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.

Tracks

Paul Chihara's complete piano works. Quynh Nguyen's complete absorption
Pianist Quynh Nguyen discusses her recording of the complete piano works of Paul Chihara, the distinguished American composer whose output includes the scores for over 100 motion pictures and television series. Past exchanges between performer and composer about the items on the programme reflect an intensely deep and detailed collaboration, with AllMusic.com warmly welcoming the album as “ingenious and richly evocative and beautifully and quietly played … this is a wonderful release.” Raymond Bisha presents.
22:02 6/7/24
Forgotten Sounds – the Loeffler Octet rediscovered.
During his lifetime, Charles Martin Loeffler was one of the most performed American composers.   His octet was completed in 1896, played twice the following year and then forgotten. Clarnetist Graeme Steele Johnson rediscovered the manuscript in the Library of Congress, took a year to create a performing edition from the score, and recorded the work for Delos, DE3603.  In this podcast, he talks about that journey.
19:59 5/31/24
Lukas Foss. A composer on the podium
 JoAnn Falletta, conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, discusses a programme of orchestral works by composer/conductor Lukas Foss, who was both a predecessor of hers in Buffalo and a mentor to her. Highlighting his eclecticism as a composer, who went wherever his mind took him, Raymond Bisha discusses the performers' latest album, which features four works that colourfully reflect Foss' wide embrace and expert craftsmanship.
28:29 5/24/24
Gerald Peregrine. A truly mobile music machine.
Irish cellist Gerald Peregrine introduces his latest album of early 20th-century British works for cello and piano, interweaving the classical and folk-based music with a personal narrative of community engagement, in which his live music-making initiatives have achieved truly significant and touching results.
21:00 5/10/24
Plucked and perfectly prepped. Alon Sariel's Bach transcriptions for mandolin
This podcast spotlights Israeli mandolinist Alon Sariel, who provides an entree into the engaging world of the mandolin, an instrument that perhaps enjoys a relatively low profile but commands a fascinating global reach. Alon Sariel's second album of transcriptions of works by J. S. Bach for mandolin blends technical precision with nuanced artistry and masterly adaptations. The presenter is Raymond Bisha.
20:01 4/26/24
Alsop + Adams + The Groove
Marin Alsop discusses her latest release – an album of orchestral works by John Adams – with Raymond Bisha, exploring just what it is about Adams' music that makes him the leading nominee for  the title of America's greatest living composer, not least for scores that inhabit 'the groove' with conspicuous relish.
20:01 4/19/24
Standing with Eagles. The music of Louis Wayne Ballard
Louis Wayne Ballard (1931-2007) – also known as 'Honganozhe', which means 'Stands with Eagles' in the Quapaw language – was the first indigenous North American composer of art music, and his extensive knowledge of the music, dance and mythology of this culture informed his compositions. This podcast reviews a new album of his works that are eclectic in style, uniquely varied and thoroughly engaging. The presenter is Raymond Bisha. The guests are conductor John Jeter and Jerod Impich-chāachaaha Tate, who was a student, friend and colleague of the composer.
27:21 4/12/24
Rameau meets the accordion
In January 2024, Finnish accordionist/conductor Janne Valkeajoki released a captivating album of music by French Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau, which Valkeajoki himself arranged for his instrument. Raymond Bisha's conversation with the performer delves into the various musical transformations and performance mechanics that were involved in the masterly transfer from harpsichord strings to accordion reeds.
20:01 3/29/24
Breathing new life into Orfeo Vecchi's motets for six voices.
Orfeo Vecchi was held in high regard by his contemporaries for the sacred music he produced towards the end of the 16th century. Raymond Bisha introduces a new recording of the twenty pieces that comprise his third book of Motets for Six Voices. The works form a rich, eclectic programme, and the performances by Cappella Musicale Eusebiana directed by Don Denis Silano elegantly express the pictorial aspects of the texts that Vecchi achieved through subtle dialogue, antiphony and counterpoint.
20:01 3/15/24
Florence Price and Leo Sowerby String Quartets
Raymond Bisha introduces a new album of works for string quartet by Florence Price and Leo Sowerby, who were both prominent members of the Chicago music community in the 1930s and 1940s. Most of Florence Price’s compositions remained unpublished at her death, and her String Quartet in A minor was not performed in her lifetime. Her Five Folksongs in Counterpoint entwine and enrich the famous melodies with African American vernacular idioms and colourful harmony, while Sowerby’s String Quartet in G minor reveals music undeserving of its decades of obscurity in the Avalon Quartet's world premiere recording of the work.
20:01 3/8/24
Bach-Rheinberger - The Goldberg Variations
Raymond Bisha's latest podcast introduces the world premiere recording of Joseph Rheinberger's arrangement for two pianos of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Composed by Bach in 1741, the work fell into oblivion before re-emerging as part of a movement of discovery generations later. In order to breathe new life into them, such masterpieces might undergo arrangements, transcriptions and other manipulations. In this case, Rheinberger's 1883 version adds new parts to Bach's original score.
20:01 2/23/24
Introduction to Peter Boyer's Rhapsody in Red White and Blue
George Gershwin's ever popular Rhapsody in Blue was first performed in February 1924. To mark the centenary of that celebrated event, pianist Jeffrey Biegel commissioned composer Peter Boyer to write a work for piano and orchestra that would be a 21st-century partner to Gershwin's original. Raymond Bisha talks to both composer and soloist about the gestation of this celebratory new work that captures a similar propulsive energy, while interweaving allusions to blues influences and lyrical evocations of American vistas.
25:01 2/19/24
Abbey Simon plays Chopin
Raymond Bisha introduces a programme of works for piano and orchestra by Chopin, performed by legendary pianist Abbey Simon. Once hailed by renowned critic Harold C. Schonberg of The New York Times as a “supervirtuoso”, Simon was a great American pianist in the great Romantic tradition, who imbued his effortless virtuoso technique with a uniformly clear sound. Having passed away in 2019 at the age of ninety-nine, most of his recorded output was for the VOX label. This album includes Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1, Fantasy on Polish Airs and the Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise Brillante.
20:01 2/9/24
Same River Twice
Raised in Medellín, Colombia, Billy Arcila has lived in the United States for over 40 years, where he teaches and performs as one of California’s foremost guitarists. In this podcast, Raymond Bisha presents the first album to be made of his music. Performed by the composer himself, it contains works written across Ancila's entire compositional life, from his first published work to his most recent. Interspersed with the music of other admired composers, Arcila’s autobiographical guitar music embraces the nostalgic, the verdant and the vibrant.  This album also includes music by Fabio Salazar Orozco, Jorge Becerra, Gustavo Gómez Ardila, Sam Bigney and others.
20:03 1/26/24
The Valencia Baryton Project plays Haydn
A podcast featuring the Valencia Baryton Project and their new recording of music by Franz Joseph Haydn.  Haydn was music director of the Esterházy Court at Eisenstadt for twenty-five years. It was where Prince Nikolaus commissioned him to write trios for the baryton, a bowed, stringed instrument similar to the viol but with extra plucked strings that enabled performers to accompany themselves. Haydn wrote string trios (baryton, viola, cello) of elegance, refinement and poise that encapsulate a rich variety of moods, a selection of which is introduced on this podcast by Raymond Bisha. Seldom performed or recorded, the baryton trios attest to Haydn’s limitless powers of invention in every medium.  
20:03 1/12/24
Leopold Godowsky Complete Piano Works with Konstantin Scherbakov finally finished!
Raymond Bisha introduces the fifteenth and final volume in Konstantin Scherbakov's recordings of the complete piano works of Leopold Godowsky, on the Marco Polo label, in which the programme comprises a number of the arrangements Godowsky made of Chopin's Études. Reflecting on his mammoth undertaking, the virtuoso pianist notes that “this project to record Leopold Godowsky's complete piano works began in 1997 and has taken me 26 years to complete. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the largest and most important recording projects of the piano repertoire, through which many works have received their premiere recordings.”
20:01 12/22/23
VOX Audiophile Edition: Stanisław Skrowaczewski and the Minnesota Orchestra
Conductor Stanisław Skrowaczewski spent 19 years as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, from 1960 to 1979, during which time he developed it into one of the finest orchestras in North America. They made many recordings together, mostly for the VOX and Mercury labels, from which Raymond Bisha has selected two remastered albums from the VOX catalogue that demonstrate their distinguished achievements. The programmes of music by Beethoven and Mozart include Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 17 and 27, featuring Walter Klien as soloist.
20:01 11/17/23
Music of Brazil • Villa-Lobos • Works for Cello and Orchestra
Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos was also an accomplished guitarist and cellist, and his wonderful music for the latter instrument takes full advantage of the lyrical and dramatic capabilities of the instrument. In this episode of Naxos Classical Spotlight, Raymond Bisha explores a new recording of his two Cello Concertos, together with his Fantasia for Cello and Orchestra, that features solo cellist Antonio Meneses and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Isaac Karabtchevsky.
20:01 11/7/23
Celebrating Delos Productions and pianist Carol Rosenberger
As the record label Delos Productions turns 50, we celebrate with an interview with pianist Carol Rosenberger who, with her friend Amelia Haygood, helped create the Delos label for which Carol also did many recordings.  As a concert pianist, record executive and also as polio survivor, Carol's story is one of courage, determination and grace.
44:37 10/29/23
United at Last, 2 Operas by James P Johnson.
This podcast features Raymond Bisha in conversation with conductor Kenneth Kiesler about the rediscovery, rescue and reconstruction of two operas by James P. Johnson (1894–1955), De Organizer with a libretto by Langston Hughes, and The Dreamy Kid, with words by Eugene O'Neill. JP Johnson was renowned as an influential jazz pianist but was largely unknown as a composer of opera.  It was Johnson’s express hope that two of his short stage works, written in the late 1930s, would one day form a double-bill. Which they did, but not until they were finally performed in 2006, and released on disc in 2023.
29:32 10/22/23
VOX The Legacy of Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony
Another podcast featuring historic recordings on the VOX label, this one explores the recordings of Tchaikovsky’s music by the Utah Symphony Orchestra under Maurice Abravanel, who was the ensemble’s music director for more than 30 years. From the performances, to the production team of Marc Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz, the liner notes by Richard Freed, and of course Tchaikovsky’s music itself, there are many reasons why these  from the 1970s are still so popular. 
27:15 10/6/23
Jennifer Higdon. 2 Spectacular Concertos • 1 Sizzling Recording
This podcast features American composer Jennifer Higdon in a wide-ranging conversation with Raymond Bisha, during which she describes the long swathe of influences on her composing career. The musical spotlights comprise extracts from her latest recording for Naxos of two powerfully engaging works: the Concerto for Orchestra, written in 2002 and demanding virtuosity from principal players, individual sections and the entire orchestra alike; and her pyrotechnic Duo Duel, a concerto for two percussionists written in 2020, that boasts a killer cadenza (during which you should hold on to your hat) and a diaphanous opening (for which you should hold your breath, and with which this podcast begins…).  This recording features solo percussionists Matthew Strauss and Svet Stoyanov, with the Houston Symphony conducted by Robert Spano
37:08 9/17/23
VOX Recording, Restoring a Unique Voice
In this episode of Naxos Classical Spotlight, Raymond Bisha presents the first in a series of podcasts that explore newly remastered recordings on the VOX label dating from the 1970s. This episode features four albums by the St Louis Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin, in which the orchestra and solo pianists Abbey Simon and Jeffrey Siegel variously perform works by Rachmaninov and Gershwin. The ‘silent stars’, however, are Marc Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz, the albums’ original, legendary recording engineers who are credited with producing some of the finest ever examples of recorded orchestral sound.
23:56 8/26/23
Claudio Santoro: Orchestral Explorations of the 1960's
Brazilian composer Claudio Santoro (1919–1989) proved a dynamic force for his country’s classical music scene. His life was both intertwined with, and deeply influenced by, the political and social events playing out around him, from the building of the Berlin Wall in Europe to political upheavals in his homeland. Through it all, his compositions reflected a life of distinctive musical exploration.  This album is part of Naxos's ongoing Music of Brazil series.
23:00 7/20/23
Jonathan Leshnoff - Recent Orchestral Works
Raymond Bisha introduces Naxos’ fifth album devoted to the music of leading American composer, Jonathan Leshnoff. The themes of this mixed programme of his recent works are remembrance, memorialisation and hopefulness. The works on this album are Elegy, Second Violin Concerto, and Of Thee We Sing. As the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing was approaching, conductor Alexander Mickelthwate reached out to Leshnoff to propose a memorial commission, a piece for chorus and orchestra “that transcends the atrocity and focuses on all the good that came out of it in the last 25 years. A city growing together." Leshnoff called composing Of Thee We Sing “the most serious commission I have ever received”. The soloist in the Second Violin Concerto is Noah Bendix-Balgley. The Oklahoma City Philharmonic and the Canterbury Voices are conducted by Alexander Mickelthwate.
20:54 7/2/23
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. A polymath in Paris.
Naxos Classical Spotlight looks at the life of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745–1799) – a brilliant swordsman, athlete, violin virtuoso and gifted composer – might well lay claim to being the most talented figure in an age of remarkable individuals. Raymond Bisha gives an overview of this remarkable life, binding the disparate elements of his career with the constant beauty of his violin concertos.
20:01 6/10/23
One genius through the eyes of another, an interview with Marin Alsop
Conductor and Naxos artist Marin Alsop discusses Robert Schumann’s four symphonies in the wake of her recordings of the works as reorchestrated by Mahler (8.574429 and 8.574430). Following observations about instrumental developments of the time, Mahler’s myriad tweaks to the score, and the somewhat bipolar flavour of the music (with counterpoint always at hand as a periodic stabiliser), she moves on to a detailed appreciation of each symphony, demonstrating Schumann’s distinctive contribution to the development of the genre “with one foot in the past, and one in the future.”
39:39 6/10/23
John Corigliano's complete works for solo piano
In this eposode of Naxos Classical Spotlight Raymond Bisha introduces Naxos’ new album of the complete works for solo piano by leading American composer John Corigliano. During their conversation together, the composer gives insight into the creative genesis of all the works on the programme, which span a period of some fifty years: from the 1968 Piano Concerto (“The first piece I ever wrote for orchestra”) to Prelude for Paul, written in 2021 with an unusual conception. The solo pianist is Philip Edward Fisher, hailed by John Corigliano for his “consummate technique and great musical intelligence.”
25:36 6/10/23
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 11/12/21
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 10/22/21

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