Monday, August 3, 2015

August 2015 - Featured Playlist: Leading Ladies

Every good part of history has its dark points, and while there are so many wondrous developments throughout the history of music, it certainly has its tragedies as well. One of the most glaring errors is that for most of Western music history, women composers have been dismissed, neglected, or outright repressed. Composition was seen as a man’s world, and women were often confined to roles as dutiful housewives who might play a little piano for friends.

While full equality has yet to be achieved, the world of composition has come a long way in recent decades, with women like Joan Tower and Sofia Gubaidulina creating irrepressible music that has paved the way for a new generation of talent that cannot be ignored. This month we are highlighting the contributions of the women composers throughout history who have battled tremendous odds to become our Leading Ladies.

To hear the playlist, access NML as usual, go to the Playlists section, and select the Playlist of the Month folder under the Naxos Music Library Playlists tab. If you are on your institution's premises, you may also be able to access it if you CLICK HERE.
1. Alma Maria Mahler-Werfel – 5 Gesange: No. 2 Ekstase – When Alma Maria Schindler married Gustav Mahler in 1902, she agreed to his insistence that she cease composing so she could focus on raising their children. Years later, during a difficult point in their marriage, Gustav sought the advice of Sigmund Freud, who convinced him to stop curtailing her composition. They remained married until his death in 1911.

2. Dora Pejačević – Piano Concerto in G Minor: III. Allegro con fuoco – Pejačević was born in 1885 to a noble family in Croatia, and she is remembered as an important regional composer who helped introduce the orchestral song to Croatian music. Before she died at 37 from complications during childbirth, she composed over a hundred works, a number of which have been recorded in recent years.

3. Louise Farrenc – Symphony No. 1 in C Minor: IV. Allegro assai – Farrenc achieved fame first as a pianist, which allowed her to take a position as Professor of Piano at the prestigious Paris Conservatory. Of course, she was paid considerably less than her male counterparts, and it wasn’t until one of her compositions was triumphantly premiered by famed violinist Joseph Joachim that she was finally able to convince the school to pay her equally.  
4. Grażyna Bacewicz – Violin Concerto No. 3: III. Vivo – Bacewicz was a talented violinist who performed both as a soloist and as the principal violinist of the Polish Radio Orchestra, a position which facilitated the performance of many of her works. Her compositions were highly respected in Poland in her day, and she received several lifetime achievement awards through the 1950s.

5. Kassia – O Vasilevs tis doxis Christos – Legend has it that 9th-century Byzantine emperor Theophilos was about to select Kassia as his empress when he made a comment that through a woman (Eve) sin entered the world. Unfazed, she reminded him that through a woman (the Virgin Mary) salvation also entered the world. Embarrassed, the emperor selected another woman, and Kassia later joined a convent.

6. Amy Beach – Bal masque – New Englander Amy Beach was the first successful female composer in the United States. She was a child prodigy, able to sing dozens of songs by her first birthday and improvise counter-melodies by her second. Following her husband’s wishes, she limited her performance career, but she was then able to devote herself fully to composition, soon earning a place as one of the major American composers of her day.
7. Mélanie Bonis – Les gitanos – Mel Bonis was born into a family that did not understand her musical ambitions, and they forced her to marry a wealthy businessman. Much of her time was occupied running the household and performing her socialite duties, but she still found a way to compose. One telling response to her music came from Saent-Saëns: “I would never have believed that a woman could be capable of writing that.”

8. Florence Beatrice Price – Symphony No. 1 in E Minor: IV. –– - Price became the first African-American woman to be acknowledged as a symphonic composer, and to have music performed by a major orchestra. She was friends with writer Langston Hughes and singer Marian Anderson, and her music blended traditional European Romantic technique with the rhythms and other elements of African-American spirituals.

9. Nadia Boulanger – 3 Pieces for Cello and Piano: No. 3 Vite et nerveusement rythmé – Nadia Boulanger’s compositions, though excellent and well received, were overshadowed by those of her younger sister Lili. Shortly after her sister’s death at the age of 25, Nadia gave up composition entirely and focused on teaching, counting many of the greatest 20th-century composers as her students.

10. Sofia Gubaidulina – Serenade – Gubaidulina frequently pushed the limits of what the Soviet music establishment would permit, earning disapproval for her exploration of alternative tunings and for her unapproved participation in Soviet music festivals in the West. Nevertheless, she continued to follow her own muse, and in 1992 she was able to leave Russia and make her home in Germany.

11. Missy Mazzoli – Magic With Everyday Objects – Born in 1980, Missy Mazzoli has established herself as a prominent composer in New York City, and she’s had her music performed by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, Maya Beiser, the Minnesota Orchestra, and may other artists prominent today. In 2016 she is expected to premier a new opera based on Lars Von Trier’s classic film Breaking the Waves.

12. Elisabetta Brusa – Symphony No. 1: III. Allegro moderato – Italian composer Elisabetta Brusa composed her Symphony No. 1 towards the end of the 1980s, and it was her first work written for a large orchestra. She works within a generally tonal sound world influenced by composers of the late Romantic Era, and her work has a unique mystical melodicism that stimulates the imagination.

13. Clara Schumann – Piano Concerto in A Minor: I. Allegro maestoso – Clara Schumann was one of the more prominent figures in German music during her lifetime. Not only did she have a 61-year career as a pianist, during which she established the now-commonplace custom of performing from memory, but she composed alongside her husband Robert and was a noted champion and mentor of Johannes Brahms.

14. Ethel Smyth – Serenade in D Major: II. Scherzo: Allegro vivace – Allegro molto – Like many other female composers, Ethel Smyth first had to battle the opposition of her father, then the judgments of a musical world that would call her loud, powerful works unladylike, then dismiss her softer music as trivial. She was an active participant in the suffragette movement, even spending a couple months in prison for her activism.

15. Hildegard of Bingen – O magne Pater – Medieval mystic Hildegard of Bingen was a nun in Germany who penned one of the largest known oeuvres from the twelfth century. Her melismatic melodies and wide pitch range were progressive for the day, and her Ordo Virtutum is possibly the oldest surviving morality play. Not only did she compose music, but she also wrote several books on theology, science, and medicine.

16. Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel – Das Jahr: No. 4 April – Growing up, Fanny Mendelssohn’s music teacher considered her to be more notable than her younger brother Felix, but due to prevailing attitudes towards women in that day, she was not permitted by her father and brother to pursue a career in performance or composition. Her husband was more supportive, at least of her writing, and she left us more than 460 pieces of music.
17. Germaine Tailleferre – Pastorale in C Major - Tailleferre changed her surname from Taillefesse as a little act of resistance to her father’s disapproval of her musical ambitions. Her work was championed by Ravel, and she was a member of the group of young composers known as Les Six. Her work from the 20s and 30s is best-known, but she composed right up to her death in 1983.

18. Maria Theresia Von Paradis – Sicilienne – Maria Theresia Von Paradis was blind from a very young age, though as a teenager her condition showed improvement until her doctor was fired by her family, either because of fear of scandal or loss of disability pensions. This didn’t prevent her from becoming a tremendous pianist who was able to commission works from Mozart, Haydn, and Salieri.

19. Rachel Portman – Oliver Twist: Fagin’s Loot – English composer Rachel Portman is primarily known for her film scores, which include Oliver Twist, Chocolat, Emma, and The Cider House Rules. She is one of only two female composers to win an Academy Award for a film score (for Emma in 1996), and she remains the only woman to receive multiple nominations in that category.

20. Jennifer Higdon – Amazing Grace – Higdon is one of the most frequently performed contemporary American composers, with her tone poem blue mountain alone earning performances from over 400 orchestras since its 2000 premier. Among a growing array of accolades, Higdon has won both a Grammy Award and a Pulitzer Prize. To close this playlist we selected her string quartet arrangement of the hymn Amazing Grace.

Each month, Naxos Music Library presents a themed playlist for our subscribers to enjoy. We know that a database of over 1.6 million tracks can be a bit daunting, so we'd like to highlight some of the amazing music that is available to you. Let it kickstart discovery!  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Q2 2015 MARC .XML Records Now Available

MARC .XML records covering titles added to NML and NML-Jazz over the second quarter of 2015 are now available!

You can download only the latest set of records, or you can obtain the complete set combined by the month or year. As always, they are in .XML format, allowing you the freedom to process them to fit your system best.

Here are the links:

If you have any questions about these records, don't hesitate to contact us.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 2015 - Featured Playlist: Light Up The Night

We all have our summer traditions. Maybe for you it’s traveling the country, or volunteering at a kids’ summer camp, or working as many hours as possible to pay for the next semester. In the midst of all that, summer is also about spending time with friends and family, grilling out or finding a pool or savoring a good thunderstorm from the front porch.

It’s also not truly summer without a fireworks display. Whether it’s for a national holiday or following up a baseball game, there’s not much better than seeing the sky explode with those spectacular sparks of color. Enjoy the show, and let our July playlist be the soundtrack as the fireworks Light Up The Night!

To hear the playlist, access NML as usual, go to the Playlists section, and select the Playlist of the Month folder under the Naxos Music Library Playlists tab. If you are on your institution's premises, you may also be able to access it if you CLICK HERE.

 1. George Frideric Handel – Music for the Royal Fireworks: IV. La rejouissance – At the request of King George II, Handel’s initial version of Music for the Royal Fireworks was arranged for wind instruments and percussion only. The music was a great success, which cannot be said of the fireworks it was meant to accompany; the event was marred by rain, and one of the pavilions caught fire in the middle of the display.

2. Ottorino Respighi – Feste Romane: IV. La Befana – Respighi was a colorful orchestrator who is best remembered for his three symphonic poems based on Rome. The last one, Roman Festivals, is his most logistically demanding, and it closes out with an elaborate cacophony of songs and dances. In the midst of the burst of adrenaline that is this piece, listen for the solo trombone amusingly portraying a drunken reveler!

3. Vladimir Jurowski – Symphonic Pictures, “Russian Painters”: VII. Maslenitsa – Jurowski was a Soviet composer who is little known outside Russia. But his son and grandson have both become noted conductors, and it is his son who conducts this premier recording of his Symphonic Pictures. Each movement represents a Russian painter, with the joyous portion included here portraying Boris Michailowitsch Kustodiew.

4. Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto in D Major: III. Finale: Allegro vivacissimo – Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto was so technically demanding that he had a hard time finding a soloist to premier the work, and even then it was not well received, with one critic saying that “the violin was not played but beaten black and blue.” Tchaikovsky had the last laugh, however, with the concerto joining the repertoire as one of the most challenging and beloved for the violin.

5. Niccolò Paganini – 24 Caprices: No. 24 in A Minor – Paganini was a rock star of his day, becoming wildly famous and wealthy as a violinist of unparalleled skill and showmanship. He was so talented that a rumor surfaced that he had sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his ability! He took the violin to a level it had never seen before, and his 24 Caprices would influence many composers to come.

6. Dmitry Shostakovich – Symphony No. 5: IV. Allegro non troppo – Under Stalin, Soviet composers were expected to adhere to Communist ideals of “social realism”, and Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony was a last chance to conform following several controversial pieces. He succeeded in satisfying the officials, but he also slipped in more subtle subversions that the Communist censors completely missed. But the public did not, and the symphony was given a 30-minute ovation at its premiere.

7. Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov – Capriccio espagnol – Rimsky-Korsakov is remembered especially as a brilliant orchestrator (though he bristled at being pigeonholed as such), and Capriccio espagnol is a dazzling example of his skill. While his music is distinctly Russian in style, he was quick to incorporate elements of other cultures, perhaps as a result of travels during his career spent in the Russian navy.

8. Germaine Tailleferre – Les mariés de la tour Eiffel: Valse des dépêches – Jean Cocteau initially commissioned the music for a new stage work to Georges Auric, but due to time constraints Auric shared the task with four other members of Les Six, Honegger, Milhaud, Poulenc, and Tailleferre. One of Tailleferre’s contributions was the lovely “Waltz of the Telegrams”, a dance for five ballerinas.

9. Gabriel Pierné – Cydalise et le chèvre-pied: L'École des Ægipans – Pierné isn’t a household name today, but he nearly could have been. Music from Cydalise et le chèvre-pied was originally intended for inclusion in Disney’s Fantasia, the same film that ensured the enduring popularity of Dukas' The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but it was ultimately replaced by Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.

10. Franz Liszt – Transcendental Étude No. 5, “Feux follets” – Widely acknowledged as one of Liszt’s most technically demanding pieces, this étude combines blisteringly quick passages in the right hand with huge leaps in the left. Adding to the difficulty is that great swaths of the piece require the pianist to play very softly, and with a light touch that is extremely difficult to control at such speeds. It might be quiet, but it will still blow you away—like a will-o’-the-wisp on the wind.

11. Edvard Grieg – Peer Gynt Suite No. 1: IV. In the Hall of the Mountain King – When Henrik Ibsen wrote his play Peer Gynt he didn’t intend it to be staged, but he eventually changed his mind and offered Grieg the task of composing the music. Grieg was quite flattered by the opportunity, and excited to do it, but he wrestled for quite a while with finding just the right music to do the story justice. Ultimately, he produced some of his most popular music.
12. Aram Khachaturian – Gayane: I. Sabre Dance – Khachaturian is remembered as the greatest composer from Armenia, and the “Sabre Dance” from his ballet Gayane is his most popular work. It was a huge hit in the United States in 1948, becoming the first million-selling recording by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and today it will still be instantly recognizable to most people through its frequent use in television and film.

13. Samuel Barber – Violin Concerto: III. Presto in moto – In 1939, Barber was commissioned to compose a violin concerto for the talented ward of a wealthy businessman. The result was declared unplayable by the ward, and the businessman refused to pay up the promised $1,000 (about $16,700 today), until Barber found a student violinist who could demonstrate that the piece was indeed playable.

14. Kurt Atterberg – Symphony No. 8: IV. Con moto – It might seem strange today, but the musical environment in Sweden in 1945 required Atterberg to constantly defend his use of folk melodies in “serious” works like symphonies. His Eighth Symphony is packed full of folk tunes, and he felt his stance vindicated when he received this telegram following the first performance: “Thank you for your wonderfully cogent symphony. With warm greetings, Jean Sibelius.”

15. Thomas Augustine Arne – The Guardian Out-witted: Overture, I. (Allegro) con spirito – Arne was an English composer in the 18th century who is remembered today for composing Rule, Britannia! and A-Hunting We Will Go. In his day, he was a popular composer of stage music, and one of his works, Artaxerxes (the first known opera seria in the English language), even impressed Joseph Haydn.

16. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Die Zauberflöte, Act II: Der Hölle Rache – This aria for the Queen of the Night is one of the most notoriously difficult vocal showpieces in all of opera. It requires a coloratura soprano of the highest order, and it includes notes as high as an F6 (an octave above the top line on the treble clef. This version is sung by the popular soprano Diana Damrau.

17. Mikhail Glinka – Ruslan and Lyudmila: Overture – Glinka is remembered today as the first Russian nationalist composer, and he was a formative influence on the group called The Five (Balakirev, Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Borodin). His opera Ruslan and Lyudmila was based on a story created in fifteen minutes by a drunken poet, and sounds like it, but the music he created was some of his best. The overture includes one of the earliest uses of a whole tone scale.

18. Ignatz Waghalter – Mandragola: Overture – Besides his excellent music, Jewish composer Ignatz Waghalter is remembered for his efforts in promoting racial equality. Forced to flee Germany during World War II, he took up residence in New York City and established a classical orchestra made up of African-American musicians, though the ensemble had to fold due to financial problems brought about by the Depression and political hostility.
19. Joan Tower – Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1 – Joan Tower composed a series of five fanfares with the initial inspiration of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. The work is an important statement from a composer who helped pave the way for broader opportunities for female composers in what had been—and to a lesser extent still is—a male-dominated career path.

20. György Ligeti – Étude No. 13: L’escalier du diable – Pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard had a reputation for being able to play anything that was put in front of him, and Ligeti took this as a challenge in composing his Études. Aimard was eventually able to master them, and the pieces have since become classics of the modern repertoire, as they combine fiendishly difficult technique with entirely listenable musicianship. This version is performed by Jeremy Denk.

Each month, Naxos Music Library presents a themed playlist for our subscribers to enjoy. We know that a database of over 1.6 million tracks can be a bit daunting, so we'd like to highlight some of the amazing music that is available to you. Let it kickstart discovery!