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Arthur Sullivan: Macbeth, The Tempest & Marmion Overture

Arthur Sullivan: Macbeth, The Tempest & Marmion Overture


Sullivan, A:

Macbeth

The Tempest - incidental music (excerpts)

Marmion


Mary Bevan (soprano), Fflur Wyn (soprano), Simon Callow (speaker)

BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Singers, John Andrews

This 2-CD set brings together for the first time Arthur Sullivan’s complete incidental music to Shakespeare’s Macbeth and The Tempest with his concert overture, Marmion. The Tempest was Sullivan’s graduation work from the Leipzig Conservatoire, and its rapturous reception in London in 1862 launched his career. The Macbeth music comes from the other end of Sullivan’s creative life. Commissioned by Henry Irving for his famous production at the Lyceum Theatre, it includes sublime melodic writing, ravishing orchestration (including the atmospheric use of two harps) and a dark dramatic energy. For both plays, Sullivan interwove music and text seamlessly – most impressively in the scenes between Macbeth and the Witches. Simon Callow’s wonderful performance of Shakespeare’s text makes it possible to appreciate how truly theatrical this music is. Marmion was composed after the epic poem by Walter Scott, which culminates in the Battle of Flodden Field. Until now, it has been heard only in a heavily abbreviated version. This recording restores the composer’s original narrative structure, with sparkling playing from the BBC Concert Orchestra.

This SACD is compatible with all CD players

2CDLX7331

“The BBC Concert Orchestra play with warmth and style, the BBC Singers go at it with spirit and Mary Bevan makes an enchanting Ariel. John Andrews does an excellent job of integrating the orchestra with Simon Callow’s spoken chunks of Shakespeare” Gramophone Magazine, October 2016

“the music is pure delight. Mary Bevan’s Ariel beguiles the ear.” Sunday Times, 24th July 2016

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Smetana: Dalibor

Smetana: Dalibor


Ivan Kusnjer (King Vladislav), Richard Samek (Dalibor, a Knight), Aleš Vorácek (Vitek, Dalibor’s messenger), Dana Burašová (Milada, sister of the Burgrave of Ploskovice), Alžbeta Polácková (Jitka, a country girl), Jan Stava (Benes, a jailor), Svatopluk Sem (Budivoj, commander of the king’s castle guard)

BBC Symphony Orchestra & BBC Singers, Jiří Bělohlávek

Smetana’s tragic opera 'Dalibor' from 1868 is now acknowledged as a masterpiece, containing some of his greatest music. It tells a tale of knightly ideals, chivalry, love and loyalty, with striking echoes of Fidelio, the story transports us to 15th-century Prague, where Dalibor is imprisoned having avenged the death of his musician friend Zdenk. The sister of his victim, Milada, is touched by his plight and disguises herself as a boy violinist in order to enter the gaol … Smetana, saddened by 'Dalibor’s cool reception ('too Wagnerian' was one of the charges against it) always had faith that one day it would be appreciated and stand alongside 'The Bartered Bride', the work that overshadowed all his other operas to his great frustration.

This superb performance of this rarely heard opera was recorded live in the Barbican Hall, London. Conducted by Jiri Belohlávek, the all Czech cast and the BBC SO and BBC singers gave a performance that impressed all present, and the critics praised the performance: "Smetana’s melodic invention is given full rein, with a rapturous second-act love duet as its high-point. Belohlávek’s conducting was warm and wonderfully spacious in those purple passages…the cast, all Czech, was a very fine one" The Guardian.

"A brilliant all-Czech performance...The pivotal duets were gloriously sung, while chorus and orchestra honoured the full beauty of the score."

“a performance as gloriously idiomatic as this…shows how much we have all been missing and makes a full staging of the work all the more urgent … Jiri Belohlavek it finds its ideal interpreter: the conductor has the lightest but firmest of touches, never allowing the pageantry to degenerate into bombastic pomp and circumstance but giving full rein to all the noble ardour that palpitates through the score. The BBC Symphony Orchestra plays with elegant clarity and a keen sense of drama, while the cast of native Czech singers is a revelation … The BBC Singers make a fervent contribution too … [an] admirable recording” The Telegraph, 21st November 2015 *****

“it is to be welcomed not only for the opera’s rarity, but for its thrilling performance in splendid modern sound. A key feature of this series’s success has been the engagement of singers from Prague, and the outstanding artistry of Dana Buresova figures again: imperious as Milada, yet capable of tenderness and poetry, she is the star. The BBC forces give their all for their former chief conductor; Richard Samek is heroic in the title role; and Alzbeta Polackova and Ales Vorasek charm as the youthful couple Jitka and Vitek” Sunday Times, 22nd November 2015

“As Dalibor himself, Richard Samek has a golden, heroic tenor that does the job beautifully … The orchestra play this unfamiliar music with great skill, and the BBC Singers throw themselves into the work, both in spirit and in pronunciation.” MusicWeb International, 4th December 2015

“Belohlavek’s championing of Dalibor ensures a passionate performance and the BBC Symphony Orchestra plays with style. The singers are classy too.” Opera Now, January 2016

“If there's one conductor you want in this repertoire, it's Jiri Belohlávek... Samek is a pleasing Dalibor, not the most heroic tenor, but sweet-toned...Burašová makes a strong impression as Milada, especially in the Act 2 love duet...Polácková nearly steals the performance as Jitka...The playing of the BBC Symphony Orchestra is excellent; you'd almost have to pinch yourself to believe that you weren't listening to Belohlávek's Czech Philharmonic.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2016

“Belohlávek creates a proper sense of the numinous from the BBC Symphony Orchestra, above all in the solos of leader, harpist and two horns, exquisitely haloed. Belohlávek leaves us in no doubt that Smetana's subtle score, with its fascinating transitions between scenes, is a masterpiece. It's full of unusual harmonies and interesting, proto-Tchaikovskyan wind choruses.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2016 ****

“The cast is thrillingly led by the bright star of a Dalibor...[Samek] looks set to become the most complete lyric-heroic Czech tenor for decades...Above all, this is Belohlavek’s triumph. Nobody knows better how to layer Smetana’s musical building blocks into an idiomatic, coherent edifice, sweeping us along with a concentration that is no less powerful for being so firmly controlled … a mighty reading which gives enormous satisfaction.” Opera, April 2016

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Tippett: A Child of Our Time

Tippett: A Child of Our Time


Jessye Norman (soprano), Dame Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano), Richard Cassilly (tenor) & John Shirley-Quirk (bass)

BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Choral Society & BBC Singers, Sir Colin Davis

“Davis’s reading as a whole packs an enormous dramatic punch, and this is one oratorio that suffers not at all from being brought close to the opera house” Gramophone Magazine

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Birtwistle: Angel Fighter

Birtwistle: Angel Fighter


Birtwistle:

Angel Fighter

Andrew Watts (Angel) & Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts (Jacob)

In Broken Images

Virelai (Sus une fontayne)


Harrison Birtwistle is internationally regarded as one of the most striking and individual composers today. His unique soundworld runs the full gamut from large-scale operatic and orchestral canvases, rich in mythical and primitivist power, to intimate chamber works, contemplative in their lyricism.

One of Birtwistle's most recent works The Cure – a co-commission between The Royal Opera House, Aldeburgh Music and London Sinfonietta – has its World Premiere 12-15 June at Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh, and London Premiere at Linbury Studio Theatre, London 18–27 June 2015.

Described by The Guardian as 'hauntingly powerful', Birtwistle's cantata Angel Fighter vividly explores the Biblical story of the struggle between man and divine being from the Book of Genesis. Predictably, for a composer with a long-standing fascination in myth, drama and ritual, it's the physical fight between Jacob and the Angel more than religious signifi cance, that interests Birtwistle: the tension, twists of pulse, sharp accents and jeering chants from the chorus make it feel more like a wrestling match than a life-or-death struggle. Quartertones and string harmonics enhance the otherworldly descent of the Angel from Heaven and librettist Stephen Plaice makes clever use of Enochian, an angelic language 'discovered' by the 16th century alchemist and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee.

In Broken Images, inspired by Gabrieli's multi-choir canzonas, splits the ensemble into four groups (woodwind, brass, strings and percussion) and takes its title from the Robert Graves poem. Birtwistle continues to draw influence from the past in Virelai (Sus une fontayne), a rhythmically intricate realisation of a piece by Johannes Ciconia, who flourished in the late Middle Ages, around the time that Chaucer was writing his Canterbury Tales.

“Angel Fighter, composed for the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, is a spare and strikingly original piece of dramatic storytelling. It presents the Old Testament tale of Jacob wrestling an angel as a ritualised game between the tenor Jacob (Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts) and the counter-tenor Angel (Andrew Watts) and climaxes in one of the great dramatic moments in Birtwistle’s concert music.” The Guardian, 14th May 2015 ****

“[Angel Fighter] would evoke Bach cantatas if Birtwistle’s gestic pungency did not sweep all before...In Broken Images (2011) — an intriguing meditation on the eponymous Graves poem — might evoke Gabrieli but for the same proviso. The brief Virelai (Sus une fontayne) brilliantly transforms a late-medieval original.” Sunday Times, 17th May 2015

“anyone in 2015 disposed to expect ageing dinosaurs going through the motions should be struck by the energy and sharpness of response in these recordings...Angel Fighter owes as much to terse commentaries from choir and instruments as to extended dialogues between admirable singers, and Atherton couples scrupulous attention to detail with exemplary alertness to the steadily unfolding shape of the whole.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“Birtwistle unleashes all his powers as a stage composer onto Stephen Plaice's text, using the whole building to create a thrilling dramatisation of the Bible story…pungent pizzicato rhythms, visceral trumpets, groaning lower brass and winds shrilling overhead drive the three-way confrontation…the London Sinfonietta, under David Atherton, lend it both soul and a zinging edge.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2015

GGramophone Awards 2016

Finalist - Contemporary

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2015

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NMC - NMCD211

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Judith Weir: Storm

Judith Weir: Storm


Weir:

All the Ends of the Earth

Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (2011)

Missa del Cid

The Song Sung True

Storm


BBC Singers, Choristers of Temple Church & Endymion, David Hill

The BBC Singers continue their critically lauded and award-nominated series of composer-led recordings with a new disc of works by Master of the Queen's Music Judith Weir.

Recorded in the unique acoustic of the Temple Church, London, the BBC Singers are joined by the church's choristers and the contemporary music ensemble Endymion, in a retrospective of Weir's works drawn from a 25-year period.

“We start in the cathedral, with the densely spiralling alleluias of Weir’s mesmerisingly beautiful millennium anthem, All the Ends of the Earth. The simpler textures of her Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis occasionally find the choir sounding harsh up high, but theirs is a vibrant sound, never bland.” The Guardian, 30th April 2015 ****

“tasteful, spirited and affectionate.” Sunday Telegraph, 14th June 2015

“This invigorating selection of Judith Weir’s choral music is nothing if not varied.” Irish Times, 12th June 2015

“The performances are as expert as you would expect, with the BBC Singers under their very experienced choral director David Hill … A lovely disc.” MusicWeb International, 30th June 2015

“a gorgeous, rounded sound … it works very well indeed.” CD Review, 27th June 2015

“Vocal - particularly choral - music has been a strong and persistent thread through Judith Weir's output from the start and this collection brings together works from a 25-year period…clarity of thought and texture is apparent in the concise setting of the unaccompanied Magnificat and Nunc dimittis…the high quality [of these interpretations] bode well.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2015

“This CD…is to be welcomed not only for the excellence of the execution of the music but also for the opportunity it affords to sample what is, in effect, a major retrospective of Weir’s choral output from a 25-year period … David Hill presides over this important release to the manner born. A significant addition to the too-small Weir discography.” Choir & Organ, September-October 2015

“The bright, jangling soundworld of Judith Weir's All the Ends of the Earth immediately cleanses the aural palate...the BBC Singers bring their customary high standards of versatility and exectuion to the table.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2015 ****

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Webern: Five Pieces for Orchestra & Cantatas

Webern: Five Pieces for Orchestra & Cantatas


Webern:

Five Pieces for Orchestra Op. 10

Drei Lieder, Op. 18, for voice, E flat clarinet and guitar

Christiane Oelze

Symphony, Op. 21

Variations for Orchestra, Op. 30

Cantata No. 2, Op. 31

Gerald Finley, Christiane Oelze

BBC Singers

Cantata No.1 for Soprano Chorus and Orchestra op.29

Gerald Finley, Christiane Oelze

BBC Singers

Das Augenlicht, ‘Through Our Open Eyes Light Flows into the Heart’, Op. 26


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DG 20C - 4793431

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Weir: The Vanishing Bridegroom

Weir: The Vanishing Bridegroom


Ailish Tynan (soprano), Anna Stéphany (mezzo), Andrew Tortise (tenor), Owen Gilhooly (baritone) & Jonathan Lemalu (bass baritone)

BBC Singers & BBC Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins

Judith Weir talks to Presto's Katherine Cooper about The Vanishing Bridegroom here.

Judith Weir's opera, commission by Glasgow District Council for the 1990 City of Culture celebrations, takes three Scottish folktales, all concerned with disappearance: The Inheritance features a runaway bride, a singing forest and a lost sum of gold; The Disappearance tells of a man abducted by supernatural forces; and The Stranger is the story of an independent-minded girl wooed by the devil in disguise.

Weir's writing combines lush descriptive soundscapes with ethereal choruses and Gaelic folk melodies; the romanticism of the three tales is offset by the sardonic humour and down-to-earth attitude of their protagonists, and of the composer herself.

Judith Weir's operas have been staged by the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Bregenz and many others. • She was awarded the Queen's Medal for Music in 2007.

Weir has been commissioned by the CBSO, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra.

She celebrates her 60th birthday this year.

“this excellent recording by BBC forces of her 1990 opera shows why she is so highly rated. Weir ingeniously meshes three Scottish folk tales...conveyed in pithily sardonic music. Excellent performances, especially by Jonathan Lemalu in the title-role.” The Times, 19th July 2014 ****

“a composer of integrity, [Weir] communicates intelligently with different audiences and ages. This timely release of The Vanishing Bridegroom (1990), her most successful opera, underscores her gift for concision, ambiguity and sound-pictures of sophisticated lyricism.” Financial Times, 8th August 2014 ****

“Weir has always excelled at writing music in miniature, and her skill at pinpointing an idea, an atmosphere, a musical realm in a few deft strokes is fully on display in The Vanishing Bridegroom...A bleak atmosphere pervades the opera, yet the score is full of life.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2014

“Weir’s textures never become muddy thanks to the excellent engineering and superb performances. Brabbins leads a well-paced reading that follows every twist and turn of Weir’s colourful score. Soprano Anna Stéphany and bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu give particularly strong performances in the final tale.” Opera Now ****

Presto Discs of 2014

Finalist

BBC Music Magazine

Opera Choice - November 2014

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NMC - NMCD196

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Birtwistle: The Moth Requiem

Birtwistle: The Moth Requiem


Birtwistle:

The Moth Requiem (2003)

Latin Motets (3) from The Last Supper

Carmen Paschale

Lullaby

On the Sheer Threshold of the Night

The Moth Requiem (2012)


Roderick Williams (baritone)

BBC Singers & Nash Ensemble, Nicholas Kok

As 2014 marks the composer’s 80th year, Harrison Birtwistle remains one of the most popular voices in contemporary composition in the UK and beyond. This new collection of premiere recordings draws together recent commissions with older works to mark the occasion, with characteristically flawless performances from the BBC Singers under Nicholas Kok. They are joined on this disc by the Nash Ensemble and baritone Roderick Williams.

This is the fourth in Signum's ongoing series of composer-led releases with the BBC Singers, with past discs featuring the works by Judith Bingham, Richard Rodney Bennett, and most recently Edward Cowie.

“The centrepiece of this outstanding disc of choral works by Harrison Birtwistle, all recorded for the first time, is one of the beautiful and most intensely personal of his recent scores...It's an important, scrupulously presented collection.” The Guardian, 20th February 2014 *****

“This is a wonderful and important release of his powerful and often delicate works. Best, perhaps, to begin with On the Sheer Threshold of the Night, which is a kind of spin-off from The Mask of Orpheus...This disc is the most fitting tribute imaginable to Birtwistle on his 80th birthday.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2014 *****

“I doubt whether anything the year brings for Birtwistle's 80th birthday is going to dim the lustre of this excellent recording of his choral music. Nor surpass it in importance, perhaps.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2014

Presto Discs of 2014

Finalist

GGramophone Awards 2014

Finalist - Contemporary

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - May 2014

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Signum - SIGCD368

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Anthony Payne: Phoenix Mass

Anthony Payne: Phoenix Mass


Payne:

Phoenix Mass

BBC Singers & Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, John Poole

Paean

Susan Bradshaw (piano)

The World’s Winter

Jane Manning (soprano)

The Nash Ensemble, Lionel Friend

Horn Trio

Jane’s Minstrels


Composer, writer, lecturer and broadcaster Anthony Payne was born in London and educated at Dulwich College and Durham University.

His completion of Elgar’s Third Symphony in 1997 brought him worldwide acclaim and numerous awards, including the Elgar Medal and awards from the South Bank Show and Evening Standard as well as the New York Critics’ Circle. Its premiere recording on NMC is still our best-selling recording (NMCD053).

Commissions include four major premieres at the BBC Proms and works for the BBC Philharmonic and London Sinfonietta. He has won British Composer Awards for his orchestral piece Visions and Journeys and his Second String Quartet, commissioned by the Allegri Quartet.

His orchestrations include a suite of Warlock songs, Elgar’s Crown of India, and Vaughan Williams’s Four Last Songs.

Phoenix Mass, written in 1965, was originally to have been a liturgical setting only for school choir but soon turned into something much bigger and more technically demanding. As Anthony Payne elaborated the project he experienced what he recalled as ‘the natural emergence of a new manner – long sought but previously only partly envisaged’ and despite the Medieval and Baroque connotations of its techniques and scoring, and a few passing resemblances to Britten and Maxwell Davies, this is the earliest of Payne’s acknowledged works that reveals a completely integrated musical character of its own.

Also on this recording is the Horn Trio, a piece symbolising marital harmony, written in 2006; The World's Winter (1976) for soprano and piano, setting two early poems of Tennyson – Nothing Will Die and All Things Will Die and Paean (1971) for solo piano.

Phoenix Mass, Paean and The World’s Winter have been transferred from LP in the absence of the original masters. The Horn Trio was recorded live for BBC Radio 3.

“Payne’s English Romantic affinities (expressed in his realisation of Elgar sketches) are less evident in this enjoyable sequence of mostly early works than a brand of keen-edged postwar modernism.” Sunday Times, 21st April 2013

“If you only know Anthony Payne through his excellent realisation of Elgar's Third Symphony, his own music may come as a surprise, especially the early works on this disc...[The World's Winter] is riveting...The gorgeous Horn Trio from 2006 completes a fascinating collection.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2013 ****

NMC - NMCD159

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Smetana: The Bartered Bride

Smetana: The Bartered Bride

sung in Czech


Tomás Juhás (Jeník), Dana Buresová (Marenka), Jozsef Benci (Kecal), Svotapluk Sem (Krusina), Stanislava Jirku (Ludmilla), Ales Vorácek (Vasek), Jaroslav Brezina (Ringmaster), Katerina Knezíková (Esmeralda), Ondrej Mráz (Indian), Lucie Hilscherová (Háta), Gustáv Belácek (Micha), Maxim Dusek (First Child) & Babette Rust (Second Child)

BBC Singers & BBC Symphony Orchestra, Jiří Bělohlávek

“It's a thoughtful, searching interpretation that emphasises Smetana's bittersweet sense of comedy and is, at times, extraordinarily moving; it might not be quite to your taste if you view the piece primarily as bucolic farce. Bělohlávek occasionally deploys bigger, more dramatic voices than we would usually find in western European performances...Voráček [is] the best ever Vašek” The Guardian, 13th September 2012 ****

“The slimlined BBC Symphony Orchestra adapts admirably to Jiri Belohlavek's blend of rustic cheerfulness and Wagnerian hues; they are absolutely irresistable in the Dance of the Comedians...Dana Buresová and Tomás Juhás are not, perhaps, the most warm-hearted of lovers, but both negotiate Smetana's technical challenges with aplomb.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2012 ****

“Deep joy…One of those opera recordings that you’re reluctant to switch off” The Arts Desk, 10th November 2012

“[Belohlavek] has something of Wolfgang Sawallisch's temperament: intelligent, alert but observing the music from an objective mid-distance...But even chestnuts such as the famous Overture lack that extra edge of vitality often heard elsewhere...[Buresova] comes to the role of Marenka as a Smetana specialist whose every phrase has a ring of truth.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2012

“an irresistible performance...Effervescent from overture to the finale, the BBC Symphony Orchestra plays with sheeny strings, while the BBC Singers deliver crisp and clear ensemble...although Dana Buresova and Tomas Juhas enjoy the sweetest melodies as the frustrated lovers, tenor Ales Voracek steals the show as the stuttering Vasek.” The Independent, 2nd December 2012 *****

“If none of the names in Belohlavek’s all-Czech cast is of the household variety, they have this “nationalist” tragicomedy in their blood.” Sunday Times, 9th December 2012

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