• Flux

    £12.00
    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. James Williamson’s In Memoriam is achingly contemplative, while the title of Lucy Pankhurst’s Diaphanousphere suggests the delicate webs of sound created by the quartet - The Independent Phenomenally talented saxophonists - Clarinet and Saxophone Society Magazine
  • Originating as a sexy dance in South America, the ‘chacona’ crossed the Atlantic and established itself in Spain as an irresistible temptation. In 1615, it was banned from Spanish theatres for being ‘lascivious, dishonest, offensive to pious ears’, but the attractions of the chaconne held sway. From the Ground Up traces its allure from early Spanish chaconnes, through the worlds of Purcell and Piccinini, to Bach’s magisterial example for solo violin. Reanimating the ‘lascivious’, Purcell’s ground basses furnish a harmonic groove for readings from Shakespeare by British actor Samuel West, accompanied by New York rapper Baba Israel.
  • Gesangbuch

    £12.00
    Edward Cowie’s unique compositional voice stems from his wide-ranging interdisciplinary interests in both the sonic and visual arts, with many of his works inspired by ideas and concepts from artworks and from the natural world. The opening piece of this recording – a 2011 commission for BBC Radio 3 – creates a complex musical tapestry and soundscape from the call of the Australian bell-bird, opening with translations of choruses of several species of Australian frogs. In 2002 Cowie become the BBC Singers’ first ‘Associate Composer’, marking a relationship between the composer that began in the mid-1970s and continues to this day. A fine tribute to an underrated composer - The Guardian The BBC Singers are joined by the Endymion ensemble for the lengthy “Gesangbuch”, a four-part choral work whose wordless vocals and darting, sprite-like musical tones create a work of suitably elemental spirits animated by the changing seasonal round - The Independent
  • Gesualdo

    £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
  • 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
  • The Sacconi Quartet record the string quartets of British composer Graham Fitkin, The Composer writes in the introduction to this disc: “ The string quartet medium seems to me to thrive in contexts of both poignant intimacy or extrovert forceful information overload. (And indeed all those delicate shades in between.) I feel it has a strength of purpose that I relish, an honest homogeneity to it, a good wide pitch range and quite frankly the ability to play decent long sustained notes or short pizzicati. It’s been all too tempting.” Composed between 1992 and 2007, this disc compiles Fitkin’s complete works for String Quartet, performed by one of the UK’s most dynamic and versatile string quartets. The Sacconi Quartet, for whom the medium-length String was composed, play throughout with élan and what sounds like a complete understanding of the ebb and flow of each of these quite diverse pieces… A terrific disc that I encourage everyone to buyGramophone All weaved with his trademark rhythmic complexity - Northern Echo
  • Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins continue their duo partnership with a new recording of works by two trailblazing composers from France and Poland respectively - Reynaldo Hahn and Karol Szymanowski. Waley-Cohen's playing is radiant and soaring, and Watkins's pianism a model as always of sensitivity - The Sunday Times An intelligent recital disk...all played with verve and style - The Guardian It is the sheer melting beauty in the opening pages of the final movement that makes Hahn's sonata so affecting, especially with Waley-Cohen's hushed tone... an enjoyable recital - BBC Music Magazine Tamsin Waley-Cohen produces a beautiful, soft, creamy tone in the lyrical passages, and throughout the recital we're treated to a remarkable palette of tone colours. Huw Watkins is able to match this range most effectively - Gramophone [Waley-Cohen] has a potent rhetorical style, moving neatly from dramatic flourishes and cadenzas into gentle lyricism... a fine performance - The Strad
  • 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 with the Danish Chamber Players explores some of Hakim's works for chamber ensemble and organ, with performances from the Th. Frobenius & Sonner Organ of Vangede Kirke, Gentofte, Denmark. The Sakskoebing Praeludier are vigorously entertaining chorale arrangements. Concerto No. 4 stars the composer, firing off an explosively active finaleBBC Music Magazine
    By far the strongest, leanest work is the vividly scored Concerto No 4 for organ and chamber ensemble ... The finale is a riot of joyous dancing - Gramophone
  • 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
  • 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

  • Over thirty years ago, Fretwork made its first recording – well, technically speaking it was the second album to be recorded, but the first to be released – and it was called ‘In nomine’, which consisted mainly of 16th-century examples of this remarkable instrumental form. While this isn’t an anniversary of that release, Fretwork wanted to look both back to that first release and forward, to bring the genre up to date. There were several examples of the In nomine and related forms that couldn’t be recorded in 1987, and this album seeks to complete the project. The form was created unwittingly by John Taverner (1490-1545). His 6-part mass, Gloria tibi Trinitas, is based on the plainchant of that name. In the Sanctus, at the words Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini (Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord), the six-part texture is pared down to two and three parts; and then, with the words in nomine Domini, Taverner makes, for the only time in the mass, a complete statement of the cantus firmus, accompanied by three voices. This four- parts section – very beautiful as it is – must have struck contemporaries as some kind of perfection, to be used as a template, to be emulated and copied. And then those copies were copied and changed again. Typically, an In nomine would have the alto, or second part, playing this cantus firmus in long slow notes of equal length. The other parts would weave counterpoint around it, sometimes commenting upon it, sometimes ignoring it. Typically, the cantus firmus starts and ends on the note D – but there are many exceptions to all these ‘rules’.
  • This first release on Signum from one of the UK’s most dynamic string quartets, the Carducci Quartet demonstrate their passion and commitment to bringing contemporary repertoire to a wider audience. On this recording they are joined by oboist nicholas Daniel for three world premieres, all written specially for them and all premiered at the Presteigne Festival: Michael Berkeley’s Oboe Quintet, ‘Into the Ravine’, John McCabe’s String Quartet No. 7, ‘Summer Eves’, and Adrian Williams’ String Quartet No. 4.
    Compelling playing - Northern Echo  
  • Italian Inspirations

    £8.00£14.00
    Alessio Bax plays an Italian inspired programme, picking his favourite pieces taken from a rich history of music from one of the most romantic countries in the world. He opens the programme with a J.S. Bach transcription of a oboe concerto by Venetian composer Alessandro Marcello, which reveals a deep insight into Bach’s mind. This is followed by Rachmaninov’s last ever work for solo piano, which is incredibly eloquent, introspective and personal. The Dallapiccola continues this eloquent theme, showing some beautifully crafted dodecaphonism. The recording is rounded off with two pieces of Liszt, which take the listener on a multi-legged journey through hell, purgatory and heaven, with beauty and drama along the way.   All downloads include booklets.
  • J. S. Bach's G Minor sonata BWV 1030b is perhaps better known in its later version for flute and harpsichord where it was re-cast in b minor (BWV 1030). For the earlier g minor version only the harpsichord part remains and it is a matter of conjecture which instrument Bach really intended. Of all his  flute works Bach's b minor sonata is the most ambitious, and played on the oboe the epic nature of the piece is even more evident. Whilst being blessed with many wonderful obligato parts in the cantatas, the g minor sonata is the only large scale solo work for oboe players left by Bach. If BWV 1030 can exist in both oboe and flute versions, why can't other pieces by Bach be similarly versatile? The remainder of the disc includes the often arranged trio sonata for organ, BWV 529 in C major, the flute sonatas BWV 1020, 1031 and 1033 and the harpsichord Prelude and Fugue in c minor BWV 871 from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II. The authorship of the flute sonata BWV 1033 is called into question because of the style and quality of the basso continuo part. A theory, proposed by musicologist Robert Marshall, is that Bach wrote the flute part as an unaccompanied piece, and that either a son or a student of J. S. Bach added the accompaniment at a later stage. We therefore present the work here as an unaccompanied sonata, echoing the genre that Bach developed with his unaccompanied violin and 'cello sonatas. Gail Hennessy and Nicholas Parle first played together in London in 1986. They discovered a strong musical rapport and their decision to record these Bach sonatas using oboe and harpsichord stems from their performances over the years of the "big" g minor sonata (BWV 1030b), a challenging work that, like much great music, reveals more and more with each playing. Gail Hennessy plays with a beautifully rounded tone … Nicholas Parle comes into his own with the C minor prelude and fugue - Early Music News A very good player [Gail] is indeed; fine phrasing matched by perfect tuning. Parle is an excellent partner - Early Music Review The technical quality of the performances is excellent; the performers have played together for fifteen years, and thus have good rapport and knowledge of each other's styles - Ludwig Van Web  
  • Soprano Gillian Keith joins the acclaimed Baroque ensemble Armonico Consort under Christopher Monks for the first release in a three disc series featuring the solo cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach’s cantatas hold a special place amongst performers and devotees of his music. Whether sacred or secular, these works provide incredible variety for listeners and players alike. Some contain elements of storytelling similar to arias and recitatives from his great Passions; many have instrumental movements and solo passages that rival any of his concerti, and are indeed borrowed directly from some of the most famous. Not surprisingly, Bach’s cantatas are often incredibly virtuosic, demanding as much technical ability, style and understanding of the music as any of his other works. This first release features the cantatas nos. 82a, 202 (the famous “Wedding Cantata”) and 210.
  • John Jenkins (1592-1678) is perhaps the most popular English composer of the great golden era of music for multiple viols, ranging from William Cornyshe in 1520 through to Henry Purcell in 1680. The reason why is not hard to fathom: a rare melodic gift is married to an exceptionally deep understanding of harmony and modulation, and effortless counterpoint gives each part an equal voice in the musical conversation. Fretwork perform Jenkins’ complete consort works for four-part viol ensemble, in a new recording that showcases this composer’s rich and diverse compositions. A recital of sumptuous music superbly played. In a word: sublimeClassical Ear A new recording that showcases the composer’s rich and diverse compositionsNorthern Echo Contemplative, spirited, mellifluous and free from overt drama, they offer apolitical, zen-like balmThe Observer When played well, as in the case of these beautiful performances, John Jenkins’ work can be deeply satisfying and deserves to be heard more widely. Highly recommended - iClassical Mellifluous and engaging, with a real sense of communication, this is delightful music, delightfully performedPlanet Hugill  
  • Even though Jonathan Dove is best known as a vocal or choral composer, with operas and works for children forming the backbone of his output, his chamber music reveals similar predilections for narrative, drama, atmosphere and a sense of the personal.
    His new commission from the Sacconi Quartet In Damascus was inspired by the violinist Hannah Dawson’s suggestion for a work that should reflect aspects of the conflict in Syria; not because music can offer any political solution, but simply as an expression of empathy, sorrow, even outrage at those terrible events. Featuring a performance by tenor Mark Padmore, the text is taken from prose-poems by Ali Safar that draw on his first- hand experiences in Syria, eloquently translated by Anne-Marie McManus.
    The Sacconi’s present this new work alongside his string quartet work Out of Time, and his Piano Quintet – performed with pianist Charles Owen.
    ★★★★ Jonathan Dove’s In Damascus proves a powerful, passionate and above all humane commentary on that country’s current plight… impeccable playing from the Sacconi Quartet - Classical Ear ★★★★ The beauty of the piece, for tenor and string quartet, is its restraint. It doesn’t sensationalise, get maudlin, moralise or politicise. The words are direct and the music respects that. The performance does, too: focused playing from the Sacconi Quartet and lucid, unswerving narrative from tenor Mark Padmore - The Guardian Mark Padmore uses his voice with such emotional intelligence… the string playing is by turn both dark and passionate - BBC Radio 3 Record Review  
  • Songs and Instrumental Music by Josquin des Pres, his pupils and contemporaries. Critics Choice: A disc I have already enjoyed many times and plan to keep near me - Gramophone I recommend it strongly - Early Music Review Many imaginative touches, and interpretative subtlety in abundance - Early Music
  • Jupiter

    £12.00
    Orchestral transcriptions and chamber music by Jean-Baptiste Forqueray (1699-1782), taken from Pièces de viole (Paris 1747)and inspired in part by the Roman God, Jupiter. It is certainly rewarding to hear Forqueray's deserving music opened up in such lively and infectious performances - Gramophone All the playing is first rate with exemplary intonation, phrasing, ornamentation and all round good taste - Early Music Review This is revelatory recording marrying scholarship with vivd, risk-taking imagination - highly recommended - Early Music News
  • The Armonico Consort return to disc on Signum (following their highly-regarded Naked Byrd CD series) with a new disc celebrating the glorious combination of soprano and trumpet in baroque music – featuring the soaring talents of Elin Manahan Thomas and Crispian Steele-Perkins. Widely-praised for their imaginative and inventive programming, this disc features works by JS Bach (Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen), GP Telemann (Trumpet Concerto in D major), Alessandro Scarlatti (Su le sponde del Tebro) and a special compilation of works by Handel devised by Crispian Steele-Perkins. The tone is immediately set by Crispian Steele-Perkins' trilling trumpet on Bach's Jauchzet Gott in alien Landen, which also features quite thrilling counterpoints between him and soprano Elin Manahan ThomasThe Independent
    The whole thing seems suffused with light reflected from Manahan Thomas’ voice, and Steele-Perkins’ effortlessly projected trumpetBBC Radio 3 Record Review
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

  • 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

     
  • Love Lives Beyond the Tomb

    £8.00£14.00
    Ian Venables studied composition with Richard Arnell at Trinity College of Music, London and later with John Joubert, Andrew Downes and John Mayer at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. His works encompass many genres and he has added significantly to the canon of English art song. Described as ‘Britain’s greatest living composer of art song’ (Musical Opinion) and ‘a song composer as fine as Finzi and Gurney’ (BBC Music Magazine), Ian Venables has written over 80 works in this genre, including nine song-cycles. As the title suggests, the works on this disc are predominantly reflective in mood although this does not preclude the use of faster-moving music whenever the poetry requires it. Its subject matter celebrates the timelessness of love through the poetry of James Joyce, John Drinkwater, Edward Thomas, John Clare, Robert Nichols and the modern poet Jennifer Andrews; the celebration and commemoration of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, in Sir Andrew Motion’s remarkable narrative poem Remember This and the collective remembrance of those who died in the First World War: the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy and the less well-known Francis St. Vincent Morris providing the impetus for one of Ian Venables’ most dramatic and profoundly moving cycles.   All downloads include booklets.
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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  
  • 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
  • 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.