• 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
  • "Her Majesty lay upon her back, with one hand in the bed and the other without. The bishop kneeled down by her, and examined her first of her faith: and she so punctually answered all his several questions by lifting up her eyes and holding up her hand, as it was a comfort to all beholders. Then the good man told her plainly, what she was and what she was to come to, and though she had been long a great Queen here upon earth, yet shortly she was to yield an account of her stewardship to the King of Kings. Between one and two of the clock on Thursday morning, he brought me word the Queen was dead." Thus wrote the queen’s cousin Sir Robert Carey, recording in his memoirs the events of March 23rd-24th 1603, and the end of an era in England’s history. Earlier, as Elizabeth I lay dying she called for her musicians to play around her bed so that “she may die gaily as she had lived, and that the horrors of death might be lessened; she heard the music tranquilly until her last breath”. As the 400th anniversary of her death approaches, The Queen’s Goodnight commemorates the music of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. The queen’s professional musical establishment was in some ways more modest than that of her father, Henry VIII, but she brought together the finest talent in the land and created collections of consort, lute and keyboard music that is still renowned today. Charivari Agréable demonstrate representative facets of this wonderful 16th century repertory. The pieces are selected with a passionate attention to detail and Charivari Agréable have included music that depicts the life of the queen: music from the court, an exhilarating depiction of a hunt, celebrations from the queen’s coronation and the moving laments on her death. Fertile imagination, excellent musicianship and persuasive playing make it a real delight - Early Music News
  • Signum Records is delighted to announce the release of A Songbook for Isabella. Isabella d’Este was brought up in the midst of an extremely active musical court. After her marriage in 1490 to Francesco Gonzaga Duke of Mantua she began to remodel the Duke's relatively modest musical establishment in imitation of that of her father, Hercule. She was herself a gifted musician and favoured above all the viol. Not only was the viol the favourite vehicle for aristocratic instrumental performance, but it was the ideal accompaniment to the voice. Under Isabella’s patronage the tradition of improvised song accompanied by the singer on a lira da braccio developed into the frottola, shared between two, three or even four viols. In employing Italian composers, and herself performing their music, Isabella played a key role in the development of this new music, and of the consort of viole which developed alongside it. This disc presents a selection of music from the circle of Isabella. The repertoire is centred around the Milliare Songbook - a hand written songbook compiled in 1502 by, or for, one Ludovico Milliare. This contains a wonderfully rich cross section of the vocal and instrumental repertoire loved by the d’Este family of Mantua. An attractive feature of the collection is the inclusion of sacred pieces, mostly non-liturgical and apparently intended for private devotional use. The instruments used for this recording have been thoroughly researched by examining documented and iconographic evidence - for example contemporary paintings of the period. The custom-made viols are cannot be called "copies"; they are recreations using the best information and scholarship available. This CD offers a rare opportunity to hear the very different sound these instruments make - rather different from their more modern counterparts from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A very satisfying compilation combining scholarship with sensuous pleasureMusical Pointers A very civilized disc with music to charm and excitementLudwig Van Web Pleasurable and abundant discoveries await the more adventurous listenerMusicWeb International
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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 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
  • Since the Cadence Ensemble’s premiere performance in 2004, the group has quickly become one of the leading and most popular music groups of Armenia. Initially performing the works of Argentine composer, Astor Piazzolla the ense mble has expanded its repertoire to encorporate contemporary European and Armenian composers. Under the leadership of pianist, Armen Babakhanian, the ensemble have enjoyed international success. Most recently the ensemble have given concerts in Paris, London and Brussels.
  • 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

     
  • Following on from the critically acclaimed albums, Different Trains and Ghost Stories, Signum is pleased to announce the release of The Smith Quartet’s latest album, the complete string quartets by the world-acclaimed composer, Philip Glass. Over a time span of 25 years, Glass completed 8 quartets (the 3 earliest were withdrawn) drawing on the influences of Bach to Shostakovich, as well as exterior musical sources: dance, theatre and film. Clear - cut , polished performances by The Smith Quartet give the listener an excellent taster of a quartet at the forefront of contemporary music. Glass weaves filigree tapestries given polished, finely detailed airings by the virtuoso BritsThe Observer How long before the Kronos is labelled the 'American Smith Quartet'? ... they are ahead of the curve at generating new repertoire and taking the experimental back-catalogue seriouslyClassic FM Magazine If success was measured according to output and sales units alone, Glass would be head and shoulders above his contemporaries ... played with characteristic precision and projection by the ensembleGramophone
  • 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
  • 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
  • Two Upon a Ground explores the peculiarly English approach to writing instrumental variations known as 'divisions'. The style is principally known for the way it enables a player to demonstrate both a virtuosic command of the instrument and an imaginative understanding of the musical possibilities inherent in a short musical phrase. The repertoire heard here is begins with the undisputed master of the genre, Christopher Simpson, and continues with further virtuosic duets and divisions by Jenkins, Lawes, Tomkins and Purcell. A sunny disposition enhanced by an excellent recorded sound - Gramophone Just buy it! It is all beautifully played - Early Music Review
  • Dance

    £12.00
    The Smith Quartet return on Signum with a new album of commissions and world premiere recordings, all centered on the theme of ‘Dance’. The featured programme is a veritable ‘whos-who’ of contemporary composition, including works from Michael Nyman, Graham Fitkin, Jon Lord, Michael Finnissy and Django Bates.  ★★★★★ Infectious enthusiasm and spirited playing - Classic FM Magazine An exuberant collection of 14 short pieces, each by a different composer. All are played with vim and technical brillianceThe Times Editor's Choice: A diverse collection of 14 works is bound together by quality of composition and performance … like a box of excellent chocolates, inviting frequent tastingClassical Music Magazine