• 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.
  • 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!
  • 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
  • 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
  • "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
  • Music from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, transcribed for mixed consort.
    Disc of the Month: An inspired concept... outstanding in every respect - BBC Music Magazine
       
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
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