follows.

Nicolai: Symphony in D major; Nicolai: Overtures; Mahler: Movements
Bamberger Symphoniker / Karl Anton Rickenbacher
Gregorian and Ambrosian chant
Schola Cantorum Coloniensis
Handel: Alexander’s Feast; The Choice of Hercules
English Chamber Orchestra; Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields / Sir Philip Ledger
Schumann: Kinderszenen; Arabesque; Abegg Variations; Papillons; Novelettes
Jean-Bernard Pommier; Quatuor Bernède
Suk: Symphonie Asrael; A Summer’s Tale
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Libor Pesek


EMI news brief: Nézet-Séguin and Rotterdam Philharmonic sign new agreement

The charismatic conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Rotterdam Philharmonic have renewed their agreement, extending their partnership for another three years.  On hearing of the new agreement, Eric Dingman, President of EMI Classics Global, commented: “We are extremely pleased to hear the news that the creative collaboration between the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin is to continue.  EMI has had the pleasure of recording with Yannick and the RPhO, witnessing at first hand the exciting, growing creative talent of this very gifted conductor and one of Europe’s great orchestras.  We look forward to continuing substantial recording projects with this team in the months and years to come.” 

Over the past months, EMI/Virgin Classics has released three albums featuring the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, to great critical acclaim.  The Beethoven/Korngold album with soloist Renaud Capuçon, released in the U.S. in November 2009, will be in the spotlight once again at the start of RPhO’s next season, when Capuçon will be performing the Beethoven Concerto with the orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Sept 24 and 25).  The Ravel album, a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice,” continues to receive enthusiastic reviews internationally as well as in Holland, where it was nominated for a Dutch Edison Award last week.  A program of virtuoso operatic fantasies with Emmanuel Pahud was released in the U.S. in April 2010.


Critical acclaim for recent Virgin Classics release

Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia
Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Flórez; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden / Antonio Pappano
(DVD released April 2010 on Virgin Classics)

Highest rating: 10/10 for Performance Quality/Sound Quality

“This performance, recorded in July, 2009 at Covent Garden, has become known as the Barbiere in which Joyce DiDonato sang from a wheelchair, having broken her leg on stage a few nights before (and continued singing with a walking stick)… . It’s a great performance.  Just for the record, there are a half-dozen good Barbieres on DVD, at least one each with DiDonato and Flórez (and one with a young Bartoli), but this one is the best… . Of course, it’s all about the music – and not to get too crazy about it, this very likely is the strongest Barber cast I’ve ever seen.  DiDonato, wheelchair or not, is a dream Rosina, vocally flawless and always in good taste (with embellishments that are all her own), emphasizing words and feelings that others miss, reacting to those around her as if the plot were actually happening in real time.  And the sound is creamy and luscious from top to bottom, with a trill to die for… . This is it, if you’re looking for a Barber to watch.”

Classics Today


EMI Classics and Virgin Classics: artists on tour – spring 2010

May 5
Ingrid Fliter: Recital
Gilmore Festival (Kalamazoo, MI)
May 5-8 
David Fray: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat, Op. 19
San Francisco Symphony / Eschenbach (San Francisco, CA)
May 6
Ingrid Fliter: Recital
St. Cecillia Music (Grand Rapids, MI)
May 8-14
David Daniels continues run in Handel’s Xerxes
Houston Grand Opera (Houston, TX)
May 14, 15
Ingrid Fliter: De Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Toledo Symphony (Toledo, OH)
May 9
Ingrid Fliter: Recital
The Town Hall (New York, NY)
May 9
Vivica Genaux: Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Angelina)
Washington Concert Opera (Washington, DC)
May 12
Nicholas Angelich: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles, CA)
May 14, 18, & 21
Thomas Adès’s Violin Concerto
New York City Ballet (New York, NY)
May 20
Yundi: all-Chopin recital
Carnegie Hall (New York, NY)


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]

Mariko Tada, EMI Music: (212) 786-8964,  [email protected]

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© 21C Media Group, May 2010

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