• Christopher Gunning has composed twelve symphonies, as well as concertos for the piano, violin, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, and guitar; many of these have now been recorded. He has also composed many scores for films and television dramas, including Agatha Christie’s ‘Poirot’, La Vie en Rose, Middlemarch, Cold Lazarus, Rebecca, Under Suspicion, Firelight, The Big Battalions, Wild Africa, When the Whales Came and Porterhouse Blue. With a career spanning 50 years, he has won 4 BAFTA and 3 Ivor Novello Awards, and BASCA’s prestigious Gold Badge Award. Christopher studied composition with Edmund Rubbra and Sir Richard Rodney Bennett at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After a hugely successful career writing for the big and small screen he is now focussed on his classical work and releases.
  • The musical world of eighteenth-century Europe was a small one. Despite the problems presented by contemporary standards of transport, it was quite normal for composers in one part of Europe to be entirely au fait with what was happening elsewhere. This is borne out by the closeness of three German composers: Telemann, godfather to C.P.E. Bach; Pisendel; and J.S. Bach, who admired both his compatriots and composed some astoundingly difficult music for the violinist Pisendel. This programme celebrates their music as well as the music of those who contributed to their musical heritage. Included alongside the German triumvirate are works by Vivaldi who physically helped with the composition of Pisendel’s A minor concerto movement, Fasch who was a great friend of Pisendel and Telemann, and Brescianello, an Italian who helped the dissemination of Italian instrumental music throughout the German-speaking lands and whose concertos were played in Dresden by Pisendel.
  • The programme performed here by baritone Christopher Maltman and pianist Joseph Middleton was born whilst Maltman was studying at the Royal Academy of Music. The compositions have been selected to form a coherent but flexible narrative that produces a touching memoire to all those affected by war. One composer chosen for the record, George Butterworth, was a casualty of the First World War: in September 1915 he went to the trenches and was killed, aged 31, in the Battle of the Somme on 5th August 1916. The use of his composition, A Shropshire Lad, is touching in this instance. It gives the listener a more sensitive perspective of the loss in World War One, almost allowing the listener to see the faces of those who passed away, most of whom were young ‘lads’ from various parts of the country.
  • Tchaikovsky’s contemporaries tell us that he was good enough to become a concert pianist, if he had chosen to follow that path. But he preferred to focus on composition, and rarely performed in public concerts. His interest in the piano is mainly to be found in his many pieces for the instrument, and since most of these were suitable for amateurs with solid skills, they sold well and played an important role in building up his fame. Despite this, some view Tchaikovsky’s solo piano works as poor quality. Peter Donohoe disagrees, insisting that all music requires performers to find the right approach, so he does not see Tchaikovsky as any kind of exception. He writes: “It is inexplicable to me that Tchaikovsky’s solo piano music should remain so infrequently performed, containing as it does all of the composer’s characteristic harmony, his wonderful melodic gift, his capacity for majestic gesture, magically beautiful moments, immense sadness, and passages of extreme excitement. His piano writing is often orchestral in texture, but also demonstrates the direct but very diverse pianistic influences of Liszt and Schumann, and incorporates in an almost naive way folk-style dance rhythms and melodies from Russia. This treasure trove is immensely rewarding to play, whether it be a small-scale salon piece such as the Humoresque Op. 10 No 2, or large in scale, such as is the gigantic Grand Sonata in G Major.”
  • Over thirty years ago, Fretwork made its first recording – well, technically speaking it was the second album to be recorded, but the first to be released – and it was called ‘In nomine’, which consisted mainly of 16th-century examples of this remarkable instrumental form. While this isn’t an anniversary of that release, Fretwork wanted to look both back to that first release and forward, to bring the genre up to date. There were several examples of the In nomine and related forms that couldn’t be recorded in 1987, and this album seeks to complete the project. The form was created unwittingly by John Taverner (1490-1545). His 6-part mass, Gloria tibi Trinitas, is based on the plainchant of that name. In the Sanctus, at the words Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini (Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord), the six-part texture is pared down to two and three parts; and then, with the words in nomine Domini, Taverner makes, for the only time in the mass, a complete statement of the cantus firmus, accompanied by three voices. This four- parts section – very beautiful as it is – must have struck contemporaries as some kind of perfection, to be used as a template, to be emulated and copied. And then those copies were copied and changed again. Typically, an In nomine would have the alto, or second part, playing this cantus firmus in long slow notes of equal length. The other parts would weave counterpoint around it, sometimes commenting upon it, sometimes ignoring it. Typically, the cantus firmus starts and ends on the note D – but there are many exceptions to all these ‘rules’.
  • The great patriotic opera of the 17th century, recorded here in a lively new performing edition after two decades in the Gabrieli’s touring repertoire. Notoriously difficult to present on disc or in concert, this version presented by Gabrieli was created to allow an obvious musical narrative, despite Purcell’s music often being completely dislocated from much of the original theatre context. Gabrieli have been performing the music from King Arthur for nearly a quarter of a century, evolving their interpretation over time. With the score having to be pieced together using separate versions (due to Purcell’s originals being lost), and with Gabrieli’s evolved interpretation of the music, the end product of this recording is truly unique. Their next release on Signum will be with the semi-opera by Purcell, Fairy Queen, in April next year, which is an adaptation of A Midsummer Nights Dream.
  • Magnificat

    £12.00
    Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis was recorded to explore the breadth of imagination with which composers have approached the texts, which have been sung in Christian worship for over 1000 years. Stanford’s starting point was the Germanic symphonic tradition; Howells took his inspiration from the architecture and acoustics of the Cathedral in Gloucester; Tippett was inspired by the unique Spanish trumpet stop at St John’s. The Evening Cantincles chosen for this record relate to a particular period of music making in the life of St John’s conductor, Andrew Nethsingha; his time at the Royal College of Music; at Truro and Gloucester Cathedrals, and lastly his time at St John’s. Founded in the 1670s, The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, is one of the finest collegiate choirs in the world – known and loved by millions for its rich, warm and distinctive sound, expressive interpretations and ability to sing in a variety of styles.
  • CPE Bach

    £24.00
    Born in Weimar, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-88) was the fifth child and second surviving son of JS Bach and his first wife Maria Barbara. By his own account he had no other teacher for composition and keyboard except his father. Nevertheless, the majority of Emanuel’s earliest works owe more to the influence of Telemann and other exponents of the new galant style, while already suggesting his own progressive instinct. At the age of twenty-four, after seven years studying law, Emanuel decided to devote himself to music. In 1738 he accepted the position of keyboard player at the court of the Prussian crown prince – the future Frederick the Great. After nearly thirty years of royal service he left Berlin and moved to Hamburg, where he occupied the positions of Music Director and Cantor until his death. Described by the Guardian as a performer of “fearless intensity”, former ECHO Rising Star Tamsin Waley-Cohen has established herself as one of the most insightful and versatile young British violinists. Described by The Daily Telegraph as ‘in a class of his own’ James Baillieu has been the prize-winner of the Wigmore Hall Song Competition, Das Lied International Song Competition, Kathleen Ferrier and Richard Tauber Competitions. He plays these C.P.E. Bach compositions on a modern piano.
  • Following its successful full length opera, Artaxerxes, Classical Opera return with the first in an epic series of Mozart operas Apollo et Hyacinthus. Named in The Guardian as one of ‘The Best Classical albums of 2012’. Classical Opera has mounted two staged productions of Mozart’s Apollo et Hyacinthus (1998 and 2006), with both receiving wide critical acclaim; The Independent stated, “Classical Opera’s polished debut in Apollo et Hyacinthus proved a pearl beyond price. Here was a work of staggering beauty riddled with sweet noises like Caliban’s enchanted isle.”
  • Acclaimed for their life-affirming virtuosity and irresistible charm, The King’s Singers are in global demand. Their work – synonymous with the best in vocal ensemble performance – appeals to a vast international audience. The Library is the name of a series of EP releases that celebrates our ‘close-harmony’ library, both historically and as it grows each year. Close-harmony is the phrase we have always used to describe its lighter repertoire, and we see The Library as our chance to make sure this rich vein of great song-writing and arranging gets the place of prominence it deserves. The Library recording series will involve regular releases which will come out alongside other touring and recording projects, giving us an output for revisiting some of these old favourites and commissioning brand new close harmony from recent releases. Every volume in The Library series will capture a variety of songs, celebrating the wonderful diversity of music in our world today.
  • Arcadia

    £12.00
    Oliver Davis graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 1994 and has since composed numerous concertos, ballet scores, albums, soundtracks and television scores working with many of the major London orchestras. The Infinite Ocean was composed for choreographer Edwaard Liang and was commissioned by San Francisco Ballet for the Unbound festival, 2018. Liang requested the work to be in six sections and to feature a solo violin. The aim of Aracdia was to create a piece which evoked an idyllic serene place. Gemini was specifically composed for violinist Kerenza Peacock and was designed to explore the contrasting styles of her playing. The Suite for piano and orchestra was written for Huw Watkins on piano and heavily involves thematic development throughout. Inferno began life as a short orchestral sketch, which gradually evolved into a full, single-movement piece. Lastly, The Elements was commissioned by The Hanke Brothers, who specifically wanted a piece describing the four elements. The ensemble containing piano, viola, recorder and tuba, produces a unique timbre, and the piece explores the possible various aspects of this timbre.
  • In his new Saxophone Concerto, Gabriel Prokofiev explores a side of classical music usually seen as forbidden by modern contemporary composers: melody. This aspect was incorporated at the request of the soloist, Branford Marsalis, allowing Prokofiev to revisit characteristics of the classical tradition not usually heard in contemporary music, giving the saxophone an open canvas. Prokofiev’s Bass Drum Concerto shows the versatility of the instrument, despite only being used in a very basic fashion in classical music as a whole. Prokofiev experiments with how the bass drum is struck, where it is struck, and what it is struck with throughout the piece, producing a variety of sounds, colours and textures. 
  • Based at Windsor Castle, the members of The Queen’s Six make up half of the Lay Clerks of St George’s Chapel, whose homes lie within the Castle walls. This rare privilege demands the highest musical standards, as they sing regularly for the Royal family at both private and state occasions. In 2018 this included the weddings of Princess Eugenie and Mr Jack Brooksbank, and Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle, both held in St George’s Chapel. Most significantly however, it is the familiarity of living and singing together in Chapel every day that lends this group its distinctive closeness and blend, as well as an irresistible informality and charm. Individually, members of The Queen’s Six have appeared in many of the most prestigious vocal ensembles on the circuit, including The Tallis Scholars, Tenebrae, and The Sixteen. Their repertoire extends far beyond the reach of the choir stalls: from austere early chant, florid Renaissance polyphony, lewd madrigalsand haunting folk songs to upbeat Jazz and Pop arrangements.
  • The creation of the Song Cycle as a new art form in the early 19th Century was paved with musical experiments and innovations. On this disc we illustrate the progress made by the great Lied composers of the day toward the cyclical perfection finally achieved by Beethoven and Schubert, and since emulated by Schumann, Loewe, Wolf, Fauré, Britten, Shostakovich and so many others. A Song Cycle is distinguishable from a collection of songs or a Liederspiel by some type of interior cohesion: a unifying theme, text from a single source, a narrative. It could be a musical connection: recurring devices and motifs, key relationships between songs, or perhaps a fixed performance order. Usually, a combination of these criteria is necessary to bestow on any song collection the title of Song Cycle.
  •  The festival of Christmas means many things to many people. Its status as an international public holiday provides a rare opportunity for families and friends from far and wide to come together. Being creatures of habit, many communities establish rituals to prepare for and mark the occasion, finding comfort in the familiarity of an annual structure. For some, the birth of Christ the Saviour is at the centre of these practices, while others regard Christmas as a secular celebration characterised by Santa and mulled wine. These diverse, multifaceted traditions of Advent and Christmas are explored throughout Now may we singen. With works by composers of different generations, backgrounds and musical legacies, Christmas as both ancient holy day and modern, ever evolving holiday is embraced by Timothy Garrard (director), Ben Bloor (organ) and the Choir of Westminster School through bold, characterful musical interpretations.