• 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!
  • 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.
  • Haflidi Hallgrimsson is one of the leading figures in Icelandic musical life, and his work Mini Stories sets the surreal poetry of the soviet-era writer Daniil Kharms to music. Whilst internationally renowned actor Simon Callow brings Kharms’s texts to life, the Icelandic Caput Ensemble reflect the mood with stellar performances of Hallgrimsson’s evocative accompanying composition. This CD is an unique gem, gripping from beginning to end, superbly recorded and annotated by the composer, complete with a biography of Kharms and full texts… Enthusiastically Recommended - MusicalPointers.co.uk Callow waxes opulently lyrical in narrating Daniil Kharms’ absurdist tales and Halgrimmsson’s music is, by contrast, stark and dark … It’s the ideal combination to give a vivid sound picture of these acrid aphoristic tale - Classical Music Magazine Delightful and evocative treatments … in this impeccable recording with top-notch sound … it handsomely rewards getting to know - Gramophone
  • Signum Records is delighted to announce the debut disc of Cantabile - Lullabyes and Goodbyes. The disc has been long in preparation and is the first to be recorded by Cantabile since On the Tracks of the Comedian Harmonists. Cantabile, are one of Britain’s longest- established vocal ensembles. Since they became widely known in the early nineteen-eighties they have mastered a wide array of musical styles and their flair for the stage continues to keep them in demand in theatres and cabaret as well as in concert halls and at festivals. The four voices blend beautifully and there isn't a sour note to be heard. Diction is consistently crystal clear [and] the contribution of Malcolm Martineau is first rateMusicWeb International