• Alessio Bax plays an Italian inspired programme, picking his favourite pieces taken from a rich history of music from one of the most romantic countries in the world. He opens the programme with a J.S. Bach transcription of a oboe concerto by Venetian composer Alessandro Marcello, which reveals a deep insight into Bach’s mind. This is followed by Rachmaninov’s last ever work for solo piano, which is incredibly eloquent, introspective and personal. The Dallapiccola continues this eloquent theme, showing some beautifully crafted dodecaphonism. The recording is rounded off with two pieces of Liszt, which take the listener on a multi-legged journey through hell, purgatory and heaven, with beauty and drama along the way.
  • “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. Here, Llyr Williams plays a collection of Schubert solo piano works across a series of releases, once again showing why he is one of the most diverse and extraordinary pianists performing today.   All downloads include booklets.
  • “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.
  • Ian Venables studied composition with Richard Arnell at Trinity College of Music, London and later with John Joubert, Andrew Downes and John Mayer at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. His works encompass many genres and he has added significantly to the canon of English art song. Described as ‘Britain’s greatest living composer of art song’ (Musical Opinion) and ‘a song composer as fine as Finzi and Gurney’ (BBC Music Magazine), Ian Venables has written over 80 works in this genre, including nine song-cycles. As the title suggests, the works on this disc are predominantly reflective in mood although this does not preclude the use of faster-moving music whenever the poetry requires it. Its subject matter celebrates the timelessness of love through the poetry of James Joyce, John Drinkwater, Edward Thomas, John Clare, Robert Nichols and the modern poet Jennifer Andrews; the celebration and commemoration of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, in Sir Andrew Motion’s remarkable narrative poem Remember This and the collective remembrance of those who died in the First World War: the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy and the less well-known Francis St. Vincent Morris providing the impetus for one of Ian Venables’ most dramatic and profoundly moving cycles.
  • Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins return with the start of a Beethoven Violin Sonata Cycle - here recording the 1st, 5th and 8th sonatas. Gramophone Magazine said “The heart gives a little leap at the prospect of...a duo as engaging and intelligent as Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Huw Watkins.” This cycle is sure to be one of the highlights of Signum’s year, as well as of Beethoven 250. Beethoven’s twelve violin sonatas add up to a comprehensive exploration of the possibilities and potential of writing for the two instruments on equal terms – possibilities that he was ideally placed to understand. The three sonatas on this recording are waypoints on a journey, crafted by a composer who was both violinist and pianist, and who never ceased exploring the practical possibilities of the instruments for which he wrote.