• 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.
  • Parapraxis

    £12.00
    A seductive and fascinating disc for fans of contemporary music, this collection of works for Bassoon with choir and orchestra feature works by British composer Stephen Frost and Norwegian composer Kjell Mørk Karlsen. The disc’s title work Parapraxis, for solo bassoon and choir, melds together a mix of sacred latin text and secular English poetry, pushing and playing with the illusory ‘boundary’ that seems to exist between the two. The other two works – Frost’s Bassoon Concerto and Karlsen’s Serenata – are beguiling and stimulating pieces that show off the talents of Norwegian bassoonist Sigyn Birkeland and the Belarusian State Chamber Orchestra. In demand as a soloist, Sigyn Birkeland has been Principal Bassoon in the Norwegian Radio Orchestra since 1992. She continues to champion the instrument by commissioning, performing and recording new works for the instrument in a variety of unique ensembles and settings.
  • 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
  • ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, whose score is the first commissioned by The Royal Ballet for a full-length narrative dance work in 20 years, won over not only London audiences but those in Canada and the US, flocking to its premiere North American season with the National Ballet of Canada in June of 2011. The production was sold out well in advance of its close and ended as the company’s highest-grossing production of all time. This is real music – witty, unpretentious and clever, and the extracts chosen on this disc never outstay their welcome. Themes associated with specific characters are invariably memorable and intelligently developed. The suite’s opening is entrancing - The Arts Desk The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Christopher Austin’s baton delivers a flawless and energetic performance, drawing out every ingenious flourish and limning each individual sound in silver - Sinfini Music What Talbot has done to create the aural setting for the world down the rabbit-hole is extraordinary. His whimsical score twists and turns as capriciously as the place in which Alice has found herself. The orchestra produces a plethora of odd and magical sounds, tumbling rhythms that seem to trip over one another and at times, walls of big beautiful sound - Expedition Audio
  • 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
  • A fascinating musical journey through the Italian arias of Mozart, from one of his earliest works Lucio Silla (composed when he was just 16) through to his final Italian opera La Clemenza di Tito. The English tenor Jeremy Ovenden has established himself as being among the best Mozart tenors of his generation (notably in the role of Don Ottavio) and has become a familiar figure on the stages of the world's opera houses and concert halls and at major festivals. He is joined for this, his first solo recording, by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and conductor Jonathan Cohen. ★★★★  Ovenden proves complete master of his chosen repertory … for its artistic use, and for the close partnership Ovenden achieves with the OAE under Jonathan Cohen, l have only admiration - BBC Music Magazine The fine tenor … sings with an engaging commitment to these joyous creations. A delightful selection - The Observer A most imaginative idea … his rhythm, diction and easy flexibility of voice are exemplary - The Sunday Times
  • The next disc in Signum’s series of live orchestral recordings with the Philharmonia features the late Sir Charles Mackerras conducting Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6 (Pathétique). This was Tchaikovsky’s final completed symphony, premiered in St Petersberg under the baton of the composer in 1893, nine days before his death, dedicated to his nephew Vladimir ‘Bob’ Davydov. 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. ★★★★★ If there were no further releases in the series, the composer's final symphony would make a fine valedictory effort for Mackerras, who leads the Philharmonia seamlessly through the piece's emotional roller-coaster… A brilliant recording - The Independent This is a superb record - a magnificent and highly original live account of the 'Pathetique' Symphony that can stand comparison with the most exacting competition - International Record Review So much of what Mackerras did was governed by an acute sense of what articulation can achieve – and this is a superb example - Gramophone
  • Patrick Hawes returns to disc on Signum with the premiere recording of his Lazarus Requiem, for Choir, Orchestra and Soloists. Blending the liturgical text of the Requiem Mass with the story of Lazarus from the New Testament, the composer creates a work in which “the mystery of life and death, the pain of grief and the hope of a risen life are held in taut symmetry”.

    The work begins with an orchestral Elegy for Lazarus. This depicts the dying man and sets the scene for the first tableau where we are informed “a certain man was ill”. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, send for Jesus and the drama of the miracle unfolds.

    An attractive, sincere and thoughtful piece. This very good first recording should bring it to the attention of a wider audience - MusicWeb International What the Lazarus Requiem does do - and to striking effect - is bring into sharp relief Hawes's unerring gift for evocative orchestral texture and beautiful melodic lineChoir & Organ
  • ( Original 1853 version of Trio Op. 8) 

    Sinfonia in B is Joseph Swensen’s orchestration of the little-known original version of Brahms’ B major piano trio. In Swensen’s own words: “Completed in 1854, it is the largest and arguably the most important of Brahms’ published early works, yet it remains nearly unknown to most musicians and music-lovers alike … The original Opus 8 is, for me, intriguing for many reasons. Not only is it a work of extraordinary quality and emotional depth, written by a composer just 21 years of age, but it is a quintessential example of Brahms’ ultra-romantic and forward looking early style.”

    This disc also explores the young Brahms’ connection with Robert and Clara Schumann, with orchestrations and performances (as a violin soloist) by Swensen of miniature works by both composers – as well as extracts from the ‘F-A-E’ sonata (a joint composition by Brahms, Robert Schumann and Joseph Joachim based on the motto ‘Frei aber einsam’ / ‘free but lonely’ – Joachim’s personal motto).

    Joseph Swensen has deliberately chosen a musical palette full of odd quirks and colours to reflect the fantastical nature of the work and it’s played with terrific verve and polish by the Malmö Opera OrchestraMetro
  • Continuing Signum’s series of live orchestral releases with the Philharmonia Orchestra, on this new disc Christoph von Dohnányi leads a performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No.4, Romantic. Bruckner stands out from other 19th-century symphonists; his large-scale works demonstrate a unique fusion of conservative and radical elements, notably influenced by composers such as Wagner and Beethoven. He appended not only the title 'Romantic' but even included a programme for the Fourth Symphony, sometime after composition. Though he later withdrew it, the scenario is a mediaeval Romantic ideal, where knights awaken to the sound of horns, rejoice and repair to prayer, before the inevitable hunt and ensuing festivities. Orchestral Disc of the Month: There's much worth celebrating on this excellent new recording of Bruckner's Fourth Symphony - Gramophone The performance is notable for some really sensitive chamber-music-like interaction between wind and strings and particularly subtle phrasing from the violas in the chorale melody - BBC Music Magazine A powerful live account of Bruckner's Fourth, played in the Robert Haas edition... a vast, thrilling drama of tension and relaxation, and triumph - The Times Dohnanyi makes the finale something of a tour de force - Classical Source
  • Walton’s Violin Concerto was composed during a stay at the stunning Villa Cimbrone on Italy's Amalfi coast, and reflects this environment in different ways – some more apparent than others (the 2nd movement is based on a ‘tarantella’, after Walton suffered a tarantula bite whilst there). The piece has endured as one of his most popular works, and is contrasted here by Barber’s Violin Concerto and famous Adagio for Strings. Making his debut recording as a soloist on Signum, Thomas Bowes has built a firm reputation as an orchestral leader, soloist and chamber musician. He has also concert-mastered many film scores – the most recent credit being for "The King's Speech." The Malmö Opera Orchestra and conductor Joseph Swensen join him for this recording. A masterly account … with Bowes essaying flickering rhapsodic moments, assailed by striking orchestral flourishes - The Independent Bowes yields to none of the Walton's great interpreters – Heifetz (the dedicatee), Menuhin, Franccscatti, Chung, Kennedy – in his dazzling passage work … with his gorgeous portamento and rubato - The Times What is so remarkable about Bowes as a soloist is not just his technical assurance, his flawless intonation over the widest range, tonal and dynamic, but his natural feeling for warmly romantic expressiveness … Altogether a resounding success - Gramophone
  • Jonathan Dove wrote There Was a Child as a tribute to a friend’s son who died tragically young. Filled with both joyous celebration and heartfelt emotion, it’s a big, warm-hearted modern masterpiece in the spirit of Britten and vaughan Williams – following in an evergreen english tradition and featuring the combined forces of the CBSO and CBSO Chorus, Youth Chorus and Junior Chorus with soloists Joan Rodgers and Toby Spence.

    [Dove] has thus achieved the near-impossible: a work that commemorates an event which is surely every parent's darkest fear but which at the same time truly and positively fulfils the commissioner's brief, 'to celebrate' this young, short lifeInternational Record Review Joyous, vibrant, passionate ... There Was a Child is a major addition to the choral repertoireFinancial Times Dove's adroit choice of poetry, orchestrated with imagination and humour, provides an endearing story of a boy through to adolescence, and although there is pathos it is never mawkish - Choir & Organ
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