Press Releases: May 2017

Giacomo Puccini
La Fanciulla del West
Zubin Mehta, Placido Domingo, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden


May 2017. Puccini’s late opera La fanciulla del West bristles with drama and intrigue in this newly remastered classic recording with Zubin Mehta conducting the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House and starring Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes and Carol Neblett.

With its potent mixture of stark realism and gushing romanticism, this Wild West melodrama builds on the hard-edged style Puccini had used in Tosca, infusing it with Debussian harmonies and Straussian orchestral colours to produce his most distinctive and original opera. Featuring the stock in trade characters of a gun-toting heroine, a macho hero with a sensitive side, and a villainous Sheriff, Puccini eschews the signature lyricism of his earlier operas for a more seamless melodic style to produce a dramatic work of almost symphonic proportions. While critics of the time were somewhat bewildered by this subversive potboiler, modern audiences have warmed to this richly revealing opera which, unusually for Puccini, has a happy ending.

This classic recording dating from 1977 is Gramophone magazine’s top choice for the opera and can now be enjoyed for the first time in full SA-CD hybrid multichannel sound.

“Carol Neblett is a strong Minnie, vocally distinctive and well characterised, while Plácido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes make a good pair of suitors …. Zubin Mehta conducts with real sympathy for the idiom” (Gramophone). And the Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and DVDs (2003/4) enthused “Domingo sings heroically … but the crowning glory of a masterly set is the singing of Carol Neblett … Full atmospheric recording to match.”

Although recorded in multi-channel sound, these memorable performances have previously been available only in the conventional two-channel stereo format. Using state of the art technology which avoids the need for re-mixing, PENTATONE’s engineers have remastered the original studio tapes to bring the performances to life as originally intended: in compelling and pristine multi-channel sound.

Grand Tour – Baroque Road Trip
Bach, Handel, Telemann, Vivaldi, Van Wassenaer
Simon Murphy, New Dutch Academy


May 2017.  From London to Venice via Leipzig and The Hague, with Grand Tour – Baroque Road Trip, Simon Murphy and the New Dutch Academy take a fascinating journey through Europe in a sumptuous programme of Baroque musical treasures. Using authentic instruments in an immersive acoustic, these vivid performances not only celebrate the glories of the Baroque but also the sheer joy of making music.

“We’ve aimed to create a musical experience where you can really feel the human physicality involved”, writes Simon Murphy, “…and the earthy and raw, textured and gritty, sometimes rustic aspects of this Baroque craft of music making.”

This musical journey takes in works by Bach, Handel, Telemann, Vivaldi and van Wassenauer.

In the two irresistible concertos by Vivaldi – the famous Concerto for Lute, Strings and Basso Continuo in D and the infectiously bubbly Concerto for Flautino, Strings and Basso Continuo in C –  the outer movements radiate a sunny optimism, balancing slow movements of great tenderness and beauty. Noted for its somewhat unusual scoring, the rhythmic bounce and swing of Bach’s delightful Brandenburg Concerto no. 6 in B flat is given here an extra fillip with the addition of a lute to the basso continuo. The delicious interplay between the ensemble parts continues with van Wassenauer’s characterful Concerto Armonico no. 1 in G which Murphy notes “could be nicknamed the ‘Dutch Brandenburg 3’”. And in his operas, Handel never really strays far from Italy, demonstrated here with the delicious arias Tornami a vagheggiar (from Alcina) and Brilla nell’alma (from Alessandro).

Described by De Volkskrant as “a musician with guts: a conductor with the passion and conviction of a born missionary”, Simon Murphy has a reputation for bringing fresh perspectives to the classic symphonic repertoire and is the founder and artistic director of the award-winning New Dutch Academy. This Baroque orchestra was described by BBC Music Magazine as “a big band playing on period instruments” and praised for its “sumptuous … swinging rhythms … stylish ornamentation … inventive extemporisation.”

“This album takes its inspiration from the sheer delight and excitement of 18th century musical travellers”, writes Simon Murphy in the album notes, “there is such a palpable excitement as they embark on their musical adventure … I hope you enjoy the album and feel inspired by it.”

This is Simon Murphy and the New Dutch Academy’s sixth release for PENTATONE.

Manuel de Falla
Noches en los jardines de España / El sombrero de tres picos
Kazuki Yamada, Mari Kodama, Sophie Harmsen, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande


Manuel de Falla’s richly evocative music erupts in a riot of colour in this vibrant new recording from Kazuki Yamada with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande for PENTATONE. Works included are the ever popular Noches en los jardines de España and  El sombrero de tres picos as well as movements from La vida breve and El amor brujo.

The sultry warm atmosphere of an Andalusian night is almost palpable in Falla’s spellbinding Noches en los jardines de España. With its shimmering, sensuous harmonies, exquisite orchestral colours and exuberant melodies and rhythms, it’s perhaps Falla’s most impressionistic work. Using a large orchestral canvas on which he paints with deft, luminous strokes, Falla skilfully integrates a virtuoso piano part to create lovingly evocative music, full of captivating beauty.

Elsewhere with the sensational ballet El sombrero de tres picos, Falla conjures up music steeped in Andalusian culture which is boisterous, full-bloodied, and urgent. It’s impossible not to be swept along by the drama in this orchestral showpiece. By turns lyrical, sensuous, or dramatic, the meticulously written score is full of surprises and the work positively bristles with wit, energy and exuberant intensity.

Yamada’s previous recordings with the OSR for PENTATONE have been widely praised – “Exquisite and passionate … grace abounds”  (BBC Music Magazine), “tastefully refined” (Gramophone). For their more recent release of music by Roussel, Debussy and Poulenc, noted Yamada’s “exuberant performance” and the OSR “playing …[with] tremendous vitality and enthusiasm, as if their very lives depended on it.”

The pianist Mari Kodama has established an international reputation for profound musicality and articulate virtuosity and has recorded extensively for PENATONE. Her most recent release with her sister Momo Kodama, a sizzling account of Tchaikovsky ballets, was praised by The Guardian for its “sparkle and style” and described by Armatag as “…a very exciting recording, a ‘labour of love’ by two extraordinary pianists.”

Frequently in demand as an interpreter of Mozart’s works, the mezzo soprano Sophie Harmsen is a regular performer in large international festivals. This is her first recording for PENTATONE.

Dmitri Shostakovich
Symphony No. 1
Theme and Variations
Gustavo Gimeno, Orchestre Philharmonique Luxembourg


May 2017. Gustavo Gimeno conducts the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg in a fascinating survey of confident, assured and striking orchestral works by the young Shostakovich. This new recording for PENTATONE includes his breathtaking Symphony No.1 op. 10 – the student work which brought Shostakovich international fame.

While indebted to the Russian masters, Shostakovich’s early works nevertheless demonstrate his precocious brilliance, originality and flair and they offer an intriguing glimpse at the evolution of his distinctive, mature style. From the easy going and good humoured Scherzo op. 1, the Tchaikovskian Theme and Variations in B-flat major op.3, or the Stravinskyan Scherzo op. 7, his youthful vitality is never in doubt. But with his Symphony No.1 op. 10 he produced his first masterpiece and found his own distinctive voice. It’s a thrilling work full of sardonic edginess, pained introspection and dramatic outbursts, and closes with a barnstorming finale. Composed 10 years later, the aptly titled Five Fragments for orchestra op. 42 are short, pungent and austere pieces; the arresting style is modernist but the sound is unmistakeably Shostakovich.

Following his acclaimed conducting début with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2014, Gustavo Gimeno took up the post of Music Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg with the 2015/2016 season. An auspicious collaboration with PENTATONE followed in 2016 and three releases with the orchestra are planned in 2017. “His musical rhetorics are refined, his grip on the structure of the compositions is accurate and convincing” observed Joep Stapel in the NRC Handelsblad, “Gimeno knew how to keep the tension and made the musicians … excel.”

Elsewhere in a busy international schedule, Gimeno has debuted with major orchestras in Europe and America, and toured with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to Taiwan and Japan.

Gimeno made his debut with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in March 2017 with a series of concerts called “Young Russians”. The programme included early masterpieces by Prokofiev and Rachmaninov and roared to a close with Shostakovich’s Symphony No.1.

Kevin Painting