• Signum Records are delighted to welcome the CBSO, under the direction of Mark Elder, to the Signum label. For Shostakovich the six years which span this recording (1931 – 1937) were a period of almost incredibly change and upheaval. It was at this time that the young man faced his first serious political difficulties which culminated in the terrors of 1936. In 1930, the composer met the celebrated vaudeville and pioneer jazz-performer Leonid Utiosov, an astonishing talent who introduced Shostakovich to the world of the theatre. Hypothetically Murdered was written in 1931 to open the Music Hall’s new season. After its initial run, the show was not revived and at some point, probably during the siege of Leningrad, the full-score, parts and libretto disappeared, leaving only a folder with around 40 pages of detailed piano sketches with instrumental indications. The Orchestral Suite Op. 31a, given its world premiere recording on this disc, consists of all the complete surviving orchestral numbers from the folder of sketches, reorchestrated from the composers scribbled notes, and in the style of his surviving theatre music from the period. Nearly six years after Hypotheically Murdered, Shostakovich finished his Four Romances on Poems by Pushkin Op. 46. By this time the composer, and his messages, have profoundly changed. These Romances are music of mature seriousness, and dark with sorrow set against the literary work of the greatest and most humane of all Russian writers. After finishing the Romances, Shostakovich went on to create the Fifth Symphony, using motifs and fragments from the first poem – Rebirth. Thus he was able to hide the words of Pushkin’s passionate poem, a declaration to the power of art to survive barbarism and oppression, beneath the musical argument of his symphonic finale. The fascinating and rarely performed Five Fragments, written in a single sitting in July 1935, are one of Shostakovich’s last experimental works. They prepare the ground for the composition of the massive Fourth Symphony, just as the Romances do for the Fifth. The popular Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 1 was written early in 1934. This delightful highly ironic music is a continuation of the spirit of laughter and adventure that had earlier led Shostakovich to work with the great Utiosov on Hypothetically Murdered. As with most ‘Soviet Jazz’ of the period there is not much jazz here, more of a feeling of operetta and cabaret music and also of Jewish songs. Despite such jollity there is always an undertone of depth and darkness, of real sadness and foreboding underlying the sentimentality and parody.
  • Signum Records are delighted to present the second recording on SignumClassics of the CBSO, under the direction of Mark Elder. In his youth Shostakovich devoted much time and energy to composing for the theatre and the cinema, writing for an astonishing variety of movies, political plays, satires, the music-hall and the ballet. The music for Nikolai Akimov’s outrageous and scandalous production of Hamlet was composed in the winter of 1931 – 1932. Akimov had decided that tragedy was irrelevant to the modern Soviet audience, and therefore presented the play as a satirical farce in which the play was turned up-side-down, by reversing all the usual assumptions about the plot and how it should be acted. The alterations to Shakespeare’s work are reflected in the titles of several of Shostakovich’s numbers. He was asked to provide music for scenes that Shakespeare only refers to but which Akimov insisted on representing on stage, for example the feast where "funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables". The overall character of Shostakovich’s music is often abrasive and satirical, and flippant just where we would expect the music to be more serious. There are also some funny moments, with particular sharp parodies of various well-known musico-theatrical clichés. In 1954 Kozintsev had also attempted to direct a staged version of Hamlet. For this occasion he decided to reuse music that Shostakovich had already written for him to use in a staged production of King Lear in 1941. All that Kozintsev asked Shostakovich to add for the 1954 Hamlet were a Gigue and a Finale, both of which are included on this recording as an appendix to the music for Akimov’s 1932 production. The music that Shostakovich wrote for Kozintsev’s 1941 King Lear production inhabits a strange and transitional world, halfway between the bright and brilliant sarcasm of the music for Akimov’s Hamlet of ten years earlier and the more soberly functional manner of his post-war theatrical music. Gone is most of the cheekiness, the fondness for the experimental and the grotesque. There is much in this often oppressively dark music that is characteristic of what was by now Shostakovich’s public symphonic manner. Perhaps the most powerful and unusual part of the score is the bizarre cycle of Fool’s songs, with which the Fool mocks the mistakes of his master, the King, in the course of the first three Acts. The music of these songs is as strange and quirky as the words they set. Taken as a whole, these ten songs make up a miniature cycle of sourly absurd, almost expressionistic outbursts for voice and orchestra.
  • Red Leaves

    £12.00
    Signum Classics are proud to announce The Brunel Ensemble's first disc on Signum Classics - Red Leaves. No ensemble other ensemble is as committed to the performance of such works from all decades of the twentieth century. Formed in 1992, the group gives thrilling performances under Christopher Austin’s inspired direction. John McCabe’s Red Leaves was commissioned by the European Community Chamber Orchestra and the 1991 Istanbul Festival. Composer Malcom Williamson studied with Elisabeth Lutyens (as did Robert Saxton) and he was Master of the Queen’s Music until his death in 2003. One of Lutyens’ first major success was a setting of Rimbaud, O Saisons, O Chateau encored at the first performance in 1947 - but noteable for having previously been turned down by the BBC as unsingable! The McCabe and Williamson pieces are linked by the common theme of nature, the latter being inspired by Australian landscape and history. It was commissioned for the 150th Anniversary of the State of Victoria. For his anniversary greeting of 1986 on the occasion of his colleague’s half century, Robert Saxton presented his Birthday Piece for Richard Rodney Bennett. In which he chose in time-honoured manner to extract from Bennett’s name the musical notes available as a thematic cipher, and to fashion them after his own manner into a bracing invention for strings. Performance ★★★★ Sound ★★★★ A valuable and distinctive release - BBC Music Magazine
  • Schubert's 'Wanderer Fantasy' and Schumann's 'Fantasie' are two highly remarkable works: whilst musically embodying the romantic spirit of the age in their unconventional structures and lyrically imaginative styles, they also act as self-portraits to their creators through the evocation of the creative process. In these new orchestrations by Joeseph James, the familiar beauty of the works is rekindled in the exciting and fresh interpretations performed by the illustrious English Chamber Orchestra alongside concertante solos from members of the Schubert Ensemble. The performances are directed by the exceptional young conductor, Orlando Jopling. Featured instrumentalists from the Schubert Ensemble include Simon Blendis (violin), Jane Salmon (cello), Peter Buckoke and Stephen Williams (double basses).
    A magnificent work, extremely convincing, which allows the two greatest piano fantasies of the 19th century to be listened to with a different ear - Abeille Musique
  • World renowned Welsh composer, John Metcalf presents his new work,In Time of Daffodils. A song cycle, originally set for voice & piano, Metcalf has extended his own work into an orchestral masterpiece, setting the words of much loved poets to the six concluding songs of the cycle. Metcalf drew on material from 12 years of creative work to produce the three works which appear on his latest release. Metcalf emphasises the connections in the way the movements were conceived; originating as a whole or in part as works with piano. Metcalf embraced the pan-diatonic or ‘white note’ style when composingParadise Haunts and Three Mobiles encompassing a sense of minimalism in each, yet the movements are both distinctive; Three Mobiles has a larger rhythmic complexity than the more sublime former. The BBC National Orchestra perform beautifully with Thomas Bowes and Gerard McChrystal interweaving with leading lines on violin and saxophone. The final movement, In Time of Daffodils is a collection of beautiful songs performed by Jeremy Huw Williams, (baritone). The songs are based on texts from 7 poems by poets including William Wordsworth and Amy Lowell, based around the central theme – and emblem of Wales – the daffodil. The Welsh Orchestra was outstanding from the downbeat - Washington Post I have to concede it's difficult not to be charmed ... The strength of Metcalf's score lies in its horse-sure sense of shaping over an extended, one-movement span and his creative handling of the orchestra ... The strength of Metcalf's score lies in its horse-sure sense of shaping over an extended, one-movement span and his creative handling of the orchestra - Grampohone The music, as in the other works of Metcalf, is often warmly melodic and lyrical as well as strongly expressive - MusicWeb International
  • DVORAK

    £12.00
    Dvorak’s Symphony No.8 is a symphony that marks Dvorak’s first proper venture into the profusion of ideas and effects that, after the Ninth Symphony, became his home ground as a composer. Symphony No.9, ‘From the New World’, received a rapturous reception at its Carnegie Hall premiere, a reception, which has been repeated thousands of times across the globe. Enjoy an extraordinary performance of two of Dvorak’s best known symphonies, beautifully performed by Japan’s leading symphony orchestra. The Sapporo Symphony Orchestra is based in the Sapporo Concert Hall “Kitara” which boasts some of the finest acoustics in the world. The orchestra is distinguished by its clear sound and dynamic powers of expression, and has received glowing accolades from around the world. The lovely passage (tr 2, 3'00'') where the woodwind melody is accompanied by delicate descending scales on the strings is exquisitely done ... The finale is then measured and clean-cut with dramatically extreme dynamic contrasts ... the Largo with its haunting cor anglais melody is refined, with exceptionally clean textures ... Clarity of texture is again an outstanding quality of the last two movements ... Altogether an excellent disc, generously filled - Gramophone
  • The cello concertos of Elgar and Myaskovsky written in 1919 and 1944 respectively, engender few similarities these days but make an exciting coupling due not only to the disparate nature of the composers’ lives and situations, but also to the common ground they tread; both composers were in their early sixties when writing their main work for the instrument. A stunning performance by Jamie Walton, accompanied by the magnificent Philharmonia Orchestra. Jamie has enjoyed success as a rising international soloist and has given concerts in some of the most prestigious concert halls in the world. He appears regularly at the Wigmore Hall and Symphony Hall, Birmingham and has performed with leading orchestras such as the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra. ★★★★★ One of the finest recordings of the Elgar.  Jamie Walton has a formidable technique; his playing in the scherzo and the finale is beyond compare; and he captures the autumnal melancholy without loss of vitality.  His pianissimos in the finale coda are a wonder.  He has like-minded collaborators in the Philharmonia and Alexander Briger, who also support him in Myaskovsky's sombre concerto of 1945 - The Telegraph Magazine ★★★★★ Despite living in such disparate lands and situations, [Elgar and Myaskovsky] shared a similar spiritual-musical world. Walton, with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Alexander Briger, deserves credit for making the point so sympathetically - The Financial Times ★★★★ Both composers were wringing their hands over death, destruction and innocence lost. Since Myaskovsky finds more peace than Elgar, we end the disc with some gentle uplift - The Times This is probably the best performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto that I have heard. Walton cannot be beaten. I shall treasure this recording - The Elgar Society Journal
  • Symphony No. 2 Its idyllic nature, sheer tunefulness and general sunny disposition earned Brahms an unmitigated triumph in its premiere performance in Vienna in 1877. Since then, it has been described as the sunny counterpart to the storm clouds of his First Symphony. Symphony No. 4 This work conveys Brahms’ imaginative writing combining sheer intelligence with unexpected comic turns. The Finale is still considered to be one of the most exhilarating movements in the entire orchestral repertoire. The Philharmonia Orchestra is widely recognised as the UK’s finest orchestra with an impressive recording legacy. Christoph Von Dohnányi has been principle conductor for the past 11 years and in the coming season will be made Honorary Conductor for life.
  • The ‘Great C major’ has often been cited as the first of the big romantic symphonies and an open door leading to the Romantic era. We owe the belated emergence of this symphony, 11 years after Schubert’s death, to Schumann who described it as “a symphony for the benefit and enjoyment of the whole world.” The Philharmonia Orchestra are widely recognised as the UK’s finest performers with an impressive recording legacy. The orchestra prides itself on collaborations with the finest musicians of our day including guest conductor Sir Charles MacKerras. In an age of deodorised live recordings, this rough diamond document of that concert is thrilling... A miraculous work played with humour, wisdom and daringThe Independent on Sunday This staggering recording… is the most remarkable recording of this elusive work since Furtwängler’s famous Berlin account in 1951BBC Music Magazine
  • Festive Overture
    One of Shostakovich’s most famous works originally composed for a concert to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the October Revolution in 1917.
    Symphony No. 5
    Its position as one of the 20th Century’s most popular and successful symphonic works is beyond any doubt, the triumph was immediate and greeted Shostakovich’s rehabilitation as a truly great Soviet artist.
    The Philharmonia Orchestra is widely recognised as the UK’s finest orchestra with an impressive recording legacy. Vladimir Ashkenazy has a longstanding relationship with the orchestra, and in 2000 he was appointed their Conductor Laureate.
  • Jamie Walton's new collaboration with the Philharmonia Orchestra, led by Alexander Briger, covers two more-contemporary Cello works; Shostakovich?s Cello Concerto No. 2, and Britten's Symphony for Cello and Orchestra. Jamie Walton is quickly gaining international recognition for his work, being compared to Cello legends Rostropovich and Tortelier. The Elgar society wrote about Jamie's first disc with Signum: “I really cannot praise this performance too highly. For faithfulness to the text, interpretative musicality, accuracy, ensemble and warmth and beauty of tone, Walton cannot be beaten."
  • The Philharmonia Orchestra is widely recognised as the UK’s finest orchestra with an impressive recording legacy, with this being their fourth disc with Signum. Christoph Von Dohnányi has been principle conductor for the past 11 years and has recently been made Honorary Conductor for life. Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks) is considered to be one of Strauss’s most witty, entertaining and successful tone poems.Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life) heralds the composer’s more mature period in this genre, and proved controversial at it's premiere for it's highly auto-biographical nature.
  • Since her American debut in the early nineties, Silvia Tro Santafé has become one of the most sought after coloratura mezzos of her generation. On this disc we hear the proof of her operatic talents, performing some of the greatest and most passionate arias of any operatic mezzo soprano. Though Silvia Tro Santafé is no newcomer in the recording stakes this was my first encounter with her and this recital has definitely whetted the appetite for more - MusicWeb International
  • Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is a masterwork of 19th Century literature; a parable on the struggle for personal freedom against the conventions of a hostile society, played out in a tragic love-story. With a libretto by the distinguished director Colin Graham after the novel by Leo Tolstoy, David Carlson's opera vividly captures the drama and message of the original work. This double-disc set is a world premiere recording of the opera, with commanding performances from members of the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stewart Robertson. There is a lot to admire in this dramatic, expressive scoreOpera Now Magazine
  • The Philharmonia Orchestra is widely recognised as the UK’s finest orchestra with an impressive recording legacy, this being their fifth disc with Signum. This disc combines the Philharmonia’s renowned sound with the leadership of Maestro Davis, who’s recording and performing career spans through all the great orchestras of the world. This disc features Elgar’s best known orchestral works; The Enigma Variations depict twelve of Elgar’s family and friends in fourteen variations built on the original Enigma theme, one of Elgar’s earliest and still most frequently played orchestral works, Serenade for Strings, and In the South, Elgar’s Concert Overture written for the Elgar festival in 1904. A reading clearly born of true affection for, and deep knowledge of this rich and ever-wonderful score… any Elgarian seeking these three pieces together will not remotely be disappointedInternational Record Review Three fine interpretations, that also has the excitement of public performance, by a conductor who loves this repertoire and knows it like the back of his handBBC Music Magazine A highly impressive recording - Classic FM Magazine
  • The Philharmonia Orchestra is widely recognised as the UK’s finest orchestra with an impressive recording legacy, with this being their sixth disc with Signum. Christoph Von Dohnányi has been principle conductor for the past 11 years and has recently been made Honorary Conductor for life. The disc features two crowning achievements of Beethoven’s aptly titled ‘Heroic’ compositional period of the early 19th Century; the Third Symphony (Eroica), and the Fifth Symphony, arguably the single most popular piece of classical music in the Western canon. The musical argument is pursued with unflagging vigour combined with a high degree of orchestral virtuosity - the excitement remains intense in this hugely satisfying account - International Record Review These are fine, intelligent and very well played live performances and both are very welcome additions to the catalogue - MusicWeb International
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