• 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
  • 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
  • Music from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, transcribed for mixed consort.
    Disc of the Month: An inspired concept... outstanding in every respect - BBC Music Magazine
       
  • 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
  • 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
  • Signum Records is pleased to present the first of a series of three discs by Music Antiqua of London, featuring the music of three Italian cities. In the late 15th century, Italy was divided between the independence of the mighty Venetian Republic and tiny Dukedoms such as Ferrara and Mantua. Music and literature were patronised by the ruling classes as statements of power and local identity. However the most revered European composers were from the north, and their musical style owed little to Italian culture. In northern Italy an educated classicist, Isabella Marchioness of Mantua, devised the frottola where text was set to a simple melody following speech rhythms, and accompanied by 2 or 3 instruments. The frottola is a Cinderella of Renaissance song and has suffered in comparison with the English and Italian Madrigal and the French Chanson in the 2oth century revival of interest in Renaissance music. On Fire and Ice we present frottole taken from a Venetian manuscript, compiled around 1520, to argue the case for a re-evaluation of this repertoire. The collection is notable for the quality of both the poetry and the music. The texts deal frequently with emotional extremes - the “fire and ice” of our title! Modelled on the court bands of the 16th century, Musica Antiqua is the only group in Great Britain to play on specially commissioned matched sets of viols and recorders, copied from 16th century originals. This CD offers a rare opportunity to hear the very different sound these instruments make compared to their "modern" counterparts from the 17th and 18th centuries. These performances.... communicate an infectious sense of enjoyment and enthusiasm (and) make thoroughly satisfying listening - Daily Telegraph The instrumental pieces are beautiful and are played excellently - Seen and Heard There are many imaginative touches, and interpretative subtlety in abundance - Early Music  
  • 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
  • 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!
  • 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
  • Signum Records is delighted to announce  the release of Gail Hennessy (baroque oboe) and Nicholas Parle (organ and harpsichord)'s second collaborative disc on Signum Records.

    Pellegrina’s Delight celebrates Vivaldi’s contribution to oboe repertoire in the early eighteenth century. Vivaldi wrote at least 16 concerti for solo oboe, but in this recording we offer an overview of Vivaldi’s prominent use of the solo oboe in his chamber music. The disc also provides a fascinating illustration of Vivaldi’s stylistic development between c.1705 and c.1720. The Quartet Sonata in C major (RV 779) was written during the first decade of Vivaldi’s activity as a composer, when he was serving as a violin teacher at the Ospedale della Piet in Venice. Selected girls were admitted - after audition - to the musical establishment. Vivaldi made a note in this manuscript of the names of the four female musicians who were chosen to perform the sonata. They are Pellegrina (oboe), Prudenza (violin), Lucietta (organ) and Candida (chalumeau). Other works featured on this disc are the Sonata for oboe and continuo in C minor, RV 53, the Sonata in G minor, RV 28 the Trio-sonata in E minor, Op. 1 no. 2, RV 67, the Concerto for flute, violin and bassoon in G minor, RV 106 (presented with the oboe taking the part of first treble instrument, the Sonata in B-flat major, RV 34 and the Sonata a 4 in C major, RV 801.
  • J. S. Bach's G Minor sonata BWV 1030b is perhaps better known in its later version for flute and harpsichord where it was re-cast in b minor (BWV 1030). For the earlier g minor version only the harpsichord part remains and it is a matter of conjecture which instrument Bach really intended. Of all his  flute works Bach's b minor sonata is the most ambitious, and played on the oboe the epic nature of the piece is even more evident. Whilst being blessed with many wonderful obligato parts in the cantatas, the g minor sonata is the only large scale solo work for oboe players left by Bach. If BWV 1030 can exist in both oboe and flute versions, why can't other pieces by Bach be similarly versatile? The remainder of the disc includes the often arranged trio sonata for organ, BWV 529 in C major, the flute sonatas BWV 1020, 1031 and 1033 and the harpsichord Prelude and Fugue in c minor BWV 871 from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II. The authorship of the flute sonata BWV 1033 is called into question because of the style and quality of the basso continuo part. A theory, proposed by musicologist Robert Marshall, is that Bach wrote the flute part as an unaccompanied piece, and that either a son or a student of J. S. Bach added the accompaniment at a later stage. We therefore present the work here as an unaccompanied sonata, echoing the genre that Bach developed with his unaccompanied violin and 'cello sonatas. Gail Hennessy and Nicholas Parle first played together in London in 1986. They discovered a strong musical rapport and their decision to record these Bach sonatas using oboe and harpsichord stems from their performances over the years of the "big" g minor sonata (BWV 1030b), a challenging work that, like much great music, reveals more and more with each playing. Gail Hennessy plays with a beautifully rounded tone … Nicholas Parle comes into his own with the C minor prelude and fugue - Early Music News A very good player [Gail] is indeed; fine phrasing matched by perfect tuning. Parle is an excellent partner - Early Music Review The technical quality of the performances is excellent; the performers have played together for fifteen years, and thus have good rapport and knowledge of each other's styles - Ludwig Van Web  
  • The emergence of the basso continuo (or “figured bass”) was one of the critical moments in this history of music. Figured bass, upon which a keyboard player or lutenist could improvise harmony, meant that a single musician could provide the necessary harmonies which would previously have needed several players. In the early part of the seventeenth century, large numbers of extremely virtuosic solo motets and sonatas started to appear. The combination of solo voice with one instrument and continuo was quite common, and pieces with violin were the most common of all. This new collection from Cordaria features cantatas for soprano, violin and basso continuo, written by composers including Samuel Capricornus, Dietrich Buxtehude, Antonio Vivaldi , Georg Phillipp Telemann and Georg Frederic Handel.
  • “This curious conglomeration of concertos is a celebration of contrasts”. Thus begins Kah-Ming Ng's introduction to this collection of works from the 18th century. Although none of the composers featured may be familiar, each work has been picked for it's fine technical skill and illuminating sound, taking inspiration from the 18th century definition of 'curious'' as being 'rare, excellent and fine'. Includes works by Paradis, Reichenauer, Berlin, Pepusch, Hertel, Croft and Baldassari. For those who know Pachelbel only through the Canon, this disc will be revelatory ... Each piece is beautifully served by the ensembleThe Sunday Times
    The title of the ensemble and their new disc are both pertinent, it’s an agreeable collection full of curiosities … Ng’s notes do a decent job of describing the impact of Vivaldi and his fellow Italians on the music scene in EnglandBBC Radio 3 Record Review The highlight is Pietro Domenico Paradies' aptly-titled A Favourite Concerto, a delightful harpsichord piece that affords the ensemble's director Kah-Ming Ng full rein to display his keyboard prowessThe Independent This is a disc for adventurous music-lovers who like to extend their horizon and are not satisfied with listening to the same masterpieces over and over again. Charivari Agréable deserve our congratulations with this 20th volume in their impressive discography. May many more followMusicWeb International