• 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 trio of leading British solists perform a sumptuous selection of chamber music by the Romantic composers Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, Schumann and Strauss. The programme is centred around Schubert’s iconic The Shepherd on the Rock – written for the esteemed soprano Anna Milder- Hauptmann, it was to become virtually the final complete work that Schubert composed before his tragic death at 31.
    ★★★★ There are some lovely performances on this disc, with Tynan, Bliss and Glynn combining to make some real magic in the Schubert and Strauss - Planet Hugill
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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  
  • Bohemia

    £12.00
    Tamsin Waley Cohen is joined by pianist Huw Watkins for a new disc exploring folk- inspired Bohemia from before the First World War – featuring works by Antonin Dvořák, Josef Suk and Leoš Janáček. Waley-Cohen captures the score’s spirit of infectious bonhomie to perfection… this gifted duo refreshingly exchanges the percussive tendency and angular introspection of some recent accounts for a spiritually intense espressivo reminiscent of Yehudi Menuhin in his primeThe Strad Just fresh, thoughtful and committed interpretations shot through with poetry and alertnessGramophone The performances are all well prepared, well integrated, well-conceived and beautifully played. Altogether a cherishable discMusicWeb International
  • Voyages

    £12.00
    Soprano Mary Bevan and pianist Jopseph Middleton perform a programme exploring the genius of Baudelaire and Goethe, and how texts by them unlocked very speci c musical landscapes in settings by Debussy, Duparc, Chausson, de Bréville, Séverac, Fauré and Schubert. Praised by Opera for her “dramatic wit and vocal control” in stand out performances on opera and concert platforms, Mary Bevan is a winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist award and UK Critics’ Circle Award for Exceptional Young Talent
    Pianist Joseph Middleton specialises in the art of song accompaniment and chamber music and has been highly acclaimed within this eld. Described in the BBC Music Magazine as “one of the brightest stars in the world of song and Lieder”, he has also been labeled “the cream of the new generation” by The Times and “a perfect accompanist” by Opera Now. ★★★★ A beautiful programme… they include plenty of intriguing and little-known songs that more than deserve these excellent interpretations - Primephonic Bevan’s purity of tone and discreet yet telling way with words can be by turns unnerving and alluring in the Baudelaire settings… Middleton, as one might expect, is marvellously insightful, playing throughout with weight as well as grace and subtlety - Gramophone
  • The 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
  • 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  
  • 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
  • Celebrated soloists Roderick Wiliams and Christopher Glynn perform a new English translation Franz Schubert’s Winterreise. Composed in 1827 whilst in the grip of the illness that would ultimately kill him, Schubert’s setting of Wilhelm Muller’s poetry takes on an added tragic interpretation as it follows the narrative of a spurned lover travelling through a cold and barren landscape. This disc is the first in a series of three English language programmes of Schubert’s song cycles. Future releases include The Shepherd on the Rock (Der Hirt auf dem Felsen) and The Fair Maid of the Mill (Die schöne Müllerin). The immediacy of the storytelling is immaculate - The Sunday Times The biggest gain is Roderick Williams’s fabulous delivery and his beautiful creamy voice which I can never get too much of, and supported beautifully again by Chris Glynn, so musically it’s great - BBC Radio 3 Record Review It's exceptionally effective, and mandatory listening if, like me, you're not a fluent German speakerThe Arts Desk This is an amazing disc, not the Winterreise to end all Winterreises but an essential complement to them. I gather that Glynn and Signum have recordings the other two cycles up their sleeve, which is good news indeedPlanet Hugill Those who have been longing for an English version of Winterreise need not hesitate, and avid collectors of this song cycle – like myself – will find that this is a valuable addition to their collectionMusic Web International
  • Following her debut release of Baroque works by Vivaldi and Handel earlier this year, Grace Davidson returns to disc on Signum with an intimate disc of Dowland’s first book of lute songs, accompanied by David Miller. Blending melancholy with wit in his writing for both lute and voice, John Dowland’s songs have continued to enchant audiences and singers for nearly 400 years. The ‘First Booke’ includes some of Dowland’s less well-known works, and was recorded in the sensitive acoustic of Ascot Priory in Berkshire, UK.

    Performance ★★★★ Recording ★★★★★ Dowland's [works] find elegant interpreters here in Grace Davidson and David Miller - BBC Music Magazine These are beautiful, musical performances - Gramophone
  • Christopher Glynn continues his series of late Schubert song cycles in English, joined by celebrated soloists Sir John Tomlinson, Sophie Bevan, Julian Bliss and Alec Frank-Gemmill.

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

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

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

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

    Christopher Glynn’s playing is excellent throughout - Gramophone

  • 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
  • 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.
  • Above the opening notes of The Protecting Veil, John Tavener wrote Transcendent With Awesome Majesty, communicating the scale of this universal, timeless, structurally perfect and emotionally powerful work. In the composer’s words, “the cello represents The Mother of God and never stops singing.” Indeed, the cello sings without stopping for the entire 46 minutes of the piece, requiring huge mental and physical stamina. Matthew Barley leads Sinfonietta Rīga in this exploration of Tavener’s musical works and inspirations, interspersing performances with readings of WB Yeats and Frithjof Schuon by renowned actors Julie Christieand Olwyn Fouéré. The influence Tavener drew from Indian music in The Protecting Veil is also explored further in Barley’s performance with tabla player Sukhvinder ‘Pinky’ Singh in The Song of Separation and Waiting by Pandit Sultan Khan. Matthew Barley is known internationally as a cellist, improviser, arranger, music animateur, and as Artistic Director of Between The Notes. His musical world is focused on projects that connect people in different ways, blurring the boundaries that never really existed between genres and people.
  • The Ancient Greek word Kalon was used by philosophers to describe perfect physical and moral beauty. In this recording, the two string ensembles (the Albion Quartet and the Czech Philharmonic) explore the different aspects of Kalon through the context in which beauty can exist in ugliness and darkness. This record is the result of Richard Blackford's doctorate at the University of Bristol, which investigates the use of polytempo. The recording is a way of applying the findings of his doctorate in a range of musical contexts. Kalon is unique as it explores the use of polytempo in the context of extended tonality and modality, which could be said surpasses the complexity posed by serialist works of a similar nature, such as Stockhausen's Gruppen or Carré.  
  •   Discover some of the greatest pieces of minimalist music ever written, performed here by Signum artists including Tenebrae, Tamsin Waley-Cohen, Julian Bliss and the Armonico Consort.
  • Its title song-cycle, scored for folk-imbued ensemble and recorded with the acclaimed Nora Fischer, treats various aspects of the natural world as human characteristics. The Consolation of Rain is a moving reflection on loss and the restorative power of nature, while Cymbeline draws on ancient religious attitudes to the sun. Written for mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital, the work takes its name from an old Celtic word meaning ‘Lord of the Sun.’ Bruce has achieved global recognition as a composer, celebrated for his richly colourful, poetic, and joyful music. Recent commissions include the BBC Proms, Carnegie Hall, Covent Garden, and Glyndebourne. 
  • The 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.
  • Arcadia

    £12.00
    Oliver Davis graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 1994 and has since composed numerous concertos, ballet scores, albums, soundtracks and television scores working with many of the major London orchestras. The Infinite Ocean was composed for choreographer Edwaard Liang and was commissioned by San Francisco Ballet for the Unbound festival, 2018. Liang requested the work to be in six sections and to feature a solo violin. The aim of Aracdia was to create a piece which evoked an idyllic serene place. Gemini was specifically composed for violinist Kerenza Peacock and was designed to explore the contrasting styles of her playing. The Suite for piano and orchestra was written for Huw Watkins on piano and heavily involves thematic development throughout. Inferno began life as a short orchestral sketch, which gradually evolved into a full, single-movement piece. Lastly, The Elements was commissioned by The Hanke Brothers, who specifically wanted a piece describing the four elements. The ensemble containing piano, viola, recorder and tuba, produces a unique timbre, and the piece explores the possible various aspects of this timbre.
  • CPE Bach

    £24.00
    Born in Weimar, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-88) was the fifth child and second surviving son of JS Bach and his first wife Maria Barbara. By his own account he had no other teacher for composition and keyboard except his father. Nevertheless, the majority of Emanuel’s earliest works owe more to the influence of Telemann and other exponents of the new galant style, while already suggesting his own progressive instinct. At the age of twenty-four, after seven years studying law, Emanuel decided to devote himself to music. In 1738 he accepted the position of keyboard player at the court of the Prussian crown prince – the future Frederick the Great. After nearly thirty years of royal service he left Berlin and moved to Hamburg, where he occupied the positions of Music Director and Cantor until his death. Described by the Guardian as a performer of “fearless intensity”, former ECHO Rising Star Tamsin Waley-Cohen has established herself as one of the most insightful and versatile young British violinists. Described by The Daily Telegraph as ‘in a class of his own’ James Baillieu has been the prize-winner of the Wigmore Hall Song Competition, Das Lied International Song Competition, Kathleen Ferrier and Richard Tauber Competitions. He plays these C.P.E. Bach compositions on a modern piano.
  • 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 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.
  • The musical world of eighteenth-century Europe was a small one. Despite the problems presented by contemporary standards of transport, it was quite normal for composers in one part of Europe to be entirely au fait with what was happening elsewhere. This is borne out by the closeness of three German composers: Telemann, godfather to C.P.E. Bach; Pisendel; and J.S. Bach, who admired both his compatriots and composed some astoundingly difficult music for the violinist Pisendel. This programme celebrates their music as well as the music of those who contributed to their musical heritage. Included alongside the German triumvirate are works by Vivaldi who physically helped with the composition of Pisendel’s A minor concerto movement, Fasch who was a great friend of Pisendel and Telemann, and Brescianello, an Italian who helped the dissemination of Italian instrumental music throughout the German-speaking lands and whose concertos were played in Dresden by Pisendel.
  • 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.”
  • "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.
  • "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.
  • 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’.
  • The Albion Quartet continue their Dvořák series with Signum. This is their second release on the label, featuring Dvořák's 8th & 10th string quartets.
  • After the success of their debut disc, ‘Voyages’, Mary Bevan and Joseph Middleton present their second recital disc exploring Lieder in German and Italian by Schubert, Haydn and Wolf. The programme is woven around songs inspired by the ‘muses’ of the day, both mythological and divine. It begins with Schubert’s dramatic and reverential settings of sacred German poetry, set alongside his lush emotional portrayals of female characters in the Italian settings. The central section of the disc is then devoted to Haydn’s epic ‘scena’ depicting the famously cruel abandonment of Arianna by her lover Teseo, ‘Arianna a Naxos’. Haydn’s beautiful prayer ‘Geistliches Lied’ takes us back into the world of German poetry and the religious fervour that arose from the collective belief in Christianity which pervaded most art forms of the age. The disc then moves into works by Hugo Wolf, whose stunning settings of devotional texts take the listener right to the heart of the characters; a few of these songs were in fact inspired by paintings. The early moments of Jesus Christ’s life are vividly portrayed here, particularly in songs such as ‘Die ihr Schwebet’, ‘Auf ein Altes Bild’ and ‘Schlafendes Jesuskind’, while the haunting ‘Gesang Weylas’ invites the listener into the world of the mysterious goddes Weyla who wistfully dreams of the shores of her distant homeland. From Ganymed to Christ, Dido to the Virgin Mary, Arianna to St Peter, this recital disc richly illustrates the lives and events surrounding the ‘divine muses’ who inspired these composers.