Press release: Baarn, The Netherlands, August, 2017
In September, PENTATONE releases three fascinating new recordings and one legendary remastered classic. Jake Heggie and Gene Sheer’s It’s a Wonderful Life will be the latest addition to the American Opera Series; Thomas Hampson returns to the studio to record a carefully-crafted collection of French art songs; Vladimir Jurowski launches the start of his artistic collaboration with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin with Strauss and Mahler.
A NEW ADDITION TO THE AMERICAN OPERA SERIES: It’s a Wonderful Life
Houston Grand Opera, Patrick Summers
Composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer knew before they ever wrote a note or a line of It’s a Wonderful Life that there are challenges in adapting a treasured classic for the operatic stage. After all, Heggie and Scheer’s hit 2010 opera Moby-Dick raised the same challenges: how could they remain faithful to the source material and still create something new that emphasized the story’s innate operatic qualities? For It’s a Wonderful Life, Heggie and Scheer responded by keeping the basic plot and characters from the beloved Frank Capra film version but changing the perspective. As in the film, an angel—changed in the opera from Clarence to Clara—is assigned to help a man named George Bailey, who is despondent and contemplating taking his own life on Christmas Eve; if Clara succeeds, she will earn her wings. But in a departure from the film, all the action takes place from Clara’s perspective and in her realm. Mirrored doors represent portals in time and space, which Clara uses to piece together the events of George’s life in an effort to understand what has brought him to this moment of despair. How well did Heggie and Scheer succeed? Critics said the “feel good” work (Opera Warhorses) “dispels any notion that you may have about expecting the opera to duplicate the film [and has a] crazy-quilt score that may be Heggie’s most delightful concoction” (Theater Jones). As the Houston Chronicle critic summed up, “George Bailey would be proud.”
“What a great joy, privilege, and immense challenge it was to take the beloved story of It’s a Wonderful Life and compose the music for the people of Bedford Falls. The emotional journey of George Bailey and Clara allowed me to call on musical styles of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, contrasted with music from the heavens. The project of a lifetime.” Jake Heggie
“From the moment I began work on the libretto, I believed that George Bailey’s journey from despair to redemption was something that music could thrillingly illuminate. I also believed, with all my heart, that this story’s message of the value of every life was essential for our own time. Working on this project has been a profound privilege.” Gene ScheerThis album will be released as 2 Super Audio -CDs and in digital formats for streaming and high resolution downloads. (Article number: PTC 5186631)
The Captivating World of the Parisian Salon is Evoked in this Masterly Survey of Melodies Françaises
Thomas Hampson, Maciej Pikulski
The acclaimed American baritone Thomas Hampson lovingly showcases the riches of French salon music for PENTATONE in this irresistible survey of Melodies Françaises, from the finesse of Gounod and Bizet to the iridescent harmonies of Chausson and Massenet.
Conceived for the intimate environment of the Parisian salon, these composers honed their skills to produce songs which are sophisticated, superbly crafted and laced with drama, irony and surprise. Always a delight, these songs palpably caress the listener with their beautifully contrived melodies and exquisitely refined harmonies, particularly evident in the plaintive, haunting songs of Ernest Chausson and Jules Massenet. Gallic wit and verbal dexterity are provided in the famous Danse Macabre of Camille Saint-Saëns, Emmanuel Chabrier’s Villanelle des petits canards, and the charming Sérénade and Ô ma belle rebelle by Charles Gounod. It’s a fascinating survey brought vividly to life in these compelling performances in pristine multi-channel sound.
Thomas Hampson is one of the today’s most respected and innovative musicians. With a repertoire of more than 80 operatic roles he has a discography comprising over 170 albums (including multiple nominations and winners of the Grammy Award, Edison Award and the Grand Prix du Disque). In this first release for PENTATONE, he is joined by the Polish pianist Maciej Pikulski who combines a busy career as a soloist, chamber music player and accompanist. This album will be released as 1 Super Audio -CD and in digital formats for streaming and high resolution downloads. (Article number: PTC 5186681)
A Blaze of Orchestral Colour: The Striking Tone Poems of Strauss and Mahler
Vladimir Jurowski , Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Vladimir Jurowski and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin excel in these new recordings of Richard Strauss’ electrifying Also Sprach Zarathustra and Mahler’s Totenfeier, released by PENTATONE to coincide with the Russian maestro taking up office as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the orchestra. Strauss’s bold and passionate tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra is a riveting work, famous for its startlingly atmospheric opening. With a thrilling It is paired with Mahler’s no less gripping Totenfeier which is an early version of the first movement of his Symphony No 2 Resurrection. “I find it very interesting to compare [the two versions] …”, writes Jurowski. “In many ways, the Totenfeier is less accomplished, but far more honest and genuine.” Juxtaposing the Strauss and Mahler works in this way, Jurowski notes “Zarathustra is all about technical brilliance and accomplishment … in the Mahler the surfaces are much less polished, so there is much more aspiration to go into the depth of things.”
Jurowski is one of today’s most sought-after conductors, widely praised for his adventurousness and incisive musicianship. He has made several critically acclaimed recordings for PENTATONE, including works by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky. For his recording with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin of Schnittke’s Symphony No 3, BBC Music Magazine opined “Vladimir Jurowski…delivers an absolutely stunning account that vividly captures the work’s drama and emotional intensity.” The Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin is one of the leading orchestras in Berlin. Under former artistic director and chief conductor Marek Janowski, it has made numerous classic recordings with PENTATONE, including a critically acclaimed cycle of 10 Wagner operas. This album will be released as 1 Super Audio -CD and in digital formats for streaming and high resolution downloads. (Article number: PTC 5186597)
Breezy, charming and full of surprises, Kubelik’s cherished account of Beethoven’s first and fourth symphonies
Rafael Kubelik , London Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
The latest release in the Remastered Classics series from PENTATONE is Rafael Kubelik’s sprited and acclaimed reading from the 1970s recording of Beethoven’s first and fourth symphonies, performed with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Delightful, infectious and witty, Beethoven’s first symphony is a paean to the classical symphonies of Haydn and Mozart shot through with very Beethovenian touches, such as the opening Adagio which starts in the wrong key and the final movement which struggles to get started at all. These peculiarities taken with the felicity and inventiveness of his writing make this a happy and evergreen work.
Overshadowed by the monumental third and the dramatic fifth symphonies, Beethoven’s cheerful and optimistic fourth has been described as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” for its mix of engaging melodies, lurching rhythms, pungent dissonances and its vigorous orchestral writing. While structurally and harmonically more complex than the first symphony, it too is cast in the classical mould with a palpable nod to Haydn in the rousing final movement.
Rafael Kubelik recorded his acclaimed cycle of Beethoven symphonies in the 1970s for Deutsche Grammophon, each with a different orchestra to dazzling effect. Although recorded in multi-channel sound, these unmissable 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. Further releases from this memorable cycle are planned this year in the Remastered Classics series: Symphonies 2 & 5 (October) and Symphonies 6, 7 & 8 (November).
Jurowski is one of today’s most sought-after conductors, widely praised for his adventurousness and incisive musicianship. He has made several critically acclaimed recordings for PENTATONE, including works by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky. For his recording with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin of Schnittke’s Symphony No 3, BBC Music Magazine opined “Vladimir Jurowski…delivers an absolutely stunning account that vividly captures the work’s drama and emotional intensity.” The Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin is one of the leading orchestras in Berlin. Under former artistic director and chief conductor Marek Janowski, it has made numerous classic recordings with PENTATONE, including a critically acclaimed cycle of 10 Wagner operas.
This album will be released as 1 Super Audio -CD. (Article number: PTC 5186248)