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naïve May 2010 preview

Vivaldi:  Armida al campo d’Egitto (RV 699)
World premiere recording
Sara Mingardo, Furio Zanasi, et. al.
Concerto Italiano / Rinaldo Alessandrini
OP 30492
3CD set available May 25, 2010

Rinaldo Alessandrini leads his Concerto Italiano and a mostly Italian cast in the world-premiere recording of Vivaldi’s Armida al campo d’Egitto, the tenth opera issued in naïve’s landmark Vivaldi Edition.  The sultry-voiced contralto Sara Mingardo sings the title role, with Furio Zanasi (who headlined Alessandrini’s acclaimed recording of Monteverdi’s Orfeo) as the Caliph; a number of rising stars fill out the other roles (a complete cast list is below).   The recording sessions followed two successful concert performances in Paris’s Salle Pleyel and Vienna’s Theater an Der Wien, the latter prompting the Wiener Zeitung to call Alessandrini and his orchestra “thoroughbred musicians [who] played with a contagious delight.”  Armida is Alessandrini’s second opera recording for the Vivaldi Edition.  The previous recording, L’Olimpiade, also featured Sara Mingardo, whose “stunning contralto,” according to, “is used with grace and power” as she “almost walks away with the show.”

Armida (1718), which marks the end of Vivaldi’s first Venetian period, has come down to us without the music to Act II. Adopting a practice that was common in Vivaldi’s day, Alessandrini has reconstructed the missing music using already-existing pieces by Vivaldi very carefully chosen with the help of the musicologist Frédéric Delaméa.

Giovanni Palazzo’s libretto is freely based on Books VI, XVII and XIX of Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata, an epic poem that inspired, in whole or in part, more than 50 operas. Apart from Osmira, who was invented by the poet, all the characters of Vivaldi’s drama come from this Tasso work. Abandoned by Rinaldo on whom she has sworn to be avenged, Armida travels to Gaza, where the Caliph (Califfo) is “assembling the forces of the Orient.”   Skilled with “bow and sword,” she has decided to become there “the slave of the mightiest” and “fan flames of jealousy among them” in order to satisfy her vengeance. The opera begins as the sorceress, accompanied by “her squires, her ladies and her pages,” reaches “the burning plains of Gaza covered with allied troops.”

A brief video introduction to the project is available at

Sara Mingardo, contralto (Armida)
Furio Zanasi, baritone (Califfo)
Monica Bacelli, mezzo-soprano (Osmira)
Raffaella Milanesi, soprano (Erminia)
Marina Comparato, mezzo-soprano (Emireno)
Romina Basso, mezzo-soprano (Adrasto)
Martin Oro, counter-tenor (Tisaferno)
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini 

A comprehensive web site dedicated to the life and work of Antonio Vivaldi, including additional information about the Vivaldi Edition, is available at

Richard Strauss:  Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64
Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Paris/Philippe Jordan
V 5233
CD available May 25, 2010

Philippe Jordan, one of the rising stars of the orchestral and operatic stage, conducts the Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Paris – one of the most youthful and venerable orchestras in France today – in this live recording of Strauss’s magnificent Eine Alpensinfonie (An Alpine Symphony).  The new album, which has already received a CHOC award from the French magazine Classica, documents his very first concert as music director of the orchestra.

In the booklet notes, Jordan explains how the recording marks a milestone in his career:

It is no accident that Strauss’s Alpine Symphony was on the program of my very first concert as music director of the Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Paris: this musical transposition of a day spent among the mountain peaks depicts the start of a journey. And that was exactly the feeling I had as I prepared for the concert, the feeling that this was a first time. This grandiose work sums up the whole art of western orchestral music; we could have chosen it as a culmination, but we preferred to make it a point of departure, and I am delighted with the audacity and enthusiasm shared by the orchestra. The symphony also serves as an ideal introduction to Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung, which is our first operatic project together. I am very glad that this initial document, recorded in public – a spontaneous account of our first encounter – is being released by naïve.

Christophe Ghristi provides a fascinating essay entitled “Tragedy of the Artist” in the booklet notes, putting this massive orchestral work – 120 musicians in all – into illuminating perspective.  He notes that Strauss was at the pinnacle of his operatic career when he wrote this last of his tone poems – the genre that first brought him fame.  Ghristi explains that Strauss’s Alpine (1915) “takes the form of a day spent in the mountains, from one night to the next, with representations of dawn, sunshine, a storm, sunset, ascent and descent.”  But despite the success Strauss was having at the time, Christi notes that the work was actually inspired by tragic events.  Strauss originally initially intended it as a tribute to Karl Stauffer-Bern, a Swiss painter who had committed suicide.  The inspiration of Nietzsche and the “great loss” he felt at the death of Gustav Mahler in 1911 “completed the picture” that informed Strauss’s vision. “I ought to call my Alpine symphony ‘The Antichrist,’” Strauss wrote in his diary, “since it represents moral purification through one’s own strength, liberation through work, worship of eternal, magnificent nature.”

Pascal Dusapin:  7 Solos Pour Orchestre
Cycle of the Seven Forms
Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège Wallonie Bruxelles/Pascal Rophé
MO 782180
2-CD set available May 25, 2010

“One of France’s most acclaimed but uncompromising composers.”
– Philadelphia Inquirer [David Stearns]

naïve continues its close collaboration with French composer Pascal Dusapin with the release of the complete cycle of seven solos “for that great solo instrument, the orchestra.” In the booklet notes, Dusapin explains the genesis and development of the cycle:

“In the early 1990s, I wanted to get away from the running times of between ten and twenty minutes that are invariably associated with commissions for orchestra. Since no one was offering me commissions to produce longer symphonic forms, I decided to bide my time. I dreamt of an extended, complex form comprising seven autonomous episodes regenerating themselves from within, fertilising other possibilities, and proliferating on the interstices left open by the preceding fluxes. The cycle of seven solos for that large solo instrument constituted by the orchestra started in 1991 with Go and ended in 2008 with Uncut, premiered at the Cité de la Musique in Paris on 27 March 2009. Over all these years, my path has been strewn with many other compositions, all of which have disgorged material into this cycle. The reverse is also true. Bits of ‘this’ found themselves ‘there’, scraps of ‘that’ spilled over ‘here’, constantly metamorphosing the overall make-up of the cycle.”

To complement the release of these fascinating orchestral pieces, naïve has gathered together all the concertos composed by Pascal Dusapin.  Previously released by the label and now available on a single CD (MO 782181), the companion disc features Watt (1994), concerto for trombone and orchestra; Galim (1998), concerto for flute and string orchestra; Celo (1996), concerto for cello and orchestra; and à quia (2002), concerto for piano and orchestra.  Reviewing one of the concerto recordings when it was originally released, noted, “The typically avant-garde titles of the works, along with Dusapin’s micro-tonal investigations and links to Xenakis and to IRCAM, hardly prepare you for the expressiveness, lyricism, and even the sybaritic aural pleasures offered by this disc.”  The album also received the review web site’s top rating, 10/10 for performance and sound, with Dan Davis calling it “a disc to treasure.”

naïve’s previous Dusapin release was a DVD of the composer’s opera Faustus, The Last Night, which was premiered in Berlin in 2007 and was performed that year at the Spoleto USA Festival. Opera News called this, Dusapin’s fifth opera, “a tour de force of postmodernist musical creativity and great emotional intensity, offering a fresh perspective on this seminal tale.”

Recent critical acclaim for naïve artists and recordings

Bach: Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin
Sergey Khachatryan, violin (V 5181, released in April)
“Bach, Sonatas and Partitas performed by violinist Sergey Khachatryan (Naive, two discs); performed by violinist Isabelle Faust (Harmonia Mundi). How different these two discs are of the greatest works in all the solo violin literature— and how illustrative is that difference. It isn’t simply a matter of one young violinist—25-year-old Armenian violinist Sergey Khachatryan—playing the complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin and the other—38-year-old German Isabelle Faust—playing only half of them. It’s an arresting, occasionally stunning, difference in sonority and musical engagement. Faust, in the liveliest and most virtuosic gigue (in the Partita in D-minor, for instance, which Faust sprints through), can’t help but sound a bit academic. Khachatryan, on the other hand, even at a slightly slower tempo (his version takes almost a full minute longer), sounds so much more intelligently and passionately engaged in it as living music. Faust calls this music “the daily bedrock of my approach to the entire violin literature” and her playing is certainly respectable. But Khachatryan’s is so much more than that at every turn. Ratings:★★ 1/2 for Faust, ★★★ 1/2 for Khachatryan”
Buffalo News, May 9, 2010 [Jeff Simon]

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
La Chambre Philharmonique / Emmanuel Krivine (V 5202, released in March)
“Historically informed performances of Beethoven’s Ninth are no longer unusual; two have come out at the same time, one of them conductor Herreweghe’s second of the piece. What’s surprising is that he seems to be evolving toward a conventional, mainstream approach, which will be good news to those who prefer Beethoven with astrong string sonority but the kind of fleet tempos that have come out of the period-instrument movement.  Krivine’s recording…is a breakthrough. The symphony’s orchestration has long seemed to need a bit of retouching so everything within it can be heard. However, Krivine seems to come by any number of buried riches simply by creating an overall sound world that’s weighted toward the wind-instrument contingent, and doing so with a commitment and courage still pretty rare in the Beethoven discography. Even more remarkable are chorus and soloists: None of the usual vocal strain is evident. In fact, all sing as though the music was written specifically for them. Now, that’s a triumph.”
– Philadelphia Inquirer, May 2, 2010 [David Patrick Stearns]

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© 21C Media Group, May 2010

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