Show cover of Naxos Classical Spotlight

Naxos Classical Spotlight

Naxos Classical Spotlight explores the world of classical music. Along the way host Raymond Bisha shares the stories about the music, and the musicians who make it.


A forgotten treasure. Marin Alsop discusses Hindemith.
"A forgotten treasure. Marin Alsop discusses Hindemith. This podcast features Marin Alsop in conversation with Raymond Bisha following the release of her first album for Naxos as chief conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. She assumed the post in 2019 and the programme reflects that of her first public appearance in the role. Marin's advocacy of Hindemith's music is rooted in her days as a violin student and her subsequent period of tutelage under Leonard Bernstein. The educational projects she initiated during her time with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra also feature in the broadcast."
28:59 11/12/2021
Paired to perfection. Tianwa Yang plays Prokofiev’s violin concertos.
Violinist Tianwa Yang marks her fifteenth year as one of Naxos’ leading artists with a new album featuring Prokofiev’s two violin concertos. The works’ stylistic contrasts reflect the fact that they were written some twenty years apart, but they receive the same scrupulous attention to technical and musical details that hallmark every one of Tianwa’s performances. Little wonder that they consistently attract accolades and awards. Fellow Naxos artist Jun Märkl conducts the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. Raymond Bisha presents.
20:01 10/22/2021
Malcolm Arnold: Complete Symphonies and Symphonic Dances
An introduction to the Symphonies and Dances of composer Malcolm Arnold featuring conductor Andrew Penny who recorded all these works for Naxos. Arnolds orchestral works are a study in contrasts, from his optimistic and tuneful dance suites to his deeply personal symphonies.
33:01 10/07/2021
Mapping a musical monument. Giltburg’s Beethoven 32.
Raymond Bisha presents an overview of Boris Giltburg’s project to learn and record all of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, which are now released in a 9-CD box set edition following their inception as critically acclaimed digital releases. The recordings reflect only one facet of Giltburg’s gem of an undertaking, in that performances were also filmed and subsequently fleshed out by his extended and informative notes that accompany the albums. Giltburg’s personal exploration and Beethoven’s panoply of expression unite in a cycle that runs the full gamut of human emotion.
23:03 09/24/2021
Versatilité sans frontières. Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint–Georges (1745–1799).
Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was a brilliant swordsman, athlete, violin virtuoso and gifted composer, with a claim to being the most talented figure in an age of remarkable individuals. He was an early and important exponent of the hybrid symphonie concertante, a genre that draws on both the symphony and concerto traditions. In this podcast Raymond Bisha talks with Dr Allan Badley, co-founder of Artaria Editions, the music publishing house that has created performance editions for hundreds of previously unpublished 18th-century works, many of which have been recorded for Naxos.
36:41 09/10/2021
String Quartets from Jurgis Karnavicius
Lithuanian composer Jurgis Karnavičius was born in 1884, and became one of the early classical music leaders in his country. His 3rd and 4th string quartets were composed and first performed in the 1920's, and then ignored for decades. This podcast, and the new recording by the Vilnius String Quartet show why Karnavičius deserves to be remembered.
20:11 08/27/2021
Jazz idioms, classical structures. Symphonic works by Nikolai Kapustin (1937–2020).
Significantly influenced by his experience of playing in some of the earliest Soviet jazz bands, Nikolai Kapustin trained as a pianist at the Moscow Conservatory but subsequently devoted himself to composition. His output includes many works for piano, two of which are featured on this new album — the Fourth Piano Concerto and the Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra, along with his Chamber Symphony, Op. 57. Raymond Bisha introduces both the music and the propulsive energy of Frank Dupree who appears variously as piano soloist and conductor throughout the program.
20:01 08/13/2021
Music of Brazil. The Villa-Lobos violin sonatas.
Raymond Bisha prefaces his latest podcast with this introduction: “Heitor Villa-Lobos, the prolific Brazilian composer of some 2,000 works, conductor, cellist, guitarist and music educationalist, wrote his three violin sonatas between 1912 and 1920. When he wrote the first sonata, he was still a struggling young composer trying to make a name for himself, while playing all kinds of gigs to pay the bills. By the time he wrote the third sonata in 1920, he was a much more assured composer, and well on his way to international fame and success.”
20:01 07/23/2021
Camille Saint-Saëns. A symphonic collection.
French composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) is remembered as someone who could spin melodies as easily as he breathed. Naxos is marking the centenary of his death with a 3-CD box set that comprises all his symphonies and a sequence of atmospheric and dramatic symphonic poems, including Phaéton and the ever-popular Danse macabre. Raymond Bisha presents an overview of these recordings by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra and conductor Marc Soustrot, a noted French music specialist.
25:21 07/16/2021
The Power of Tower
With multiple GRAMMY nominations and wide critical acclaim to her credit, Joan Tower’s latest album in the Naxos American Classics series demonstrates why she is so often performed, and why she is such a respected person among American composers. Raymond Bisha presents the programme on her new release that comprises four world premiere recordings. Soloists Dame Evelyn Glennie (percussion) and Blair McMillen (piano) feature alongside David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony Orchestra.
20:05 07/09/2021
Anne-Louise Brillon de Jouy (1744-1824). Piano sonata premieres.
Anne-Louise Brillon de Jouy ran one of the finest salons in pre-revolution Paris. She was well educated and well connected, with a circle of friends that ran from Luigi Boccherini to Benjamin Franklin. She was also a fine composer. Because of the social norms of the day, however, her role within Parisian culture was restricted, and none of her music was published during her lifetime. Raymond Bisha presents the world premiere recordings of her piano sonatas by Nicolas Horvath.
20:01 06/18/2021
Dancing elegance, melodic flow. Overtures by Daniel-François-Esprit Auber.
Daniel-François-Esprit Auber (1782-1871) was one of the most famous composers of the 19th century. Working with his lifelong collaborator, the renowned dramatist and librettist Eugéne Scribe, he gave definitive form to the uniquely French genres of grand historical opera (La Muette de Portici) and opéra-comique (Fra Diavolo). His overtures were famous all over the world, as much for their engaging titles (The Bronze Horse, The Black Domino, The Crown Diamonds) as for their dancing elegance and fluent melodies. Raymond Bisha introduces a new programme of overtures and entr’actes from Auber’s stage works conducted by Dario Salvi, a specialist in the restoration and performance of rare works, in particular those of Meyerbeer and Auber.
20:01 05/28/2021
Introducing guitarist Mabel Millán. From lyrical beauty to dramatic virtuosity.
Raymond Bisha introduces Spanish guitarist Mabel Millán in her debut album for Naxos. A fast-rising star in the guitar world, she has already appeared at international festivals and prestigious Spanish venues, and gained numerous awards at international competitions. Her combination of nuanced musicality and technical ease illuminate her programme, from the Andalusian rhythms and atmosphere of Turina and Malats and the Romantic expressiveness and national colours of Ponce and Mertz, to the lyrical beauty and dramatic virtuosity of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Capriccio diabolico.
20:01 05/14/2021
Music networking on the Inca Trails.
In this podcast, Raymond Bisha takes us on a journey across South America, making musical stops in the countries of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Colombia. The Inca Trails that connected these lands and their people produced a sharing of ideas and cultures: ancient traditions of indigenous sounds and rhythms fused with cultural influences of European colonisers. The composers of the works on this new album — a number of which are receiving their first commercial recording — were all inspired by this musical legacy, by the people of their homeland, and by the land itself.
20:01 04/23/2021
Archivo de Guatemala. Where indigenous styles meet courtly life.
Raymond Bisha’s latest podcast finds him in conversation with world-renowned guitarist and lutenist Richard Savino who introduces his debut recording for Naxos that also features his renowned ensemble El Mundo. The focus of the album is a programme compiled from the remarkably fine music held in the archive of Guatemala City Cathedral, works that reflect the essence of Spanish colonies in Central and South America as wellsprings of cultural activity throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. While these recordings are founded on detailed research, El Mundo’s strong affinity with the stylistic features of this largely unknown repertoire ensures that their performances step well beyond any academic constraints to connect with the still living spirit of its original creators and audiences.
27:39 04/09/2021
Colour-contrast-surprise. The symphonies of John Abraham Fisher (1744-1806)
Described as having ‘natural genius’, John Abraham Fisher was a significant figure in London during the second half of the 18th century. A virtuoso violinist, he also wrote admired stage works for the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. His orchestral works are largely forgotten today, but his symphonies display a surprising awareness of contemporary continental trends in their use of dynamic variations, revealing the influence of the Mannheim School. Raymond Bisha introduces a selection of his symphonies that possess a richness of colour, contrast and surprise, typical of Fisher’s expanding Classical style.
20:01 03/26/2021
Colour-contrast-surprise. The symphonies of John Abraham Fisher (1744-1806)
Described as having ‘natural genius’, John Abraham Fisher was a significant figure in London during the second half of the 18th century. A virtuoso violinist, he also wrote admired stage works for the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. His orchestral works are largely forgotten today, but his symphonies display a surprising awareness of contemporary continental trends in their use of dynamic variations, revealing the influence of the Mannheim School. Raymond Bisha introduces a selection of his symphonies that possess a richness of colour, contrast and surprise, typical of Fisher’s expanding Classical style.
20:01 03/26/2021
Piano music by Aram Il’yich Khachaturian (1903-1978), ‘mouthpiece of the entire Soviet Orient’.
Aram Il’yich Khachaturian once described how he “grew up in an atmosphere rich in folk music, popular festivals, rites joyous and sad, events in the lives of people always accompanied by music… deeply engraved in my memory, that determined my musical thinking.” He remains the most renowned of 20th-century Armenian composers, whose unmistakable style came with an urge to invent new forms that reconciled Western practice with Eastern idiom. Raymond Bisha introduces a new album of his piano works performed by Maltese pianist Charlene Farrugia. Her programme comprises Khachaturian’s 2 Children’s Albums and the 7 Recitatives and Fugues.
20:01 03/12/2021
Villa-Lobos and the art of choral transcription.
Raymond Bisha introduces a new album of choral transcriptions by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) that forms part of Naxos’ Music of Brazil series. The programme represents part of Villa-Lobos’ efforts to create a body of music education resources, following his invitation in 1932 to set up an ambitious programme in the public school system in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The result was an amazing body of music for the benefit of both students and teachers, with choral music playing a central role. These choral transcriptions of classical favourites by composers that include J. S. Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Schubert and Mendelssohn enabled them to reach a far wider audience than in their original setting.
20:01 02/26/2021
Orchestral works by Žibouklé Martinaityté – a textural magician.
Raymond Bisha introduces a new album of orchestral works by Žibouklé Martinaityté (b. 1973). Born in Lithuania and now based in New York City, she was awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Lithuanian Government Award in 2020. The four works on the programme were written between 2013 and 2019 and employ a fascinating use of orchestral colour, leading New York’s classical music radio station WQXR to describe her as “a textural magician.”
20:03 02/12/2021
Hit and bliss. Dame Evelyn Glennie performs mallet percussion concertos.
Raymond Bisha introduces a new album of 21st-century mallet percussion concertos performed by virtuoso percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong under Jean Thorel. The works by Alexis Alrich and Karl Jenkins put the marimba in the solo spotlight, while Ned Rorem’s 7-movement Mallet Concerto — written in 2003 and presented here in its world premiere recording — features Dame Evelyn in dynamic displays on both marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel and xylophone.
20:01 01/22/2021
The art and craft of John Adams.
Raymond Bisha introduces a programme of orchestral music by the Pulitzer and Erasmus Prize-winning American composer John Adams. The two works on this new album from the Nashville Symphony under Giancarlo Guerrero demonstrate why Adams is one of today’s most widely performed and recorded composers. Adams describes My Father Knew Charles Ives as “an homage and encomium to a composer whose influence on me has been huge”, while Harmonielehre expands his trademark minimalist style, retaining its energetic pulse but embracing rich tonal resources of the past.
20:01 01/08/2021
Bruckner’s Latin motets. Devotions of distinction.
Choral music formed an important part of Anton Bruckner’s output throughout his career, even though the genre was widely underappreciated by a public more inclined to large-scale symphonic and operatic works. Although the big-boned structure of such music also made its presence felt in Church masses and oratorios, there was always a need for smaller sacred choral works, not only because of listeners’ preferences but also because of pragmatic performance considerations. Raymond Bisha introduces a programme of Bruckner’s Latin motets that were composed to meet these demands, performed by the renowned Latvian Radio Choir conducted by Sigvards Kļava.
20:01 01/01/2021
Vítězslav Novák. Orchestral Works Vol. 1
Czech composer Vitězslav Novák (1870-1949), who was one of Dvořák’s composition students, rose to prominence with a series of increasingly ambitious orchestral works that fused elements of folk music, impressionism and late-Romanticism. Raymond Bisha introduces Vol. 1 of his orchestral works performed by Marek Štilec and the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra. The programme pairs the heady intensity of Toman and the Wood Nymph with the subtle folk song undertones of the South Bohemian Suite.
20:02 12/25/2020
Bernard Herrmann in the round
Raymond Bisha discusses a release of music by the American composer Bernard Herrmann with Joseph Horowitz, co-founder of PostClassical Ensemble, a group dedicated to stepping across normal repertoire boundaries. The album’s programme showcases Herrmann’s talents not only as a composer of film scores, but also as a consummate provider of music for the forgotten genre of radio plays, and a composer of consequence in his legacy of concert works.
19:57 12/11/2020
Simply unmissable
Once in a while you hear such incredibly beautiful music for the first time that you just can’t understand why it has remained under wraps for so long. The Violin Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 by the Italian-born composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco are a case in point. Originally championed in the 1920s and 30s by no less an artist that Jascha Heifetz, they now have a 21st-century advocate in the brilliant Beijing-born violinist Tianwa Yang. Raymond Bisha introduces us to these hugely attractive concertos that bear the colourful and lyrical hallmarks of a prolific composer and seasoned writer of film scores.
19:17 11/23/2020
From elegance to wild abandon. Corelli & Co.
Raymond Bisha introduces a new release of Baroque violin sonatas by 18th-century Italian violinists trained in the tradition of Arcangelo Corelli, spreading his elegant, expressive and virtuosic style on their travels throughout Europe. Giovanni Mossi’s sonatas retain Corelli’s dramatic contrasts and structure, while Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli also incorporates features found in music by Vivaldi. Both composers’ works combine formal elegance with wild abandon, lyrical charm and virtuosity alongside plenty of room for improvisation from acclaimed soloist Augusta McKay Lodge.
20:03 10/23/2020
New medium. Same magic. Bach’s cello suites transcribed.
Raymond Bisha introduces recordings of J. S. Bach’s cello suites, transcribed for guitar and performed by Jeffrey McFadden. Bach himself made arrangements of other composers’ works, as well his own, recycling them for new uses, a practice that continues with these two new volumes. Pablo Casals (1876–1973), the eminent cellist who was pivotal in resurrecting the practice of giving complete performances of the original suites, summed up their importance: “They are the very essence of Bach; and Bach is the very essence of music.”
20:03 10/09/2020
Found in Translation.
Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds (b. 1977) has demonstrated his versatility by writing in a variety of genres, from orchestral and film scores to electronic and multi-media works. Choral music, however, features in much of what he does. The richness of texture and variety of colour in his music for choirs reflects his practice of dividing the vocal parts into as many as sixteen parts. This complexity in construction is counterbalanced, however, by the simplicity and beauty of the music’s expressivity. Raymond Bisha introduces Translations, an album of Ešenvalds’ music released in March 2020 and performed by the Portland State Chamber Choir under their conductor Ethan Sperry.
20:03 10/02/2020
Music by Hans Rott (1858-1884). A legacy of powerful potential.
No lover of classical music from the Romantic period should miss an opportunity to become acquainted with the music of Hans Rott, a little known composer (even in his day), but one who made a significant impact before his untimely death at the age of 25. Improbable though it may seem, it’s likely that not a single one of Rott’s works was performed in public during his lifetime. When Gustav Mahler is on record as having said that “It simply cannot be gauged what music has lost with him”, people can be confident that there are treats in store with the Capriccio label’s new edition of his orchestral works, a welcome opportunity to help correct Rott’s neglect and experience exactly what Mahler was referring to. Raymond Bisha presents.
20:01 09/25/2020