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naïve new releases for March 2009

Bach: Mass in B minor

Vocal ensemble of ten solo voices (listed

Les Musiciens du Louvre–Grenoble / Marc Minkowski

V 5145

Two-CD set + 100-page book
available March 31 from naïve

“It’s the work of Bach’s I feel closest to …
I learned this repertoire from the inside by playing the bassoon in Philippe
Herreweghe’s ensemble la Chapelle Royale. 
Gradually, as I listened to this and that interpretation, I realized how
much the
is a conductor’s work.  In it, the
most profound spirituality coexists with a vocal and instrumental profusion
that reminds me of the texture of the concertos or the suites.”

– Marc Minkowski, from the liner notes of his
new recording

his second recording under a new exclusive contract with naïve, conductor Marc
Minkowski leads Les Musiciens du Louvre–Grenoble and a team of young vocalists
in a performance of Bach’s monumental Mass in B minor.  It is Minkowski’s first Bach recording,
and the Bach work that he most wanted to record.  The special and potentially controversial twist with
Minkowski’s recording is that he does not employ a separate chorus, but rather
uses the grouped soloists to sing the choral numbers.  Minkowski – along with many scholars – believes that this is
likely the way that Bach himself would have performed the work, but his
decision to record it this way was primarily to create a tightly-knit ensemble
that would bring the work’s brilliant and rapidly shifting details most vividly
to life.  In taking this approach,
Minkowski has compared the Mass
to Bach’s famous Brandenburg Concertos, where individual players in the ensemble emerge to present
solos and then regroup to form a cohesive tutti
As Minkowski explains in a lengthy and illuminating interview with Rémy
Louis in the liner notes:

“[…] As soon
as I started work on the B-minor Mass, the group of soloists seemed to me to be
the obvious solution in musical terms. 
Bach turns everything into an orchestra.  The way his mind works is polyphonic, contrapuntal, and, if
I may be so bold, symphonic.  There
is something supremely symphonic in the Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied
violin, not to mention his keyboard works.  Well, the Mass seems to me to be a product of that same way
of thinking.  Its music is so
dense, so complex, so breathtaking, that in my view it gains in grandeur from
the use of soloists.  All of a
sudden, you no longer have the massed forces on one side and the individual on
the other, but a single imposing vocal instrument, which sings the same faith
in the same language from the ‘Kyrie Eleison’ to the ‘Dona nobis pacem’.  Obviously, the choice of those soloists
then becomes crucial.  It’s no
longer a question of taste.  The
whole edifice depends on it.”

B. Stauffer, Dean of the Mason Gross School of the Arts and Professor of Music
History at Rutgers University, explains further in the liner notes: 

“The surviving materials from the Dresden
performance of the ‘Kyrie’ and ‘Gloria’ in 1733 and the Hamburg performance of
the ‘Credo’ in 1786 confirm that the B-minor Mass was conceived as a chamber
piece rather than a massive choral-society work.  The single vocal parts (one for each voice) point to a
chorus of ten to 15 singers, from which the best voices would step forward to
perform the arias, duets, and fugal expositions.  The instrumental parts point to a modest ensemble of 20 to
25 players.”

asked in the notes whether he describes his conception of the Mass as being
more theatrical than liturgical, Minkowski responds:

“Certainly not theatrical in the sense of ‘like at
the opera’.  At no point did I feel
that way about the music.  The
contrapuntal and instrumental drama of the mass is a true drama, but of a quite
different nature from that of an opera by Telemann or Handel.  The very special mood of contemplation
and concentration that the work radiates, its unique atmosphere, place the
performer in a state close to that of prayer.  The element of theatricality that the performers must
realize in their interpretation derives from the inflections and images of the text.  But the music is played out in a
different sort of theater.”

began his Mass in B minor in the summer of 1748 and completed it in late 1749,
just as his eyesight began to fail. 
It was too large for practical performance and was never performed in
his lifetime, and after his death in 1750 it fell into almost complete
obscurity.  It received its first
complete performance – in German, not Latin – in Leipzig in 1859.  Bach’s family called it “The Great
Catholic Mass”, and since Bach was Lutheran the reasons for his composing it
are especially mysterious.  Most,
it not all, of the music in the Mass– arranged as a sequence of arias and choruses – is derived
from cantata movements he had composed earlier, which were then revised and
polished (almost all of his vocal works after 1730, in fact, stem from earlier
music).  As Professor Stauffer
summarizes in his notes, “In modern times, as a humanistic concert mass, it
continues to draw listeners into a musical world that is both contemplative and
exhilarating, virtuosic and simple, retrospective and progressive, private and

Minkowski’s debut recording for naïve, an all-Bizet album featuring music from Carmen and
L’Arlésienne, the new recording is
presented in deluxe naïve packaging, in this case featuring a 100-page booklet
on laid paper.  The Bizet recording
was one of the most acclaimed releases of 2008, being named “CD of the Month”
by both Gramophone and BBC Music magazine.  It
received the highest rating from Classics Today, 10/10 for Artistic/Sound Quality: “This
certainly is the finest disc of Carmen and L’Arlésienne
suites since Markevitch with the Lamoureux orchestra. […] The deluxe booklet
is magnificent.  You’re going to
love this.”

fall, Minkowski came to the U.S. for a guest-conducting engagement with the
Cleveland Orchestra.  This spring,
Minkowski and his Musiciens du Louvre–Grenoble will perform and record Haydn’s
“London” Symphonies in Vienna’s Konzerthaus (June 2-6) and in August they will
be in residency at the world-renowned Salzburg Festival.

list of the featured soloists on the new recording follows.  Video material featuring commentary
from Minkowski and the soloists and performance extracts (the recording was
made in conjunction with live performances) is available at the following link:

  soprano I

  soprano I

  soprano II

  soprano II

  alto I

  alto II

  tenor I

  tenor II

  bass I

  bass I 

Fazil Say: Violin Concerto, 1001 Nights in the Harem (2008);
Patara Ballet
(2005); Alla Turca Jazz; Summertime

Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin)

Fazil Say (piano)

Luzerner Sinfonieorchester / John Axelrod

V 5147

Available March 31 from naïve

Following his
numerous recordings of piano works by composers from Bach and Mozart to
Gershwin and Stravinsky, acclaimed Turkish pianist Fazil Say is showcased on
this new naïve recording primarily as a composer.  The title track is Say’s 1001 Nights in the Harem, a violin concerto commissioned by the
Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and written for Patricia Kopatchinskaja, with whom
Fazil Say formed a duo in 2006. 
The title recalls the famous collection of fairytales The Thousand and One Nights, and just as Scheherazade is the tireless
narrator in that work, so the solo violinist in Say’s concerto takes on the
role of “principal storyteller”. 
The recording was captured live at the world-premiere performance in
February 2008 in Lucerne.

featured works include the Patara Ballet – a quartet for soprano (or violin), ney flute (or alto
flute/treble recorder), piano, and percussion commissioned by and performed at
the Vienna Mozart Festival 2006 – and two solo piano works that Say has
performed frequently – many times as encores – in his recitals: Alla Turca
, a fantasia on the
rondo from Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A major, K. 331, and Summertime Fantasy, inspired by Gershwin’s song and designed
by Say to be performed at both classical concerts and jazz festivals.

Say on his violin concerto, 1001 Nights in the Harem:

“It is the solo violinist who tells the stories and
thus leads us through the whole work. 
The concerto consists of four movements.  The first takes place inside a harem.  Various women of the harem are
presented with their individual personalities.  The second movement is wholly given over to the dance – a
kind of all-night party with different types of dance music.  The third takes place the next morning,
and consists in large part of variations on a celebrated Turkish song.  Although the fourth movement begins
dramatically, it comes increasingly to echo all that has gone before, and the
work ends dreamily and calmly with sensuous oriental sonorities.  Accordingly, the orchestral scoring
includes several Turkish percussion instruments, such as kudümand glockenspiel,
as well as marimba, vibraphone, celesta, and harp.  The violin part is written in a highly virtuosic style and
is used to hold the work together, since the solo instrument plays a cadenza
between the movements, sometimes accompanied by a Turkish percussion
instrument.  Thus the four
movements are linked to one another in intensely atmospheric unity.”

Antonio Vivaldi: Violin Concertos Vol. 3, “Il ballo”

352, 307, 268, 333, 210, 312, and 350

Duilio Galfetti (violin)

Barocchisti / Diego Fasolis

OP 30474

Available March 31 from naïve

The latest
installment in naïve’s landmark Vivaldi Edition is the third volume dedicated
to the endlessly creative violin concertos by the Venetian composer.  The title of the album, “Il ballo”,
refers to the strong dance influence in the seven featured works.  Among these works are the first
recording of the manuscript version of Concerto RV210, one of Vivaldi’s
favorite violin concertos, and another of his favorites: RV333.  Violinist Duilio Galfetti and I
Barocchisti under the direction of Diego Fasolis make their debut in the Vivaldi
Edition with this release.

naïve’s previous
Vivaldi Edition recording was released just last month in the U.S. and is
already receiving enthusiastic acclaim in Europe.  Michael Quinn reports for the BBC:

“naïve’s ambitious Vivaldi
Edition reaches its 29th volume with this joyful recording of La
fida ninfa

(The faithful nymph) boasting a starry, strong-in-depth cast under what
increasingly appears to be the infallible direction of Jean-Christophe Spinosi
… .  Vocal performances are above
and beyond the call of duty, with especially agile and vivid contributions from
sopranos Sandrine Piau (Licori) and Verónica Cangemi (Morasto), countertenor
Philippe Jaroussky (Osmino), and tenor Topi Lehtippu (Narete) altogether
outstanding.  The playing, from
Spinosi’s own period-instrument Ensemble Matheus is fresh and vital, fizzing
with energy and bursting with exuberant color, their begetter conducting with
incisive winning conviction.  This
is not an opera that will easily find its way into the repertoire, but as an
example of Vivaldi at his most irresistibly vivacious, it is more than worth

Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 31 “Paris”, 39, 40, and 41 “Jupiter”

Ensemble Orchestral de Paris / John Nelson

AM 182

Specially-priced two-CD set available March 31 from

John Nelson on his new Mozart Symphonies recording

“There is simply no greater
joy or challenge for a musician than to play Mozart, be it his operas, his
chamber music, his religious works, or his symphonies.  There is a mixture of simplicity and
complexity, earthiness and transcendence, humor and gravity that no other
composer surpasses.  One
immediately feels the joy and the challenge in rehearsal.  When Mozart is programmed, every
musician is fulfilled.

“One of the main reasons I
accepted the leadership of the Ensemble orchestral de Paris was to concentrate
for a period in my musical life on Mozart and his contemporaries.  During the last several decades, this
repertoire has gradually moved from the established orchestras to period
instrument groups and I have found myself less and less satisfied with the
decreased rehearsal time and stylish practice offered by the large orchestras
in this music.  So it has been a
great joy to immerse myself for ten years in Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven with
my wonderful colleagues in the Ensemble orchestral de Paris.

“When a decision was needed
for what to do for our last recording and final concert together, there was no
question in my mind but to program the pinnacle of the repertoire written for
our size ensemble – the last three symphonies of Mozart.  No matter how well known, no matter how
many times we have performed them, these three pose enormous interpretive
challenges: how to find a true Mozart style that has been clouded by years of
bad practice, how to find proper tempi such as in the first moment of the 40th
with its markings of Alla breve and Molto allegro, how to make the supreme
complexities of the final fugal passage in the 41st sound natural
and clean, and, above all, to let Mozart’s vivacious personality speak freely.

“Whatever the result, we
have experienced great joy in taking on the challenge.  As a bonus, we offer the charming
Symphony No. 31, which we feel is our property since it was written for our
city.  Enjoy!”

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