vocal music


Massenet SongsFrench composer Jules Massenet is best known for his operas, of which he wrote more than thirty. Manon, Werther and Thaïs are firmly established in the opera repertoire and Massenet composed composed prolifically in many other genres. Between 1867 and his death forty-five years later he wrote more than forty stage works in various styles, from opéra-comique to grand-scale depictions of classical myths, romantic comedies and lyric dramas, as well as oratorios, concert suites, cantatas and ballets. His uncanny sense of the theatre and knowledge of the Parisian public’s taste made him the leading composer of opera in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He also wrote 285 songs and his early collections of these helped establish his reputation. His choice of lyrics included verses by poets such as Musset, Maupassant, Hugo, Gautier and other French writers, as well as poems from overseas, such as Tennyson in English and Shelley in French translation. La vie d’une rose features some of the last recordings made by soprano Sally Silver before her death at the age of 51 in 2018. On this her third release on SOMM, she returns to the evocatively perfumed songs of Jules Massenet, accompanied again by the renowned conductor-pianist Richard Bonynge, who also provides a moving, specially written tribute. Bonynge has long been a champion of Massenet and revived his opera Esclarmonde in San Franciso and New York in the 1970s and later at the Royal Opera House in London with, is wife Joan Sutherland in the title role. Sally Silver’s first volume of Massenet songs, Les amoureuses sont des folles (SOMMCD 0151), received the coveted Orphée d’or from L’Académie du disque lyrique and MusicWeb described it as ‘A pure delight... [Silver and Bonynge] bring inspired, sympathetic, thoughtfully nuanced readings to these songs’. She is joined by mezzo-soprano Christine Tocci on six duets and the 25 mélodies here offer a marked contrast to the familiar image of the composer’s famed operatic credentials. Embracing a multitude of emotions, sacred and profane, the songs employ wide-ranging forms and a broad musical palette to captivating ends while revealing a composer perpetually developing, keen to experiment and looking towards the future. La vie d’une rose, produced by the late soprano’s husband Jeremy Silver, is a delightful collection of lovely songs that deserve to be more widely heard, making this is a fine celebration of a masterful composer as well as a poignant reminder of a much-loved and admired artist.


The Hope Of LovingJake Runestad is an award-winning American classical music conductor and composer. Born in Rockford, Illinois, in 1986, and now based in Minneapolis, he has written music for a wide variety of musical genres and ensembles, including opera and orchestral music, as well as works for jazz groups, choir and chamber ensembles, often collaborating for musical texts with the poet Todd Boss. Having worked with leading ensembles around the world, he has now established himself as ‘one of the best of the young American composers’ (Chicago Tribune). Considered ‘highly imaginative…with big ideas’ (Baltimore Sun) and ‘stirring and uplifting’ (Miami Herald), Runestad is a composer with diverse musical experiences, spanning several continents, that have inspired him to create music that captures the emotional vibrancy of life while transcending diverse musical genres. This impressive album of choral works from Delos is the first recording devoted solely to the work of a versatile composer whose music is driven by soaring melodies, driving rhythms, and lush textures. The album features many of his finest compositions, impeccably performed by the choral ensemble Conspirare of Austin, Texas. Under conductor Craig Hella Johnson, the this Grammy® winning chamber choir reveals the rich, luminous textures, lyricism and harmonic wizardry of Runestad’s compositions, exploring themes of love, spirituality and the natural world in mesmerising settings of verses by poets ranging from medieval mystics to more contemporary masters. Conspirare is a select professional ensemble that has captivated choral fans worldwide for nearly three decades, achieving near-legendary status for its supreme technical mastery, collective musicality, interpretive depth and other-worldly sonic lushness. As well as the inspiring six-part title work, The Hope of Loving, this album also includes Waves (‘My sadness is as enormous as the sea’), American Triptych (featuring the glorious ‘Come to the Woods’), the compassionate Why the Caged Bird Sings and the serene Flower Into Kindness (‘The soul is made of love and must ever return to love’). This is beautiful music that enlightens, soothes and heals the spirit. Listen to ‘Flower Into Kindness’ here


Machaut - The Single Rose‘To compose joyfully with a heavy heart is a contrary thing.’ Guillaume de Machaut was the greatest and most important composer of the 14th century. Born in the Champagne region of France around 1300, he became a cleric and joined the household of King John of Bohemia, who secured various ecclesiastical posts for him, including a canonry at Rheims Cathedral. As well as around 145 musical works, Machaut wrote hundreds of poems that shed a fascinating light his life and times, recording events such as the Black Death and the Siege of Rheims in the early part of the Hundred Years’ War. His poetry reveals a love of falconry, riding and the beauties of the French countryside, and would be a major influence on later poests such as Geoffrey Chaucer. As a composer he showed a rare versatility with music covering a much wider range than that suggested by his most famous work, the Messe de Nostre Dame (Notre Dame Mass) - the earliest known complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass attributable to a single composer. Machaut composed in a wide range of styles and forms and was part of the musical movement known as the ars nova, helping develop the motet and secular song forms. The rose as symbol of both the beloved and of love itself: the ‘fleur des fleurs’ of the Roman de la rose is paid due homage by The Orlando Consort in this latest instalment of their essential series. Merci vous pri (Rondeau 3) typifies the courtly love relationship between male lover and adored lady in which man is at the mercy of woman. Se je souspir parfondement (Virelai 30) is a thinly veiled confession. If the lover sighs, or weeps when he is alone, it is on account of his deep love for his lady. Love can be contradictory in many ways for the medieval lover - in Se ma dame m’a guerpi (Virelai 6) the lover finds himself rejected in favour of another. Nonetheless, he must accept her decision and remain faithful, as obedience to the lady is the highest goal of the courtly lover. Machaut’s motets were predominantly in Middle French and focused on courtly love, using the sacred citations of the tenor lines to provide additional allegorical insight. Atmospherically recorded and impeccably performed, this beautiful music takes the listener to world of love and devotion are celebrated yet sometimes lead to pain and fortunes is agnostic to good and bad. The outstanding Orlando Consort, one of Europe’s most expert and consistently challenging groups, successfully combines captivating entertainment with scholarly insight. Their ongoing series of the polyphonic songs of Guillaume de Machaut has received consistently high praise, including multiple ‘Editor’s choice’ recommendations in the UK and international press.


FinziGerald Finzi was born in London in 1901. His father (of Italian Jewish descent) died when he was seven. After the outbreak of the First World War, he moved with his mother to Harrogate, in Yorkshire, where he studied composition with Ernest Farrar and Edward Bairstow. In 1922, went to live in rural Gloucestershire, where he was inspired to compose amid the tranquillity and beauty of the English Countryside. He went on to become one of the most characteristically ‘English’ composers of his generation, embodying the lyrical pastoralism so associated with English twentieth-century music. He had a passion for saving old English varieties of apple trees and was a great admirer of the poet Thomas Hardy. Finzi’s music continues to be much admired and celebrated as it embraces a rich variety of moods, from elegiac lyricism, through spiritual reflection, to radiant joy. This CD features recordings by Trinity College Choir Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Layton, of choral miniatures by Finzi, culminating in one of his most intense, visionary masterpieces. The best-known works here are his celebratory anthem ‘God is gone up’ and the haunting ‘Lo, the full, final sacrifice’ with its beautiful ‘Amen’, drawn from poems by the English metaphysical poet Richard Crashaw. ‘White-flowering Days’, a setting of a poem by Edmund Blunden, was Finzi’s contribution to A Garland for the Queen, a collection of part songs by British composers commissioned to honour the new Queen on the occasion of her coronation and first performed on the night before the ceremony. The attractive ‘Seven Poems of Robert Bridges’ include a lovely setting of ‘I praise the tender flower’, the elated emotions of ‘My spirit sang all day’, the sultry ‘Clear and gentle stream’, and the ruminative ‘Nightingales’. Also included here is the Nunc Dimittis by the young British composer David Bednall, written as a companion piece to Finzi’s setting of the Magnificat, composed in 1952. ‘Bednall’s Nunc dimittis successfully draws on the rhapsodic contours of Finzi’s distinctive technique while preserving Bednall’s own lithe and attractive voice.’ - The Observer.


Clara Schumann - Complete SongsThis new SACD disc brings together for the very first time the complete songs of Clara Schumann in the original key – a welcome tribute in the year that marks the two hundredth anniversary of her birth. All the songs are performed in their original keys by German-Greek soprano Miriam Alexandra and and Dutch tenor Peter Gijsbertsen, with demanding piano accompaniment excellently played by Jozef De Beenhouwer. Following Robert Schumann’s death in a mental hospital, Clara had to work even harder to support her family so largely gave up her compositional work. This superbly produced album reminds us again of an extraordinary musician and remarkably brave human being.


the wagon of lifeThe long and vibrant tradition of art-song in England has seen many great composers from Finzi to Vaughan Williams, Gurney to Moeran and Warlock and countless more. The small Dunelm Records label released many albums of English song in limited circulation, several of which are now again available on Diversions. This recording was made in 2003 for the North West [England] Composers’ Association and includes songs by several of the UK’s song specialists, some of whom are far better known internationally than others. The program shows the great variety of styles produced in settings of poets from Thomas Hardy to Tennyson, Brontë and many others in these ‘Songs of Nature, Life and Love’. Baritone Mark Rowlinson has had an international singing career for over 50 years, most recently appearing as narrator in Rawsthorne’s ‘Practical Cats (Divine Art DDA 25169) as well as being a senior BBC producer. Pianist Peter Lawson is widely regarded as the best accompanist in the UK and a very worthy successor to the legendary Gerald Moore. There are three excellent songs by Thomas Pitfield and one of his handsome wood-cuts adorns the cover. His song, The Wagon of Life, which gives the album its title, is a translation by Alice and Thomas Pitfield of a poem by Pushkin. Other highlights include Geoffrey Kimpton’s setting of Thomas Hardy’s yearning Faintheart in a Railway Station (‘A radiant stranger, who saw not me’), John R Williamson’s settings of poetry by A E Housman, two solemn Psalm settings by Sasha Johnson Manning, David Golightly’s exhilarating Songs of the Clifftop (to poems by Steve Hobson), and David Forshaw’s The Owl, Whale Song and Horse, setting poems by Kathleen Collier. Subtitled ‘Songs Of Nature, Life and Love in Time and Place’, this is a delightful album for all lovers of English Song and poetry, performed with warmth, dexterity and tenderness.


mahler song cyclesIn 1883 Gustav Mahler became second conductor and choirmaster of the opera in Kassel, and during his first season there he and one of the sopranos in the company, Johanna Richter, fell in love. When the affair had come to a painful end, the 24-year-old Mahler transformed his experience into music, composing a set of songs about an unhappy young man setting out to find himself in the aftermath of a shattered affair. That cycle became his Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen or Songs of a Wayfarer, originally written for voice and piano, and later as an the orchestral version. The Rückert-Lieder (Songs after Rückert) is Mahler’s cycle of five Lieder for voice and orchestra or piano based on poems by Friedrich Rückert. The songs are independent, connected only by the poetry and common themes, but were published together in 1905 and have mostly been performed together. Rückert also wrote the poems on which Mahler based his Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children). The original 428 poems were written in grief following the death by scarlet fever of two of Rückert’s children. Mahler selected five of the poems to set as Lieder, and like the texts this song cycle reflects feelings of anguish, fantasy resuscitation of the children, and resignation. The final song, In diesem Wetter (In this weather), ends in a mood of transcendence. Zakarias Grafilo, violinist with the Alexander String Quartet, has transcribed these wonderful song cycles, saying that he ‘Wanted to recreate some of the aural colours from the orchestral instrumentation while maintaining the intimacy of the piano version. I also wanted to integrate the solo voice as a fifth member of the ensemble, weaving in and out of the musical texture not only as soloist, but also as an equal member in this chamber music collaboration.’ His aim is achieved perfectly in these beautiful recordings by the Alexander Quartet with the excellent American mezzo soprano Kindra Scharich. Watch video


Liszt - Complete Songs, Vol. 5Hungarian-born phenomenon Franz Liszt was a prolific 19th-century composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author and nationalist, as well as a Franciscan tertiary during the Romantic era. He became famous and admired throughout Europe for his prodigious skill as a pianist and was a friend, promoter and benefactor to many composers of his time, including Frédéric Chopin, Richard Wagner, Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, Camille Saint-Saëns, Edvard Grieg, Mikhail Glinka, and Alexander Borodin. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent representatives of the New German School and left behind an extensive and diverse body of work in which he influenced his forward-looking contemporaries and anticipated many 20th-century ideas and trends. Some of his most notable musical contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form, and making radical departures in harmony. He wrote many songs to piano accompaniment, mostly with lyrics in German or French, but today they are mostly relatively obscure. Pianist Julius Drake’s survey of the complete songs reaches its fifth volume with this recital by English lyric tenor and vocal actor Allan Clayton, mainly featuring the late songs from Liszt’s Weimar years (1848-61). The disc opens with two contrasting settings of Goethe’s ‘Freudvoll und leidvoll’ and other highlights include ‘Die Lorelei’, a reflective ‘Du bist wie eine Blume’, the brilliance of ‘Comment disaient-ils’, and the challenging ‘O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst’. The haunting ‘Ich möchte hingehn’ resembles the opening motif of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde and it is claimed that Liszt wrote it ten years before Wagner started work on Tristan in 1857. Allan Clayton is in fine voice and Drake is outstanding in this latest edition of Hyperion’s exemplary series.


In RemembranceThe First World War, sometimes called the Great War, lasted from 1914 to 11 November 1918 and was described as the ‘war to end all wars’. Around nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a direct result of the war, and it a contributory factor in a number of genocides and the 1918 influenza epidemic, which caused at least 50 million deaths worldwide. Military losses were made worse by new technological developments and the tactical stalemate caused by gruelling trench warfare. One of the deadliest conflicts in history, it precipitated major political changes such as the Russion Revolution, and unresolved rivalries at the end of the conflict contributed to the start of the Second World War twenty years later. In the centenary anniversary year of the end of this most deadly conflict - and on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War - SOMM Recordings pays tribute to those who fought and fell in battle. In Remembrance is a moving compendium of music spanning 130 years, featuring the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the Choir of Chelsea Pensioners, Staff and Volunteers, sopranos Katy Hill and Leah Jackson, baritone Gareth John and organists James Orford and Hugh Rowlands under the direction of William Vann. Founded in 1682 by King Charles II, the Royal Hospital is home to the world-famous Chelsea Pensioners - retired veterans of the British army - whose contributions on three tracks adds its own special poignancy to In Remembrance. Choral works commemorating courage and offering comfort by Hubert Parry (Jerusalem), Gustav Holst (the stirring I Vow to Thee, My Country) and Edward Elgar (his serene partsong, They are at rest) are heard alongside equally affecting pieces by their contemporaries and successors, Charles Villiers Stanford, John Ireland, Douglas Guest (For The Fallen) and Charles Harris (O Valiant Hearts). Faureì’s immortal Requiem, arranged for choir and organ by Iain Farrington, and Ian Venable’s plaintive Requiem aeternam (in its first recording) both offer succour and solace in their conviction that death is not the end but, as Faureì thought of it: ‘a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience’.


Vienna - Fin de SiècleAfter the huge success of her GRAMMY and Juno Award-winning first album for Alpha, ‘Crazy Girl Crazy’, Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan is back with her longtime collaborator and mentor, the great figure of twentieth-century music, acclaimed Dutch pianist, conductor, pianist and composer Reinbert de Leeuw. For this new recital album, the duo explores the roots of modern music with composers who went on to lead a musical revolution: Arnold Schoenberg (Vier Lieder), Hugo Wolf (Goethe-Lieder), Anton Webern (Five Songs, after poems by Richard Dehmel), Alexander Zemlinsky, Alma Mahler (Five Songs for Voice and Piano) and Alban Berg (Sieben frühe Lieder). Vienna: Fin de Siècle presents a vision of Vienna at the height of late Romanticism, when music was at its most lush and decadent, at the edge of tonality and full of voluptuous beauty. Featuring composers for whom text and song were inseparable, the album captures the rich and intense moment before the disruption of the harmonic language of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hannigan and de Leeuw have long championed the exquisite repertoire from this époque. Nova Scotian musician Barbara Hannigan divides her time between singing on the world’s major stages and conducting leading orchestras such as The Berlin Philharmonic and the Toronto Symphony and her recordings have garnered many awards. She has also been Singer of the Year (Opernwelt, 2013), Musical Personality of the Year (Syndicat de la Presse Francaise, 2012), and winner of the Rolf Schock Prize for Musical Arts (2018), and was recently appointed as a member to the Order of Canada. Unforgettable operatic appearances include the title role in a ‘chameleonic and compelling’ (Gramophone) Lulu on stage at La Monnaie. Watch video ‘Hannigan has an ability to create colours of exceptional poetic beauty.’ - Financial Times. Watch video


Schoenberg - GurreliederArnold Schoenberg’s massive Gurrelieder is a cantata for five vocal soloists, narrator, chorus and large orchestra. The work began in 1900 as a song cycle for soprano, tenor and piano based on poems by the Danish novelist Jens Peter Jacobsen (translated from Danish to German by Robert Franz Arnold) and was later greatly expanded before receiving its premiere in 2013 in Vienna. The title means ‘songs of Gurre’, referring to Gurre Castle in Denmark, scene of a medieval love-tragedy (related in Jacobsen’s poems) revolving around the Danish national legend of the love of the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag (spelt Waldemar by Schoenberg) for his mistress Tove, and her subsequent murder by Valdemar’s jealous Queen Helvig. This late-Romantic masterpiece has been called Schoenberg’s Tristan and Isolde - a tale of a love that even death cannot vanquish, of rage against the heavens, and ultimately of consolation in a closing musical sunrise of unparalleled beauty. What started out as a modest song-cycle grew into one of the most opulent works of the 20th century – of Wagnerian ambition and proportions. This superb live recording of Gurrelieder from The Mann Auditorium in Tel-Aviv in 2011 features a stunning performance by Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Of this concert, one critic wrote: ‘In another show stopping event, Zubin Mehta gave an incandescent rendering of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder.’ Also featured are the Prague Philharmonic Chorus and Gary Bertini Israeli Choir, with tenor soloist Daniel Kirch (Waldemar), Ukrainian bass Alexander Tsymbalyuk (Peasant), American soprano Jennifer Wilson(Tove), German mezzo-soprano Daniela Denschlag (Wood Dove), Niklas Björling Rygert (Klaus the Jester) and Itay Tiran (Speaker). This double-CD set concludes with a live performance of Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht (Transfigured Night), recorded by Mehta and the IPO in the same venue in 2006. A lavish colour booklet includes notes, biographies and text translations.


Richard Rodney Bennett - The Glory and the DreamThe respected and remarkably versatile English composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett was best-known for his jazz performances and for television and film scores such as Far from the Madding Crowd, Nicholas and Alexandra, and Murder on the Orient Express. ‘Britain’s most radical and innovative composer’ was extraordinarily successful and prolific, writing more than two hundred challenging concert works for orchestra (including three symphonies, many concertante pieces and a jazz-classical fusion concerto for saxophonist Stan Getz) as well as numerous chamber, solo and duo instrumental pieces, choral works and operas. Born in Broadstairs, Kent, in 1936, he lived in New York City from 1979 and was knighted in 1998. Despite early studies in modernist techniques with Boulez in the 1950s, Bennett’s tastes were catholic and he wrote in a wide range of styles. In the 1990s he toured the world as a solo cabaret act and worked with a outstanding jazz singers such as Cleo Laine, Annie Ross, Marion Montgomery and Claire Martin. This new release celebrates Richard Rodney Bennett’s sublime choral music with 11 first recordings and a vivid new recording of his choral masterpiece, The Glory and the Dream. Performed by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, directed by Paul Spicer and with great support from organist Nicholas Morris, the album features 12 choral pieces composed over more than 50 years. The striking title work sets Wordsworth’s ode Intimations of Immortality to music that conjures childhood rapture and adult fears with the finesse and feeling and features a complex and challenging organ accompaniment. The earliest pieces here are Two Madrigals in which Bennett treats the rich ornamentations of the 17th century to a wholly modern perspective. The most recent work, One Equal Music – a sinewy, austere anthem with a serene ending – was completed in 2012, shortly before the composer’s death at the age of 76. Bennett’s fascination with the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras is also to be found in the elegiac partsong A Contemplation Upon Flowers, the vocal fanfare This Day and Time, a sombre meditation on the finality of life and lasting effulgence of Christ’s eternal being, and the simple but affective carol, I wonder as I wander. Other seasonal pieces include the early, plainchant-infused The Sorrows of Mary, the gentle ‘hush song’ Lullaby Baby and the beautiful Remember, O thou man, a fervent and heartfelt prayer ending in quiet contemplation. Bennett was a superb craftsman whose music has elegance, refinement and real emotional depth.


Sappho, Shropshire and Super-TrampThe title of this exciting new album, ‘Sappho, Shropshire and Super-Tramp’, reflects three major threads (though not all) of new English art-song made with the English Poetry and Song Society. Shropshire is represented by several settings from A.E. Housman’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’ which has been among the most popular sets of poems for composers since its publication in 1896. From the ancient world, Sappho’s writings were set by Ivor Gurney, recently discovered, edited and published by Richard Carder. Super-Tramp is the exceptional hobo-turned-gentleman poet W.H. Davies, a Welsh poet and writer who spent a large part of his colourful life as a hobo in England and the United States and became one of the most popular poets of his time. ‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?’ - his most famous poem, Leisure, has been set to music by both Dennis Wickens and Graham Garton, here performed by the impressive baritone Johnny Herford. Soprano Sarah Leonard is the soloist for Ivor Gurney’s opening ‘Seven Sappho Songs’, a tender and beautiful song cycle based on William Bliss Carmen’s poems telling of one of Sappho’s passionate love affairs. Houseman is represented by exquisite settings of ‘Bredon Hill’ by Brian Dubney and William Carnell. Altogether there are 12 composers, also including David Crocker, Frank Harvey, Janet Oates, Michael Watts, Robert Hugill, Simon Willink and Sulyen Caradon. Spread over two discs, these 52 songs, some in cycles and some stand-alone items, make this a feast of new and fascinating work for the song lover. Piano accompaniment is by Nigel Foster, who has been described as ‘today’s Gerald Moore’.


G.A. RistoriItalian opera composer and conductor Giovanni Alberto Ristori born in Bologna in 1692, the son of Tommaso Ristori, leader of an opera troupe belonging to the King of Poland and Elector of Saxony August II the Strong (based in Dresden). Giovanni Ristori’s first opera, Pallide trionfante in Arcadia, premiered in Padua in 1713 and his long career in Dresden began two years later when he joined his parents there. In 1717 he became composer to the Italian troupe directed by his father and he was also the first director of the Polish Kapelle ensemble of twelve musicians partly based in Dresden. He was responsible for the first performance of an Italian opera (Calandro) in Russia and his music was performed at the most prestigious venues in Europe, though today he is little known (many of his personal scores were lost in the Prussian War of 1760 and during the Allied bombing of the Second World War. In 1746 he was appointed as Dresden Kirchen compositeur (Church composer), a position previously held by J S Bach, and set several of Princess Maria Antonio’s texts as cantatas. He also became vice-’capellmeister’ under Johann Adolf Hasse at the famed Dresden court. This invaluable recording from the innovative, creative and critically acclaimed label, Audax Records, features Johannes Pramsohler and his Ensemble Diderot as they rediscover this unjustly neglected composer. The princess of Saxony wrote the libretti for three cantatas here - powerful monologues by three powerful women, masterfully set to music by Ristori. Dido, abandoned by her love and in complete despair, throws herself into the flames; Lavinia, forced to leave her fiancé tries to explain her action; Nice, taken by hallucinations accuses Cupid as being very unhelpful. These three heroines are interpreted by an award winning Argentinean soprano (Maria Savastano) and an ensemble that sets high standards in the interpretation of baroque music. This CD features the world premiere of these breathtaking Cantatas for Soprano and Orchestra as well as a brilliant oboe concerto by Ristori.


Betty RoeComposer, singer, teacher and conductor Betty Roe was born in London in 1930, the daughter of a fishmonger father and bookkeeper mother. Betty Roe learned piano from the age of six and began writing music and arrangements in her teens. She continued studying piano, cello and singing at the Royal Academy of Music after World War II, and studied composition with Lennox Berkeley. In the 1950s she became involved with a drama group where she began writing for musicals and also worked as a sessions singer. She was Director of Music at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art from 1968–78 and founded Thames Publishing with her husband, John Bishop. This remarkable woman has composed six operas as well as orchestral works and light music for theatre and cabaret, but her first love is art-song of which she has produced over 300 examples. Her style is eclectic, ranging from the serious to the comical, displaying a wonderful wit as well as a firm grasp of vocal writing and a way of providing music that seems totally at one with the texts. At the age of 87, she remains a major force in the music world, awarded an MBE in 2011 for services to classical music and composition. The Silver Hound and other songs features program of works composed over the last 30 years and is a delight. Highlights include The Silver Hound, written in 1990 to mark the composer's 60th birthday, I Know A Hill, the lovely In This Lone Open Glade, the witty Diva’s Lament, Three Hardy Conversations, and The Life That I Have (words by Second World War cryptographer Leo Marks). The performers include top English soloists Sarah Leonard and Anne Marie Sheridan (sopranos), Robin Tritschler (tenor) and Stephen Varcoe (baritone) with Nigel Foster, English Song accompanist extraordinaire (todays Gerald Moore) at the piano. Sometimes obbligato French horn (Daniel Beer the composers grandson), recorder (Emma Murphy) or violin (Madeleine Mitchell) add to the texture. These excellent premiere recording were produced in co-operation with the Betty Roe Society.


Monteverdi MadrigalsClaudio Monteverdi was born in Cremona, Italy in 1567 at a time when the spiritual values and traditions of Renaissance music were giving way to the more human-centred values of the Baroque age. He was a musical prodigy – his first works were published when he was 15 and he published several books of madrigals and motets before being engaged as a string player and later as choirmaster (maestro di cappell) to the court of Vincenzo Gonzaga at Mantua. During his life, which culminated in his appointment in 1613 as maestro di cappella at St Mark’s, Venice, he published many more examples of secular and religious works, including six operas, ballets, nine books of madrigals, numerous motets and masses, as well as the famous Marian Vespers. Until the age of forty, Monteverdi primarily worked on madrigals, composing a total of nine books that show the enormous development from Renaissance polyphonic music to the monodic style typical of Baroque music. The Eighth Book, issued with the title of Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi (‘Madrigals of Love and War’), was published in 1638, just four years before the composer’s death. The music included in it was intended as a statement of artistic principles and compositional authority as much as a homogeneous collection. The series contains some of Monteverdi’s greatest music, with the material carefully arranged by category into madrigals of war, love and those for the stage, with a wide array of human passions and compositional styles. This 4-CD box set features the first recording to present Book Eight in its original, uncut form, also incorporating instrumental sinfonias and dances by Biagio Marini (1594-1663) to round off Monteverdis design. In keeping with seventeenth-century practice, the madrigals are performed entirely by male voices, including a boy soprano in the role of Cupid. This is the latest release in Naxos’s complete recordings of Monteverdi madrigals by the excellent Delitiæ Musicæ ensemble, based in Verona, Italy, and led by Marco Longhini.


Renée Fleming - Distant LightAmerican opera singer Renée Fleming is one of the world’s most loved and celebrated lyric sopranos, acclaimed for her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry and compelling stage presence. Her wide ranging repertoire includes music by Richard Strauss, Mozart, Handel, bel canto, lieder, French opera and chansons, jazz and even indie rock (her album Dark Hope features songs by Leonard Cohen, Band of Horses and Jefferson Airplane). She has performed coloratura, lyric, and lighter spinto soprano operatic roles in Italian, German, French, Czech and Russian, as well as her native English. Her signature roles include Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello, Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata, the title roles in Dvorák’s Rusalka, Massenet’s Manon and Richard Strauss’s Arabella, the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, and the Countess in Capriccio. A National Medal of Arts and Richard Tucker Award winner, she was awarded the Swedish Polar Music Prize in 2008 for her services in music. At a White House ceremony in 2013, the President awarded her the National Medal of Arts, America’s highest honour for an individual artist, and won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo that year. Distant Light is Renée Fleming’s first new studio album in three years and features a daring mix of music by Samuel Barber, Anders Hillborg and Björk. It was recorded with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and conductor Sakari Oramo. The album title comes from a poem in a dream-like new song cycle dedicated to Renée Fleming and here receiving its world premiere recording: Hillborg’s The Strand Settings. Fleming couples this with transformative performances of three songs by Icelandic phenomenon Björk in specially commissioned orchestrations by the brilliant Swedish composer and arranger Hans Ek, recorded here for the first time. Fleming also gives a radiant, sensuous performance of Samuel Barber’s beautiful masterpiece Knoxville: Summer of 1915 – one of her most requested pieces.


JULIE LONDONAmerican singer and actress Julie London had a career that spanned five decades. She released 32 albums of pop and jazz standards during the 1950s and 1960s, with her signature song being the classic Cry Me a River, which she introduced in 1955. Her acting career began in films in 1944, and included playing opposite Gary Cooper in Man of the West and Robert Mitchum in The Wonderful Country. She was born in 1926 in Santa Rosa, California, the daughter of vaudeville song-and-dance team Jack and Josephine Peck, and made her début singing professionally on her parents’ radio show. She was discovered by talent agent Sue Carol (wife of actor Alan Ladd) and her long recording career began in 1955 with a live performance at the 881 Club in Los Angeles. Billboard named her the most popular female vocalist for 1955, 1956 and 1957, and she was the subject of a 1957 Life cover article in which she was quoted as saying, ‘It’s only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate.’ ‘Sultry’ was always the word for Julie London, describing both her sensual presence and her wonderfully distinctive, breathy voice. Retrospective’s double-CD tribute features the cream from the first 15 of her remarkable series of Liberty LPs, beginning with the whole of her debut album Cry Me A River. Julie’s laidback delivery of romantic songs is sensitively enhanced by Barney Kessel’s distinctive guitar artistry and the deft foundation of Ray Leatherwood’s bass - together they worked the worked the sort of magic that makes an album immortal. Throughout all the 62 exquisite tracks the same qualities shine through: the musicianly phrasing, the true intonation and the direct, natural style. The choice of material is top-drawer, and includes five memorable original songs by husband and producer Bobby Troup. Julie London was a unique phenomenon. For so many who lived through the late 50s she remains an iconic image of enticing womanhood, with a smoky voice that could persuade any man to Cry Me A River.


French songsThese delightful recordings by London-born baritone Simon Wallfisch and the excellent pianist feature unusual French music ‘from la belle epoque to les anne folle’. There are songs by André Caplet (Nuit d’Automne, “Quand reverrai-je, hélas!...”, Le croix Douloureuse and the amusing Trois Fables de Jean de la Fontaine), Arthur Honegger (the brilliant Six Poèmes de Guillaume Apollinaire and Trois Poèmes de Paul Fort) and Darius Milhaud’s Les Soirées de Pétrograde (twelve miniature poems by René Chalupt). The disc ends with a performance of Maurice Ravel’s masterful Chansons madécasses, a collection of three songs ("Nahandove", "Aoua" and "Il est doux") written between 1925 and 1926 for voice (mezzo-soprano or baritone), flute, cello and piano, with words by the poet Évariste de Parny. The musicians here also include Efrain Oscher (flute) and Raphael Wallfisch (cello). Simon Wallfisch was born into a family of musicians and began playing the cello aged 5 before going on to study cello and voice as a Foundation Scholar at the Royal College of Music, during which time (2000-2006) he was awarded several prizes including from Royal Overseas League, Countess of Munster and English Speaking Union. Edward Rushton studied piano and composition at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, before reading music at King’s College, Cambridge and then composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.


Kitty KallenBorn in Philadelphia in 1921, popular American singer Kitty Kallen’s career spanned from the 1930s to the 1960s, including the Swing era of the Big Band years, the post-World War Two pop scene and the early years of rock ‘n roll. She performed with some of the finest big bands of the 1940s, such as those of Jimmy Dorsey and Harry James, before striking out on a solo career. Her best known recording is ‘Little Things Mean a Lot’, a song that stayed at the US number one spot for nine weeks in 1954 and charted there for almost seven months. It was also and number one hit on the UK singles chart, and sold more than two million copies. Kitty Kallen continued to record until her retirement in the 1960s and died in January 2016, at the ripe age of 94. Retrospective pays tribute to one of the greatest big-band singers and solo stars of the 50s with this generous compilation of her best work. As well as the timeless title track that brought her superstardom there are wonderful earlier performances with the bands of Jack Teagarden (Love For Sale), Jimmy Dorsey (four huge hits including the million-selling No.1 Besame Mucho) and, biggest of all, Harry James. Eleven of the tracks feature the brilliant James trumpet, including I’m Beginning To See The Light and It’s Been A Long, Long Time. Kitty also gives a fine rendering of My Heart Belongs To Daddy with the 1946 Artie Shaw Orchestra. Her later hits include another million-seller, In The Chapel In The Moonlight, and a moving interpretation of My Colouring Book, her last Top 20 entry. This is a perfect introduction to an impressive and graceful singer who successfully moved from classic big band swing to modern post-war pop.


Ruth EttingRenowned for her great beauty, gorgeous voice and tragic life, Ruth Etting gre up in Nebraska and wanted to be an artist, drawing and sketching everywhere she could. At sixteen, her grandparents sent her to art school in Chicago, where she found a job designing costumes at the Marigold Gardens nightclub. She soon became a featured vocalist at the club and gave up art classes in favour of a career in show business. She also married Chicago gangster Moe Snyder, who managed her career for the next two decades. She became nationally known when she appeared in Ziegfeld’s ‘Follies of 1927’and her blond hair, blue eyes and stunning voice all led to her being dubbed the Sweetheart of Columbia Records, America’s Radio Sweetheart, and finally America’s Sweetheart of Song. She made a string of short films and three full-length features in Hollywood, where her loveless marriage finally fell apart. In 1937 Ruth fell for her accompanist and in a rage, Snyder shot him. The musician survived, Snyder went to jail and Ruth ended up divorcing him and marrying her true love, Mryl Alderman. But the scandal was too much for her career to survive and her days as America’s Sweetheart were over. In 1955 her story was made into a film, Love Me or Leave Me, starring Doris Day and James Cagney. Love Me Or Leave Me is also the title of Retrospective’s generous double album of 51 inimitable Ruth Etting performances. She had over sixty hit records, including Button Up Your Overcoat, the poignant Ten Cents A Dance, Shine on Harvest Moon and You Made Me Love You. No fewer than 37 of them were the equivalent of ‘chart’ hits, including 13 Top Fives. She gives her inimitable treatment to many great standards such as Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Close Your Eyes and I’ll Never Be The Same, a prime example of her delightful trademark of changing tempo half way through a song. This definitive set features vintage tracks by the queen of the torch singers, who was one of the most popular of all entertainers during the late 20s and early 30s.


The Light PrincessAmerican singer-songwriter, pianist and composer Tori Amos is a classically trained musician and has a mezzo-soprano vocal range Having already begun composing instrumental pieces on piano, she won a scholarship to the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, where she was the youngest person ever to be admitted (aged five). She was later expelled for insisting on playing by ear and for her interest in rock music. She has since become one of the world’s most prominent female singer-songwriters whose songs have explored topics such as sexuality, feminism, politics and religion. She has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide and won awards in many genres, ranging from MTV VMAs to classical music with an Echo award. The Light Princess is Tori Amos’ first musical, co-written with Samuel Adamson and inspired by a Scottish story by George MacDonald, first published in 1864. This ‘dark fairy tale about grief, rebellion and the power of love’ debuted to great critical acclaim at the National Theatre in London in 2013 and tells the story of a teenage princess, Althea of Lagobel, afflicted by a constant weightlessness after losing gravity when refusing to mourn over her mother’s death. She is unable to get her feet on the ground, both literally and metaphorically. When war breaks out Althea, pushed by her father to come to take responsibility, flees, only to fall in love with the rivalling kingdom’s prince. The London stage production featured Rosalie Craig in an acclaimed performance as the princess. This double album features her with the original cast, recorded entirely under studio conditions over the last two years. As a special bonus, the album includes two songs from the musical performed by Tori Amos herself for the first time. The attractive pack also has a 32-page booklet with the complete libretto and photos from the London production. ‘A bewitchingly unusual evening walking on air’ - The Independent.


BUSHES & BRIARSThe title song of this recording is one of twenty-five arrangements for unaccompanied, mixed voices, compiled in Books 1 and 2 of Folk Songs for Choirs (Oxford Press), edited by John Rutter. Some of the finest choral arrangements of British and American folk songs are included in this collection, sung by the excellent St. Charles Singers. This internationally recognized choir regularly performs in venues throughout the greater Chicago area, sometimes with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and has sung under the direction of John Rutter, whose friendship and influence inspired this collection. The Ensemble is here directed by Jeffrey Hunt, who founded is the St. Charles Singers in 1984. He says in his program notes that he has long appreciated the intrinsic value of folk music. ‘A debt of gratitude is owed those individuals who sought out and wrote down these songs so that we may know something of the people, places, and experiences from which they originated. The tales of happy love, lamented love, home, and work expressed in these songs resonate with each passing generation because they are timeless.’ The arrangements are by Edward Bairstow, John Byrt, Edward T. Chapman, Percy Grainger, Gustav Holst, Donald James, E.J. Moeran, John Rutter, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Peter Warlock and David Willcocks. Highlights include the lovely O Waly, Waly, the title track Bushes and Briars (collected by Vaughan Williams and arranged by Donald James), the jaunty Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron, Greensleeves, a vocalise arrangement of Londonderry Air by Percy Grainger, traditional American lullaby Black Sheep, Strawberry Fair, Scottish folk song Faithful Johnny, wistful Ca’ the Yowes, The Oak and the Ash, The Sailor and Young Nancy, the sea shanty Swansea Town, a mesmerising Vaughan Williams arrangement of The Turtle Dove, and the lighthearted Yarmouth Fair. Highly recommended.


Simple GiftsArt song is the central musical form used in teaching a young singer about technique and performance, and every serious young singer begins their vocal study with these works. The New York City Children’s Chorus, featured on this recording, are based at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, which offers a graded choral program for children in the metropolitan New York City areat. Founded in 2012, the NYCCC is comprised of nine choral ensembles for 165 children ages four through eighteen, steeped in the bel canto tradition, exploring a range of Western music from Bach to Broadway. Recent performances include J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion as well as tour appearances in Vienna, Salzburg, Toronto and Washington, D.C. Conductor Mary Wannamaker Huff is the Artistic Director of the NYCCC, which she founded in 2012. The accompanist Andrew Henderson is a co-founder of the Chorus and is Director of Music and Organist at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church as well as a teacher at the Manhattan School of Music and at Columbia University. Soloists include soprano Katherine Wessinger and mezzo-soprano Helen Karloski, a versatile artist equally at home in oratorio, opera and chamber music. The music is by Vaughan Williams, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland (including American traditional songs such as The Boatmen’s Dance, Simple Gifts, I Bought Me a Cat and The Little Horses, Scott Nathan Louis (Shenando), Benjamin Britten (including the beautiful Sally Gardens with words by William Butler Yeats), John Jacob Niles (The Carol of the Birds), Leonard Bernstein (There is a Garden) and Ernest Charles.


Katherine Jenkins = Home Sweet HomeWelsh-born mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins is a hugely popular singer who performs across a spectrum of operatic arias, popular songs, musical theatre and hymns. Six of her albums have reached number one in the classical charts, selling more than four million copies, and she was the first British classical crossover artist to have two number one albums in the same year. Home Sweet Home is Katherine Jenkins’ tenth studio album and it celebrates her tenth anniversary in the music industry. Its well-chosen tracks include a broad landscape of the world’s most popular classical composers – Bach (set to the beautiful words of Cristina Rosetti’s poem, ‘Remember’), Beethoven (Ode to Joy, with violin soloist David Garrett) and Elgar (Sanctus from his Nimrod Variation) – alongside the 21st century’s most streamed composer, Ludovico Einaudi, with a vocal transcription of his global hit ‘I Giorni’. Katherine Jenkins reflects her heritage with a stirring version of the Welsh national anthem, ‘Land Of My Father’. The album also features We’ll gather lilacs in the Spring (by Welsh composer Ivor Novello), Dreaming of the Days, We are the Champions, the anthemic World in Union, a duet with Alfie Boe (Barcelona) and a bonus track (Silent Night). Home Sweet Home reflects the sweet-voiced singer’s journey from choral scholar and student at The Royal Academy of Music to the world’s most prolific classical crossover artist and the fastest-selling soprano ever.


PumezaSouth-African lyric soprano Pumeza Matshikiza was born in Cape Town and grew up experiencing extreme poverty. After studying at the University of Cape Town College of Music and then then at the Royal College of Music in London, she joined the Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House and made her début as a flower maiden in Parsifal. Since becoming a member of the Stuttgart Opera, she has taken the role of Mimi in La Boheme at the Edinburgh Festival, sung at the Wedding of Albert II and was Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at the Bristol Proms. At the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, viewed by a billion people worldwide, she performed Freedom Come-All-Ye, a 1960s Scottish protest song that refers to Nyanga, one of the places where Pumeza lived as a child. She comes from the same Xhosa-speaking people as Nelson Mandela, who was given the Freedom of the city of Glasgow in 1981 and had a long association with its people during his campaign for freedom. This unique and personal album tells Pumeza’s inspirational story in music – from her childhood in the townships to the stages of Europe’s great opera houses. The story is told through a wide-ranging programme that includes delightful arrangements of traditional South African songs such as the catchy Pata Pata, Norman Byfield Thomas’s The Naughty Little Flea, the lilting Thula Baba and The Click Song made famous by Miriam Makeba, as well as arias by Puccini (from La Boheme, Gianni Schicchi and Turandot) and Mozart (Vedrai, carino from Don Giovanni). Pumeza’s singing has a charming freshness and her rich voice is backed by fine technique. ‘One of opera’s most exciting new voices.’ - Daily Telegraph.


HerzogenbergHeinrich Picot de Peccaduc, Freiherr von Herzogenberg was an Austrian composer and conductor. Descended from a French aristocratic family, he was born in Graz in 1843 and was educated at a Jesuit schools before studying law, philosophy and political science at the university of Vienna. He soon turned his energies to music and studied composition with Felix Otto Dessoff. Originally attracted to the music of Richard Wagner, he was drawn to J. S. Bach’s and became an adherent of the classical tradition as well as an advocate for the music of Brahms. In 1866 he married Elisabet von Stockhausen, who had been a piano pupil of Brahms, and von Herzogenberg spent most of his compositional life living in the shadow of the great composer. Herzogenberg’s vast ouput of compositions includes almost every musical genre except opera. Among many other works, he wrote three oratorios, several choral orchestral works, two symphonies, chamber music, and secular part songs (with and without accompaniment for mixed, men’s, and women’s choirs). Despite being a lifelong Catholic, wrote many short liturgical works for the Protestant liturgy. His models in these pieces were the Bach oratorios and passions, with chorales designed to be sung by the congregation and only a small instrumental ensemble. He also wrote a large-scale Mass in memory of Philipp Spitta. Several of Herzogenberg’s major works were thought to have been destroyed during World War II but resurfaced during the 1990s. This excellent three-CD box set features the choral music of this significant and prolific Romantic composer who has, until now, not received as much attention from the recording industry as he deserves. A large gap in the repertoire has now been closed with exemplary recordings of Heinrich von Herzogenberg’s secular and sacred compositions by ensemble cantissimo conducted by Markus Utz. Herzogenberg and his wife became friends with Ethyl Smyth when she studied with him and she said of him, ‘A more learned musician can never have existed.’


Rita StreichRita Streich was born in 1920 in Barnaul, Russia, as the daughter of a German father and Russian mother. She moved to Essen/Jena in Germany as a child and received her first vocal training from Paula Klötzer in Augsburg. Her other teachers included Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender, Erna Berger and Maria Ivogün. Rita Streich’s debut as an opera singer was during the Second World War at the Stadttheater of Ústí nad Labem in Bohemia, in the role of Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss’ opera Ariadne auf Naxos. Three years later she secured her first engagement at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin, where she stayed until 1952 then went on to perform in Bayreuth, Vienna, Salzburg, La Scala in Milan and Covent Garden in London. She later taught at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen and the Music Academy in Vienna. Her wide repertoire included roles in Idomeneo, Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni, Der Rosenkavalier and Siegfried (the Forest Bird) and, since she had grown up bilingual, she could also sing the works of Rimsky-Korsakov in their original Russian almost without accent. Famed for her peerless coloratura, for her Queen of the Night and her performances of Olympia in Les contes d’Hoffmann and Blonde in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Rita Streich was often dubbed a ‘singing nightingale’. As well as opera she also excelled in operetta and took time out from a busy career to record miniatures. Several LPs, combined over two (now deleted) Deutsche Grammophon ‘Originals’ are here combined into a delightful two CD set, showcasing the soprano in popular opera arias, waltz-songs, folk songs (English, American, Russian, Japanese and Yiddish) and lullabies. Highlights include sublime recordings of the Berceuse from Benjamin Godard’s Jocelyn and the Song of the Moon from Dvorak’s Russalka. The waltzes stem from the melodic treasury of the Viennese Strauss dynasty – music of yearning, enchantment and nostalgia, all abetted by Streich’s joyous coloratura. The folk songs and lullabies were recorded in Munich and in Regensburg, in 1962 and 1964. As Bernhard Uske describes in his sleeve notes, the result is ‘a glorious carpet of flowers’.


Barb Jungr - Hard RainThe wonderful Barb Jungr sings a selection of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen songs in true chanson style, revealing the music’s poetry and power. Jungr here includes six of Dylan’s most politically hard-hitting songs that reflect her despair with the political times we live in, deliberately choosing those songs that resonate as strongly today as they did when originally written. Blowin’ In The Wind is now 51 years old and its sentiments are as relevant today as they ever were, as is the album’s title song and the spine-chilling It’s Alright Ma. The five impassioned Leonard Cohen songs are Everybody Knows, Who By Fire, First We Take Manhattan, 1000 Kisses Deep and Land Of Plenty. The music has been imaginatively arranged by Barb Jungr and her long-standing collaborator and accompanist, Simon Wallace, who also produced the album and plays piano, Hammond organ and synthesizers. The other musicians are Neville Malcom and Steve Watts on bass, Gary Hammond (percussion), Clive Bell (Shakahachi - a Japanese flute) and Richard Olatunde Baker on talking drum and additional percussion. Together with Jungr, ‘the politicised chansonnier’, they inject new life and energy into each song. ‘The only word to describe her dramatic interpretations is revelatory...I was open mouthed with astonishment.’ - New York Times. The album comes with insightful liner notes by writer Liz Thomson, who prepared ‘the director’s cut’ of No Direction Home and was co-editor of The Dylan Companion. As a young journalist, her first ever interview was with Leonard Cohen. Highly recommended.


NightPianist Simone Dinnerstein and singer-songwriter Tift Merritt join forces for the first time on this unique collaboration uniting folk, rock and classical worlds, exploring common terrain and uncovering new musical landscapes. Though Simone Dinnerstein (a Juilliard-trained classical pianist from Brooklyn) and Tift Merritt (a singer-songwriter from North Carolina) could not come from more different musical backgrounds, when the two met they immediately realized that their similar passion for music and performance. Night features new songs written especially for the duo by Brad Mehldau and Patty Griffin, as well as Tift Merritt’s own songs, and arrangements of classical music (Schubert’s Night and Dreams, Bach’s Prelude in B minor). The album also includes the world premiere recording of The Cohen Variations by Daniel Felsenfeld, a delicate solo piano piece commissioned by Dinnerstein based on one of her favourite songs, Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne. Night was conceived as a song cycle developed for a concert commissioned and presented by Duke Performances in January 2011. Dinnerstein and Merritt first met in 2008 and have been performing (and honing) the material on the album since 2010. Highlights include he lovely Only In Songs, Don’t Explain, the traditional Wayfaring Stranger, a devastating Don’t Explain and the wonderful title track. Highly recommended.


HarawiOlivier Messiaen is one of the most influential composers of the Twentieth Century, in particular in terms of the music that emerged after the Second World War. He developed his very own musical aesthetic, a rhythm- and timbre-world that is both passionate and spiritual. Harawi, composed in 1945, is a song cycle consisting of 12 songs that takes its name from the ‘Harawi’ or ‘Yaravi’ in the Quechua language of the Incas - a love song genre of Andean music which often ends with the death of the two lovers, thus providing a vehicle from the composer’s exploration of the theme of love-death central to the myth of Tristan and Isolde. These themes are explicitly stated in the work’s subtitle, ‘Chant d’amour et de mort’ (‘Song of love and death’). Messiaen’s Harawi is eloquently sung here by Swedish soprano Annika Skoglund with the acclaimed pianist Carl-Axel Dominique, who studied under Messiaen in Paris and is one of the composer’s foremost interpreters. Included with the disc is a 48-page booklet containing texts written by Messiaen and Dominique, as well as the lyrics of the songs and images of artist Ulla Lööf ‘s striking Andean-influenced clay sculptures.


This new recording spans five decades of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett’s song-writing, featuring some of his most accessible and lyrical pieces, from the melodic Songs Before Sleep, six marvelous settings of nursery rhymes performed by baritone Roderick Williams, to the 1920s dance rhythms of A History of the Thé Dansant, the dramatic and rarely-performed Tom O’Bedlam’s Song for tenor and cello (written for Peter Pears) and the enchanting A Garland for Marjory Fleming, sung by soprano Sophie Daneman. The internationally acclaimed soloists on this excellent recording also include Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano) and Benjamin Hulett (tenor), with Oliver Coates (cello) and Iain Burnside (piano). This is the kind of relaxed, accessible yet sophisticated music that gives Richard Rodney Bennett such broad appeal. He has long had a private passion for making collages (and knitting!) and the cover image on this CD is one of his creations, currently displayed at an exhibition of his work in Chelsea (until 10th September). NMC has also released EARTH & STARS (NMC D158) featuring Peter Wiegold’s plaintive, pastoral Earth, Receive an Honoured Guest, for cor anglais and strings, inspired by WH Auden’s elegy for WB Yeats. The CD also includes Wiegold’s elemental Kalachakra for large ensemble, using Tibetan bells and brass, depicting the creation of the universe, as well as the bittersweet, Viennese Earth and Stars, commissioned for the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death and featuring four harmonicas to represent an ancient funeral band, and the composer’s witty setting of Jo Shapcott’s poems, Les Roses. Artists include Melinda Maxwell (cor anglais), Juliet Fraser (soprano), Martin Butler (piano), notes inégales and the Southbank Sinfonia, conducted by Peter Wiegold - ‘Britain’s most radical and innovative composer’.


Britten - Songs And ProverbsThe poet and painter William Blake was largely unrecognised during his lifetime (1757-1827) but is now seen as a seminal figure in the history of the Romantic age. His prophetic poetry and visual artistry led one contemporary art critic to proclaim him ‘far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced’. He was born in London and lived there for almost his entire life, producing a diverse and rich body of work that embraced the imagination as ‘the body of God’ or ‘human existence itself’. Influenced by the bible as well as the French and American revolutions, his unique poetry combines private mythology with complex symbolism. His poetry has influenced many artists from the Pre-Raphaelites and W B Yeats to the beat poets of the 1950s and songwriters such as Bob Dylan, and classical composers such as Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams have set his words to music. This album by the award-winning partnership of Canadian baritone Gerald Finley and pianist Julius Drake includes Benjamin Britten’s challenging Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, originally written for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. This sombre yet rewarding music takes the listener into an intense emotional world, wonderfully evoked by Finley’s smoothly produced voice and Drake’s sensitive accompaniment. The disc also contains another Britten song cycle for baritone: Tit for Tat, setting the poems of Walter de la Mare, as well as a selection of later songs which received exposure and publication only after the composer’s death in 1976. Among these is a particularly moving arrangement of the prolific Charles Dibdin’s lovely Tom Bowling, written in memory of his brother’s death at sea.


This double CD collection, well subtitled ‘A Treasury of Great Interpretations’, features excellent digital restorations made by Lani Spahr in 2009 of six historic recordings from the 1930s and 1940s. As Tully Potter writes in his note: ‘In his enormous enthusiasm, backed up by his considerable skill, Schumann more or less invented the Romantic Lied, just as Schubert had virtually defined the Classical Lied. The two cycles featured here, Dichterliebe Op.48 for a male voice and Frauenliebe und -leben Op.42 for a female voice, are perhaps the most personal products of 1840. The outstanding performers involved include the exemplary Aksel Schiøtz (tenor) with Gerald Moore (piano), Swiss born and French trained Charles Panzera (baritone) with Alfred Cortot (piano), Gerhard Hüsch (baritone) with Hanns Udo Müller (piano), the legendary Lotte Lehmann (soprano) with Paul Ulanowsky (piano), American star Marian Anderson (alto) with Franz Rupp (piano), and the much-loved, Lancashire-born Kathleen Ferrier (alto) with Bruno Walter (piano). These are all fine interpretations of Schumann’s music and this is a rare opportunity to compare the work of some of the twentieth century’s greatest performers.


The English composer and organist Thomas Tudway (c.1650-1726) was a chorister at the Chapel Royal until 1668. He became organist of King’s College, Cambridge, and from 1670 to 1680 he was also master of the choristers there before being made university organist and organist of Pembroke College and (in 1705) professor of music. The university granted him two degrees and between 1714 and 1720 he transcribed a large collection (six-volumes, 3000 pages) of cathedral music for Lord Harley, including earlier music, notably by Thomas Tomkins, as well as contemporary works; some of these are his own and this invaluable collection is now in the British Library. In style he was a successor to the school of John Blow and there are similarities with the work of Henry Purcell. Tudway’s output comprises about 20 anthems, several services and other church works, an Ode for Queen Anne and a few songs and catches - canonic, often rhythmically intricate composition for three or more voices. His music is almost completely unknown today so this CD from Priory is a real first. It includes his largest work, a Te Deum written for the consecration for Lord Harley’s Wimpole Hall, as well as world premiere recordings of Evening Canticles and three anthems. The excellent Choir and Orchestra of Ferdinand’s Consort are directed by Stephen Bullamore, with Christopher Wardle, Robert Smith, Timothy Scott and Edmund Aldhouse (organ).


Sumi JoThe Grammy award winning lyric coloratura soprano Sumi Jo was born in South Korea on November 22, 1962. As a child, she would often spend up to eight hours a day studying music and later continued her music studies at the Sun Hwa Arts School and at Seoul National University. While at SNU, she made her professional recital debut, appearing in several concerts with the Korean Broadcasting System and making her professional operatic debut as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Seoul Opera. In 1983 she left to study music in Italy at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome and was frequently heard in concert in Italian cities and also on national radio broadcasts and telecasts. After graduating with degrees in piano and voice, she studied with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and won several international competitions, including the prestigious Carlo Alberto Cappelli Competition in Verona. Just three years later she was being invited to Salzburg by Herbert von Karajan and her career has since gone from strength to strength in concert and in opera as well as in the recording studios. Praised for the remarkable agility, precision and warmth of her voice, and for her outstanding musicianship, Sumi Jo has established herself as one of her generation’s most sought-after sopranos. Among other honours, she was named Soprano Of The Year in 1993 at La Siola Doro in Italy, a biennial prize established to honour sopranos of today and pay homage to one of the great soprano’s of Italy’s past, Lina Pagliughi. Sumi Jo has also received many other accolades for her performances in opera houses and concert halls throughout the world. This double-CD set is the ideal chance to sample her creamy voice in a wide range of music that includes such favourites as Pie Jesu from Faure’s Requiem, the Bell Song from Delibes’ Lakme and Handel’s Where’er you walk, as well as works by, among others, Gounod, Rossini, Vivaldi, Schubert and Mozart. Less expected, though equally delightful tracks include Morricone’s music from Cinema Paradiso, a song from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide and the traditional Amazing grace. Highly recommended. Other Warner releases include THE ART OF SUSAN GRAHAM (2564 68625-6), a long overdue 6 CD celebration of a superb performer. This acclaimed Texas-born mezzo is one of the world’s foremost opera and recital stars, as well as a compelling and versatile singing actress. Celebrated as an expert in French music, Susan Graham has been honoured by the French government as a Commandeur dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres and has sung leading roles from the 17th to 20th centuries in the great opera houses of the world, including Milan’s La Scala, the London’s Royal Opera House, Vienna State Opera, Opéra National de Paris and the Salzburg Festival, and she has appeared with most of the world’s leading conductors and orchestras. Dubbed ‘America’s favourite mezzo’ by Gramophone magazine, the Grammy Award-winning singer captivates with her expressive voice, tall and graceful stature, and engaging acting ability in both comedy and tragedy. THE CHOPIN EXPERIENCE (Warner 2564 68726-6) features two CDs of music by a composer with an exceptional gift for melody and a highly sophisticated and subtle sense of harmony. Frederic Chopin created some of the most Romantic piano music ever written and this collection offers a widely varied selection of these beautiful and much loved pieces, from the calm introspective mood of the Nocturnes, through the pure joy of the Waltzes to the grand passion of the ‘Revolutionary’ Etude in C minor, the Fantaisie-impromptu and the ‘Heroic’ Polonaise. The outstanding performers include Boris Berezovsky, Nelson Freire, Francois-Rene Duchable, Elisabeth Leonskaya, Nikolai Lugansky, Jean-Bernard Pommier, Alexei Sultanov and the wonderful Gyorgy Sebök.


Since its formation in 1982 the Choir of Ormond College has become the first Australian choir to receive ongoing international recognition. Its founding director, Douglas Lawrence, is Director of Music at The Scots’ Church and teacher of the organ at the University of Melbourne. He frequently performs as an acclaimed soloist at concerts in Australia and throughout most of the western world. Singing can be a serious business but under Douglas Lawrence’s direction the choir here reveals its lighter side on nineteen a capella tracks. The music ranges from fine Elizabethan part songs and madrigals to Afro-American spirituals and Quincy Jones’s bouncy Soul Bossa Nova theme from ‘Austin Powers’. Highlights include the jazzy Java Jive, a delicious version of Goodnight Sweetheart (1950s doo wop hit for the Spaniels), Charm Me Asleep (with words by Robert Herrick and music by Henry Leslie), the lovely Sweet and Low, I Want Jesus To Walk With Me (featuring a stunning solo by Kate McBride), the favourite hymn Abide With Me (by Henry F. Lyte and William H Monk), a sad German folk tune (In einem kühlen Grunde) and the much more cheerful Laughing (for male voices only). This is a highly enjoyable album by a virtuoso choir in marvellous form. find out more


Sixteenth-century England was a place of much religious change. It was a dangerous and confusing time as Henry VIII, who had split with Rome, was succeeded by his young son Edward VI, then by the ardent Catholic, Mary Tudor, and finally by the Protestant, Elizabeth I. Composers of the day, such as William Byrd, John Sheppard and Thomas Tallis, were required to adapt to rapidly changing musical requirements and it is testament to their incredible skill and musical mastery that they produced such magnificent works in such troubled times. At the heart of this programme are Sheppard’s monumental Media vita in morte sumus and Byrd’s deeply personal setting of Infelix ego. Set amongst these exceptional masterpieces are Byrd’s joyful motets Laudibus in sanctis and Haec dies, and one of the gems of this recording - Tallis’s Miserere nostri. This beautifully produced album is by The Sixteen, an acclaimed ensemble comprising both choir and period instrument orchestra. Founded thirty years ago by director Harry Christophers, the group is famous for performances of early English polyphony and great works of the Renaissance, bringing fresh insights into Baroque and early Classical music as well as a diversity of twentieth century music. They also promote The Choral Pilgrimage, a musical tour of Britain’s finest cathedrals, and have released a DVD of an acclaimed documentary series made for BBC Television.


This is the first professional orchestral recording since 1917 of Sir Edward Elgar’s rarely heard patriotic song-cycle with words by the writer Rudyard Kipling. The Fringes of the Fleet was a morale-raising headline act in variety theatres up and down the country towards the end of the Second World War after it premiered in June 1917 at the London Coliseum. Conducted throughout its run by Elgar himself, the work was seen in a staging by four baritones appearing in fishermen’s costumes outside a pub. The four initial songs - ‘The Lowestoft Boat’, ‘Fate’s Discourtesy’, ‘Submarines’ and ‘The Sweepers’ - proved so popular that two weeks after the premiere, Elgar added a fifth, unaccompanied song, ‘Inside the Bar’, with words by Sir Gilbert Parker. The overwhelming success of The Fringes of the Fleet wherever was only halted when Kipling, emotionally crippled by the death at the Front of his only son Jack, decided he did not want his poetry used to glorify war, as he saw it, and - to Elgar’s dismay - forbade further performances. After a further run at London’s Palace Theatre in 1918, the work effectively disappeared. Somm Recordings’ welcome revival of these songs on CD is a significant document in understanding a forgotten era in the history of British music and is the result of a six-year period of painstaking research by conductor Tom Higgins, who states: ‘Among the considerable amount of music Elgar specifically wrote for the ‘war effort’, The Fringes of the Fleet is generally considered to be his best work. The revival of interest in the music sheds light on a period in Elgar’s creative life which generally suffers from neglect, but also on a genre seldom employed by the composer: secular songs with orchestra. This music has been overlooked for too long.’ The disc also includes Elgar’s Elegy for Strings in a new recording. Roderick Williams is the baritone soloist in orchestrations by Tom Higgins of John Ireland’s The Soldier and Blow out you Bugles, and Edward German’s version of Big Steamers. Haydn Wood is commemorated in performances of A Manx Overture - The Isle of Mountains and Glens, and Elizabeth of England. Also featured are two overtures - Plymouth Hoe and The Windjammer - by the English light music composer John Ansell. The Guildford Philharmonic is on fine form, especially in the poignant performance of Elegy for Strings.


Turbulent HeartThis beautifully produced SACD features a sumptuous recording of French romantic music at its most ecstatic, with the brilliant young French conductor Guillaume Tourniaire conducting The Queensland Orchestra and tenor Steve Davislim. Renowned as organist of the Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris, the tragedies of Vierne’s personal life are shot through these four extraordinary unpublished pieces: the four ‘symphonic poems for voice and orchestra’ - Psyche Op. 33, Les Djinns Op. 35, Eros Op. 37 and Ballade du desespere Op. 61. All are world-premiere recordings. Accompanying Vierne’s Poems here is Chausson’s masterpiece of nineteenth-century French melodie, Poeme de l’amour et de la mer - La fleur des eaux, Interlude and La mort de l’amour - recorded for the first time by a tenor, the voice for which it was originally written. Steve Davislim is one of Australia’s leading tenors and gives acclaimed performances in the leading opera houses and concert halls of the world. Guillaume Tourniaire is also currently enjoying international fame as he continues his groundbreaking work throughout the world as a champion of world premieres and rare music performances, including recordings of Saint-Saens’ Helene and Nuit persane for Melba. The excellent 100 page booklet includes an essay by Jaques Tchamkerten and all the lyrics. Other outstanding SACDs from Melba include SUBLIME MOZART (MR 301122), dedicated to Australia’s greatest arts patron, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, AC, DBE, in celebration of her 100th birthday. The program features Mozart’s two clarinet masterpieces, the Clarinet Quintet in A K58 and the Clarinet Concerto in A K622, again featuring the Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Guillaume Tourniaire. Acclaimed Australian clarinettist Paul Dean is the soloist, joined for the marvelous quintet by the Grainger Quartet. THE GALANT BASSOON (MR 301124) features a selection of six chamber pieces by J.S. Bach, Telemann and C.P.E. Bach played by three musicians of international acclaim. Matthew Wilkie has been Principal Bassoon of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe for 20 years, often performing as soloist with them. Harpsichordist Neal Peres Da Costa is a well-known expert in early music performance. Kees Boersma is the accomplished Principal Bass of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. The Galant Bassoon references the galant style, a change from much of the complexity and ornamentation of the Baroque to a simpler, more classical approach epitomised by the composers represented here. With their melodic exuberance, dance-like rhythms, consoling adagios and virtuosic flights of display they provide the perfect vehicle for the imagination, flair and musical artistry of the players. The extensive colour booklet contains an essay, translations and biographical notes.


Bernard Naylor was a Canadian composer of English origin, grandson of John Naylor and son of Edward Naylor, both notable composers and organists. Bernard Naylor was born in Cambridge on 22 November 1907 and studied at the RCM with Gustav Holst, John Ireland and Vaughan Williams, and was an organ scholar Oxford before going to Canada for the first time. He continued to spend periods in England as an organist and teacher, taking a post as organist and musical director at Queen’s College, Oxford, but returned to Canada in 1940 and founded the Little Symphony of Montreal, which he conducted until 1947. After a short term with the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir he left again for England, where he taught at Oxford and Reading Universities before returning take up permanent residence into Canada in 1959, after which he working almost entirely as a composer, first in Winnipeg and then in Victoria, BC. He wrote large-scale, heavily scored orchestral and choral works as a young man but rejected many of these later. His output was firmly in the English choral tradition and he evolved an intensely personal style of choral writing, lean yet passionate, singular yet idiomatic, exemplified by the Nine English Motets, which represent a major contribution to the choral repertoire. This is their first recording on CD and the difficulties in performance are beautifully managed by the fine Salisbury Cathedral Choir, directed by David Halls, with organist Daniel Cook. The CD is completed with other varied contemporary works for choir and organ, again receiving their first performances on disc. These include another piece by Bernard Naylor (Does the day-tar rise) as well as works by Jonathan Willcocks, David Halls, Francis Jackson, Philip Stopford and Judith Bingham.


Oscar Wilde’s collection of stories, The Happy Prince and Other Tales, was first published in 1888. The author himself explained that these delightful and affecting fairy tales were written ‘partly for children, and partly for those who have kept the childlike faculties of wonder and joy’, and they convey an appreciation for the exotic, the sensual and for masculine beauty. As well as the famous title story, the collection includes ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’ and ‘The Selfish Giant’, both of which are included on this CD, narrated by Vanessa Redgrave and Stephen Fry. The music composed to illustrate them, written by Debbie Wiseman, is elegantly played by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner. Both stories are read immaculately, especially by Redgrave, and the expressive, passionate music perfectly complements Wilde’s words. Her swirling compositions are full of phrases and passages that take over from the narrative for extended periods and are never far from centre stage. The CD also contains two other Wiseman compositions, billed as orchestral interludes - ‘My Own Garden’ and ‘One Last Song’. Featuring piano and violin solos, both are in the same classical vein - somewhere between Debussy and Vaughan Williams. Debbie Wiseman has written more than a hundred scores for film and television, including Wilde (starring Stephen Fry), and has won numerous awards. This album was nominated for Best Spoken Word Album for Children at the 2002 Grammy Awards.


George Frideric Handel began his life in Germany, the son of a barber-surgeon, and died an English citizen, the most renowned musical figure of his day and a national treasure. Whereas his contemporary and fellow countryman, Johann Sebastian Bach, composed for the church and his patrons, Handel composed for the general public. In England during the 17th and 18th centuries 22 November was observed as St. Cecilia’s Day with musical performances to honour this patron saint of church music. In 1736 and 1739, with his Alexander’s Feast and the Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, based on texts by the poet John Dryden, Handel made important contributions to the festivities. Taking Purcell’s Cecilian odes as models, and through the use of recitatives, arias and large choruses Handel approached the oratorio. Alexander’s Feast received its premiere at the Covent Garden Theatre, London on 19 February 1736, though Handel revised the music for performances in 1739, 1742 and 1751. The work describes a banquet held by Alexander the Great and his mistress Thais in the captured Persian city of Persepolis, during which the musician Timotheus sings and plays his lyre, arousing various moods in Alexander until he is finally incited to burn the city down in revenge for his dead Greek soldiers. Both pieces were quickly recognised by contemporaries as outstanding works and by 1739 Handel joined them together, so that the Cecilian Ode served as the third part of Alexander’s Feast. This practice was maintained until the late 19th century and Carus has here again joined the two works together in this performance with the excellent Leipzig-born soprano Simone Kermes, the Kölner Kammerchor, and the Collegium Cartusianum, under the direction of Peter Neumann.


Italian composer, teacher, singer, instrumentalist and writer Giulio Caccini, father of the composer Francesca Caccini, was born in about 1851 in late Renaissance Rome. He studied with Giovanni Animuccia in Rome and in Florence under Medici patronage, singing at the Medici court. By the 1580s he was singing regularly for Ippolito Aldobrandini in Ferrara and for the Este court there. After returning to Florence during the 1590s he served the Medici court, where he became music director in 1600 and collaborated with J. Peri in early attempts at musical drama which were the precursors of modern opera. His Euridice was produced in Florence in 1600 by the circle of musicians and amateurs which met at the houses of G. Bardi and Corsi. Caccini also published Le Nuove Musiche, a collection of songs which became to the history of singing. On this fascinating recording the excellent young La Nuova Musica ensemble performs songs from Caccini’s Nuove Musiche as well as Madrigals and instrumental pieces by Monteverdi, Castaldi, Kapsberger, Frescobaldi and Peter Philips. La Nuova Musica was founded by its countertenor and director David Bates and consists of six singers together with harpsichord and chitarrone (sometimes called a theorbo - a lute with a long neck extension). ‘Quite captivating!’ - John Rutter.


Musica Secreta were formed nearly twenty years ago to explore the music sung by courtly women and courtesans of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Over time, they have expanded this to include music that might have been performed by Renaissance nuns - and indeed in monasteries too - and are at the forefront of performance practice research in this repertoire. Sarah Dunant is the author of a recently plublished novel, Sacred Hearts, set entirely within a Benedictine convent in 16th Century Ferrara. She became enthralled by the music that would have been a crucial part of life in such a convent, eight services a day, seven days a week, praising God through chanting, psalms and song. The author saw Musica Secreta perform and it was decided to create a ‘soundtrack album’ for Sacred Hearts, with each track marking a particular moment in the unfolding of the drama of the novel. The repertoire of music by Palestrina and de Rore featured might well have been performed by a convent choir in the 1570’s in the Ferrara area. Both composers were celebrated in their lifetimes in Italy and both were strongly connected to the d’Este family, rulers of Ferrara at that time. Musica Secreta are joined by Celestial Sirens, a select, non-professional female choir committed to the performance of choral works in the style of Renaissance and early modern convents. The CD comes with a booklet containing full tests, extensive notes and a foreword by Sarah Dunant. This is ethereally beautiful, haunting music, performed with grace and sincerity.


This third volume in Warner’s superb Purcell Edition series includes some of his most accomplished vocal music. John Eliot Gardiner conducts the wonderful Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra and English Baroque Soloists, and the first CD features ‘Hail bright Cecilia’ and ‘Come ye sons of art, away’. On the second CD, Tragicomedia, directed by Stephen Stubbs and Erin Headley perform Songs of Welcome and Farewell. Kings’ College Choir, the Gustav Leonhardt-Consort, Chanticleer and Capriccio Stravagante sing Anthems on the third disc. The fourth disc again features John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir in Anthems and Sacred Songs. The soloists in this collection of bright, joyful and sometimes beautifully sombre music include sopranos Felicity Lott and Dawn Upshaw, tenor Paul Elliott, bass Thomas Allen and countertenor James Bowman. Also recommended are the other box sets in this outstanding series celebrating the music by England’s greatest and most influential composer. VOL. 1 has three works for theatre - Dido & Aeneas, King Arthur and The Faery Queen. VOL. 2 includes The Indian Queen, The Tempest and Timon of Athens. VOL. 4, featuring a wide range of Purcell’s instrumental music, can be seen here.


Franz Joseph Haydn was one of two musical brothers born in 1732 in a wheelwright’s cottage in lower Austria. His irresistible music was deeply influenced by the religious feelings and melodic folk music of the Croatian peasants who had been settled in the region for many years. Haydn went on to become ‘The Father of the Symphony’ and a pioneer of the string quartet. He was in his old age when he composed The Creation (German: Die Schöpfung), considered by some to be his masterpiece. An ambitious and poetic oratorio depicting the seven days of creation as described in the biblical Book of Genesis, The Creation received its first performance to acclaim in Vienna in 1798. The great success of this work led Haydn to write another oratorio, The Seasons (Die Jahreszeiten), the libretto for which was again provided by Baron Gottfried van Swieten and based on extracts from an English poem of the same name by James Thomson. Haydn found the composition process dificult as his health was failing and he took two years to complete the work before its premiere in Vienna in 1801. The Seasons was not as successful as The Creation, despite its stirring final solo and chorus, and has subsequently been performed less often. Both oratorios are included in this splendid 6-CD box set, performed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt with the Arnold Schoenberg Chor and Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Soloists include Edita Gruberova and Josef Protschka. The set also includes intimate Canzonettas written in England in 1794 and 1795 as well as Haydn’s ‘insertion arias’, sung by the great Spanish mezzo-soprano Teresa Berganza.


During the Romantic period, folk music became inspired many composers, including Haydn and Beethoven, and later became an even more important for Liszt, Brahms, Bruch, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak. In the twentieth century, English folk music was arranged by Percy Grainger, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Malcolm Arnold and Benjamin Britten, who made numerous voice-and-piano arrangements and often performed them with his partner, Sir Peter Pears. Tenor Steve Davislim’s timbre and passionate style of singing is often reminiscent of that of Pears in this excellent collection of Britten’s folksong arrangements. The acclaimed Australian singer has acquired an increasing reputation at home and as an international star in many of the world’s top opera houses and concert halls, having sung roles with La Scala, the Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin, The Royal Opera, the Volksoper in Vienna, the Paris Châtelet and Chicago Lyric Opera and worked with conductors John Eliot Gardiner, Colin Davis, Valery Gergiev and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. He is accompanied on this recording by fellow Australian Simone Young, who is well-known to British audiences for her judging role in BBC 2’s Maestro series last summer and is recognised as a leading conductor of her generation. For this recital she is at the piano, playing an equal part in conveying the atmosphere and tender emotion of these deceptively simple miniatures. The 24 songs include such favourites as The Salley Gardens, The Ash Grove, Sweet Polly, The Foggy, Foggy Dew, Early One Morning, Tom Bowling, Greensleeves, Oft in the Stilly Night and The Last Rose of Summer. This Hybrid SACD comes with an extensive colour booklet containing an essay and all song texts.


The invaluable NMC record company has championed works by living British composers for 20 years. It was formed thanks to composer Colin Matthews (NMC’s Executive Producer) and the support of Imogen Holst and The Holst Foundation, and released its first discs in 1989. After Gustav Holst’s music came back into copyright in the mid 1990s, the Foundation was able to increase its funding and the label’s catalogue today has over 150 critical acclaimed recordings, ranging from compositions by some of Britain’s brightest young talents to music by established figures such as Harrison Birtwistle. Alongside this, the Archive series features important works and historical recordings from the past century, while the Ancora series is dedicated to reissuing significant recordings deleted from other labels. To mark its 20th Anniversary, the company commissioned its largest-scale project yet - The NMC Songbook. Nearly 100 composers have each written a song, appropriately themed on ‘Britain’ and scored for single voice or duet with a range of accompanying instruments. The songs are set to texts chosen by the composers and cover a vast array of subjects, from traditional poems by Blake and Byron through to a list of the Kings and Queens of England, extracts from a National Trust brochure, chants from the Leyton Orient terraces, a whisky recipe, and a colourful rant about our consumerist society. Recorded at Kings Place in the autumn of 2008 and now released on this 4-CD box set, The NMC Songbook features composers such as Julian Anderson, Harrison Birtwistle, Gavin Bryars, Peter Maxwell Davies, James Dillon, Michael Finnissy, Alexander Goehr, Jonathan Harvey, Robin Holloway, Thea Musgrave, Anthony Payne and Judith Weir, as well as many more. Singers include Elizabeth Atherton, Claire Booth, Ailish Tynan, Susan Bickley, Jean Rigby, Lore Lixenberg, James Bowman, Michael Chance and Daniel Norman, accompanied by Iain Burnside, Andrew Ball, Huw Watkins and Andrew Plant (piano), Jane Chapman (harpsichord), Lucy Wakeford (harp), Antonis Hatzinikolaou (guitar) and Owen Gunnell (percussion). This CD set is a splendid celebration of the award-winning NMC’s many achievements over two decades.

CHERRY RIPE         MELBA MR301118

Acclaimed Australian conductor Richard Bonynge has spent a lifetime unearthing vocal treasures the world had lost or thought it had outgrown. His latest release from Melba features a captivating collection of 21 pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries, including many never before recorded. Some of the composers, such as Arne, Cimarosa and J.C. Bach and the Neopolitan composer Giovanni Paisollo are seldom performed; others, like Girolamo Crescentini, Nicolas Dalayrac, Stephen Storace, Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli and Marco Antonio da Fonesca Portugallo are virtually forgotten. Richard Bonynge conducts the excellent Arcadia Lane Orchestra and Australian born soprano Deborah Riedel in such delightful songs and arias as James Hook’s ‘The Nightingale’ and the title track, Charles Edward Horn’s popular ‘Cherry Ripe’. This enchanting journey into neglected musical byways makes a fitting tribute to Deborah Riedel, who sadly died in January 2009, aged only 50. Her gorgeous voice brings great warmth and tenderness to these charming songs and the album is beautifully produced, with attractive artwork, comprehensive lyrics and translations, and sleeve notes by Richard Bonynge.


Kathleen Ferrier grew up near Blackburn, Lancashire, and became one of the this country’s finest and most loved singers. Although she died tragically early at the age of only 41, Ferrier lived a life of unique artistry, acquiring an iconic status which remains potent to this day. She rose in the space of four years from a simple background to perform at the greatest opera houses in the world, yet in the process she retained the popular affection of a generation. Much of Ferrier’s art lies in the sheer range of her repertoire. The tone of her voice was ideally suited to Bach and Handel arias, but she was equally at home with the expressive lieder of Schubert and Schumann. For many though, it was her single-handed revival of the British folk song which set her apart. To this day BlowThe Wind Southerly and I Know Where I’m Goin’ have an immediate association with her voice. Kathleen Ferrier was in great demand throughout the UK and also sang regularly in the Netherlands, where she was extremely popular, as well in other European countries and North America. Benjamin Britten wrote several works specifically for her, including Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia, and part of his Spring Symphony. She worked with many famous conductors such as Bruno Walter, John Barbirolli and Herbert von Karajan, and over forty years after her death she still retains a special place in British musical history and in the hearts of many. This collection brings together 22 of her best loved recordings for the Decca label, with the excellent documentary An Ordinary Diva which was commissioned by the BBC in 2003 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her death. The music is sung with all the passion and tenderness we have come to expect from that glorious contralto voice, and the DVD confirms Our Kaff’s reputation as a warm-hearted, vivacious, modest and courageous woman with a wicked sense of humour.


SouvenirsAnna Netrebko’s album Souvenirs features a remarkably wide range of music as the singer lets her hair down in a sparkling compilation of operetta classics, seductive salon songs and other charming melodies, each of which holds a cherished place in the her heart. The works include Kálmán’s Heia, in den Bergen, from Die Csárdásfürstin (the first operetta Anna Netrebko saw as a child), the bittersweet Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss by Lehár, two popular Rimsky-Korsakov songs, The Pie Jesu from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem, the famous Barcarolle from Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Im Chambre séparée from Heuberger’s operetta Der Opernball and an all-out rendition of Arditi’s sparkling Il bacio as a finale. This is an intimate and revealing musical self-portrait of a singer whose dark and distinctive voice, together with a dazzling charisma, has earned her both popular and critical acclaim as one of the world’s best young sopranos.


Baritone Mark Stone’s new album is a unique collection of English Love songs that ranges from Vaughan Williams’ Silent noon, the apotheosis of erotic love, to more earthly favourites like Silent worship, Where’er you walk, If music be the food of love and The salley gardens. It also celebrates three anniversaries: it is two hundred and fifty years since the death of Handel, three hundred years since the birth of Purcell and two hundred years since the death of Haydn. Stone and his recital partner Stephen Barlow have performed this repertoire together extensively and have recorded a double-disc of Roger Quilter songs for Sony BMG. English Love includes the world première recording of Barlow’s own song ‘If thou would’st ease thine heart’ composed in the style of Quilter and is the first release on Stone’s eponymous label. Other highlights include Dowland’s Awake sweet Love, Handel’s timeless Where’er you walk and Britten’s arrangement of The salley gardens, with words by W B Yeats. Mark Stone is a rising star of the operatic stage - his powerful portrayal of Don Giovanni at the English National Opera being hailed in The Times as ‘brilliant’, describing Stone as ‘a bundle of vicious sexual energy with charm and menace to spare’. This enjoyable and heart-felt recording is the result of his long love affair with English song, in particular the music of Vaughan Williams, Quilter and Butterworth.


Georg Friedrich Händel wrote little music for his native tongue and these nine German arias for soprano and a small group of instruments are among his best-kept secrets. They are set to sacred poems by Händel’s contemporary, Barthold Heinrich Brockes, and their theme is that the abundant goodness of God is evident in the joy and beauty of nature. In these nine pieces Händel drew in many places on music from his own operas - the musical relationships with being clearly apparent in the ingenuity of characterization and the expressive, articulate melodies with which the singer and violin obbligato create their vivid images. The voice part in the German arias is adapted though to be less virtuosic and more deeply expressive. Also included here are debut CD recordings the Three German Arias by Johann Mattheson, which were formerly attributed to Händel and are a real discovery for the repertoire. The soprano Monika Mauch, accompanied by specialist ensemble L’arpa festante, gives graceful and luminous interpretations of this enchanting music. Highly recommended.


The daughter of Italian immigrant parents, the soprano Rosa Ponselle was born Rose Melba Ponzillo in 1897 in Meriden, Connecticut in the USA. She had an exceptionally mature voice from an early age and needed little, if any, vocal training. She sang in movie houses and cafes in Meriden and at church, soon becoming well-known locally for her exceptionally beautiful voice. Rosa Ponselle made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1918, as Leonora in Verdi’s La forza del destino, opposite Caruso. This was her first performance on any opera stage but in spite of her nervousness she scored a tremendous success with both the public and critics. Ponselle’s voice was a true dramatic coloratura soprano, capable of encompassing all the demands of roles like La Gioconda and Norma. She was a sensitive musician and a convincing actress, which together with her personal attractiveness ensured her a highly successful career. Maria Callas remarked that Rosa Ponselle was ‘the greatest singer of us all’, and Luciano Pavarotti called her the ‘Queen of Queens in all of singing’. She was the leading soprano at the Metropolitan Opera for nineteen years and sang three seasons at Covent Garden and inaugurated the premier season of the Maggio Musicale in Florence with La Vestale, honouring a promise made to her dying mother that she would one day sing in Italy. This three CD set includes her last studio recordings from 1939 as well as the historical sessions she made 15 years later at her home in Baltimore, when the great diva was persuaded to come out of retirement. Her gloriously voluptuous voice can be heard in a wide range of music, including works by Debussy, Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.


Saint-Saëns wrote his one-act ‘poème lyrique’ Hélène for the legendary operatic superstar Dame Nellie Melba, who sang the title role in its first performance in Monte Carlo in 1904. After performances in London, Milan and Paris, the work fell into obscurity (as did most of Saint-Saëns’ 14 operas), until Melba Recordings’ founder Maria Vandamme rediscovered the the original score in a basement at the Monte Carlo opera house, where it had remained untouched since 1904. Written in frustrated response to La belle Hélène, Offenbach’s tongue-in-cheek take on the story of ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’, Saint-Saëns depicts one of history’s greatest love affairs in music that is characterised by soaring lyricism and shot through with sumptuous melodies wholly befitting the epic and dramatic romance it describes. In this historic first recording, the brilliant young French conductor Guillaume Tourniaire conducts Orchestra Victoria and a fine cast led by the young Australian tenor Steve Davislim and soprano Rosamund Illing as the star-struck lovers Paris and Helen. This invaluable CD also includes another world premiere recording, the orchestral version of Saint-Saëns’ hypnotic cycle for narrator, tenor, alto, chorus and orchestra of Armand Renaud’s Nuit Persane, a six-song cycle that has for many years been performed only as a piano and vocal piece. This full version calls for two singers, a narrator, chorus and full orchestra, and again features the voice of Steve Davislim. The beautifully packaged double SACD comes with a lavish colour booklet including essays, illustrations and translations, with full libretto and song texts. This is a rare opportunity to hear an unjustly neglected work by one of the twentieth century’s most prolific and versatile composers.


The most popular form of modern Austrian folk music is Viennese Schrammelmusik, inspired originally by a mixture of rural Austrian, Hungarian, Slovenian, Moravian and Bavarian immigrants who crowded the slums of Vienna. Waltzes and ländlers combined with the music of the immigrants, absorbing sounds from all over central and eastern Europe and the Balkans. The name Schrammelmusik comes from two of the most popular and influential performers in Schrammelmusik's history, brothers Johann and Josef Schrammel. They formed a trio along with Anton Strohmayer, who accompanied the two violins on a double-necked contraguitar. The trio performed folk songs, marches and dance music, often for audiences at wine taverns (Heurigen) and inns around Vienna. The ensemble was invited to perform in palaces and mansions as ‘Schrammel euphoria’ gripped the city. The Schrammels composed more than 200 songs and music pieces in seven years. Johann Schrammel died in 1893, followed two years later by Josef, each brother being 43 years old at his death. If it hadn't been for this Viennese mélange, Arnold Schönberg as we know him would never have been: this is amply borne out by this intriguing new release, an intelligent and entertaining collaboration between Klangforum Wien, an ensemble of performers well versed in all musical styles, and the unique voices of Renate Wicke and Walter Raiffeiner. The cleverly planned compilation switches from the traditional Schrammel repertoire to Schönberg's serenade to extracts from the ‘Pierrot lunaire’ and on to the contemporary, represented by Friedrich Cerha’s charming and sarcastic chansons. Highly recommended.


Canty is Scotland’s only professional medieval music group and was formed by Rebecca Tavener in 1998, the 900th anniversary of the birth of Hildegard of Bingen. The group comprises the regular female singers with Cappella Nova, Scotland’s leading early music vocal ensemble. Together with regular collaborator, harpist William Taylor, they explore a unique repertoire combining Medieval music and contemporary works written specially for them. Dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland, this new album features a programme of fifteenth century Irish plainsong, written about St Patrick and released to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day. The apostle of Ireland was born under Roman rule in either the north of England or southern Scotland in the year 387 and died in Ireland, possibly on 17 March, in 493. This beautifully-produced album includes musical highlights for First and Second Vespers, Lauds & Matins, telling the miracle stories and legends of Ireland’s Patron Saint. The material has been especially researched and edited for Canty, and is recorded here for the first time. With texts newly translated from the original sources, this is a major addition to the early sacred music repertoire. The CD booklet contains much information about the music as well as full texts in Latin and English.


Paul Asciak was born in Valletta, Malta in 1923 and took his first singing lessons with Maltese tenor Nicoló Baldacchino. He made his operatic debut as Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana at the Radio City Opera House in Malta, and later took the role of Radames in Verdi’s Aida with the visiting Italian Opera Company ‘Impresa Cantoni’. Italian soprano Maria Caniglia encouraged him to further his studies in Italy and he went on to join London’s Royal Opera House Covent Garden Company, where he was a member from 1952 to 1954, and a guest artist up to 1958. He appeared over fifty times in various roles such as Melot in Tristan und Isolde, the Tenor Singer in Der Rosenkavalier, Flavio in Norma, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and Radames in Aida. He also sang with the Welsh National Opera Company, the Dublin Grand Opera and Carl Rosa Opera Company, appearing in Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, La Fanciulla del West and Carmen with such renowned singers as Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Anita Cerquetti, Joan Hammond, Peter Glossop and Geraint Evans. Asciak had a relatively short career, retiring from the stage in 1961 to dedicate himself to his family and teaching. This CD brings together for the first time a collection of live 1950s historical recordings by this stylish tenor, including music by Puccini, Verdi, Giordano, Leoncavallo and Cilea. He made no commercial recordings so it is especially welcome to hear these rare items, which have been remastered from original reel-to-reel tapes. As Richard England says in his sleeve notes, it remains an unparalleled thrill to discover a voice which had been considered lost. ‘Paul Asciak’s voice always impressed for its virility, squillo and a burnished sound that made it so ideal in the repertoire he sung successfully in some of the most important opera houses of his time’ - Joseph Calleja.


Alessandro Grandi (1586-1630) was was one of the most inventive, influential and popular composers of the early Baroque era, probably second only to Monteverdi in northern Italy. He was born in Ferrara and after studying with Giovanni Gabrieli at Venice held several posts in Ferrara as maestro di cappella at various cathedrals and academies. In 1617 he won a post at St. Mark’s in Venice, during the time Monteverdi was choirmaster there. Eventually he became Monteverdi’s assistant, and during this time seems to have chosen to write works in some of the smaller forms which Monteverdi was neglecting. Most of Grandi’s compositions are motets in the concertato style: some are duets and trios, an innovation in motet writing, which usually involved larger groups. He ceaselessly innovated, writing monodies with instruments such as violins, and his music links the concertato style which began the Baroque era with the form of the cantata which culminated in the work of J.S. Bach. Although considered one of the finest composers of his day, Alessandro Grandi’s music is little known. This premiere recording of his 16 Motets for Five Voices, published in Ferrara in 1614, is very welcome. Musica Secreta is an all-female vocal group formed in 1990 to perform and record ‘music associated with women in the early modern period’, so these motets are performed as they might have been sung by a convent choir or the concerto di dame that flourished in Ferrara at that time. The CD also includes musical excerpts from the soundtrack of the intriguing film/live/multimedia work ‘Fallen’, a collaboration between Musica Secreta and the Hampshire-based playwright Fiona Mackie.


Joseph Marie Canteloube was born in central France in 1879 in the area known as the Auvergne, famous for its Massif Central, dense forests and fiercely independent people. Canteloube fell in love with the region’s folk music during his childhood and as an adult he returned to the area to collect the songs. He also collected music from many other parts of France and Spain, including Catalonia, Alsace, Languedoc and the Basque region, editing a huge volume called the Anthologie des Chants Populaires Francais. Canteloube, who died in 1957, is best known today for his collection of 30 enchanting folk songs from his homeland, which he called Chants d’Auvergne (Songs of the Auvergne). The charm and simple beauty of these songs was set to Canteloube’s piano or orchestral accompaniment and many have become concert hall favourites. The most famous is the Bailero, evoking the beauty of the Auvergne landscape. This second Canteloube disc featuring Véronique Gens, herself native to the Auvergne, completes Naxos’s cycle of the complete Chants d’Auvergne accompanied by full orchestra. Volume 1 is available on NAXOS 8.557491. This new disc also includes two rarely performed works: excerpts from Chants de France (an anthology of folk-songs subsequently harmonised and orchestrated) and the Triptyque (three exquisite settings that rank alongside the greatest songs by Chausson and Ravel). Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne have been recorded by many great sopranos, including Victoria de los Angeles, Regine Crespin and Kiri Te Kanawa but Véronique Gens has an innate understanding of this music. Her subtle and joyful singing is complemented by the excellent Orchestre National de Lille, conducted by Serge Baudo.


The Canadian soprano Suzie LeBlanc has established a distinguished career in 17th and 18th century repertoire and keeps a busy schedule of concerts worldwide, performing with major opera companies and baroque orchestras. Her roles have included Poppea in L’Incoronazione di Poppea at the Opéra de Montréal, Clori in Handel’s Clori, Tirsi & Fileno in Halle, La Musica and Euridice in Monteverdi’s Orfeo in Vienna, Stuttgart and Tokyo. Known primarily for her interpretations of renaissance and baroque music, she returns to her Acadian roots with Chants d’Acadie: Tout passe, which brings together a uniquely talented group of performers to interpret what LeBlanc describes as ‘an authentic pilgrimage that pays homage to the richness of the Acadian musical heritage.’ The elite band of musicians performing with LeBlanc are Sylvain Bergeron (lute), David Greenberg (violin), Betsy MacMillan (viola da gamba), Shawn Mativetsky (tabla), David McGuinness (harpsichord) and Chris Norman (flute). Tout passe echoes the many displacements experienced by early Acadians and shows their endurance and faith, paying homage to the richness of their musical heritage. Suzie LeBlanc’s voice is wonderfully pure and affecting and she personifies the old saying that Acadians are born with songs in their veins and music in their fingertips. Also highly recommended is LA MER JOLIE, CHANTS D’ACADIE (ATMA ACD2 2330). This unusual album was released in 2004 to mark the 400th anniversary of the establishment of a lasting French colony in America in Acadia in the wake of the Basque whalers and the Portuguese cod-fishermen. It is also by sea that, a century and a half later, they would take the route of exile and deportation. As far as can be remembered, legend and music, as the folklore of Acadia, have been linked to the sea, in moments of triumph like in times of tribulation. Suzie LeBlanc has collected some of the loveliest Acadian songs that speak of waters and the shores beside the sea. These include La Mer Jolie, Naufrage en mer, En montant la rivière, Avec un avocat, Le mari jaloux, Joli bois, Angèle se promène, L’Escaouette and La nourrice du Roy. Not only is the repertoire unique, but Suzie LeBlanc’s singing is luminous, haunting and exquisite. The other musicians are Sylvain Bergeron (lute), David Greenberg (violin), Betsy MacMillan (viola da gamba) and Chris Norman (flute).


The composer and violinist Johann Ludwig Bach was born in Thal in 1677. At the age of 22 he moved to Meiningen eventually being appointed cantor there, and later Kapellmeister. He wrote a large amount of music and regularly oversaw performances, both at Meiningen and neighbouring courts. He was a second cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach, who made copies of several of his cantatas and performed them at Leipzig. The cantata Denn du wirst meine Seele nicht in der Hoelle lassen, once thought to be by Johann Sebastian, is now thought to be by Johann Ludwig. The motets of Johann Ludwig Bach occupy an outstanding position within this genre. Though rooted firmly in the shorter motets from the Thuringian tradition, nonetheless they reach dimensions which are seldom observed in that tradition. This is also true with respect to polychoral music, which here is raised from the exception to the rule – on the other hand, it is valid, when one bears in mind the necessity of representing the prestige of a royal court. Varying ensembles and dialogue-like passages contribute to these richly expressive compositions. Without a doubt these motets by the ‘Meininger Bach’, highly regarded by J S Bach, are a treasured enrichment of the repertoire. The acclaimed Belgian conductor Florian Heyerick here conducts the Orpheon Consort, Ex Tempore Gent, with soloists Dirk Snellings (bass) and Stephan van Dijck (tenor).


Troubadours and trouvères were European composers and performers who flourished throughout the Middle Ages. Their music was a vernacular tradition of secular song, probably accompanied by instruments, sung by professional, occasionally itinerant, musicians who were as skilled as poets as they were singers and instrumentalists. The language of the troubadours was Occitan (also known as the langue d’oc, or Provençal); the language of the trouvères was Old French (also known as langue d’oil). Following the Albigensian Crusade - a fierce campaign by Pope Innocent III to eliminate the Cathar heresy - surviving troubadours fled either to Spain, Italy or northern France (where the trouvère tradition lived on), where their skills and techniques contributed to the later developments of secular musical culture in those places. The music of the trouvères was similar to that of the troubadours, but was able to survive into the thirteenth century unaffected by the Albigensian Crusade. Most of the more than two thousand surviving trouvère songs include music, and show a sophistication as great as that of the poetry it accompanies. Typical subjects of troubadour songs were war, chivalry and courtly love, the pain of unrequited love, the pleasures of spring, foiled seductions and cruel husbands. In this recording Duo Trobairitz - Faye Newton (soprano) and Hazel Brooks (vielle) - explore different aspects of love as depicted in the music and poetry of the 12th- and 13th-century troubadours and trouvères. The concept of courtly love began in southern France during the twelfth century. Celebrating an idealised form of love or sexual passion, it developed into a sophisticated and aristocratic code of behaviour. The courtly love ethic spread rapidly through European court society and the music became extensively varied, developing different genres. Duo Trobairitz give examples of the canso (a song that speaks pleasingly of love), the alba (a dawn song, in which a lovers’ tryst is interrupted by the coming of dawn), the pastourelle (usually about the attempted seductions of a peasant girl by a knight) and other styles, by turns humorous and tragic. Duo Trobairitz interpret this rich repertoire of music in a way that is true to its historical roots while being entertaining and meaningful for a modern-day audience.


Edward Elgar’s Sea Pictures were premiered at the Norwich Festival in 1899 with the legendary contralto Clara Butt as soloist, apparently dressed in a mermaid outfit. The Enigma Variations (1898-9) had recently been a great success, although the first performance of his masterpiece, The Dream of Gerontius (1899-1900), was a disaster. Elgar was a master of the oratorio and his customary sensitivity can be heard in the five songs that form The Sea Pictures, which show that the sea was then still regarded as the ‘Great Unknown’ and a source of both fear and fascination. The imagery essentially reflects the overwhelming attraction of oblivion as the composer skilfully brings together the contemporary pastoral tradition, the Elizabethan view of the unison of love and death, the sentimental ballad, and the fin de siècle nostalgia of the times. The ocean is a comforting, lullaby-singing mother in ‘Sea Slumber-Song’, set to words by Caroline Alice Elgar (the composer’s wife) and ‘Sabbath Morning at Sea’ has words by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The haunting ‘Where Corals Lie’ has verses by the Pre-Raphaelite poet Richard Garnett and is ecstatic in its seductive anticipation of extinction. The Music Makers was first performed at the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival in 1912, by which time Elgar had become established as part of British artistic society. The text is taken from the 1874 poem ‘Ode’ by Arthur O’Shaughnessy, with words that celebrated the composer’s own nature as a dreaming artist. The Music Makers was poorly received by critics, partly because of its ‘old-fashioned’ libretto, but public acclaim has resulted in frequent performances in the years following its composition and the work is now regarded as one of Elgar’s finest. The work’s initial popularity may have waned but it is still performed regularly and the musical quotations add a unique interest to this mellow and heartfelt work. On this excellent new recording, the wonderfully dark mezzo soprano voice of Sarah Connolly can be heard with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Simon Wright. Highly recommended.


Born in France of Sicilian parents, Roberto Alagna began his career singing cabaret in Paris, accompanying himself on the guitar while studying with Raphael Ruiz, a Cuban émigré in Paris. Alagna has since gone on to become one of the world’s leading tenors and marry Angela Gheorghiu, together forming the ‘dream team’ of opera. Christmas is Roberto Alagna’s favourite holiday, and the songs on this charming album are the ones he loves most. Accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Robin Smith, he performs a wide range of music, including a song he wrote himself, ‘Petit Papa Noel’ – a delightful French piece composed in his hotel room during recording sessions that he premiered (to highest acclaim!) for his young daughter. Other songs on this joyful album include Adeste Fideles, Silent night, a beautiful Rumanian traditional tone (O! Ce veste minunata!), Schubert’s Ave Maria, O Tannenbaum, God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Roberto Alagna’s celebrated lyrical charm, elegant style and clear, clean-cut tone are evident throughout, making this the perfect album for unwrapping presents to on Christmas morning.


The German composer, organist, pianist and teacher Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian Reger (1873-1916) was born in Bavaria and studied music in Munich and Wiesbaden. From 1907 he worked in Leipzig as music director of the university and then as professor of composition at the conservatoire until his death. He was performed internationally as a conductor and pianist and was a prolific composer, most notably of choral works and organ music. Perhaps because he was a contemporary of Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Hugo Wolf and Arnold Schoenberg, much of Reger’s work has failed to find a permanent place in the repertoire. He wrote more than 300 Lieder with piano which are little known even to professional singers and this CD includes many never been recorded before. The Lieder chosen for this recording are representative of the composer’s work in this genre, featuring works from both early and late in his career, with Lieder which were popular and were performed by the composer throughout his life along with neglected settings. The excellent young tenor Andreas Weller, with his piano accompanist Götz Payer, here makes his convincing CD debut as a Lieder singer. Among the other recent releases in the invaluable Reger vocal series from Carus is a collection of his accomplished folk song arrangements performed by the Dresdner Kammerchor: REGER – ES WAREN SWEI KONIGSKINDER (CARUS 83.231).


Gisela May, one of the great diseuses of the twentieth century, was born in Wetzlar in 1924 as daughter of the writer Ferdinand May and the actress Käte May. She studied with Hanns Eisler and Helene Weigel before going on to become a pre-eminent Brecht performer - ‘Just an actress with a certain dose of musicality’ (May on May). After working in Dresden, Leipzig, Halle and Schwerin she moved to the German Theater (Deutsches Theater) in Berlin, and from 1962 she was a member of the Berlin Ensemble. For thirty years the ‘socialist nightingale’ played many female characters to great acclaim in Germany and internationally, her voice magically combining the charm of Marlene Dietrich with the wit of Lotte Lenya. Gisela May first appeared in Die sieben Todsunden at Berlin’s State Opera in 1963, a highly successful production that remained in the repertory for more than ten years. The 1966 recording included here reflects all the experience May had gained in performing the role of Anna I, revealing an artist perfectly at home in the seductive musical world of Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht. ‘Singing and speaking, style and gesture alternate as constantly visible hallmarks that lend her personality its highly distinctive features’ - Avanti. Herbert Kegel and the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra are superb throughout and the male quartet includes the great Peter Schreier. This atmospheric CD also features Gisela May’s intelligent and heartfelt interpretations of songs by Weill and Brecht from Die Dreigroschenoper (1928), Happy End (1929), Das Berliner Requiem (1929) and Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (1930), all in the composer’s original instrumentation. To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Bertold Brecht, Berlin Classics is also releasing a fascinating CD documentary in which the composer Hanns Eisler documents his collaboration with Brecht, which lasted almost thirty years. BRECHT AND I (0017962BC) A vivid picture of both personalities emerges and the listener gains detailed insight into the way both the playwright and the composer worked. Interview passages are combined with the music directly connected with the stories Eisler tells. The performers here include Ernst Busch, Gisela May, Ekkehard Schall, Sonja Kehler and Hanns Eisler himself.


This unique recorded concert brings to life the musical world of late-eighteenth century Vienna, celebrating the divas of the time with music by Mozart (including two newly rediscovered recitatives) as well as rare pieces by Antonio Salieri, Domenico Cimarosa, Martín y Soler, Vincenzo Righini and Stephen Storace. The five fabled divas featured here are Catarina Cavalieri (the first Constanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio), London-born Nancy Storace (the first Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro), Adriana Ferrarese del Bene (the original Fiordiligi in Cosí fan tutte), Luisa Laschi Mombelli (who created the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro) and Louise Villeneuve (the first Dorabella). The repertoire explores the broad range of musical forms and styles enjoyed by Viennese theatre audiences at the end of the eighteenth century, from the formal two-part rondó style aria to the witty and dance-like song style. Acclaimed soprano Patrice Michaels portrays each woman in turn and is joined by the baritone Peter Van De Graaff in two comic duets. Suitably spirited accompaniment is provided by the Classical Arts Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Alltop. Patrice Michaels sings with seemingly effortless passion and this wonderful album elegantly recreates an exquisite period in musical history. ‘A formidable interpretative talent’ - The New Yorker. Other CDs featuring the mellifluous of Patrice Michaels include La Vie Est Une Parade, The World of Lully (Cedille CDR 90000 043), The Virtuoso Handel (Cedille CDR 90000 057), A Vivaldi Concert (Cedille CDR 90000 025) and Songs of The Classical Age (Cedille CDR 90000 049).


The composer, choral conductor, editor, arranger and record producer John Rutter was born in London in 1945 and educated at Highgate School, where a fellow pupil was John Tavener. He was organ scholar at Clare College, Cambridge, and founded his own choir, the Cambridge Singers. In 1996 he received a Lambeth Doctorate of Music in recognition of his contribution to church music. His compositions are mainly choral, including Christmas carols, anthems and extended works such as the Gloria and Requiem. In 2002 his setting of Psalm 150, commissioned for the Queen's Golden Jubilee, was performed at the Thanksgiving service in St Paul’s Cathedral. His eclectic music, influenced by the French and English choral traditions of the early 20th century as well by of light music and American classic songwriting, has made him one of the most performed choral composer of his generation. Mass of the Children was composed in 2002 after the untimely death of his son Christopher while a student, and received its first performance in February 2003 in Carnegie Hall, New York. The effect of combining children’s and adults’ voices is unique, and the Mass seems to reflect the events and feelings of a single day, from waking to falling asleep. The accompaniment to Mass of the Children exists in two versions, one for orchestra, the other for chamber ensemble with organ, which is the one recorded here. Soloists Angharad Gruffydd Jones (soprano) and Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone) are joined by James McVinnie (organ), Clare College Choir, Farnham Youth Choir and the Clare Chamber Ensemble, conducted by Tim Brown. Also on this CD are two other works by John Rutter: Shadows (a dream-like song cycle inspired by eight poems from the 16th and 17th centuries) and Wedding Canticle (a setting of one of the psalms used in the Anglican marriage service, with the accompaniment of flute and guitar). Daniel Pailthorpe and Stewart French play here with the excellent Clare College Choir.


Jorge Liderman’s beautiful dramatic cantata The Song of Songs is written for soprano, tenor, female chorus and chamber orchestra. Based on the Old Testament story of the sexual awakening of a young woman and her lover, the music of great physicality and almost primitive rhythmic energy. Liderman divides the instrumental ensemble into three groups: a pulsing and percussive pair of marimbas and pair of pianos, a lush group of pairs of clarinets, violas and French horns, and a more mixed ensemble of flute, oboe, trumpet, violin and contrabass. These layered ensembles give the work a sense of being simultaneously transparent and complex. As the Shulamite, soprano Elissa Johnston gives an impassioned reading, and conductor David Milnes leads a performance that is both detailed and radiant. Other soloists include Charles Blandy (tenor), Catherine Webster (soprano), Sara Colburn (mezzo-soprano), Amelia Tirest (contralto). Chamber Chorus of the University of California at Berkeley is directed by Marika Kuzma and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players by David Milnes. Born in Buenos Aires in 1957, Jorge Liderman began his musical studies in Jerusalem and went on to join the composition faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, where he still teaches. His first CD on Bridge, Waking Dances, includes works for guitar and ensemble, featuring guitarist David Tanenbaum (BRIDGE 9150).


Sir John Tavener first came to wide public attention in 1968 when his oratorio, The Whale, was recorded on the Beatles Apple label. Tavener’s avant-garde style of the seventies contrasts with the contemplative beauty of the works for which he is now better known. His conversion to the Orthodox Church resulted from his growing conviction that Eastern traditions retained a primordial essence that the west had lost. Tavener again came into the limelight in 1989 with the BBC Proms premiere of The Protecting Veil and a documentary, ‘Glimpses of Paradise’ that was broadcast on BBC2. Tavener was also inspired by the universalist philosophy of the Swiss metaphysician Fritjhof Schuon, which embraces all great religious traditions. This change in direction has influenced most of his work since 2001, especially The Veil of the Temple, Lament for Jerusalem, and Hymn of Dawn, based on Hindu, Sufi, Christian and Jewish texts, as well as the music of the American Indians. The austerely beautiful Lament for Jerusalem, which the composer describes as a mystical love song, brings together Christian, Judaic and Islamic texts, and is sung in Greek and English. It is both a cri de coeur at the loss of peace in a place where religions once co-existed in harmony, and an affirmation of the power of love to bring together all ‘who seek God, from whatever tradition they come’. This recording features the composer’s reworked version for the Choir of London’s groundbreaking visit to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem in 2004. The outstanding soloists are soprano Angharad Gruffydd Jones and the countertenor Peter Crawford.


Richard Strauss was born in 1864 in Munich (then in the Kingdom of Bavaria, now in Germany), the son of Franz Strauss, who was the principal horn player at the Court Opera in Munich. Richard received a thorough, though conservative, musical education from his father, writing his first music at the age of six. He was to write music almost continuously between then and his death almost eighty years later. Strauss’s style began to change when he met Alexander Ritter, a composer and violinist, and the husband of one of Richard Wagner’s nieces. Ritter persuaded Strauss to abandon the conservative style of his youth and begin writing tone poems. Richard Strauss married the soprano Pauline Maria de Ahna in 1894 and she was a great source of inspiration. From his earliest songs to the final Four Last Songs of 1948, he always preferred the soprano voice above all others. The Four Last Songs (German: Vier letzte Lieder) were among his final works, composed at the age of 84, and Strauss did not live to hear their first performance in 1950. Written for soprano and orchestra, they are titled: Frühling (Spring), September, Beim Schlafengehen (Going to Sleep) and Im Abendrot (In the Red Glow of Evening). The gifted young soprano Michaela Kaune was born in Hamburg and studied with Judith Beckmann at the Music Academy there. She won the Belvedere Wettbewerb prize in Vienna (1996) and the Otto-Kasten-Preis of the Deutsche Bühnenverein in 1999. Since 1997, she has been a member of the German Opera Berlin, taking roles such as Micaëla in Carmen, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni and Fiordiligi in Cosi Fan Tutte. In this her debut recital CD she includes the Four Last Songs, as well as 11 other Strauss songs with accompaniment by the NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the Eiji Oue. Michaela Kaune has a pure, expressive voice and her singing shows a delicate understanding of this inspired music.


Georg Friederich Händel was son of a barber-surgeon. His father had intended him for the law but allowed him to study music and become a pupil of Zachow, the principal organist in Halle. Händel was appointed organist of the Calvinist Cathedral at the age of only 17 but a year later he moved to Hamburg, where he played violin and harpsichord in the opera house. His Almira and Nero were performed there in 1705 and in the following year he left for Italy, where he spent more than three years in Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice. His operas or other dramatic works (including the oratorio, La resurrezione) were given in these cities and he wrote many Italian cantatas for use in the Palaces of his Italian patrons, perfecting his technique in setting Italian words for the human voice. On this album, recorded at the Carmelite Monastery in Kew, the Australian group Arcadia play five cantatas dating from 1708 to 1711, opening with the dramatic solo bass cantata Cuopre tal volt ail cielo. Arcadia come from Melbourne and specialise in the baroque cantata repertoire. The group consists of two violins, flute, cello, theorbo (or chitarrone as it was known in Italy, evolved from the lute family) and harpsichord (played by director, Jacqueline Ogeil). They provide sharp and polished accompaniment to the soloists - Michael Leighton Jones (bass), Miriam Allen (soprano) and Christopher Field (alto). This passionate and technically demanding music that is performed here with great style and enthusiasm.


The Dale Warland Singers choir recently celebrated its 31st and final season of concerts, tours, radio broadcasts and critically acclaimed recordings, following the retirement of its founder and director Dale Warland in 2004. This 40-voice professional ensemble specialises in performing American works and Harvest Home is the choir’s second and the final CD, following on from their best-selling Blue Wheat album. Harvest Home features 17 popular songs, hymns and spirituals, including Beautiful River (Shall we gather at the river) by Rev. Robert Lowry, Simple Gifts (arranged by Dale Warland), Deep River, The Water is Wide and We Gather Together. As well as much loved American hymns and spirituals, the program also includes folk songs such as Emma Lou Diemer’s splendid arrangement of the evergreen She’ll be comin’ round the mountain and Carol Barnett’s spirited version of Cindy. An accompanying 16-page booklet gives full texts as well as notes on all the works. The sumptuous sound of the Dale Warland Singers and their obvious love of the music brings new life to even the most familiar songs, emphasising their sense of faith and fellowship. ‘There are, perhaps, few choruses in the world that could perform with such vocal richness and weightless, responsive ensemble’ - Minneapolis Star Tribune.


The gifted American soprano Georgine Resick has received public and critical acclaim for her performances at some of the world’s greatest opera houses, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Paris Opera and Vienna State Opera, as well as at Salzburg, Edinburgh and Drottningholm festivals. Renowned for her Mozart and Strauss interpretations, she has given performances with orchestras such as the London Symphony, Rome's Accademia di Santa Cecilia, and the Israel Philharmonic. Visions Intérieures is a fascinating survey of the development of the song cycle, with performances in German, Polish, French, Swedish and Italian. The two CDs feature an intriguing selection of rarely heard works and composers from the great flowering of the song cycle that took place in early nineteenth century Germany, most notably with work by Schubert and Schumann. On Disc One, titled ‘The Early German Song Cycle’, the composers are Weber and Kreutzer ( with accompanist is Andrew Willis playing fortepiano) as well as Cornelius, Thalberg and Jensen (with Willis performing on an original 1841 Bösendorfer). On Disc Two, titled ‘The Wanderer: The Song Cycle in Migration’, the singer is joined by Warren Jones, to perform late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century songs by a Russian composer of French-Lithuanian descent setting Polish poems; a German-influenced Polish composer setting German poetry; a French influenced Italian, and French composers setting translations of texts from Persia and Denmark.


The Mediaeval Baebes were founded in 1996, when the band gathered a group of female friends together to enjoy some musical Mayday frolics on Hampstead Heath. They went on to form a unique singing group that has been hugely successful performing in theatres (and at Glastonbury) as well making best-selling records. Previous albums have included their debut, Salva Nos, The Rose, the brilliant World’s Blysse, Udrentide (produced by John Cale, of Velvet Underground fame) and the compilation Mistletoe Wine. Mirabilis is the latest studio album from the eight singers and instrumentalists - the title being a mediaeval Latin word with pagan associations used to describe the forces on the edge of the world. With its mix of gothic, pagan, religious and historical connotations, Mirabilis epitomises the group’s eclectic approach. The Baebes sing in several languages, including Middle English, Manx, Cornish, Latin, mediaeval Italian and 16th-century Swedish, and the music features rich, luxurious textures and evocative sounds, as well as the those trademark seductive vocals. The song-writing and performances are among the group’s finest to date, with outstanding tracks such as Star of the Sea, the exquisite Temptasyon and a poignant version of the traditional Scarborough Fair. Highly recommended.


Jorge Liderman’s beautiful dramatic cantata The Song of Songs is written for soprano, tenor, female chorus and chamber orchestra. Based on the Old Testament story of the sexual awakening of a young woman and her lover, the music of great physicality and almost primitive rhythmic energy. Liderman divides the instrumental ensemble into three groups: a pulsing and percussive pair of marimbas and pair of pianos, a lush group of pairs of clarinets, violas and French horns, and a more mixed ensemble of flute, oboe, trumpet, violin and contrabass. These layered ensembles give the work a sense of being simultaneously transparent and complex. As the Shulamite, soprano Elissa Johnston gives an impassioned reading, and conductor David Milnes leads a performance that is both detailed and radiant. Other soloists include Charles Blandy (tenor), Catherine Webster (soprano), Sara Colburn (mezzo-soprano), Amelia Tirest (contralto). Chamber Chorus of the University of California at Berkeley is directed by Marika Kuzma and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players by David Milnes. Born in Buenos Aires in 1957, Jorge Liderman began his musical studies in Jerusalem and went on to join the composition faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, where he still teaches. His first CD on Bridge, Waking Dances, includes works for guitar and ensemble, featuring guitarist David Tanenbaum (BRIDGE 9150).


The young Canadian lyric soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian follows up her stunning debut album Joyous Light (CBC SMCD 5215) with an exploration of sensuously beguiling music from Spain and Latin America. Azulão features popular songs by the Spanish composers Enrique Granados and Fernando Obradors, as well as arrangements for soprano, piano and cello ensemble of works by Joaquín Rodrigo, Manuel De Falla, Xavier Montsalvatge and Carlos Guastavino. Highlights include Canadian composer Chris Paul Harman’s arrangements of an aria from the Granados opera, Goyescas, and of the traditional Catalan carol The Song of the Birds. Isabel Bayrakdarian won the prestigious Placido Domingo Operalia vocal competition in Los Angeles in 2000 and was also awarded the special Zarzuela Prize. Her warm, clear voice is heard to great effect here, and is especially mesmerising in her interpretation of the popular Bachianas Brasileiras # 5 for soprano and eight cellos by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. The Cello Ensemble is lead by Bryan Epperson and the pianist is James Parker.


The songs on this recording, subtitled ‘Street Songs of 17th Century England’, were the popular music of their day. Printed on crude penny broadsheets, they became known as broadside ballads and were a kind of mass communication before the days of newspapers and magazines. Like today’s tabloid press, the ballads offered sensationalism with lively tales of sexual exploits, jilted suitors, shrewish wives and fumbling husbands. Comedy is provided by stories of Peeping Toms, saucy maids and country bumpkins. Some songs describe topical events such as the Fire of London or the latest hanging, while others tell of willing milkmaids, lecherous knights, cuckolded husbands, rowdy soldiers and devils, or just make fun of country folk. The musical arrangements reflect a variety of settings where the songs were performed - a theatre, the local tavern, a fashionable coffee house or, literally, the streets. The brilliant City Waites specialise in performing these ballads and have featured on many movie and television soundtracks. The splendid Lucie Skeaping (soprano) is joined by Douglas Wootton (tenor), Roderick Skeaping (the group’s musical arranger, who also plays fiddle and bass viol), Richard Wistreich (bass-baritone), Robin Jeffrey (cittern, lute, baroque guitar), Michael Brain (curtal, recorder) and Nicholas Perry (bagpipes). Other highly enjoyable City Waites albums to explore include The English Tradition (Arc EUCD 1616) and the outrageous Bawdy Ballads of Old England - formerly known as ‘The Musitians of Grope Lane’ (Regis Records RRC 1175). ‘Rock and roll with crumhorns’ - Melody Maker.


The choir Orphei Drangar started early on to make phonograph records, using the best sound engineering available at the time, and this 4-CD anthology (Volume 11 in the Collectors Classics series) features some of the oldest preserved recordings, systematically elucidating the changes in taste within the notated western art music in Sweden. All the recordings are presented in chronological order on three of the four CD records - commercial as well as radio recordings - with Orphei Drangar under the direction of Ivar Eggert Hedenblad (1851-1909), Hugo Alfven (1872-1960) and Carl Godin (1909-1982). The fourth CD includes amusing and instructive glimpses of rehearsals with Hugo Alfven. Thanks to the phonograph cylinders from the year 1900 that were preserved by Hjalmar Stolpe (1841-1905) we get a fascinating peep at the student songs during the time of Oscat Arpi and Jacob Axel Josephson, the 1860s, when the founder Johann Christian Friedrich Haeffner was still within living memory. With state-of-the-art methods of digital erasure the voices in the old sound documents have been uncovered and regain their original tone colours. The singers perform with great feeling and clarity and the song texts are included in a 138-page book. This set of rare recordings gives a valuable insight into a little-known world.


This recording features songs written by Pauline Viardot, nee Garcia, who was one of the most celebrated opera singers of the 19th century as well as a gifted composer. Berlioz described er as ‘one of the greatest artists in the past and present history of music’ and her appearance as Orpheus in Gluck’s Orfeo et Euridice was acclaimed as sublime by Charles Dickens. As well as her outstanding singing career, she composed four operettas, several instrumental works and much vocal music. Her songs were written in Italian, German and Spanish, as well as French. Accompanied by the pianist Serouj Kradjian, Isabel Bayrakdarian’s warm, clear voice is heard to great effect, particularly in the charming Seize-ans, Aime-moi and La fête, which are based on Chopin mazurkas. The beautiful Canadian-Armenian soprano won the prestigious Placido Domingo Operalia competition in Los Angeles in 2000 and has since gained an enviable international reputation, combining opera performances (especially in works by Mozart and Handel) with recitals, orchestral concerts and film projects. This ravishing and seductive album should gain her even more admirers and make these delightful songs deservedly better known.


London’s beautiful Temple Church was built by the Knights Templar, the order of crusading monks founded to protect pilgrims on their way to and from Jerusalem in the 12th century. The church has witnessed eight hundred years of history, from the crusaders through to the Reformation to the present day, and has a strong choral music tradition. In fact it was here in 1927 that Ernest Lough made his famous recording of ‘O, for the Wings of a Dove’. Sir John Tavener’s seven-hour musical vigil, The Veil of the Temple, was commissioned for the Church and draws on Christian traditions of the East and West. The work traces the history of Christianity from the Creation to the death of Christ and was inspired by a Native American music ceremony that the composer attended. A huge chorus is rquired, together with vocal soloists, organ, brass and percussion ensembles, a Tibetan horn, temple bowls, and an Indian harmonium. This superbly produced double-SACD set features a three-hour version of Tavener’s magnum opus, sung by The Choir of the Temple Church, directed by Stephen Layton, with Patricia Rozario (soprano), The Holst Singers and the English Chamber Orchestra. It was recorded live in Temple Church in 2003 and comes with an excellent 70 page booklet containing full texts and notes. This is a sublimely uplifting masterpiece by one of the world’s most popular living classical composers.


Lux Aeterna is an ‘intimate work of quiet serenity’ for orchestra and chorus by the 61-year old American composer, Morten Lauridsen. His ravishing music has similarities with the work of Part, Gorecki and John Tavener, but has a mystic beauty all its own. On this new disc the superb Polyphony choir and the Britten Sinfonia, conducted by Stephen Layton, give a vibrant performance of this sumptous piece that permits comparison to be made with Fauré’s Requiem. ‘A classic of new American choral writing...in this light-filled continuum of sacred texts, old world structures and new world spirit intertwine in a cunningly written score, at once sensuous and spare’ - The Times. This splendidly produced hybrid SACD also has four other works by Morten Lauridsen. The Madrigali, subtitled ‘Six Fire Songs on Italian Renaissance Poems’, are challenging unaccompanied choral works in the tradition of Monteverdi and Gesualdo. The technical difficulties they present to the performer are disguised from the listener by a sense of purpose which unites the cycle into a whole of stunning effect. Occupying a similarly opulent sound-world to Lux aeterna, Lauridsen’s three Latin motets are modern masterpieces in the traditional motet genre. For anyone who loves choral music, this stunning disc is essential listening.


The outstanding America composer and librettist Dominick Argento is one of the most frequently performed 20th-century composers of opera. His chamber pieces have also received international acclaim and he has a long history of collaboration with the Dale Warland Singers. The latest release by this ensemble features a world-premiere recording of the composer’s Walden Pond, a song cycle based on text by Henry David Thoreau and scored for chorus, three cellos and harp. The album also includes two other impressive works by Dominick Argento: A Toccata of Galuppi’s (a rhapsody for chamber choir, harpsichord and string quartet based on a poem by Robert Browning) and I Hate and I Love (seven brief settings for choir and percussion with text by Catullus). ‘Rich, virtually flawless singing from longstanding champion of Argento's music’ - Gramophone Magazine.


Born in Naples in 1873, the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso was one of the most famous and influential singers of the twentieth century. He grew up singing Neapolitan love songs and performing in his local church choir before beginning to sing opera professionally in 1895. After aclaimed performances in Milan, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Buenos Aires, Monte Carlo and London, he made his first phonograph recordings in 1902, becoming one of the first musicians to become a best-selling recording artist. When asked who would write his life story, he answered, ‘My Victor records will be my biography’. His last stage appearance in Naples was in 1902 but he never returned after a poor critical reaction to his performance in Massenet’s Manon, although he died in his hometown in 1921. This splendid 12 CD box set brings together all his recordings and documents his progression from lyric to heroic tenor. CARUSO - THE DIGITAL COMEBACK (RCA Red Seal 82876641652) comprises three individual volumes released in 2000-2003 and now available as a box set. Expert restoration work by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation has breathed new life into the archetypal tenor’s unique voice, combining it with the sumptuous sound of the newly recorded Vienna Symphony Orchestra. This technical wizardry has produced amazing results, revealing Caruso’s performances in all their thrilling - and occasionally reckless - magnificence.


The acclaimed British soprano Teresa Cahill began her career at Glyndebourne and she gave more than a hundred performances at Covent Garden, including Sophie in Rosenkavalier, Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Servilia in La Clemenza di Tito. Concert appearances have included solo appearances in Mahler and Shostakovich symphonies, and her recording debut was in Figaro with Klemperer. As a recitalist she has specialised in the songs of Richard Strauss and Elgar, and in the field of contemporary music, Richard Rodney Bennett, John Casken, David Blake and Robert Simpson have all written works for her. This impressive CD celebrates the singer’s 60th birthday by releasing two vintage performances. The first 18 tracks are from a Chandos LP of 1983, the remainder being taken from a previously unpublished BBC Radio recital of the same year. Three of the Strauss lieder are duplicated, as a bonus, giving two different interpretations of the items. Cahill is in fine voice and these ravishing performances make a worthy tribute to a singer of elegance and refinement.


The young Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman has been widely acclaimed for her musicianship, glorious voice and majestic stage presence. Only 27 years old, she has already performed at London’s Wigmore Hall , with Ben Heppner in Toronto and for Queen Elizabeth II, the Prince of Wales and Nelson Mandela. Born in Fredericton, New Brunswick. She was the first recipient of the Bernard Diamant Prize, an award that allows young classical music performers to pursue their careers through further education, and this album is her first commercial recording. It features works by Samuel Barber (Knoxville: Summer of 1915) and Aaron Copland’s Emily Dickinson Songs, as well as arrangements of three George Gershwin songs (Embraceable You, By Strauss and I’ve Got a Crush on You). Measha Brueggergosman’s soaring voice and larger than life personality show her to be a major international star in the making. She is accompanied here by the excellent Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Roy Goodman, who also play Barber’s celebrated Serenade for Strings. ‘A gigantic voice, also astonishingly supple and deeply moving like the early (Jessye) Norman’ - La Presse, Montreal.


The beautiful Canadian-Armenian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian scored a great success two years ago when she appeared as Cleopatra in Handel’s opera Giulio Cesare for the Canadian Opera Company. The legendary figure of Cleopatra has captured the popular imagination for generations, her seductive beauty being the inspiration for countless books, novels, plays and movies. The Queen of Egypt has been the inspiration for more than 50 operas, and on this vivacious album Isabel Bayrakdarian’s warm and expressive voice can be heard singing arias from works by four German baroque composers: Carl Heinrich Graun, Johann Adolf Hasse, Johann Mattheson and George Frideric Handel. She is joined by Canada’s foremost period instrument orchestra, Tafelmusik, under the direction of violinist Jeanne Lamon. Isabel Bayrakdarian was awarded the Juno Award for her previous CBC release, Azulão (see here) and continues to perform to great acclaim for the Los Angeles Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.


In recent collaborations with composers, Stephen Layton has given first performances of music by Arvo Pärt and Thomas Adès, and his bold realisation of Sir John Tavener’s seven-hour vigil, The Veil of the Temple met with great acclaim. Stephen Layton has worked with orchestras such as the Academy of Ancient Music, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Netherlands Chamber Choir and the Danish National Choir. He is also founder and conductor of Polyphony, and on this recording the ensemble give assured performances eight new choral pieces by Tavener: Birthday Sleep, Butterfly Dreams, The Second Coming, Schuon Hymnen, As one who has slept, The Bridal Chamber, Exhortation and Kohima. Shunya.


For many years the conductor here, Bo Aurehl, worked in the famous Swedish music school Adolf Fredrik. When his students from the Children´s Choir, and from the Boys Choir grew up, he gathered the best of them in 1988 and formed the Swedish Voices Chamber Choir (or Kammarkören Svenska Röster). His amazing ensemble is heard to great effect on this collection of beautiful Swedish folklore-based choir music, with pianist Jan Åke Hillerud (who also made many of the arrangements) and some fine violin playing by Sara Trobäck in both classical and folk styles. The generous 26 tracks include Stjärntändningen (Oskar Lindberg), Svensk rapsodi, Tre körvisor (Wilhelm Stenhammar), Fyra akvareller for violin and piano (Tor Aulin), Förvårskväll (David Wikander) and Brusala (Knut Håkansson). This is choral singing of the highest order, revealing a rich Swedish choir repertory and including many lesser known pieces.


Anna I and Anna II, a singer and dancer respectively, set out on adventures throughout America, seeking to earn enough money to build a house for themselves in Louisiana. In the course of their travels they stop in seven places, corresponding to the seven deadly sins, Sloth, Pride, Anger, Gluttony, Lust, Covetousness and Envy, sins that in Brecht's Marxist text, become virtues. Die sieben Todsünden (The Seven Deadly Sins) was an expensive failure when it was staged in 1930s Paris and London, following the earlier Brecht-Weill collaborations, Mahagonny and the Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera). Rock legend Marianne Faithfull brings her unique vocal sound to this caustic cycle of songs, performed in clever English translations by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallmann. Also included are Faithfull’s recordings of four other Brecht/Weill songs: Alabama Song, Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Bilbao Song and Pirate Jenny. Faithfull's smokey voice is cynically expressive and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra is sympathetically conducted by Dennis Russell Davies.


This delightful collection of love songs were all written by American Composers and are sung by the excellent American Repertory Singers, conducted by the ensemble’s founder and artistic director, Leo Nestor. The works are by James Hopkins (his phantasmagorical Come to Me in the Silence of the Night), Daniel Pinkham (Love Can Be Still - four settings of poems by Norma Farber), David Conte (Charm Me Asleep - a fine arrangement of the Elizabethan poet Robert Herrick’s verse), Leo Nestor (Four Songs from the Highlands, featuring two traditional texts and two by Robert Burns), Halsey Stevens (Go, Lovely Rose and Campion Suite), Jane Marshall (Two Madrigals: Then and Now - ‘A Lover and His Lass’, followed touchingly by ‘An older Lover and His Lass’) and Samuel Barber (Reincarnations, Opus 6). Sara Stern plays flute on Leo Nestor’s haunting Songs from the Highlands. ‘...one of our very finest domestic choirs specializing in modern American music’ - American Record Guide.


William Byrd (1543-1623) was one of England’s greatest composers, writing music of the highest quality that often reched sublimity. His sacred choral music is as passionate as any Italian ever wrote and far more politically daring in the context of Protestant Elizabethan England, while Marxist critic Ernst Hermann Meyer applauded his wonderful instrumental music as an example of art unfettered by bourgeois or royal propaganda. Byrd ‘the romantic Catholic figure’ and Byrd ‘the abstract expressionist’ are both present in his ‘consort songs’, telling of courtly love. Sir Philip Sidney’s demise in battle becomes an eloquent lament; an old woman tumbling down amid a flurry of human skulls represents contemporary desires for freedom of speech; moral temptations are likened to a storm-tossed ship; and a hymn to the Muses is inspired by the death of Thomas Tallis. This richly layered world of Queen Elizabeth I is brought vividly to life in these performances by countertenor Robin Blaze with the Concordia ensemble, featuring the brilliant lute player Elizabeth Kenny.


This double disc of important vocal and choral works by Alexander Goehr is the second release by this composer in the Ancora series of reissues made possible by funding from the Arts Council. Sing, Ariel is a dazzling patchwork of mood and poetry for principal soprano, two sopranos and a small ensemble, setting poetry in English ranging from John Milton and Edmund Spenser to Wallace Stevens and Craig Raine. Written for Ann Murray, it was premiered by the exceptional soprano Lucy Shelton, who performs it here with Sarah Leonard and Eileen Hulse. The Death of Moses explores Hebrew myth and Jewish tradition and is written for large forces and soloists. Drawing on the composer’s passion for the music of Monteverdi, it was described by Goehr as ‘Monteverdi as heard by Varèse’ and is performed by massed choirs that include the Cambridge University Music Society, conducted by Stephen Cleobury. This CD also features a witty solo setting of a fable by Marianne Moore, The Mouse Metamorphosed into a Maid. ‘NMC's Ancora series... is to be welcomed without reservation’ - BBC Music Magazine.


Soprano Patrice Michaels, together with the Chicago Chamber Musicians and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Paul Freeman, performs an intriguing selection of music by Benjamin Britten's (his masterpiece for soprano and strings, Les Illuminations), Darius Milhaud (a rarely-recorded vocal tour de force, Quatre Chansons de Ronsard); Erik Satie (four newly-arranged songs) and Germaine Tailleferre (the only female member of ‘Les Six’). As well as being an internationally-renowned opera and concert performer, Patrice Michaels is Associate Professor of Opera Theater and Studio Voice at Lawrence University's Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin. Her pure, mellifluous voice is heard to great effect on these delightful recordings. ‘She has a supple voice with the ring of Waterford crystal, and seems able to sing anything effortlessly’ - Chicago Tribune. ‘Witty, adult and smart...a great addition to your French song library’ - San Francisco Examiner.

[new classics] [opera] [religious] [comedy] [vocal]