• Iain Burnside and Ailish Tynan return to Signum with their second disc of Irish Songs and arrangements – this time from a range of different 20th Century composers. Although all of the sung texts stem from Irelands rich heritage of literature (including poems from W.B. Yeats, Thomas Moore and James Joyce), the composers featured here have a more transatlantic feel, with works by John Cage and Samuel Barber programmed alongside others by Benjamin Britten and Herbert Hughes.
    Ailish Tynan’s singing [is] totally compellingBBC Radio 3 Record Review
    Editor's Choice: The disc is full of interest. There are lovely, unknown tunes, seductively sung and hauntingly harmonised. It has pathos and wild joy in equal measure. An excellent recital -  Classic FM Magazine
    Iain Burnside is a dream of an accompanistLa Scena Musicale
  • 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
  • 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
  • A compilation of quartets by Schumann, Shostakovich and Caroline Shaw from the acclaimed American string quartet, Calidore String Quartet, exploring the visceral forms of expression that exist at the intersection of music and language. For this recording the Calidore String Quartet gathered music which transmits ideas by imitating language; its rhythms, cadences and intentions. But it also explores what happens when music substitutes for language. When it fills the void of forbidden speech or even how it carries on when language has been exhausted. The Calidore String Quartet has been praised by The New York Times for its “deep reserves of virtuosity and irrepressible dramatic instinct” and the Los Angeles Times for its balance of “intellect and expression.” Recipient of a 2018 Avery Fisher Career Grant and a 2017 Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists, the Calidore String Quartet first made international headlines as winner of the inaugural $100,000 Grand Prize of the 2016 M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition. The quartet was the first North American ensemble to win the Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship, a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and is currently in residence with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Bowers Program (formerly CMS Two).
  • Described in The Guardian (2019) as one of today’s leading composers for voice, Joanna Marsh is a British composer who since 2007 has divided her time between Dubai and the UK. Her life in the Middle East has lead to many unique musical opportunities including writing an orchestral work to celebrate the building of the Burj Khalifa. Most recently she was commissioned by Dubai Opera to write an orchestral work for the first BBC Proms in Dubai in March 2017. This lead to her writing the 6 minute work Flare, for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, based on a short story called Oil Field, by Saudi writer Mohammed Hasan Alwan. Joanna has been Composer in Residence, at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge from 2015 through to 2020 and during that time has written a number of choral works for the college choir and the college organ. She is a Co-Founder of ChoirFest Middle East in Dubai, an annual celebration of the region’s choral music scene which is reached its eighth edition in March 2020. She is also Founder and Artistic Director of the Dubai Opera Festival Chorus a large body of singers that was set up for the BBC Proms in Dubai and continues to undertake concert performances of various types across the UAE.   Available as a disc on demand from Presto Classical.
  • “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.   All downloads include booklets.
  • Disc on Demand available from Presto Classical "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.   All downloads include booklets.
  • Disc on Demand available from Presto Classical "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.   All download include booklets.
  • Alexander’s music has become known for its striking beauty and originality. Described by Positive News as “not jazz, not classical, not improvised, but a glimpse of something new”, and by ClassicFM as “refreshingly original”, it isn’t easily described or placed into a genre. Born into a family of artists, Alexander moved at the age of nineteen to northern Scotland and the windswept shores of the Moray Firth, where he completed his debut collection for solo piano, Sketches Of Light. Discovered by ClassicFM in 2013 and placed as Album of the Week, the Sketches became instantly popular and have since been aired extensively across the station. The album was re-released by Decca Records in 2014 and has featured widely across TV and Radio. In 2016 he released Portraits of Earth, his second collection for solo piano, ‘dedicated’, in Alexander’s own words, ‘to the beautiful place we all share; the living world we call Earth’. This was followed in April 2018 by the release of his third album Journey to Nidaros, composed during a 650km solitary pilgrimage across Norway and written down when he returned home. Offering a remarkable musical journal of his experiences, the album went to No.1 in the UK Specialist Classical Charts, and No.5 in the ClassicFM chart.   Alexander now lives and composes in the North-East Highlands of Scotland.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Formed in 1992, the British percussion quartet ensemblebash has forged a reputation as one of the world’s most innovative and groundbreaking chamber ensembles. Using the music of West Africa as both core repertoire and a guiding spiritual influence, ensemblebash mixes contemporary classical, jazz and music theatre into unforgettable performances. This new recording marks 20 years since the formation of the group, with the programme made up of some of their best commissions from the 2002 to 2012. ensemblebash [make] playing percussion the coolest, noisiest and funniest occupation on earthThe Times A marvellous CD from the Bashers to show off your newest playing equipment. Most of it is not loud; intricate subtleties from these multi-instrumentalists dominate the listening experienceMusical Pointers  
  • 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
  • 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

  • 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
  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 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!’
     
  • 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

  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Two works from very different composers: Chopin’s works for cello were few and far between, but these two straddle his compositional life: the Introduction and Polonaise was written in 1829 when he was just 19, and the cello sonata in (1845-6) is his last work published during his lifetime (all latter works with opus numbers being published posthumously, against his wishes). In contrast, Saint-Saëns published a great many works for the cello (as well as works in almost every genre of the classical canon), with the Cello Sonata No.2 composed during his travels in Biskra, Algeria. Jamie Walton and Daniel Grimwood are performers who have proven themselves in both concert and recordings such as these to be formidable and enthralling interpreters of the classical canon.
    ★★★★★ There’s a combination of youthful energy and well-seasoned musicality that Jamie Walton and Daniel Grimwood thrive on here and it’s a real partnership ... Fine playing - BBC Radio 3 Record Review ★★★★★  Jamie Walton's new coupling of Saint-Saens' Second Cello Sonata and Chopin's only sonata for the instrument restores faith in a too often maligned composerNew Zealand Herald Jamie Walton’s mature cello timbre and perceptiveness in matters of interpretation and winningly applied to this coupling of two 19th-century sonatas … Finely honed stylistic judgment here goes hand in hand with re-creative panacheThe Daily Telegraph
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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!
  • 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
  • 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