• 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.”
  • 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’.
  • Formed in 2016, the Albion Quartet brings together four of the UK’s exceptional young string players who are establishing themselves rapidly on the international stage. This disc marks the first release in a new Dvořák cycle with Signum Records, as well as future releases of Walton and Britten plus the premiere recording of Richard Blackford’s Kalon with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra later in 2019. Having made their debuts last season at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam as well as the Auditorium du Louvre in Paris, the 2018/19 season sees the Albion Quartet’s debuts at the Wigmore Hall and at Town Hall/Symphony Hall Birmingham. They also continue their residency at London’s Kings Place, become quartet-in residence at the Stratford Festival of Words and Music and perform at the Oxford Lieder Festival. 'Their attention to the smallest detail reaps dividends' - Gramophone
  • 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.
  • 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  
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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
  • Matthew Barley adds to his reputation as one of the UK's most innovative and creative performers with the new programme and CD Around Britten – celebrating the centenary of Britten's birth with a selection of his works, including the Third Cello Suite and pieces by Sir John Tavener and Gavin Bryars. As always, Barley's playing is fearless. The disc is a voyage around the cello as well as around Britten, and one that never becomes relentless - Gramophone The performance of the Suite is a very fine one - International Record Review This engrossing recital is a defining statement in modern cello playing - Sinfini Music
  • 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  
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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  
  • 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
  • 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
  • Recreating the exciting sound of swing from the 30’s and 40’s, Julian Bliss’s dynamic virtuosity leads his sextet through some of the great tunes of the swing era, staying true to the authentic feel but naturally with a modern twist. Julian Bliss says: "I decided in the summer of 2010 that I wanted to start my own Jazz group. I enlisted the help of Neal Thornton (Piano) to help make this dream a reality. We spent months listening to every version of each tune we could find, and putting together our own versions while still being mindful of the light and fun feel Goodman captured all those years ago. We then had the task of putting the rest of the band together. We were specifically looking for musicians that had a great interest in the Swing era, and I must say we couldn’t have picked a better set of players."