• Wordplay

    £12.00
    Words were more important than music in the Italian 16th century and song was therefore a higher art form than instrumental music. Composers such as Cipriano da Rore who observed the natural speech rhythms were afforded the highest accolades. Wordplay presents a collection of highly decorated vocal music in purely instrumental performance. The disc explores the role of the soloist in a period of music which has come to be defined by consort playing. In the two centuries that this repertoire covers the borrowing and reworking of the music of earlier composers was regarded as creative, original and even as an act of respect or homage. The disc is structured around instrumental divisions on five famous songs of 16th century and one bass-dance tenor. The divisions are for recorder, bass viol or lute. In total 17 different instruments are used including three types of recorder, three types of lute, seven sizes of viol, and a chamber organ. All are precise copies of early Italian instruments including wide-bore recorders and sound-postless viols. Central to Wordplay are the writings of Slyvestro Ganassi, a recorder and viol player in early 16th century Venice.  In La Fontegara (1535) and Regola Rubertina (1545) Ganassi defines the aim of the instrumentalist as being to imitate a good singer, and describes two distinct ways of doing so. The first is naturalistic - how to replicate the singer's tonal and dynamic variety exactly (on the recorder with varied breath pressure and alternative fingerings, on the viol with bow and finger vibrato etc). The second involves study of the text and using trills (from suave quarter-tones to vivace wide major thirds) and elaborate divisions (with notated syncopations and rubato) to express the sense of particular words and emotions. Fifty years later, Dalla Casa, Bassano and Rognoni have developed a more idiomatic instrumental style and have more polished and formulaic passaggi. All the pieces - though instrumentalists - use exclusively vocal originals, and all would pay more than lip service to Giovanni Bardi's precept: "Words are the soul, music but the body" WordPlay is one of the first recordings made in York's newly opened National Centre for Early Music in the church of St Margaret, Walmgate. Musica Antiqua is one of England's most celebrated early music ensembles and they have triumphed here with their third disc for Signum Records!
  • Voyages

    £12.00
    Soprano Mary Bevan and pianist Jopseph Middleton perform a programme exploring the genius of Baudelaire and Goethe, and how texts by them unlocked very speci c musical landscapes in settings by Debussy, Duparc, Chausson, de Bréville, Séverac, Fauré and Schubert. Praised by Opera for her “dramatic wit and vocal control” in stand out performances on opera and concert platforms, Mary Bevan is a winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist award and UK Critics’ Circle Award for Exceptional Young Talent
    Pianist Joseph Middleton specialises in the art of song accompaniment and chamber music and has been highly acclaimed within this eld. Described in the BBC Music Magazine as “one of the brightest stars in the world of song and Lieder”, he has also been labeled “the cream of the new generation” by The Times and “a perfect accompanist” by Opera Now. ★★★★ A beautiful programme… they include plenty of intriguing and little-known songs that more than deserve these excellent interpretations - Primephonic Bevan’s purity of tone and discreet yet telling way with words can be by turns unnerving and alluring in the Baudelaire settings… Middleton, as one might expect, is marvellously insightful, playing throughout with weight as well as grace and subtlety - Gramophone
  • The emergence of the basso continuo (or “figured bass”) was one of the critical moments in this history of music. Figured bass, upon which a keyboard player or lutenist could improvise harmony, meant that a single musician could provide the necessary harmonies which would previously have needed several players. In the early part of the seventeenth century, large numbers of extremely virtuosic solo motets and sonatas started to appear. The combination of solo voice with one instrument and continuo was quite common, and pieces with violin were the most common of all. This new collection from Cordaria features cantatas for soprano, violin and basso continuo, written by composers including Samuel Capricornus, Dietrich Buxtehude, Antonio Vivaldi , Georg Phillipp Telemann and Georg Frederic Handel.
  • Two Upon a Ground explores the peculiarly English approach to writing instrumental variations known as 'divisions'. The style is principally known for the way it enables a player to demonstrate both a virtuosic command of the instrument and an imaginative understanding of the musical possibilities inherent in a short musical phrase. The repertoire heard here is begins with the undisputed master of the genre, Christopher Simpson, and continues with further virtuosic duets and divisions by Jenkins, Lawes, Tomkins and Purcell. A sunny disposition enhanced by an excellent recorded sound - Gramophone Just buy it! It is all beautifully played - Early Music Review
  • This premiere recording of John Tavener's Towards Silence, written for four string quartets and a large Tibetan bowl, explores the nature of consciousness and the process of dying. Tavener had long wanted to write the work and persuaded Professor Paul Robertson (leader of the Medici Quartet and Co-Founder of the Music Mind Spirit Trust) to perform it. However, shortly after the manuscript was completed both men became critically ill and close to death themselves.

    By August 2008 Robertson had recovered sufficiently to resuscitate the project, which had now taken on a profound significance for himself and for Tavener. The members of the Medici Quartet immediately agreed to reform and identified young professional string quartets with whom to perform and to act as musical mentors.

    Tavener's vision was for all four quartets to be positioned high up in the cathedral dome, invisible to the audience, and arranged in the shape of a cross, bringing the Christian, Bhuddist and Hindu religions together. This sense of space has been captured in the recording, which is an SACD hybrid that can also be enjoyed on a surround sound setup.

    John Tavener continues to produce some of the most distinctive music in our timeThe Observer

    The 'silence' of the title is that of death, although the music eschews morbidity: its keynote is rather one of otherness and mystery … the effect on the listener is anything bur formulaic in this palpably committed premiere recordingBBC Music Magazine

    SACD sound was made for this. Enormously powerful - International Record Review
  • Tide Harmonic is a new work for small ensemble by the contemporary British composer Joby Talbot. With a compositional aesthetic that threads through his classical and concert works, this disc was born out of a collaboration with choreographer Carolyn Carlson originally entitled Eau. A piece for small ensemble of string quartet, percussion, harp and keyboards (celesta, piano and harmonium), Tide Harmonic is described by its composer as: “… a kind of water symphony that, rather than constructing a poetic or narrative programme inspired by man’s relationship with water, instead focuses on the substance itself, the forces that act upon it, and the energy that flows through and from it”. ★★★★ An engrossing concept album about water, evoked in its various elemental states across a five-part suite bookended with a brief orchestral torrent supplanted by the resonant ringing of Tibetan temple bowls - The Independent Talbot’s reputation as an accessible and enjoyable composer will certainly take no hits from this latest recording. It’s the antithesis of Boulez - MusicWeb International
  • Signum Records are delighted to present the final volume of The Complete Works of Thomas Tallis. The final release explores the most obscure and enigmatic corner of Tallis’s output – his secular music. His profession as church musician and member of the Chapel Royal did not require him to write secular songs or pieces, yet some works may have been written for the Tudor court. Other works are thought to have been written for generations of choir boys, who were assisted with their training by the composer. Plays and performances outside of the choirboy’s obligation were popular, as well as instrumental consort music and keyboard pieces associated with their training. Tallis is likely to have been given the opportunity to write his secular works for these occasions. Tallis’s music was admired and used by others far beyond the Chapel Royal and the court. Some of his intended sacred choral works are included on this recording in other guises, arranged by musicians with performance intentions very different to that of the church. His reputation of greatness amongst his friends and contemporaries is reflected in William Byrd’s elegy Ye sacred muses, where he echoes the sentiments of others with the words "Tallis is dead, and Music dies". This musical tribute has justifiably become one of Byrd’s most popular works. Volume 9 of The Complete Works is a double CD release, marking the end of this popular series. Alistair Dixon has realised the project, and directed his choir Chapelle du Roi throughout the earlier volumes. Musicians featured on this final disc are: Andrew Benson-Williams (organ), Laurence Cummings (virginals), the ensemble Charivari Agréable, Lynda Sayce (lute), and Stephen Taylor (counter tenor). Lynda Sayce contributes an astonishing performance ...  the very simple and pure interpretation by Stephen Taylor is most affecting - Early Music America Laurence Cummings [brings the] music wonderfully to life - BBC Music Magazine This recording is a collection of delights ... including the smooth sound of Stephen Taylor’s countertenor voice. ...  a splendid final offering by Chapelle du Roe - Gramophone With the issue of this double CD, we reach the triumphant conclusion of one of the most fascinating and enjoyable complete works projects of recent times - Early Music Scotland A successful conclusion to the series, containing a good deal of previously unrecorded music - Early Music Today
  • Formed in 2002, the award winning Lunar Saxophone Quartet has developed a reputation for their commitment to composer/performer collaborations, leading to dozens of commissions from a variety of different composers. Performances have spanned a wide range of occasions, from Bryn Terfel's 'Faenol Festival' and the Welsh BBC Proms, to live broadcasts on BBC TV and Radio.

    This new disc features a programme of newly commissioned works by some of Wales's youngest and most gifted composers together with those of more established figures.

    Tann’s Some Of The Silence is inspired by a haiku [and] presents a world of calm and solitudeThe Independent

    This is lyrical ensemble playing at its very bestGramophone

    Phenomenally talented saxophonists … As quartet performances go the ones captured here would be very difficult indeed to beatClarinet and Saxophone Society Magazine

  • Musuica Antiqua's debut disc for Signum Records. The Triumphs of Maximilian contains songs and instrumental music associated with the German court of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian the first. The early 16th  century produced European music of great power and innovation. Tthe best players and composers were increasingly mobile, and were aggressively 'head-hunted' from court to court. Nowhere was the resulting mix of styles and influences more clearly illustrated than at the German court of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian the First. Old and new, polyphony and homophony, national and international, all blend together to produce a repertoire of great variety and richness. In music, as in the visual arts, Maximilian was a patron of unusual discrimination: the volumes of woodcuts by Dürer and Burgmair, commissioned to ensure that the Emperor's fame outlived his reign, pay tribute to his artistic judgement, whilst the music of Isaac and Senfl, both in his employ, is in itself a great monument to him. No praise is too high; they do everything with a pleasingly light touch and always with a real sensitivity to the music - Gramophone I would recommend this disc strongly - Early Music Review Virtuoso performances tempered by the sensitive vocal interpretations of John Potter - Early Music Magazine
  • Louis (c.1626-1661), François le Grand (1668-1733) and Armand-Louis (1727-1789) were the three most celebrated members of the distinguished Couperin family of musicians who flourished from the late 16th century until the middle of the 19th, holding a position of esteem parallel to that of the Bachs in Germany. The Sultan and the Phoenix presents both masterpieces and rare gems from the Couperins and their contemporaries, all delivered with a rare insight by the ensemble charivari agréable. The programme presents an overview of the ensemble use of the viol in its various manifestations and stages of evolution in France. The Couperin dynasty offers a convenient chronological framework within which the viol could be heard in various guises: from a consort setting to a ‘pièces de clavecin en concerts’ configuration; from a six-string bass viol to a five-string hybrid ‘quinton’. Underpinning this programme is the historical practice of adaptation, transcription and arrangement with which French baroque music is replete. Historical tradition is followed by the arrangement of some pieces by the players. Some involved direct transcription, such as the L. Couperin Pavan for a viol consort or the F. Couperin harpsichord piece for theorbo (in the style of de Visée, see above). Other pieces are left untouched, such as L. Couperin’s Fantaisies and Corrette’s Phénix, as well as the large-scale chamber works of Dornel and Couperin. Charivari Agréable’s reputation as one of the most original ensembles in the period-instrument scene was recently articulated by the BBC Music Magazine, which noted that the ensemble “has carved something of a niche for itself in imaginative and well thought-out programming”, reasoning that its work is the fruit of both scholarly research and charismatic musicianship, a combination which puts it at the forefront of period-instrument ensembles.
  • The programme performed here by baritone Christopher Maltman and pianist Joseph Middleton was born whilst Maltman was studying at the Royal Academy of Music. The compositions have been selected to form a coherent but flexible narrative that produces a touching memoire to all those affected by war. One composer chosen for the record, George Butterworth, was a casualty of the First World War: in September 1915 he went to the trenches and was killed, aged 31, in the Battle of the Somme on 5th August 1916. The use of his composition, A Shropshire Lad, is touching in this instance. It gives the listener a more sensitive perspective of the loss in World War One, almost allowing the listener to see the faces of those who passed away, most of whom were young ‘lads’ from various parts of the country.
  • A trio of leading British solists perform a sumptuous selection of chamber music by the Romantic composers Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, Schumann and Strauss. The programme is centred around Schubert’s iconic The Shepherd on the Rock – written for the esteemed soprano Anna Milder- Hauptmann, it was to become virtually the final complete work that Schubert composed before his tragic death at 31.
    ★★★★ There are some lovely performances on this disc, with Tynan, Bliss and Glynn combining to make some real magic in the Schubert and Strauss - Planet Hugill
  • "Her Majesty lay upon her back, with one hand in the bed and the other without. The bishop kneeled down by her, and examined her first of her faith: and she so punctually answered all his several questions by lifting up her eyes and holding up her hand, as it was a comfort to all beholders. Then the good man told her plainly, what she was and what she was to come to, and though she had been long a great Queen here upon earth, yet shortly she was to yield an account of her stewardship to the King of Kings. Between one and two of the clock on Thursday morning, he brought me word the Queen was dead." Thus wrote the queen’s cousin Sir Robert Carey, recording in his memoirs the events of March 23rd-24th 1603, and the end of an era in England’s history. Earlier, as Elizabeth I lay dying she called for her musicians to play around her bed so that “she may die gaily as she had lived, and that the horrors of death might be lessened; she heard the music tranquilly until her last breath”. As the 400th anniversary of her death approaches, The Queen’s Goodnight commemorates the music of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. The queen’s professional musical establishment was in some ways more modest than that of her father, Henry VIII, but she brought together the finest talent in the land and created collections of consort, lute and keyboard music that is still renowned today. Charivari Agréable demonstrate representative facets of this wonderful 16th century repertory. The pieces are selected with a passionate attention to detail and Charivari Agréable have included music that depicts the life of the queen: music from the court, an exhilarating depiction of a hunt, celebrations from the queen’s coronation and the moving laments on her death. Fertile imagination, excellent musicianship and persuasive playing make it a real delight - Early Music News
  • Its title song-cycle, scored for folk-imbued ensemble and recorded with the acclaimed Nora Fischer, treats various aspects of the natural world as human characteristics. The Consolation of Rain is a moving reflection on loss and the restorative power of nature, while Cymbeline draws on ancient religious attitudes to the sun. Written for mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital, the work takes its name from an old Celtic word meaning ‘Lord of the Sun.’ Bruce has achieved global recognition as a composer, celebrated for his richly colourful, poetic, and joyful music. Recent commissions include the BBC Proms, Carnegie Hall, Covent Garden, and Glyndebourne. 
  • The musical world of eighteenth-century Europe was a small one. Despite the problems presented by contemporary standards of transport, it was quite normal for composers in one part of Europe to be entirely au fait with what was happening elsewhere. This is borne out by the closeness of three German composers: Telemann, godfather to C.P.E. Bach; Pisendel; and J.S. Bach, who admired both his compatriots and composed some astoundingly difficult music for the violinist Pisendel. This programme celebrates their music as well as the music of those who contributed to their musical heritage. Included alongside the German triumvirate are works by Vivaldi who physically helped with the composition of Pisendel’s A minor concerto movement, Fasch who was a great friend of Pisendel and Telemann, and Brescianello, an Italian who helped the dissemination of Italian instrumental music throughout the German-speaking lands and whose concertos were played in Dresden by Pisendel.
  • Music from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, transcribed for mixed consort.
    Disc of the Month: An inspired concept... outstanding in every respect - BBC Music Magazine
       
  • After the success of their debut disc, ‘Voyages’, Mary Bevan and Joseph Middleton present their second recital disc exploring Lieder in German and Italian by Schubert, Haydn and Wolf. The programme is woven around songs inspired by the ‘muses’ of the day, both mythological and divine. It begins with Schubert’s dramatic and reverential settings of sacred German poetry, set alongside his lush emotional portrayals of female characters in the Italian settings. The central section of the disc is then devoted to Haydn’s epic ‘scena’ depicting the famously cruel abandonment of Arianna by her lover Teseo, ‘Arianna a Naxos’. Haydn’s beautiful prayer ‘Geistliches Lied’ takes us back into the world of German poetry and the religious fervour that arose from the collective belief in Christianity which pervaded most art forms of the age. The disc then moves into works by Hugo Wolf, whose stunning settings of devotional texts take the listener right to the heart of the characters; a few of these songs were in fact inspired by paintings. The early moments of Jesus Christ’s life are vividly portrayed here, particularly in songs such as ‘Die ihr Schwebet’, ‘Auf ein Altes Bild’ and ‘Schlafendes Jesuskind’, while the haunting ‘Gesang Weylas’ invites the listener into the world of the mysterious goddes Weyla who wistfully dreams of the shores of her distant homeland. From Ganymed to Christ, Dido to the Virgin Mary, Arianna to St Peter, this recital disc richly illustrates the lives and events surrounding the ‘divine muses’ who inspired these composers.
  • Will Todd is one of the UKs most popular and performed modern choral composers. His output includes works for choir, stage works, and orchestral works, and his music has been featured on BBC Radio 2, 3 and 4 and Classic FM, and performed all over the UK, Europe and the USA. On this disc, Nigel Short conducts superlative performances of his works by his BBC Music Magazine Award-winning choir Tenebrae and the English Chamber Orchestra. This compilation of his works includes the premiere recording of a new comission 'The Call of Wisdom', which on June 5th 2012 will be presented on the occasion of a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral for the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II. [A] disc of miniature but perfectly formed musical marvelsGramophone
  • The grammy-award winning artist Hila Plitmann is known worldwide for her astonishing musicianship, light and beautiful voice, and the ability to perform challenging new works. On this disc she brings together a very personal programme that draws on her familial roots in Jewish culture and song; from traditional folk music (Five Yiddish Songs), to contemporary compositions (Bridges of Love, Tehilim and I Never Saw Another Butterfly). The disc also features the Five Hebrew Love Songs, with poetry by Plitmann set to music by the composer Eric Whitacre. Performance ★★★★ Recording ★★★★ Plitmann's selection is carefully chosen for maximum variety ofexpression and instrumentation [and] Julian Bliss proves a sensitive partner to the charismatic Plitmann BBC Music Magazine Julian Bliss threatens to steal the show on clarinet, but there’s beauty in the voice and enough variety in the works to keep the ears attentiveLa Scena Musicale
  • Tchaikovsky’s contemporaries tell us that he was good enough to become a concert pianist, if he had chosen to follow that path. But he preferred to focus on composition, and rarely performed in public concerts. His interest in the piano is mainly to be found in his many pieces for the instrument, and since most of these were suitable for amateurs with solid skills, they sold well and played an important role in building up his fame. Despite this, some view Tchaikovsky’s solo piano works as poor quality. Peter Donohoe disagrees, insisting that all music requires performers to find the right approach, so he does not see Tchaikovsky as any kind of exception. He writes: “It is inexplicable to me that Tchaikovsky’s solo piano music should remain so infrequently performed, containing as it does all of the composer’s characteristic harmony, his wonderful melodic gift, his capacity for majestic gesture, magically beautiful moments, immense sadness, and passages of extreme excitement. His piano writing is often orchestral in texture, but also demonstrates the direct but very diverse pianistic influences of Liszt and Schumann, and incorporates in an almost naive way folk-style dance rhythms and melodies from Russia. This treasure trove is immensely rewarding to play, whether it be a small-scale salon piece such as the Humoresque Op. 10 No 2, or large in scale, such as is the gigantic Grand Sonata in G Major.”
  • The creation of the Song Cycle as a new art form in the early 19th Century was paved with musical experiments and innovations. On this disc we illustrate the progress made by the great Lied composers of the day toward the cyclical perfection finally achieved by Beethoven and Schubert, and since emulated by Schumann, Loewe, Wolf, Fauré, Britten, Shostakovich and so many others. A Song Cycle is distinguishable from a collection of songs or a Liederspiel by some type of interior cohesion: a unifying theme, text from a single source, a narrative. It could be a musical connection: recurring devices and motifs, key relationships between songs, or perhaps a fixed performance order. Usually, a combination of these criteria is necessary to bestow on any song collection the title of Song Cycle.
  • A lyrical collection of chamber works for tenor and guitar – Sometime I Sing unites Gramophone award-winning tenor Mark Padmore with Mexican guitarist Morgan Szymanski in settings of texts by Thomas Wyatt, Vikram Seth, John Donne and Edward Thomas by the composer Alec Roth. Roth is a UK-based composer who works across a wide range of musical genres, including stage works, vocal, choral, orchestral, instrumental, and Javanese gamelan – his former posts include Founder/Director of the Royal Festival Hall Gamelan Programme and Southbank Gamelan Players; Music Director of the Baylis Programme, English National Opera; and Associate Composer, Opera North. A superb disc of music by a prolific and successful composer who has eschewed the passing modernisms of our days.  ... this is a disc which deserves widest distribution and take up on radio programmes - Musical Pointers With the elegant guitarist Morgan Szymanski, one of Britain's finest tenors explores song settings by Alec Roth. Poems by Vikram Seth are treated mysteriously: slow-moving harmonies, evocative lyrical lines. The 16th·century poet Thomas Wyatt is set more playfully, as befits his wry epigrams on love, lust and mortality. And a bonus: English folksongs, arranged as artfully as Britten did - The Times
  • Carducci Quartet launches Shostakovich15 – its project to perform all 15 of Shostakovich’s string quartets in 2015. Commemorating 40 years since Shostakovich’s death, Carducci Quartet performs several complete cycles throughout the year and releases this recording of Shostakovich’s fourth, eighth and eleventh string quartets – all landmark works in the string quartet repertory.

    Their warmly engineered release of three of the Russian master's quartets is undoubtedly a fine achievement, boasting excellent ensemble, musical insight and sensitive attention to detail - BBC Music Magazine [The Carducci Quartet] clearly have the technical measure of these three highly contrasting works from Shostakovich's quartet output...this well-recorded disc holds out much promise of things to comeGramophone The performances are both polished and passionate - The Sunday Times Great musical flair...the Carducci's are superb hereMusic Web International
  • Naji Hakim has established himself as a performer and composer whose works are indelibly tied to his Christian faith. Recognised with a papal medal for his activities, these pieces are drawn from the span of his compositional career, combining organ music with string quartet and solo soprano.
  • Celebrated soloists Roderick Wiliams and Christopher Glynn perform a new English translation Franz Schubert’s Winterreise. Composed in 1827 whilst in the grip of the illness that would ultimately kill him, Schubert’s setting of Wilhelm Muller’s poetry takes on an added tragic interpretation as it follows the narrative of a spurned lover travelling through a cold and barren landscape. This disc is the first in a series of three English language programmes of Schubert’s song cycles. Future releases include The Shepherd on the Rock (Der Hirt auf dem Felsen) and The Fair Maid of the Mill (Die schöne Müllerin). The immediacy of the storytelling is immaculate - The Sunday Times The biggest gain is Roderick Williams’s fabulous delivery and his beautiful creamy voice which I can never get too much of, and supported beautifully again by Chris Glynn, so musically it’s great - BBC Radio 3 Record Review It's exceptionally effective, and mandatory listening if, like me, you're not a fluent German speakerThe Arts Desk This is an amazing disc, not the Winterreise to end all Winterreises but an essential complement to them. I gather that Glynn and Signum have recordings the other two cycles up their sleeve, which is good news indeedPlanet Hugill Those who have been longing for an English version of Winterreise need not hesitate, and avid collectors of this song cycle – like myself – will find that this is a valuable addition to their collectionMusic Web International
  • Christopher Glynn continues his series of late Schubert song cycles in English, joined by celebrated soloists Sir John Tomlinson, Sophie Bevan, Julian Bliss and Alec Frank-Gemmill.

    Titled by the works first publisher following Schubert’s death, Swansong (Schwanengesang) D 957 sets sets the words of poets Ludwig Rellstab, Heinrich Heine and Johann Gabriel Seidl in songs that cover a variety of different emotional states. The lighthearted Love Message (Liebesbotschaft), with its rippling accompaniment, addresses a murmuring brook with the hope of true love. The bone-chilling Doppelgänger with its stark, slowly tolling chords, finds the protagonist crazed with a nocturnal vision of himself agonizing at the empty doorstep of his lost love. Renowned for his clear diction and powerful voice, Sir John Tomlinson brings his insight and nuance to these profound works.

    Reminiscent of the scoring for The Shepherd on the Rock and composed in the same year, On the River (Auf dem Strom) combines soprano and horn in a setting of a poem by Ludwig Rellstab. Originally given to Beethoven who did not live long enough to set it, Schubert took up the words in a work that is a subtle homage to the composer.

    The 1828 work The Shepherd on the Rock (Der Hirt auf dem Felsen) sets words by Wilhelm Müller and German playwright Helmina von Chézy, and was composed in gratitude to the soprano Anna Milder-Hauptmann. Here performed by Sophie Bevan and Julian Bliss, it tells the story of a shepherd lamenting the distance between him and his beloved before a reflection on loneliness and grief. The final section celebrates the arrival of spring in a hopeful conclusion.

    The creamy clarity of both Alec Frank-Gemmill’s horn and Julian Bliss’s clarinet sound is a perfect foil for Sophie Bevan’s exquisite, rounded legato - BBC Music Magazine

    Christopher Glynn’s playing is excellent throughout - Gramophone

  • "In a word I feel myself the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world. Imagine a man whose health will never be right again, and who in sheer despair over this ever makes things worse and worse instead of better ...but I have tried my hand at several instrumental things ... in fact, I intend to pave the way towards a grand symphony in this manner.” These extracts from a letter of 1824 epitomise to me the paradox of Schubert, the manic depressive composer. On the one hand his music has that world-weary element of profound grief – 'the most wretched creature in the world' – and on the other a life-affirming exuberance bordering on the manic that characterises the Wanderer-Fantasie and parts of the D major sonata D.850. While Schubert's later piano music has a range of emotions that rivals Beethoven's last sonatas, in the beginning of his career he perhaps lacked the assurance of the older composer, and he was less fastidious about destroying sketches and fragments. As a result there are a large number of unfinished works and, therefore, the pianist has to make a decision about where to start the Schubert odyssey. Schubert himself made no effort to try and publish any of his sonatas before the great A minor D.845 of 1825. I decided to start slightly earlier with the B major of 1817 where one senses an assurance and boldness of tonal experiment not found before in his piano music. In this series, Llŷr Williams explores Schubert's solo piano repertoire in exquisite detail, producing some truly unique performances of some of the most romantic music ever composed.
  • Husband and wife duo David Kenedy and Rianka Bouwmeester partner for the first time in a new recording of two late works by Chopin and Schubert. In this very personal recital, Kenedy explores his own musical history and connection with the songs of Schubert: The Arpeggione Sonata is one of Schubert’s most lyrical instrumental works, almost a song cycle in itself, whilst Chopin’s passionate Sonata brims with feeling, as well as quoting musically from Schubert’s Winterreise in several places.
  • "In a word I feel myself the most unhappy and wretched creature in the world. Imagine a man whose health will never be right again, and who in sheer despair over this ever makes things worse and worse instead of better ...but I have tried my hand at several instrumental things ... in fact, I intend to pave the way towards a grand symphony in this manner.” These extracts from a letter of 1824 epitomise to me the paradox of Schubert, the manic depressive composer. On the one hand his music has that world-weary element of profound grief – 'the most wretched creature in the world' – and on the other a life-affirming exuberance bordering on the manic that characterises the Wanderer-Fantasie and parts of the D major sonata D.850. While Schubert's later piano music has a range of emotions that rivals Beethoven's last sonatas, in the beginning of his career he perhaps lacked the assurance of the older composer, and he was less fastidious about destroying sketches and fragments. As a result there are a large number of unfinished works and, therefore, the pianist has to make a decision about where to start the Schubert odyssey. Schubert himself made no effort to try and publish any of his sonatas before the great A minor D.845 of 1825. I decided to start slightly earlier with the B major of 1817 where one senses an assurance and boldness of tonal experiment not found before in his piano music. In this series, Llŷr Williams explores Schubert's solo piano repertoire in exquisite detail, producing some truly unique performances of some of the most romantic music ever composed.
  • Signum Classics are proud to release the King's Singers fifth disc on Signum; Sacred Bridges. For thousands of years, the biblical Psalter has been the liturgical “heart” of the three main book religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Psalms announce the word of God and, simultaneously, contain the full range of human experience. Jews, Christians and Muslims sing and listen to the same songs of lament and joy, confessions of sin, hymns of praise and adoration. In this project of the King’s Singers and Sarband, psalm settings by composers from three religions give an example of how psalms can be a source of spirituality, a political instrument, a link between tradition and modernity and, above all, a bridge connecting human beings. Immaculate blend, perfect tuning and crystal diction ... Superb performances across the cultural divide show that great art transcends political differences - The Times A fascinating, attractive, beautifully performed-album - Gramophone Perfectly judged and beautifully blended sound - Classic FM Magazine An intriguing disc, and far more than a curiosity - Early Music Review A real gift to ... music lovers that need a special musical holiday gift - Mid West Record Recap
  • The London Chamber Orchestra, the UK’s oldest chamber orchestra, has nurtured the new and paid homage to the traditional since 1921. Since 1988 Principal Conductor and Music Director Christopher Warren-Green has brought together the inspirational musicians and repertoire for which LCO is renowned. The remarkable acoustic and intimate ambience of St. John’s, Smith Square, its London home, enable the LCO - the only chamber orchestra resident in London - to give vibrant performances and establish a close rapport with its audiences. The recordings on the LCO Live label, in partnership with Signum Classics, are the result of this happy marriage of orchestra and venue.
    Susan Gritton's delivery of the three arias has an exquisite balance of grace and intensity befitting their spurned heroines - The Independent
  • The Ancient Greek word Kalon was used by philosophers to describe perfect physical and moral beauty. In this recording, the two string ensembles (the Albion Quartet and the Czech Philharmonic) explore the different aspects of Kalon through the context in which beauty can exist in ugliness and darkness. This record is the result of Richard Blackford's doctorate at the University of Bristol, which investigates the use of polytempo. The recording is a way of applying the findings of his doctorate in a range of musical contexts. Kalon is unique as it explores the use of polytempo in the context of extended tonality and modality, which could be said surpasses the complexity posed by serialist works of a similar nature, such as Stockhausen's Gruppen or Carré.  
  • The LCO return to disc on Signum with a new programme of French orchestral works by Ravel, Fauré, Poulenc and Ibert. Their ‘LCO Live’ series captures the vibrant, exciting performances they give at their London home of St. John’s, Smith Square.

    Here's a recording guaranteed to put a smile on your face! Enthusiastic and fun, yet with touching, tender moments and a clever awareness of the music's irony, the London Chamber Orchestra delivers a witty, exuberant collection - Classic FM Magazine

    Spry, clipped music-making, and a lovely French programme, capped by Roge's ebullient account of Poulenc's mercurial, flamboyant Piano Concerto - BBC Music Magazine

  • Signum Classics are proud to release Elena Kats-Chernin debut disc on Signum Classics. This production was made in conjunction with Boosey & Hawkes, Music Publishers Ltd. Elena Kats-Chernin is a composer who defies categorisation and is probably best summed up as a force of nature. Her prodigious imagination has produced a vast body of work, unparalleled in range, drawing from all the musical traditions of the past and present. A virtuosic pianist and improviser, her compositions flow from her like a fountain. This CD is drawn from the small works she often writes for her own enjoyment - a cornucopia of rags, blues and heart-melting melodies. These small vessels of fine feelings offer an intimate view into the composer’s heart. Heart-meltingly beautiful - Classic FM Magazine A delightful and enjoyable disc - Limelight
  • Bernard Herrmann was perhaps one of the greatest musical all-rounders of the 20th Century. Although he is best known for his scores to perhaps some of the most iconic films ever made ('Vertigo', 'Citizen Kane', 'Psycho'), he was also a talented composer for the concert hall, with an early career marked out by his skill as a conductor - praised by Stravinsky amongst others, who autographed Hermann's score for his Symphony in 3 Movements with "To the excellent musician and conductor, Bernard Herrmann. Cordially, I. Stravinsky." The Tippett Quartet capture the energy and musical finesse of Herrmann's works in this recording, accompanied for Souvernirs de Voyage by the clarinetist Julian Bliss and featuring a new arrangement of his score for 'Psycho'. Chillingly delivered … it is impossible to imagine more expert renditions than these - Gramophone

    Clarinettist Julian Bliss plays with exquisite restraint, as though wanting not to disturb the intimate conversations of the Tippett QuartetThe Independent

    SplendidThe Sunday Telegraph

  • Following on from the critically acclaimed albums, Different Trains and Ghost Stories, Signum is pleased to announce the release of The Smith Quartet’s latest album, the complete string quartets by the world-acclaimed composer, Philip Glass. Over a time span of 25 years, Glass completed 8 quartets (the 3 earliest were withdrawn) drawing on the influences of Bach to Shostakovich, as well as exterior musical sources: dance, theatre and film. Clear - cut , polished performances by The Smith Quartet give the listener an excellent taster of a quartet at the forefront of contemporary music. Glass weaves filigree tapestries given polished, finely detailed airings by the virtuoso BritsThe Observer How long before the Kronos is labelled the 'American Smith Quartet'? ... they are ahead of the curve at generating new repertoire and taking the experimental back-catalogue seriouslyClassic FM Magazine If success was measured according to output and sales units alone, Glass would be head and shoulders above his contemporaries ... played with characteristic precision and projection by the ensembleGramophone
  • Paths of Song is a new collection of works by leading Welsh contemporary composer John Metcalf. They explore a variety of engaging themes and ideas, with the works Paths of Song and Mapping Wales based on concepts of travel and journey in and around the composer’s homeland.

    As well as contributions from a number of talented performers and ensembles, these works feature a key role for harpist Eleanor Turner (soloist and member of 4 girls 4 harps), who provides some truly standout performances.

    The music is lyrical, melodic, good-natured and benign. That might suggest it’s all charm without challenge, but it would be a mistake to assume that. There is some really fine, accessible writing here - The Observer

    Benefiting from an agile and assured performance by harpist Eleanor Turner, who shines throughout the recording, Metcalf’s lyricism is at its most expressive when such musical journeys are heard to return home - Gramophone

  • A prolific composer and organist, Naji Hakim is truly one of the most versatile performer-composers working today, garnering praise from his numerous organ and composition competition prizes as well as an award from Pope Benedict XVI for his musical work in benefit of the church.This new recording continues Signum’s series of discs with Naji Hakim with a new selection of his chamber works, featuring performances by Rima Tawil, Magali Mosnier, Claire Foison, Quatuor de la Chapelle Royale (with Renaud Bary) as well as by the composer. These works draw on a wide range of influences: Phèdre sets the words of Jean Racine’s tragic work of the same name to music; Caprice en Rondeau is a sprightly piece featuring themes by Rameau; and the Diptyque combines folk tunes through the tonal pallate of the basque flute the txistu. The premiere recording of the Concerto for Piano is a tour-de-force for soloist Claire Foison, accompanied in this version for String Quintet by the Quatuor de la Chapelle Royale and Renaud Bary.
  • The paintings of Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88) constitute one of the most poignant and evocative icons of Georgian England; he painted supremely accomplished portraits of a wide social spectrum, and landscapes which capture the verdancy of England prior to the Stygian advance of the Industrial Revolution. Gainsborough’s own creativity sought expression in music as much as in painting, which was unusual in an age when musical ability was mainly considered the preserve of the ladies. For this musical tribute to Gainsborough, we have gathered together pieces by several of his friends; Abel, J.C. Bach, Giardini, Linley & Straube. Played with impeccable good taste - Gramophone
  • Signum Records is delighted to release Charivari Agréable's ninth CD on the Signum label. Modus Phantasticus presents a unique collection of German viol music, transcribed and arranged in charivari’s individual and historically-informed manner. Germany was never blessed with the same solo viol traditions that flourished in England and France. The viol took a back seat in favour of the keyboard and the violin which provided a vehicle for the elaborate technical display found in "stylus phantasticus" music. However the viol came into to its own within a consort of instruments, gaining a reputation for providing special effects alluding to mortality and the supernatural. The ability of the viol to enrich the texture and enhance sonority of vocal and sacred music meant that it could often dominate the scoring in music of this type. The profile of the viol in Germany was raised considerably with the arrival, during the late 16th century and the first half of the 17th century, of elite violists from England. This disc follows the development of German viol repertoire and its English influences. The pieces are chosen for their beauty, their uniqueness or their suitability for charivari agréable’s speciality – wonderfully inventive arrangements and transcriptions. The playing in all of the Bach transcriptions (there are four on the disc) is stunning - smooth, calm, and sonorous, yet with a fall awareness of individual line and harmonic structure - The Consort A perfectly accomplished recording... one in which the images that fire our imagination are underpinned everywhere by unflagging expertise - Goldberg Magazine Charivari Agréable's playing is of the highest order - Daily Telegraph  
  • Haflidi Hallgrimsson is one of the leading figures in Icelandic musical life, and his work Mini Stories sets the surreal poetry of the soviet-era writer Daniil Kharms to music. Whilst internationally renowned actor Simon Callow brings Kharms’s texts to life, the Icelandic Caput Ensemble reflect the mood with stellar performances of Hallgrimsson’s evocative accompanying composition. This CD is an unique gem, gripping from beginning to end, superbly recorded and annotated by the composer, complete with a biography of Kharms and full texts… Enthusiastically Recommended - MusicalPointers.co.uk Callow waxes opulently lyrical in narrating Daniil Kharms’ absurdist tales and Halgrimmsson’s music is, by contrast, stark and dark … It’s the ideal combination to give a vivid sound picture of these acrid aphoristic tale - Classical Music Magazine Delightful and evocative treatments … in this impeccable recording with top-notch sound … it handsomely rewards getting to know - Gramophone
  • British pianist Matthew Schellhorn is joined by the Soloists of the Philharmonia Orchestra in this recording of Olivier Messiaen's chamber works, including the eight-movement masterpiece Quatuor pour la fin du Temps, written while the composer was a prisoner of war and premiered in 1941 at the Stalag VIIIA camp in Silesia. Marking one hundred years since the birth of the composer, the disc also includes the newly published Fantaisie for violin and piano (discovered after the composer's death) and the world première recording of a beautiful miniature for solo piano. A worthwhile and distinctive release -  Gramophone
    Classical Editors' Favourite 2008: A heart-stoppingly beautiful performance ... Listeners who love Quatuor pour la fin du Temps owe it to themselves to hear this stellar versionAll Music Guide USA Admirers of Messiaen’s music will simply have to have this record … All in all, a highly recommendable CDInternational Record Review
  • Henry VIII is the most instantly recognisable of English kings: the heavy, square face with its fringe of beard, the massive torso, arms akimbo, feet planted firmly on the ground. His character, too, is familiar: ‘Bluff King Hal’, gorging himself at the table, flagrantly promiscuous, cynically manipulating the Church to suit his marital aims, the very archetype of chauvinism. But scholarship reveals a very different Henry. Larger than life, certainly (six feet two inches tall, a colossal height for the time); but, as a young man, clean-shaven and with a halo of red hair, his waist was a mere 35 inches and his chest 42 inches. His table manners were refined to the point of being finicky, and the conduct of his sexual liaisons was (according to the French ambassador) almost excessively discreet. An irresistible figure to the twentieth century early–music revival, Henry is shown by numerous hyperbolic contemporary accounts to have been an expert singer (with a clear tenor voice and able to sing at sight); a player of lute, flute, recorder, cornett and virginals; and a composer of sacred and secular music. Inventories made at the time of his death show him as an avid collector of instruments (including recorders, flutes, cornetts, viols and bagpipes). And two musical sources, one sacred (The Eton Choirbook), the other secular (The Henry VIII Ms), proved rich in music as dramatic, colourful and exotic as the king himself. But there is more to Henry’s music than ‘Pastime with Good Company’ and the splendours of Eton’s polyphony. Henry inherited a modest musical establishment from his father, but bequeathed a large ‘Kynge’s Musicke’ to his heirs. Henry’s queens were no mere observers of the development of music at his court. Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn both owned song–books which show a strong Franco–Flemish presence in Tudor music; Anne of Cleves augmented her small band of minstrels by borrowing players from Prince Edward’s household; improper relationships with musicians were cited in the cases against both executed queens; Jane Seymour’s royal wedding was celebrated with shawms and sackbuts; and Catherine Parr danced to her own consort of viols. In chapel and chamber, whether dancing, worshipping, singing, playing or listening, music was an important counterpoint to the lives (and sometimes deaths) of all of Henry’s six wives. ★★★★  Jennie Cassidy's pure mezzo-soprano voice is a joy... A well thought-out and presented project - Classic FM Magazine Humour, cerebral sophistication and tenderness each find their proper expression in the knitting together of counterpoint and in the delicate rhythmic shading by the players - BBC Music Magazine
  • Signum Records is delighted to announce the debut disc of Cantabile - Lullabyes and Goodbyes. The disc has been long in preparation and is the first to be recorded by Cantabile since On the Tracks of the Comedian Harmonists. Cantabile, are one of Britain’s longest- established vocal ensembles. Since they became widely known in the early nineteen-eighties they have mastered a wide array of musical styles and their flair for the stage continues to keep them in demand in theatres and cabaret as well as in concert halls and at festivals. The four voices blend beautifully and there isn't a sour note to be heard. Diction is consistently crystal clear [and] the contribution of Malcolm Martineau is first rateMusicWeb International
  • A second solo disc on Signum from an insightful Welsh pianist - this time focussing on virtuosic selections from Franz Liszt. Llyr Williams is an acclaimed soloist, accompanist and chamber musician; highly sought after as a performer in the United Kingdom, in 2012 he was awarded a South Bank Sky Arts Award for his Beethoven Sonata Cycle at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh the previous year – where he performed all 32 sonatas in just two weeks! Williams's expansiveness with the great Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude is balanced by the effortless manner in which he keeps it on the move. A superior album which is highly recommendedThe Scotsman

    In Bénédiction de Dieu he takes us into a different and majestic world. Those long melodic lines seem to lift and swell within vast surrounding spacesBBC Music Magazine

     
  • Alastair Miles is internationally recognised as one of the world’s leading basses, appearing regularly with acclaimed opera companies such as WNO, Glyndebourne, ENO and the Royal Opera, as well as with conductors such as Giulini, Harnoncourt, Muti, Rattle, Gergiev, Gardiner, Norrington, Davis and Dohnanyi.

    On this new recording he explores some gems of the Lieder repertoire from Hugo Wolf and Johannes Brahms, ably accompanied by pianist Marie-Nöelle Kendall.

    Alastair Miles's gravely sonorous bass is finely attuned to Brahms' and Wolf's vocal swan songs..... Miles's oaken depth of tone and amplitude of line are impressive and ultimately moving. He sings with feeling and understanding [and] Miles is a vivid narrator. It's a nobly sung recital confirming that the leading English operatic basso cantante is also a lieder singer of intelligence and insight - Gramophone

    After the 174 bars of hectic introduction to Wolf's Prometheus, Miles's voice bursts into the first line of the song with a vengeance. And so it continues through the programme - a rich and resonant tone, even throughout its easy range, excellent diction and a strong identification with the text. Marie-Noëlle Kendall's accompaniment matches her singer all the way and she seizes her opportunities to show her formidable technique without unbalancing the relationship - OperaNow

  • Coupling powerful interpretations with path-breaking scholarship, the choir Contrapunctus presents music by the best-known composers as well as unfamiliar masterpieces. Directed by Owen Rees, a specialist in music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the group presents imaginative programmes revealing previously undiscovered musical treasures and throwing new light on familiar works. This recording explores the musical ‘cries of the oppressed’ from opposite ends of Europe, which include some of the most powerful works composed in England and Portugal during this period by Byrd, Tallis, Monte and Cardoso. The highlight perhaps is the first recording of a newly reconstructed vocal work by Thomas Tallis, Libera nos. This has long been thought to be an instrumental work, and has been recorded as such, but there’s persuasive historical evidence for us to be confident that this is in fact a choral setting of the antiphon Libera nos, and it is performed here with the relevant text restored to the five vocal parts. A rich seam of material by such as Tallis, Byrd and Cardoso - The Independent Exemplary... Pristine performances by Owen Rees’s Contrapunctus choir - The Times Experience and vocal excellence merge in the singing of Contrapunctus to produce performances extraordinary even by the British vocal group’s own high standards - Sinfini
  • For Lewis Wright's debut recording he is joined by British piano virtuoso Kit Downes for a disc of his own works: “There is limited material for vibraphone and piano (especially for improvising musicians), which has the potential to be so rhythmically interesting and polyphonically grand. I set out to compose pieces that showcase the instruments and are built around the language of the musicians. The right pianist, who can speak in this particular dialect of improvisation and has similar taste in the moment, was an obvious choice. Kit and I have known each other and played together since childhood and we share many influences, musical and otherwise.” Lewis Wright, 2018 Lewis Wright is an award-winning British vibraphonist, composer and drummer based in London. As a vibraphonist, he was nominated for Rising Star in the 2016 Downbeat International Critics Poll, and was awarded Ensemble of the Year in the 2016 Parliamentary Jazz Awards with Empirical and the Worshipful Company of Musicians prize in 2011. He has performed at venues such as the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Albert Hall, and has been a featured soloist with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra. A set of exquisitely conceived pieces that highlight both the natural range and colouration of the two instruments, but also the improvisational instincts of the two performers - Jazz Journal The sense of unity and clarity of piano and vibes resonates throughout this highly impressive and musical debutJazzwise