• Henry VIII is the most instantly recognisable of English kings: the heavy, square face with its fringe of beard, the massive torso, arms akimbo, feet planted firmly on the ground. His character, too, is familiar: ‘Bluff King Hal’, gorging himself at the table, flagrantly promiscuous, cynically manipulating the Church to suit his marital aims, the very archetype of chauvinism. But scholarship reveals a very different Henry. Larger than life, certainly (six feet two inches tall, a colossal height for the time); but, as a young man, clean-shaven and with a halo of red hair, his waist was a mere 35 inches and his chest 42 inches. His table manners were refined to the point of being finicky, and the conduct of his sexual liaisons was (according to the French ambassador) almost excessively discreet. An irresistible figure to the twentieth century early–music revival, Henry is shown by numerous hyperbolic contemporary accounts to have been an expert singer (with a clear tenor voice and able to sing at sight); a player of lute, flute, recorder, cornett and virginals; and a composer of sacred and secular music. Inventories made at the time of his death show him as an avid collector of instruments (including recorders, flutes, cornetts, viols and bagpipes). And two musical sources, one sacred (The Eton Choirbook), the other secular (The Henry VIII Ms), proved rich in music as dramatic, colourful and exotic as the king himself. But there is more to Henry’s music than ‘Pastime with Good Company’ and the splendours of Eton’s polyphony. Henry inherited a modest musical establishment from his father, but bequeathed a large ‘Kynge’s Musicke’ to his heirs. Henry’s queens were no mere observers of the development of music at his court. Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn both owned song–books which show a strong Franco–Flemish presence in Tudor music; Anne of Cleves augmented her small band of minstrels by borrowing players from Prince Edward’s household; improper relationships with musicians were cited in the cases against both executed queens; Jane Seymour’s royal wedding was celebrated with shawms and sackbuts; and Catherine Parr danced to her own consort of viols. In chapel and chamber, whether dancing, worshipping, singing, playing or listening, music was an important counterpoint to the lives (and sometimes deaths) of all of Henry’s six wives. ★★★★  Jennie Cassidy's pure mezzo-soprano voice is a joy... A well thought-out and presented project - Classic FM Magazine Humour, cerebral sophistication and tenderness each find their proper expression in the knitting together of counterpoint and in the delicate rhythmic shading by the players - BBC Music Magazine
  • Music from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, transcribed for mixed consort.
    Disc of the Month: An inspired concept... outstanding in every respect - BBC Music Magazine
       
  • Dance

    £12.00
    The Smith Quartet return on Signum with a new album of commissions and world premiere recordings, all centered on the theme of ‘Dance’. The featured programme is a veritable ‘whos-who’ of contemporary composition, including works from Michael Nyman, Graham Fitkin, Jon Lord, Michael Finnissy and Django Bates.  ★★★★★ Infectious enthusiasm and spirited playing - Classic FM Magazine An exuberant collection of 14 short pieces, each by a different composer. All are played with vim and technical brillianceThe Times Editor's Choice: A diverse collection of 14 works is bound together by quality of composition and performance … like a box of excellent chocolates, inviting frequent tastingClassical Music Magazine
  • Two Upon a Ground explores the peculiarly English approach to writing instrumental variations known as 'divisions'. The style is principally known for the way it enables a player to demonstrate both a virtuosic command of the instrument and an imaginative understanding of the musical possibilities inherent in a short musical phrase. The repertoire heard here is begins with the undisputed master of the genre, Christopher Simpson, and continues with further virtuosic duets and divisions by Jenkins, Lawes, Tomkins and Purcell. A sunny disposition enhanced by an excellent recorded sound - Gramophone Just buy it! It is all beautifully played - Early Music Review
  • Jupiter

    £12.00
    Orchestral transcriptions and chamber music by Jean-Baptiste Forqueray (1699-1782), taken from Pièces de viole (Paris 1747)and inspired in part by the Roman God, Jupiter. It is certainly rewarding to hear Forqueray's deserving music opened up in such lively and infectious performances - Gramophone All the playing is first rate with exemplary intonation, phrasing, ornamentation and all round good taste - Early Music Review This is revelatory recording marrying scholarship with vivd, risk-taking imagination - highly recommended - Early Music News
  • "Her Majesty lay upon her back, with one hand in the bed and the other without. The bishop kneeled down by her, and examined her first of her faith: and she so punctually answered all his several questions by lifting up her eyes and holding up her hand, as it was a comfort to all beholders. Then the good man told her plainly, what she was and what she was to come to, and though she had been long a great Queen here upon earth, yet shortly she was to yield an account of her stewardship to the King of Kings. Between one and two of the clock on Thursday morning, he brought me word the Queen was dead." Thus wrote the queen’s cousin Sir Robert Carey, recording in his memoirs the events of March 23rd-24th 1603, and the end of an era in England’s history. Earlier, as Elizabeth I lay dying she called for her musicians to play around her bed so that “she may die gaily as she had lived, and that the horrors of death might be lessened; she heard the music tranquilly until her last breath”. As the 400th anniversary of her death approaches, The Queen’s Goodnight commemorates the music of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. The queen’s professional musical establishment was in some ways more modest than that of her father, Henry VIII, but she brought together the finest talent in the land and created collections of consort, lute and keyboard music that is still renowned today. Charivari Agréable demonstrate representative facets of this wonderful 16th century repertory. The pieces are selected with a passionate attention to detail and Charivari Agréable have included music that depicts the life of the queen: music from the court, an exhilarating depiction of a hunt, celebrations from the queen’s coronation and the moving laments on her death. Fertile imagination, excellent musicianship and persuasive playing make it a real delight - Early Music News
  • The paintings of Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88) constitute one of the most poignant and evocative icons of Georgian England; he painted supremely accomplished portraits of a wide social spectrum, and landscapes which capture the verdancy of England prior to the Stygian advance of the Industrial Revolution. Gainsborough’s own creativity sought expression in music as much as in painting, which was unusual in an age when musical ability was mainly considered the preserve of the ladies. For this musical tribute to Gainsborough, we have gathered together pieces by several of his friends; Abel, J.C. Bach, Giardini, Linley & Straube. Played with impeccable good taste - Gramophone
  • Louis (c.1626-1661), François le Grand (1668-1733) and Armand-Louis (1727-1789) were the three most celebrated members of the distinguished Couperin family of musicians who flourished from the late 16th century until the middle of the 19th, holding a position of esteem parallel to that of the Bachs in Germany. The Sultan and the Phoenix presents both masterpieces and rare gems from the Couperins and their contemporaries, all delivered with a rare insight by the ensemble charivari agréable. The programme presents an overview of the ensemble use of the viol in its various manifestations and stages of evolution in France. The Couperin dynasty offers a convenient chronological framework within which the viol could be heard in various guises: from a consort setting to a ‘pièces de clavecin en concerts’ configuration; from a six-string bass viol to a five-string hybrid ‘quinton’. Underpinning this programme is the historical practice of adaptation, transcription and arrangement with which French baroque music is replete. Historical tradition is followed by the arrangement of some pieces by the players. Some involved direct transcription, such as the L. Couperin Pavan for a viol consort or the F. Couperin harpsichord piece for theorbo (in the style of de Visée, see above). Other pieces are left untouched, such as L. Couperin’s Fantaisies and Corrette’s Phénix, as well as the large-scale chamber works of Dornel and Couperin. Charivari Agréable’s reputation as one of the most original ensembles in the period-instrument scene was recently articulated by the BBC Music Magazine, which noted that the ensemble “has carved something of a niche for itself in imaginative and well thought-out programming”, reasoning that its work is the fruit of both scholarly research and charismatic musicianship, a combination which puts it at the forefront of period-instrument ensembles.
  • Signum Records is delighted to release Charivari Agréable's ninth CD on the Signum label. Modus Phantasticus presents a unique collection of German viol music, transcribed and arranged in charivari’s individual and historically-informed manner. Germany was never blessed with the same solo viol traditions that flourished in England and France. The viol took a back seat in favour of the keyboard and the violin which provided a vehicle for the elaborate technical display found in "stylus phantasticus" music. However the viol came into to its own within a consort of instruments, gaining a reputation for providing special effects alluding to mortality and the supernatural. The ability of the viol to enrich the texture and enhance sonority of vocal and sacred music meant that it could often dominate the scoring in music of this type. The profile of the viol in Germany was raised considerably with the arrival, during the late 16th century and the first half of the 17th century, of elite violists from England. This disc follows the development of German viol repertoire and its English influences. The pieces are chosen for their beauty, their uniqueness or their suitability for charivari agréable’s speciality – wonderfully inventive arrangements and transcriptions. The playing in all of the Bach transcriptions (there are four on the disc) is stunning - smooth, calm, and sonorous, yet with a fall awareness of individual line and harmonic structure - The Consort A perfectly accomplished recording... one in which the images that fire our imagination are underpinned everywhere by unflagging expertise - Goldberg Magazine Charivari Agréable's playing is of the highest order - Daily Telegraph  
  • Signum Classics is delighted to present Charivari  Agreable's tenth disc: Caprice and Conceit in Seicento Italy. This disc explores the overlap of repertory for the cornett and the violin (occasioned by their frequent interchangeability), and in the marriage of both instruments. Of the two, the cornett’s particular appeal, according to Girolamo Dalla Casa (1584), lies in its tonal similarity to the human voice, an attribute poetically likened by Marin Mersenne (1636) to ‘a brilliant ray of sunshine piercing the shadows’. The juxtaposition of wind and strings is most vividly enhanced by the pairing of a violin with a cornett in small-scale vocal and instrumental works. The most beautiful is arguably the sonata by Cima, one of the earliest trio sonatas. It is hoped that our conceit of re-lighting the cornett’s gleam will find favour among those who delight in the capriciousness of the music of the Seicento. An outstanding disc... this is a recital to shaft any shadow - BBC Music Magazine [A] delectable programme of 17th-century Italian chamber music - Daily Telegraph A ray of sunshine piercing the shadows’ – which is the subtitle for a delightful new disc from Charivari Agréable, who say they’re ‘trying to re-light the cornett’s gleam - BBC Radio 3 Record Review
  • The Armonico Consort return to disc on Signum (following their highly-regarded Naked Byrd CD series) with a new disc celebrating the glorious combination of soprano and trumpet in baroque music – featuring the soaring talents of Elin Manahan Thomas and Crispian Steele-Perkins. Widely-praised for their imaginative and inventive programming, this disc features works by JS Bach (Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen), GP Telemann (Trumpet Concerto in D major), Alessandro Scarlatti (Su le sponde del Tebro) and a special compilation of works by Handel devised by Crispian Steele-Perkins. The tone is immediately set by Crispian Steele-Perkins' trilling trumpet on Bach's Jauchzet Gott in alien Landen, which also features quite thrilling counterpoints between him and soprano Elin Manahan ThomasThe Independent
    The whole thing seems suffused with light reflected from Manahan Thomas’ voice, and Steele-Perkins’ effortlessly projected trumpetBBC Radio 3 Record Review
  • Signum Classics are proud to release Elena Kats-Chernin debut disc on Signum Classics. This production was made in conjunction with Boosey & Hawkes, Music Publishers Ltd. Elena Kats-Chernin is a composer who defies categorisation and is probably best summed up as a force of nature. Her prodigious imagination has produced a vast body of work, unparalleled in range, drawing from all the musical traditions of the past and present. A virtuosic pianist and improviser, her compositions flow from her like a fountain. This CD is drawn from the small works she often writes for her own enjoyment - a cornucopia of rags, blues and heart-melting melodies. These small vessels of fine feelings offer an intimate view into the composer’s heart. Heart-meltingly beautiful - Classic FM Magazine A delightful and enjoyable disc - Limelight
  • Signum Classics are proud to release the Smith Quartet's debut disc on Signum Records - Different Trains. The disc contains three of Steve Reich's most inspiring works: Triple Quartet for three string quartets, Reich’s personal dedication to the late Yehudi Menuhin, Duet, and the haunting Different Trains for string quartet and electronic tape. The Smith Quartet's intense sound re-emphasises the rhapsodic ending of the work. Duet and Triple Quartet are also featured here and are played to perfection - The Independent on Sunday The Smith Quartet on the admirable Signum label is beautifully clear, and played with a rather touching delicacy which brings out the subtle poetry of the ending - BBC Music Magazine This five-star Signum issue [conveys] the emotional power or Reich's uncompromising writing - Music Week The Smiths are impressive in both pieces - The Guardian
  • Following the release of their critically acclaimed recording of Reich’s Different Trains on Signum, Britain’s leading contemporary string ensemble, The Smith Quartet, perform the works of five diverse British composers. The music is inspired by the ancient English landscape, 9th century Irish poetry, 20th century human tragedy and the passing of friends. As versatile as the Kronos Quartet, and smoother than the Brodskys, The Smith Quartet have edged ahead of their competitors in contemporary chamber musicThe Independent on Sunday [A] compelling blend of live ensemble and electronics - Journal for Music in Ireland
  • Following on from the critically acclaimed albums, Different Trains and Ghost Stories, Signum is pleased to announce the release of The Smith Quartet’s latest album, the complete string quartets by the world-acclaimed composer, Philip Glass. Over a time span of 25 years, Glass completed 8 quartets (the 3 earliest were withdrawn) drawing on the influences of Bach to Shostakovich, as well as exterior musical sources: dance, theatre and film. Clear - cut , polished performances by The Smith Quartet give the listener an excellent taster of a quartet at the forefront of contemporary music. Glass weaves filigree tapestries given polished, finely detailed airings by the virtuoso BritsThe Observer How long before the Kronos is labelled the 'American Smith Quartet'? ... they are ahead of the curve at generating new repertoire and taking the experimental back-catalogue seriouslyClassic FM Magazine If success was measured according to output and sales units alone, Glass would be head and shoulders above his contemporaries ... played with characteristic precision and projection by the ensembleGramophone
  • Two works from very different composers: Chopin’s works for cello were few and far between, but these two straddle his compositional life: the Introduction and Polonaise was written in 1829 when he was just 19, and the cello sonata in (1845-6) is his last work published during his lifetime (all latter works with opus numbers being published posthumously, against his wishes). In contrast, Saint-Saëns published a great many works for the cello (as well as works in almost every genre of the classical canon), with the Cello Sonata No.2 composed during his travels in Biskra, Algeria. Jamie Walton and Daniel Grimwood are performers who have proven themselves in both concert and recordings such as these to be formidable and enthralling interpreters of the classical canon.
    ★★★★★ There’s a combination of youthful energy and well-seasoned musicality that Jamie Walton and Daniel Grimwood thrive on here and it’s a real partnership ... Fine playing - BBC Radio 3 Record Review ★★★★★  Jamie Walton's new coupling of Saint-Saens' Second Cello Sonata and Chopin's only sonata for the instrument restores faith in a too often maligned composerNew Zealand Herald Jamie Walton’s mature cello timbre and perceptiveness in matters of interpretation and winningly applied to this coupling of two 19th-century sonatas … Finely honed stylistic judgment here goes hand in hand with re-creative panacheThe Daily Telegraph
Go to Top