• 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!
  • Signum Records are pleased to present a debut recording by the Brabant Ensemble, an Oxford-based ensemble with a strong reputation for sympathetic performance of early sacred music, focussing on the repertoire of the 16th century. Like many of even the most prolific and celebrated composers of the sixteenth century, Jacobus Clemens non Papa (‘not the Pope’) has offered the history books little factual material with which to work. In contrast to the paucity of biographical material, however, many sources of Clemens' music survive. Indeed, he is one of the most widely published musicians of the entire century with fifteen Masses, over two hundred motets, many Dutch psalms and French chansons to his name. This disc features the Mass Ecce quam bonum, which is based on Clemen’s own motet setting of Psalm 133, ‘Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is: brethren, to dwell together in unity!’ Apart from that on which the Mass setting is modelled, all of the motets on this disc are in five parts, although their textures are varied. Pascha nostrum sets the text of the Easter Anthem. The Song of Song’s motet Veni electa mea is highly characteristic of mid-sixteenth century spirituality, with the eroticism of the Song of Songs harnessed to provide a metaphor for the Church as bride of Christ. Accesserunt ad Jesum introduces Jesus’s admonition to the Pharisees concerning the estate of marriage. In Job tonso capite, a highly emotive narration of Job accepting his many trials, Clemen’s delivers an immediate approach to word-painting. The final piece on this disc, Carole, Magnus eras is a secular work: a state motet addressed to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and his son, Philip II of Spain. Since the text celebrates the achievements of the Emperor but promises even greater things under his son, it was probably composed at the time of Philip’s investiture as Regent of the Low Countries in 1549. The bell-like soprano sound is particularly attractive - Daily Telegraph Irresistible...it will change your life - Early Music Review An outstanding recording - International Record Review
  • 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.
  • Celebrating Elizabethan and Jacobean Theatre brought to life by the actors and musicians of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre London, with words and music recreating the unique Globe experience. Actors Liam Brennan, Tom Burke, John McEnery and Mark Rylance are featured in their performances as Romeo, Orsino, John of Gaunt and King Richard II.

    Also featuring material from Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure and Much Ado About Nothing with introductions in the original pronounciation of Shakespeare's time, all music played on period instruments plus the special treat of excerpts of live performances on the Globe stage.

    There could hardly be a better aural souvenir of a visit to the Globe, but the set also stands up on its own as a superbly-performed compilation of Elizabethan and Jacobean musicBBC Music Magazine
  • 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.
  • Traditionally known as the composer of the Four Seasons and the Gloria, the work of Cecilia Bartoli has shown that lesser-known works of the red priest from Venice can become hit records too.

    Now Signum Records are delighted to introduce a two disc set on period instruments of the 12 Violin Sonatas, Opus 2. Cordaria features internationally-renowned baroque violinist Walter Reiter, "an artist who transcends authenticity to enter the universal" as one critic wrote, and an eminent continuo team of harpsichord, cello and theorbo.

    Written in 1708, just before the 'L'estro armonico' concertos, these sonatas contain all the passion and the virtuosity, all the lyricism and emotion, which have made the concertos so eternally popular. In the words of the great Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot, "Op. 2 is fully Vivaldian and certainly deserves to take its place among his other masterworks."

    [Reiter] shows himself to be a stylish, no-nonsense player, who in slower movements mixes a clean often sweetly singing line with tasteful ornamentation which refuses to draw undue attention to itself, and who in faster ones shows real virtuosity and fire - Gramophone  
  • This two disc set of Heinrich von Biber's Rosary or Mystery Sonatas presents the complete set of fifteen sonatas and the concluding passacaglia which appears in the sole surviving Munich manuscript. The sonatas each correspond to the fifteen mysteries or meditations on the life of Christ. The meditations are traditionally grouped into three groups of five; Joyful - his early life, Sorrowful - his passion; Glorious - his ressurection. In writing the sonatas Biber uses scordatura, tuning the strings to a different set of notes for each sonata. This  achieves technical feats impossible with normal tuning and results in different sonorities resulting from the varying amounts of pressure from the strings and achieving the different desired mood for each sonata. For the violinist, this involves a constant contradiction between sight and sound, for what he sees is not be what he hears! Thoughtful, reflective and poetic .... his performances are stylish, idiomatic and vivid - BBC Music Magazine A beautifully judged performance - Gramophone The performances are astounding, the variety of bow strokes, the ornamentation of repeats, the occasional colouring of the violins sound - it's simply wonderful .... This is my recommendation for the month - Early Music Review
  • Mille Fleurs’ debut recording for Signum Records is devoted to one of the treasured manuscripts of early music, the Codex Las Huelgas. This impressively large manuscript contains 170 parchment folios of works from the 13th and early 14th centuries. It was discovered by two monks early in the last century in the royal convent of Las Huelgas outside Burgos, Spain. It is unusual in several ways, encompassing a wide range of musical forms and styles, and being highly organised according to genre, liturgical function and number of voices. The codex reflects the devotional practices of a medieval Cistercian monastery, but it wasn't designed as a luxury object, rather, a pragmatic tool to be used as a source of reference or perhaps even for actual performance. This is an especially intriguing manuscript for music historians, performers and listeners alike. The pieces contained in the Las Huelgas manuscript reflect a wide range of Latin-texted music between 1200 and the first half of the 14th century. French influence is strong, illustrating the repertory as both international and local, imported, and adapted in a continual process of absorption and reinvention. Mille Fleurs bring a wealth of experience and research to these performances. Some pieces are performed as written; in others the notation provides a starting-point for musical elaboration. These charismatic singers do not believe female early music vocalists should sound like modern choirboys, but instead celebrate their different vocal timbres with each voice’s natural personality shining through. Just as the manuscript is pragmatic and adaptable as regards the notation of its musical repertory, so the performance approaches adopted and realised on this recording offer variety and flexibility, always respecting the nature of the piece. One thing is clear: throughout the Middle Ages the walls of the monastery of Las Huelgas resounded to the most highly refined and eloquently beautiful musical settings then in circulation in northern Spain. The performances are the epitome of sophisticated smoothness.... The recording impresses by its freshness and vigour, and by the excitement the singers clearly find in this fascinating repertoire - Gramophone The performances have a freedom which is refreshing as well as plausible. Highly recommended - Early Music Review Mille Fleurs interpret this varied collection with verve and vigour - Lyric FM
  • It is not difficult to discern many of the elements that render Bach’s three sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord so remarkable by the standards of their age: a mixing of virtually every conceivable genre, form, style, medium and gesture of the late German Baroque; a forging of connections that had not hitherto been made; a penetrating insight into the multi-dimensional potentialities of each motive, theme and polyphonic complex. Composing for the viol in this way was by, the early eighteenth century, archaic, yet what has made J.S.Bach a summit for many is his apparent ability to transcend historical contingency, somehow to stop the clock of outward progress and to rearrange and recreate the world as he knew it.
  • This is the third disc recorded by The Clerks' Group for their Signum Records trilogy. The series explores repertoire in the medieval period and culminates with a selection of works by Guillaume Dufay, found in one of the great anthologies of 15th century music: the manuscript Bologna, Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale, MS Q15 (or "Q15" as it is known by its friends). The Q15 manuscript contains examples of almost every conceivable musical genre of the period by a vast array of composers. The Clerks' Group has chosen to perform works by a single composer, but still the variety of forms and styles on offer is bewildering. Guillaume Dufay was a composer who witnessed and contributed to most of the revolutionary changes to occur in music composition in the 15th century. The album includes some of the earlier works so often neglected from Dufay's repertoire, and goes on to explore compositions that demonstrate this revolutionary genius. Some compositional techniques celebrated by The Clerks' Group's performance include the playful exchange of Dufay's song-like melodies between the vocal lines; and the use of mensural canon, where the same melody is sung by all voices but at slightly different speeds. These are just a few examples of the radical nature of Dufay's music as demonstrated on this recording. The Clerks' Group brings immense diversity to the music and its performance. Their refreshing approach displays sincere empathy and passion for this astonishing repertory. Unexpectedly dazzling...The Clerks' Group sing beautifully - The Sunday Times
  • Masses by Frye and Plummer from the Brussels 5557 manuscript. The manuscript Brussels 5557 was probably compiled for the marriage of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and Margaret of York in July 1468. A number of illuminations, including one at the start of Missa Flos Regalis, develop a theme of chastity and fidelity which accords with the nuptial spirit. However, the music itself belongs to the 1450s or even earlier. These masses are the late-bottled vintage of a style which, in a poem of circa 1440, Martin le Franc refers to as 'la contenance angloise'. They are harmonically rich and fruity, but built to last. The two masses on this recording are complemented by motets by a third English composer, John Bedyngham.