In its ongoing commitment to include among its very many monthly releases the off-the-beaten-path NAXOS has released two worthy additions.

Three Portuguese Orchestras

In the Naxos Classics album Álvaro CassutoThree Portuguese Orchestras (8579130), the Portuguese Symphony Orchestra, the Algarve Orchestra, and the Nova Filarmonia Portuguesa are featured in music ranging from Mozart’s Haffner Symphony, in an elegant rendition, to a polished rendering of Richard Strauss’ tone poem Don Juan, all evidencing top notch work from the strings and several outstanding woodwinds and brass soli.

The late Portuguese conductor Álvaro Cassuto founded all three of these ensembles in a country whose music many of us have ignorantly perceived to be just the urban Fados of Lisbon.

Today some eighteen orchestral ensembles thrive in this country, of which the Orquestra Sinfónica Portuguesa, created in 2016 and led by Joanna Carneiro is the main orchestral organization in a culturally rich nation of little over ten million, one of the oldest ones in Europe.

Among the selections included in this album there is Staccato Brilhante, a brief, lively and intriguing work by the Portuguese master Joly Braga Santos which stimulates one’s curiosity for more of the music of this neglected composer and Portugal’s orchestras.

Ravel: Orchestral Works

Stephane Denève helms the superb SWR Stuttgart Orchestra – a conflation of the Stuttgart, the Baden-Baden, and the Freiburg Orchestras in a handsomely packaged and excellently engineered SWR label boxed set of five compact discs of music by Maurice Ravel (SWR19428CD)

Ranging from the lyrical Une barque sur l’ocean, to the fantastical Ma mère L’Oye, to the Iberian-inflected Rapsodie Espagnole, the set includes as well the ballet Daphnis et Chloé, the one-act operas L’Enfant et les sortileges and L’Heure espagnole, the song-cycle Shéhérazade, the Baroque-inspired Le tombeau de Couperin, the rarely heard Menuet antique and the equally-neglected  L’Éventail de Jeanne, plus the masterful Valses nobles et sentimentales.

In the song and operatic selections, the French mezzo-sopranoStéphanie d’Oustrac is the golden-voiced soloist in Shéhérazade which she shares with the outstanding first flutist of the SWR Stuttgart Orchestra in La flûte enchantée, the second of the three songs that form the song cycle.

In a cast of first-rank French singers in L’Enfant et les sortileges, coloratura soprano Annick Massis shines in the roles of the Fire, the Princess, and The Nightingale, and in the extended choral passages of Daphnis et Chloé, the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart does excellent work, while in the brief pastoral scene in the fantastical garden of L’Enfant et les sortileges, the youthful Cantus Juvenum Karlsruhe sings prettily.

Elsewhere and throughout nearly four hours of thoroughly satisfying music-making, Stephane Denève masterfully leads in Ravel: Orchestral Works the forces of the SWR Stuttgart Orchestra in iconic performances that will certainly please fans of the French master.

Rafael de Acha (c) 2022

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