• 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
  • 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  
  • 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
  • Described by the London music publisher as ‘Very Improvei ng and Delightful to all lovers of that instrument’ The First Part of the Division Flute was originally issued for the Baroque treble recorder in 1705.

    Murphy’s love of the recorder inspired her to record some of the best known recorder music, as well as some of the most neglected, from a collection that has never been fully recorded before. A fantastic disc of musicians at the forefront of early music today.

  • Phillip II of Spain died at first light on Sunday 13th September, 1598. Released in his 400th anniversary year this disc commemorates the death of this most catholic king with music associated with him during his lifetime, and with the sumptuous six part Requiem mass of Jean Richafort that may well have been used at his obsequiries The programme begins with a motet written by Gombert for the birth of Philip; other motets include one of Infantas' finest works Domine Ostende, and within the context of the mass is included the celebrated Versa est in luctum by Lobo.
  • Signum Records are proud to present the eighth and penultimate volume of Chapelle du Roi’s recording of the Complete Works of Thomas Tallis. This volume brings together Tallis’s two masterly settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah and English adaptations of several of his best-known Latin motets. Thomas Tallis was one of many continental and English composers who composed settings of texts from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the opening five verses of which formed part of the office of Matins (or Tenebrae) during Holy Week. Tallis’s two settings could have been performed ritually but in all likelihood they are Elizabethan works intended for use at the private devotions of staunch Catholic sympathisers. The statutory introduction of the First Book of Common Prayer on Whitsunday, 9th June 1549 precipitated an urgent need for a repertory of service music in the vernacular. One straightforward solution to the predicament was to adapt existing Latin motets to English texts, a genre of composition that has come to be known as a contrafactum. Contrafacta survive of liturgical music by pre-Reformation English composers as well as by several composers whose working life spanned the period of Reformation. During the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods contrafacta and their models assumed several forms of dual existence, and were performed not only within a liturgical setting but also in a domestic context for recreation or private devotion. Usually there is no textual relationship between the model and the contrafactum. Indeed the finale of this disc, Sing & Glorify heaven’s high majesty, an adaptation of Tallis’s celebrated eight-choir (40-part) motet Spem in alium was adapted to celebrate Prince Henry’s investiture as Prince of Wales in 1610. Chapelle du Roi succeed in conveying a sense of spaciousness and grandeur - The Daily Telegraph
  • Signum Records are delighted to release the seventh volume of their celebrated nine-disc series, presenting the Complete Works of Thomas Tallis (1505 - 1585). Queen Elizabeth’s reign (1558-1603) was a golden age for the arts. England enjoyed a growing cultural exchange with continental Europe. England’s rich, but essentially conservative pre-Reformation heritage was infused with increasing continental influence and innovations. Elizabeth I was the fourth monarch to sit on the throne in Thomas Tallis’s lifetime. From the outset of her reign Elizabeth allowed considerable freedom of practice and belief. She was firmly in favour of a vernacular liturgy for the general population, although in her own chapels she preferred a more lavish ceremony to music. Tallis had witnessed the wholesale destruction of much of England’s church music tradition, however the ever adaptable composer met the challenges of a new liturgy, its new styles and genres, with the imaginative force of a man half his age. The years of Reformation, and Elizabeth’s protestant settlement, freed the Latin-texted tradition of liturgical propriety, allowing composers to reinvigorate the language and harness it to new, expressive and personal ends. This recording presents Tallis’s Elizabethan Latin motets (which number fifteen). The mighty occasional piece, the forty-voice motet Spem in alium, concludes the disc. The Tallis complete works is one of the most exciting projects currently underway on any early music label. Thoroughly recommended - Early Music Scotland Alistair Dixon paces and balances the voices of his vocal group Chapelle du Roi beautifully - The Evening Standard  
  • This disc is the fourth in a series of nine covering the complete works of Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585). Not for nothing is Tallis known as the "father of church music" – with his colleagues at the Chapel Royal he created most of the church music genres that we take for granted today. Volumes 4 and 5 both focus on music written for the office hours – the daily services found mainly in the monasteries that eventually suffered at the hands of Henry VIII’s dissolution. Here we have a selection of hymns and Responds from the Henrician and Marian periods, each matched with their accompanying plainchant taken from contemporary sources.
  • This disc is the second in a series of nine covering the complete works of Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585). As the 1540s developed, the Reformation began to take hold and the style of music required from composers such as Tallis altered radically. The large-scale melismatic votive antiphons (for example those on disc 1) were no longer required; the emphasis moved away from Marian devotion to a more syllabic and compact style and, eventually, to settings of English rather than Latin texts. Disc two traces this development from the Jesus antiphon Sancte Deus, to the mass for four voices, the three early English anthems including If ye love me, the Te Deum for meanes and the Elizabethan Magnificat and Nunc dimittis. A stimulating second volume in this distinguished series - Penguin Guide to Compact Discs A beautiful homogeneous quality and are pure and uncomplicated - Footloose Magazine
  • The debut disc of world-renowned early-music ensemble Charivari Agréable on Signum Records. Music for Philip of Spain and His Four Wives is complementary to SIGCD004 and presents secular music associated with Philip II from the four European countries of his wives - Portugal, England, Austria and France. Bravo!Gramophone Highly recommendedEarly Music Review Exquisite performances ... a highly intelligent programmeEarly Music Today
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