Press Room

naïve and ambroisie new releases for April 2009

Frauenliebe und -leben,
Op. 42; Liederkreis
, Op. 39; and other

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, contralto

Daniel Blumenthal, piano

V 5159

Available in the U.S. on April 28 from

“What a luscious and luminous recital!  Alto Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s voice is
lush and lovely with effortless skill combined with a full-bodied tone … .  Pianist Daniel Blumenthal is at once a
support and a guide for Lemieux’s ardent interpretations and the result is
immensely compelling.”

– All Music Guide review of Lemieux’s all-French
recital album
L’heure exquise

The acclaimed Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux sings two major song cycles by Robert
and four other songs by the composer (“Der Nussbaum”, “Er ist’s”, “Loreley”,
and “Widmung”), on a new recording from naïve.  Pianist Daniel Blumenthal accompanies Lemieux in the Liederkreis (Op. 39) and Frauenliebe und -leben (Op. 42), both written in 1840 when
Schumann, who had long avoided the song genre, suddenly threw himself into
writing Lieder with a surpassing passion – 138 songs in 1840 alone!  “I can do nothing else; I’d like to sing
myself to death, like a nightingale,” he declared to his beloved Clara at the

The twelve songs of Liederkreis are settings of poems by Joseph von
Eichendorff, and Schumann described this “circle of songs” as the most romantic
of his works.  Claire Badiou
explains in the liner notes that “the composer found in the poetry of his
contemporary the whole thematic repertory of Romanticism.  Schumann’s cycle presents no
intelligible narrative framework, no linear evolution or plot; it derives its
unity, rather, from an atmosphere, a special ‘Stimmung’, which envelops each of
the episodes.”

Badiou goes on to observe, “The organization of Frauenliebe
und -leben
noticeably different, in that the work’s cyclic character was already imposed
on it by the poetic text [by Chamisso] … The verse reflects the aesthetic of
the Biedermeier period in evoking the successive stages in a woman’s life:
burgeoning first love, amorous ecstasy, engagement, marriage, motherhood, and
conjugal fidelity that continues after the husband’s death.”

In 2000, at the age of 24, contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux
became the first Canadian to win First Prize as well as the Special Prize for
Lieder at the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition of Belgium.  Winning this prestigious award opened
the door to an immediate international career, allowing her to perform in
recital and with many great orchestras around the world.  She has appeared on numerous naïve
recordings, including, most recently, Vivaldi’s La fida ninfa, the latest opera release in the
label’s landmark Vivaldi Edition.  L’heure
, her
recital of French songs by Hahn, Chausson, and Debussy, received the highest
rating from – 10/10 for Artistic Quality/Sound Quality:

“Times are great for fans of mezzos and contraltos,
especially ones who perform song recitals as well as opera and oratorio
roles.  And among today’s several
young stars, Quebec-born Marie-Nicole Lemieux has the versatility, technique,
artistic instincts, and, of course, the voice to ensure a long and illustrious
career … .  This is a first-rate
recital by a truly extraordinary singer. 
Accompanist Daniel Blumenthal is a perfect partner, as you never notice
a note or dynamic or aspect of phrasing out of sync with Lemieux.  Solo singing rarely if ever gets better
than this, and the quality of the recording matches the high standard of the

Lemieux also sang sacred vocal music by Vivaldi in a release
last season with Ensemble Matheus under the direction of Jean-Christophe Spinosi.  The New York Times observed, “In the more austere Stabat
, Marie-Nicole
Lemieux sings with a gripping sense of drama, her darkly rich, agile contralto
illuminating the text with anguish and passion.”

Handel – Overtures, Arias, and Duets

Sandrine Piau,

Sara Mingardo,

Concerto Italiano / Rinaldo

OP 30483

Available in the U.S. on April 28 from

On their
new all-Handel album, soprano Sandrine Piau and contralto Sara Mingardo sing
duets from Handel’s operas Poro, re dell’Indie, Orlando, Radamisto, Tamerlano, Rinaldo, and Ottone, re di Germania with Concerto Italiano under the
direction of Rinaldo Alessandrini. 
Additional tracks feature overtures and arias from Handel’s Flavio, Ezio, Alessandro, and Amadigi di Gaula.

all-Handel recital for naïve, Opera Seria, with Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques was
a Gramophone
“Editor’s Choice” in January 2005. 
Reviewer David Vickers summed up the album’s attractions succinctly:
“This is without doubt the finest recital of Handel arias I have ever heard.”

Mingardo has an extensive and distinguished discography with naïve that
includes a recital of arias by Handel, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, and other Baroque
composers with Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano.  That album was also a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” selection
(December 2004).  The headline of
David Vickers’s review read: “Spellbinding – a Baroque singer’s art at its most
gorgeous and intense.”

From the
liner notes by Philippe Venturini

“Let’s enjoy
ourselves!”  That’s what the
artists decided to do, recalls Sandrine Piau.  Before thinking about the composition of the program, the
selection and ordering of the arias, the two singers began with a desire to
make music together.  Yet they
hadn’t seen very much of each other previously.  They had recently appeared together in a concert of cantatas
by Alessandro Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Handel, and Porpora, in the company of
Rinaldo Alessandrini.

immediately felt vocal and musical affinities with Sara,” says Sandrine
enthusiastically.  And Sara
Mingardo felt she was “in harmony” with Sandrine Piau, whom she regards as “the
greatest interpreter of Handel” and with whom she “can sight-read a score very
fast and immediately share the same phrasings.”  With the two voices in perfect agreement to set out on this
adventure, they needed to settle on a destination.  The 19th century, which they both visit regularly
despite their profile as “Baroque specialists”?  No, that didn’t suit either of them.  Then the promising subject of Handel
opera came up, and quickly convinced both ladies.  “Sara’s low register, as a true contralto and not a
mezzo-soprano, was very well suited to the many roles he wrote for castratos,”
adds Sandrine Piau.

All that
was lacking to weigh anchor and follow a detailed chart was the captain:
Rinaldo Alessandrini was the right man for the job.  He works regularly with Sara Mingardo, and together they
have made several memorable recordings. 
Sandrine Piau took to him straight away: “It was love at first
sight!  Italian musicians always
have a feeling for lyricism, a wish to preserve the voice, to showcase it, to
make it sound its best.  And
Rinaldo, who sings very well himself, senses exactly whether the tempo suits
the voice or not.”

Handel: Rodrigo

Riccarda Wesseling, María Bayo, Sharon Rostorf-Zamir, Kobie van Rensburg, Max
Emanuel Cencic, Anne-Catherine Gillet

Al Ayre Español / Eduardo
López Banzo, harpsichord and conductor

AM 132

in the U.S. on April 28 from ambroisie

“Al Ayre Español, led by
Eduardo López Banzo, plays with beautiful tone, high spirits, and dramatic
nuance – the musical performances are altogether first rate and fully

All Music Guide on Al Ayre
Español’s previous Handel recording,
Amadigi di Gaula

sister label, ambroisie, presents a new edition of one of Handel’s
Italian-period masterpieces, Rodrigo, with an exceptional cast led by Maria Riccarda Wesseling
in the title role, María Bayo as his wife Esilena, Sharon Rostorf-Zamir as his
young lover Florinda, and Max Emanuel Cencic as Fernando.  Following Amadigi di Gaula earlier this year, Rodrigo is the second Handel opera on the
label conducted by Eduardo López Banzo. 
The release follows a European tour with the same cast and orchestra, Al
Ayre Español, resulting in an interpretation that will undoubtedly lead to a
new understanding of the piece almost exactly 300 years after it was written.

“There can
hardly be another Handel opera so fraught with unanswered questions,
conjectures, and legends as Rodrigo,” writes Rainer Heyink in his fascinating booklet article
on the work’s background and reconstruction.  “Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria, o Rodrigo” (To conquer oneself is the
greatest victory, or Rodrigo), to give its full title, is one of Handel’s earliest
operas, the first he wrote after arriving in Italy in his early 20s.  Until recently, despite the
magnificence of the music, Rodrigo had been little heard, partly because much of the autograph
score remained in fragmentary form and the extensive revisions Handel evidently
made, prior to its Florence premiere in 1707, were lost.  Over the past 25 years, much has been
rediscovered or re-created by various musicologists.  For this recording, those sections still missing were replaced
as far as possible by musical material from other works by Handel, in an
edition reconstructed and published under the auspices of the Hallische
Händel-Ausgabe.  The typical opera
plot revolves
loosely around the political and marital conflicts and complications in the
life of a real 8th-century Spanish king – most caused, of course, by
his infidelity.  His wife’s
constancy, forgiveness, and wisdom prove to be everyone’s salvation in the end.

/ Grimal

Sonatas and Partitas

Brice Pauset: Kontrapartita

David Grimal, violin

V 5159

CDs-plus-DVD set available in the U.S. on April 28 from ambroisie

violinist David Grimal plays the complete set of Bach’s six Sonatas and
Partitas for solo violin (BMV 1001-06) on a new recording from ambroisie.  Grimal’s performances of these iconic
works by Bach are coupled with composer Brice Pauset’s 2009 Kontrapartita.  Pauset, born in Besançon, France in 1965, is cited by Grimal
as a key influence in his understanding of Bach’s music.

speaks at length in the album’s liner notes about his special preparation for
this recording – a journey to what he calls “Bach’s magic mountain”, which
included his intensive work studying and performing Beethoven’s String
Quartets, an earlier live recording he made of Bach’s complete Sonatas and
Partitas, and a Bach tour he made across India.  Grimal also provides details of his particular approach to
tuning and other technical matters: “What I really needed was a different
violin, set up in a Baroque way. 
But there was no question of exchanging my Stradivarius for another
violin!  This recording, therefore,
is a transcription of Bach’s sonatas and partitas, played on a 1710
Stradivarius with a modern setup, metal strings, and a Francois-Xavier Tourte bow
made in the early 19th century.”

In addition
to the two CDs, Grimal’s new recording also includes a DVD, featuring a film by
Frédéric Delesque in which Grimal performs the complete Partita No. 2 in D
minor.  This five-movement partita
concludes with the famous “Chaconne”, a monumental movement lasting close to 15
minutes that represents, for some, the summit of the solo literature for

composed his six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin while in Köthen in 1720,
at around the time he wrote such other works as the Brandenburg Concertos and
solo cello suites.  The Sonatas
each consist of four movements in a slow-fast-slow-fast pattern; the Partitas
are suites of dance movements.

concludes his contribution to the liner notes with this poetic view of Bach’s
music: “Although ‘Bach cries out’, he made his peace with the world through
music.  He used it to describe the
world, and his ‘string theory’ resolved the ontological gap between the infinitely
small and infinitely large; he speaks to us of the timeless moment of the
eternal beginning.  God, mankind,
nature, simplicity rather than complexity, and life above all.  It is the contour of the world under
the shining stars.”

Grimal was born in 1973 in Paris and started to play the violin at the age of
five.  He won the First Prize in
violin and chamber music at the Paris Conservatory in 1993.  Afterwards he did postgraduate studies
with Regis Pasquier, as well as with such personalities as Philipp Hirschhorn
(to whom his new Bach recording is dedicated), Shlomo Mintz, and Isaac Stern. 

Grimal plays a 1710 Antonio Stradivarius, loaned by a private sponsor.

acclaim for recent recordings from naïve and ambroisie

Say:  1001 Nights in the Harem
and other works

Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin); Fazil
Say (piano); Luzerner Sinfonieorchester / John Axelrod

V 5147 (naïve)

release March 2009

“As a
composer, the remarkable 38-year-old Turkish pianist Fazil Say has virtually
discovered the northernmost reach of splendid vulgarity into music that might
still be considered acceptable for the classical concert hall. And if his
violin concerto titled “1001 Nights in the Harem” doesn’t convince you, then
the wordless soprano vocalise on “Patara Ballet” will do the trick. This is
music unashamedly exotic and populist at the same time, full of Turkish
rhythmic instruments, melodies both glorious and overwrought and altogether
irresistible, if you ask me. It renders the more hidebound notions of good
taste irrelevant.”

– Jeff Simon/Buffalo News   

Mass in B minor

Les Musiciens du Louvre–Grenoble / Marc

V 5145 (naive)

release March 2009

pacing works well; he has a strong sense of the Mass’ larger architecture, and
offers a reading with richly varied tempos while avoiding both the hurried
approach of some small-chorus adherents, as well as the lugubrious tempos of
some traditionalists. Les Musiciens du Louvre/Grenoble, an ensemble he founded,
plays with admirable animation and precision… Although the vocalists are
accomplished soloists, most with outstanding international careers, as well as
some rising stars, they achieve a remarkably smooth, self-effacing choral
blend, singing with warm lyricism, expressive depth, and spirited energy. The
sound is intimate and clean, allowing the vocal and instrumental details to
emerge with clarity and brilliance. The CD would make a fine introduction to
the Mass and should be of strong interest to listeners who already love it.”

– Stephen Eddins/All Music Guide

Antonio Vivaldi:
La fida ninfa

Lorenzo Regazzo, Veronica Cangemi, Philippe Jaroussky,
Sandrine Piau, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Topi Lehtipuu, and Sara Mingardo; Ensemble
Matheus / Jean-Christophe Spinosi

OP 30410

release February 2009

series of Vivaldi operas remains one of our time’s most interesting
projects.  La fida ninfa, top-flight Vivaldi, has had a few
previous recordings, all dismally inadequate.  This new one boasts an all-star cast and great orchestral
playing under Jean-Christophe Spinosi, exhilarating in the Red Priest’s famous
storm imitations, feather-light in the many pastoral moments.  The plot involves brothers parted at
birth, pirates, lovelorn nymphs, and even a goddess or two.  Sandrine Piau and Marie-Nicole Lemieux,
both sensational, play the sisters; Veronica Cangemi and Philippe Jaroussky are
the brothers, Lorenzo Regazzo the pirate, and Topi Lehtipuu the sweet-voiced
tenor father.  All are virtuosos in
top form.  Whether you’re a Baroque
enthusiast or are relatively new to Vivaldi, you’re likely to enjoy this
one.  Grade: A”

– Lawson Taitte/Dallas Morning News

Shostakovich:  Symphony No. 5

Flemish Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden

AM 171

release January 2009

little known on this side of the Atlantic, the Antwerp-based Royal Flemish
Philharmonic sounds like a major-league outfit, playing with finely honed
discipline and expressive suppleness. 
A symphony that in lesser hands can descend into vulgarity here emerges
carefully proportioned and dramatically deft.  The finale is exhilarating but never crude; the slow
movement is more tender and vulnerable than tragic; the scherzo really dances …
.  A very fine performance,
captured in very fine sonics.”

– Scott Cantrell/Dallas Morning News

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