• 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
  • Gesualdo

    £8.00£12.00
    Signum Records is proud to announce the release of the latest recording by The King's Singers: Gesualdo's Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday. The Italian Prince, Carlos Gesualdo, is probably most famous for the obsessive double murder of his first wife along with her lover, but his music is not always accredited with the same sense of celebrity. Gesualdo is known in traditional history books as an amateur composer. His music is characterised by wild gesticulation and abrupt starts and stops, particular to a composer who just didn’t know what he was doing. However, the 20th century has now uncovered our composer’s place in history as part of a larger movement of Neapolitan artists, and as perhaps the most forward-thinking, expressive and sensual composer of his time. The King’s Singers were fascinated by the naked honesty that is heard within this 400 year old music. It is so startling that it keeps its freshness of surprise even on many repeated hearings. The music portrays a desperate and wretched, but also passionate and loving person who is set on composing "further out" than anyone else. Gesualdo moved in the highest circles of Italy and was extremely wealthy. His decadent lifestyle allowed him to do and write exactly as he pleased, and at the tender age of 19 it brought him into close contact with one of the most attractive and admired women in Naples. Maria d’Avalos was twice widowed by the age of 25. Her marriage to Gesualdo was initially promising. However, Maria’s rich social life soon dominated the relationship and a profound and constant jealousy took possession of the young and highly sensitive composer. After four years of turmoil he hired professional murderers to assist him in killing wife and lover while they were in bed together. The violence and rage of the act is well-documented. After the murder of Maria, Gesualdo suffered from severe and increasing feelings of guilt. Penitence never left him and he was moved to compose church music of a most black and self-reproachful nature. The programme on this CD represents part of the liturgy for the Matins Offices on the final three days of Holy Week, the Triduum Sacrum. Each of the Matins services is divided into three nocturns, each containing psalmody, three lessons and three responsaries. The attention given to word-painting is exemplary - The Times A no holds barred, immaculately sung performance from the King's Singers. Unmissable - Classic FM Magazine
  • Signum Classics is delighted to present Charivari  Agreable's tenth disc: Caprice and Conceit in Seicento Italy. This disc explores the overlap of repertory for the cornett and the violin (occasioned by their frequent interchangeability), and in the marriage of both instruments. Of the two, the cornett’s particular appeal, according to Girolamo Dalla Casa (1584), lies in its tonal similarity to the human voice, an attribute poetically likened by Marin Mersenne (1636) to ‘a brilliant ray of sunshine piercing the shadows’. The juxtaposition of wind and strings is most vividly enhanced by the pairing of a violin with a cornett in small-scale vocal and instrumental works. The most beautiful is arguably the sonata by Cima, one of the earliest trio sonatas. It is hoped that our conceit of re-lighting the cornett’s gleam will find favour among those who delight in the capriciousness of the music of the Seicento. An outstanding disc... this is a recital to shaft any shadow - BBC Music Magazine [A] delectable programme of 17th-century Italian chamber music - Daily Telegraph A ray of sunshine piercing the shadows’ – which is the subtitle for a delightful new disc from Charivari Agréable, who say they’re ‘trying to re-light the cornett’s gleam - BBC Radio 3 Record Review
  • 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
  • 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
  • Signum Classics are proud to release the fourth disc from The King's Singers on Signum Classics - 1605: Treason and Dischord. On 5 November 1605 Guy Fawkes was caught preparing to detonate 36 barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords unveiling an act of attempted treason that shocked the whole of Europe. What led a group of young Catholic men to risk their lives for their faith? 400 years later the King’s Singers and Concordia illuminate the dangers of hearing Mass in secret, of conspiracy and downfall, and of protestant relief and celebration, through a project of music and prose. The music, structured around Byrd’s perfect 4-part Mass, contains motets by Catholic composers, balanced with protestant anthems celebrating the downfall of the plot, and a commission from the British composer, Francis Pott. Master Tresham: His Ducke reflects on the ‘9/11’ of its day - 5/11/1605. The script, drawing on historic texts and written by Deborah Mackay for the quatercentenary concert series related to this CD, uses the dramatised persona of William Byrd, the most famous composer of his age, to recreate the atmosphere of change and hope in the Jacobean court. ★★★★ The performers bring verve and forceful emotional fervour to these works of protest - Classic FM Magazine A brilliant fusion of Renaissance and contemporary idioms - The Scotsman Strongly recommended - International Record Review There is never a question of technical polish and precision with the King’s Singers - American Record Guide
  • Signum Classics are proud to release the Smith Quartet's debut disc on Signum Records - Different Trains. The disc contains three of Steve Reich's most inspiring works: Triple Quartet for three string quartets, Reich’s personal dedication to the late Yehudi Menuhin, Duet, and the haunting Different Trains for string quartet and electronic tape. The Smith Quartet's intense sound re-emphasises the rhapsodic ending of the work. Duet and Triple Quartet are also featured here and are played to perfection - The Independent on Sunday The Smith Quartet on the admirable Signum label is beautifully clear, and played with a rather touching delicacy which brings out the subtle poetry of the ending - BBC Music Magazine This five-star Signum issue [conveys] the emotional power or Reich's uncompromising writing - Music Week The Smiths are impressive in both pieces - The Guardian
  • 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
  • Following the release of their critically acclaimed recording of Reich’s Different Trains on Signum, Britain’s leading contemporary string ensemble, The Smith Quartet, perform the works of five diverse British composers. The music is inspired by the ancient English landscape, 9th century Irish poetry, 20th century human tragedy and the passing of friends. As versatile as the Kronos Quartet, and smoother than the Brodskys, The Smith Quartet have edged ahead of their competitors in contemporary chamber musicThe Independent on Sunday [A] compelling blend of live ensemble and electronics - Journal for Music in Ireland
  • 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
  • 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
  • Since the Cadence Ensemble’s premiere performance in 2004, the group has quickly become one of the leading and most popular music groups of Armenia. Initially performing the works of Argentine composer, Astor Piazzolla the ense mble has expanded its repertoire to encorporate contemporary European and Armenian composers. Under the leadership of pianist, Armen Babakhanian, the ensemble have enjoyed international success. Most recently the ensemble have given concerts in Paris, London and Brussels.
  • The New release from one of Armenia’s leading and most popular music groups. Following their prior success this year with their first release of Expressia - Armenian Fantasy, Cadence Ensemble expand their recording ventures to Expressia - Tangos and Fantasies. This new release explores the Tango at its best including works from some of the great Tango writers including Astor Piazzolla and fellow Armenian Narine Zarifian. With innovative arrangements of works by Carlos Gardel, Hector Stampioni and the Fantasy on Themes of Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin. Under the leadership of pianist Armen Babakhanian, they play Piazzolla's wildly infectious music with style and hauteur and introduce us to more tangos by lesser-known masters (including an Armenian) before winding up with a delightful arrangement of themes from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Refreshingly differentThe Guardian
  • 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. Future releases include Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Mozart’s Symphony No. 1 and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4.

    The concerts of Warren-Green and the London Chamber Orchestra at St John’s, Smith Square aren’t often noticed in the press, but their large regular audience knows that they are some of the most exciting in London - The Times

    Tan’s engaging way with Mozart’s Concerto No. 12 intersects nicely with the orchestra’s freshly minted accompaniment. Rosemary Furniss’s direction of Haydn’s ‘La Reine’ Symphony captures the music’s grandeur as well as its grace. And the subversive originality and rhythmic drive of Beethoven’s wackiest symphony come roaring happily across - Classic FM Magazine

  • 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
  • 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. Future releases include Mozart’s Symphony No. 1 and Beethoven’s ‘Ah Perfido!’
     
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