Carolyn Sampson


Carolyn Sampson

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Haydn: The Seasons

Haydn: The Seasons

Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Jeremy Ovenden (tenor), Andrew Foster-Williams (bass)

Wrocław Baroque Orchestra, Wrocław Philharmonic Choir, Gabrieli Consort & Players, Paul McCreesh

Read our exclusive interview with Paul McCreesh about the recording here, and Katherine's full review of the disc here.

The Gabrieli Consort continue their series of award-winning collaborations with the National Forum of Music, Wrocław, Poland with a new version of Haydn’s great oratorio The Seasons. Using a new performing edition by Paul McCreesh this recording is the first to feature the large orchestral forces that Haydn called for, including a string section of 60, 10 horns and a choir of 70. As well as the combined forces of the Gabrieli Consort & Players, Wrocław Baroque Orchestra and National Forum of Music Choir, the recording features solo performances from British singers Carolyn Sampson, Jeremy Ovenden and Andrew Foster-Williams.

All booklet texts are printed in both English and Polish translations.

“McCreesh’s new translation is a triumph, and will surely have an illustrious career beyond this recording...One of the great joys of this set is the huge dynamic and emotional range afforded by the expanded forces – the introspective recitatives are, in their way, as spine-tingling as the 70-strong chorus belting out their lusty paeans to wine, women and weather.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 24th March 2017

“The opening thunderous wallop on the timpani will warn you that this is a recording of some drama and punch...If you are not familiar with The Seasons, this is the recording to go for. Paul McCreesh's English translation is excellent, the singing and orchestral playing is outstanding.” Early Music Review, 27th March 2017

Presto Disc of the Week

24th March 2017

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Early Music

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Mozart: Mass in C minor, K427 'Great'

Mozart: Mass in C minor, K427 'Great'


Mass in C minor, K427 'Great'

Olivia Vermeulen (mezzo), Makoto Sakurada (tenor), Christian Immler (bass)

Exsultate, jubilate, K165

from the revised Salzburg version of K165

Following on from the 2015 release of Mozart’s Requiem, Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan have gone on to record the composer's Mass in C minor, K427 – the ‘Great Mass’. As the nickname indicates, it is a work of unusual proportions for a mass of the Classical period – or would have been so, had Mozart completed it. It is not known, for what occasion Mozart intended the work, but a letter to his father Leopold, dated 4 January 1783, indicates that he may have committed himself to writing it in connection with his marriage to Constanze and a planned visit to Salzburg. A performance of parts of the Mass did take place in Salzburg in October 1783, with Constanze performing the prominent soprano part. Two years later Mozart reused the music from the Kyrie and Gloria sections in the sacred cantata Davidde penitente, K 469, but the Mass itself was left incomplete. The present performance includes the sections completed by Mozart himself, as well as those sections, for which extensive sketches by Mozart provided a basis for completion (by Franz Beyer in 1989). Three of Suzuki’s soloists also took part in the recording of the Requiem, while the Dutch mezzo-soprano Olivia Vermeulen makes her first appearance on BIS, shining in the aria ‘Laudamus te’. The disc closes with the celebrated cantata Exsultate, jubilate in which the soprano Carolyn Sampson glitters in the virtuosic solo part. As an appendix to the programme, she and the Bach Collegium Japan orchestra also repeats the initial aria, in a less well-known later version with a slightly different text and with flutes replacing the oboes of the original.

“The Mass survives as one of the great unfinished works. Suzuki’s famed period forces are significantly enlarged here (24 choristers), but are quite small for this work. His tempi are surprisingly spacious, but the dramatic impact of the double-choir Qui tollis in the Gloria comes across with full force.” Sunday Times, 13th November 2016

“Period-instrument C minor Masses get better and better. ...The choir are well drilled and the two female soloists are matched as well as any on disc...Suzuki is no speed merchant, and maintains the through line in more strenuous movements.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2016

“Stripping the score right back, Suzuki makes musicianship dominate. He taps into the subtle arts of his fellow performers, especially Carolyn Sampson, to create a benchmark performance…Sampson arabesques effortlessly up to the stratosphere in a slow dance with solo woodwinds…the three other vocal soloists equal Sampson’s elegance, forging a blissful euphony in their ensembles” BBC Music Magazine, January 2017 *****

“A tremendous achievement.” MusicWeb International, 10th January 2017

“playing and singing are excellent throughout, especially from the vocal soloists, all giving florid and characterful performances. The Exsultate, Jubilate makes an ideal filler, not least for the further opportunity it provides to hear soprano Carolyn Sampson, here on excellent form. The SACD audio is atmospheric and clear, giving an ideal audio image for the orchestra and soloists” Classical Ear, 27th March 2017 ***

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - December 2016

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - January 2017

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A Verlaine Songbook

A Verlaine Songbook

Carolyn Sampson sings settings of poems by Paul Verlaine


Colloque Sentimental




Fêtes galantes - Set 1

Ariettes Oubliées (6)


La Bonne Chanson, Op. 61

Clair de Lune, Op. 46 No. 2

Hahn, R:

Tous deux

L'heure exquise


Sur l'Herbe


Le vent dans la plane (Verlane)


Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit ...

Soleils couchants (Paysages tristes)


Clair De Lune Op. 83 No. 1



En sourdine


L'heure exquise


Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Joseph Middleton (piano)

In his poem Art poétique, Paul Verlaine declared that poetry should, above all, be musical: 'De la musique avant toute chose'. This quality in his work was already recognized by composers during his lifetime, and it is sometimes claimed that Verlaine has been set to music more often than any other poet after him. For their Verlaine Songbook, Carolyn Sampson and Joseph Middleton have selected songs by ten composers, including two complete cycles – Fauré's La Bonne Chanson and Debussy's Ariettes oubliées. The 33 songs on the disc set a total of 25 texts – several poems by Verlaine have attracted more than one composer, and Clair de lune appears three times, in versions by Debussy, Fauré and Joseph Szulc, while La lune blanche can be heard no less than four, in versions by Fauré, Ernest Chausson, Reynaldo Hahn and Poldowski – the pseudonym of the Belgian-born British composer Régine Wieniawski. Released in 2015 to critical acclaim, Carolyn Sampson's début recital disc, Fleurs (BIS2102), was a flower-themed anthology with songs by composers ranging from Purcell to Benjamin Britten via Schubert and Debussy. On the present disc the repertoire is rather more concentrated in time – all songs were composed during a span of 35 years (c. 1880-1915) – but the variety is nevertheless striking: a reflection of how different artistic temperaments have responded to the many-facetted Verlaine.

“Sampson adores these songs, caressing the text with her beautiful, pure soprano, particularly those that dwell on the correlation between nature and the emotions. Her partnership with Middleton is inspired, his intelligence always evident.” The Guardian, 13th November 2016 ****

“[Sampson is] in excellent voice, her tone clear and silvery, her upper registers exquisite: Chausson’s ‘Apasiement’ sends shivers down your spine with its floated high pianissimos and suggestive portamentos…Middleton’s playing is marvellously fresh throughout, the thin dividing line between wit and melancholy superbly negotiated.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2016

“A garland of roses to everyone concerned.” MusicWeb International, 19th December 2016

“The discovery of the disc are the songs by ‘Poldowski’ – a pseudonym for Régine Wieniawski…her songs prove nothing short of fabulous: warm, energetic and melodic, with a deep-set richness of harmonic language. Sampson’s pure, shining tone matches the finesse of this repertoire and her lower range sometimes has the softness and subtle qualities of a deep flute…Middleton provides a bright cushion of support throughout” BBC Music Magazine, February 2017 ****

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Handel: Solomon

Handel: Solomon

2 CD box with sung texts and French translation

Handel was 63 years-old when he composed 'Solomon', one of his final masterpieces. It caused the composer serious financial difficulties in 1749 on account of the exceptional forces it required – but under the baton of Daniel Reuss, it finds a crack British cast devoted to its noble cause. This monumental oratorio depicts the three highpoints of the biblical king’s life: the building of the temple, the famous judgment, and the visit of the Queen of Sheba.

“With Sarah Connolly and Caroline Sampson appearing for the prosecution, it doesn’t require the judgement of Solomon to predict a favourable outcome.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2017 ****

Early Music

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Monteverdi: L'Orfeo

Monteverdi: L'Orfeo

Ian Bostridge (Orfeo), Natalie Dessay (La Musica), Patrizia Ciofi (Euridice), Véronique Gens (Proserpina), Alice Coote (Messaggiera), Sonia Prina (Speranza), Carolyn Sampson (Ninfa), Paul Agnew (Eco/Pastore), Christopher Maltman (Apollo/Pastore), Lorenzo Regazzo (Plutone), Mario Luperi (Caronte), Pascal Bertin, Richard Burkhard (Pastori)

Le Concert d'Astrée, European Voices, Emmanuelle Haïm

Monteverdi’s retelling of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, composed for the court of Mantua, is the earliest opera to hold a firm place in the repertoire. Emmanuelle Haïm directs a full-blooded performance with star singers whose artistry is as valid here – in a groundbreaking Renaissance score – as in music of later eras: Ian Bostridge, Patrizia Ciofi, Natalie Dessay, Carolyn Sampson, Véronique Gens, Alice Coote, Sonia Prina, Christopher Maltman and Lorenzo Regazzo.

Early Music

Erato - The Home of Opera - 9029593486

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Purcell: Come all ye songsters

Purcell: Come all ye songsters

Recorded live at Wigmore Hall, London, on 17 March 2015





Draghi, G B:

The Italian Ground


Come All Yee Songsters

Ye gentle spirits of the air (from The Fairy Queen, Z629)

A dance of fairies (instr.) (from The Fairy Queen Z629)

Sing while we trip it (from The Fairy Queen Z629)

Suite No. 5 in C major, Z 666

The cares of lovers (from Timon of Athens, Z632)

Fly swift ye hours, Z369

Not all my torments can your pity move, Z400

From Rosy Bow'rs (from Don Quixote)

Let the dreadful engines (from Don Quixote, Z578)

Mystery’s Song (from The Fairy Queen, Z629)

Music from the guitar book of Princess Anne (instrumental)

I see she flies me ev'rywhere (from Aureng-Zebe or The Great Mogul, Z573)

What a sad fate is mine, Z428A

Pious Celinda goes to prayers, Z410

Tis Nature's voice (from Hail, Bright Cecilia, Z328)

Abdelazer or The Moor's Revenge: incidental music, Z570

Hark! The Echoing Air (from The Fairy Queen, Z629)

I attempt from love's sickness to fly in vain (from The Indian Queen)

spoken intro to encore

Fairest Isle (from King Arthur)

spoken intro to encore

Simpson, C:

A Division upon a Ground for Viola da gamba & B.c.from The Division Violist (London 1659)

Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Elizabeth Kenny (lute), Jonathan Manson (viol) & Laurence Cummings (harpsichord)

Carolyn Sampson has enjoyed notable success worldwide in repertoire ranging from early Baroque to the present day. She is in high demand by leading opera companies around the world, and regularly makes recital appearances too. Following the success of her first release ‘Not Just Dowland’, [WHLIVE0034] we are now delighted to present her second release on the Wigmore Hall Live label. She is joined by some of Britain’s most exciting exponents of historical performance – lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, harpsichordist Laurence Cummings, and viol player Jonathan Manson. This leading ensemble examines the colourful world of Purcell songs. Unlike his European counterparts, Purcell was unused to traditionally operatic terms and was unconstrained by them. Ignorance was certainly bliss in this case; for him ‘Song’ was a performers’ medium. Thoughout the course of this recital, recorded live at Wigmore Hall, we hear the musicians discovering and revealing the meaning of the texts, as they bring to life the works with sensitivity and charm.

“of course it’s soprano Carolyn Sampson’s peerless Purcell that steals the show – whether inhabiting tortured madness, or the airborne, caressing grace of an opening set from The Fairy Queen. By way of the final encore, ‘Fairest Isle’ bids farewell with a guileless, eloquent, spellbinding simplicity.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2016 ****

“Carolyn Sampson sings with rich yet clear soprano tone and pays keen attention to the texts she sings, as befits Purcell’s reputation as perhaps the greatest composer to set his native tongue to music…throughout it all, Sampson is royally supported by a trio of accompanists, and it’s good that they provide instrumental solos or duets too” Classical Ear, 26/08/16 ****

“What could be just another lovely solo recital is subtly but determinedly refocused here as an ensemble affair. Each of the musicians gets a chance to step into the spotlight, and the result is both a more interesting and a much more satisfying listen than a straight sequence of arias with the obligatory mid-programme instrumental breath-catcher … Any recording of Purcell songs enters a crowded market but Sampson makes a strong case for her contribution, with just a little help from some starry musical friends” Gramophone Magazine, September 2016

“Versatile and ever engaging, soprano Carolyn Sampson shines in this showcase of contrasting Purcell songs...As an encore, Sampson sings Fairest Isle, unhurried, with lovely ornament and pure tone.” The Guardian, 26th June 2016 ****

Early Music

Wigmore Hall Live - WHLIVE0083


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Mozart: Requiem & Vesperae solennes de confessore

Mozart: Requiem & Vesperae solennes de confessore


Requiem in D minor, K626

Vesperae solennes de confessore in C, K339

A new performing edition by Masato Suzuki, based on the autograph by Mozart and taking account of earlier completions by Eybler and Sussmayr. He has composed a new “Amen Fugue” to close the “Sequentia”, based on the sketch discovered in Berlin in 1960.

“The performance is notable for its super-clean orchestral edges and refinement.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2015 ****

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A French Baroque Diva

A French Baroque Diva

Arias for Marie Fel

Fiocco, J H:

Laudate pueri (Part 1 of Laudate pueri)

A solis ortu (Part 3 of Laudate pueri)

Alleluia (Part 4 of Laudate pueri)


Ah! quand reviendront nos beaux jours?


Regna terrae (Movement 5 of Exsurgat Deus, S71)

Sinfonie (Movement 1 of Te Deum laudamus, S32)

Tu rex gloriae (Movement 8 of Te Deum laudamus, S32)

Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem (Movement 9 of Te Deum laudamus, S32)

Viderunt omnes termini terrae (Movement 5 of Cantate Domino, S72)


Gasouillats auzeléts (Act 1 Scene 2 from Daphnis et Alcimadure)

Venite, adoremus (Movement 4 of Venite, exsultemus)

Hodie si vocem (Movement 6 of Venite, exsultemus)


Tristes apprêts (from Castor et Pollux)

Amour, lance tes traits (from Les fêtes de l'Hymen et de l'Amour)

La Lyre Enchantée

Rousseau, J-J:

Salve regina

A welcome return of Carolyn Sampson and Ex Cathedra to Hyperion, performing the rich, fulsome music of the French Baroque. Their recording of love songs from Rameau’s operas (Hyperion CDA67447) was hugely acclaimed for Sampson’s stylish, fluid, seductive performances, and ten years later her artistry is even more dazzling.

This album is of particular interest as rather than concentrating on one composer it showcases the works written for the premiere soprano of the day, Marie Fel. Voltaire called her his ‘adorable nightingale’. For d’Aquin, she was an enchanted being. Marie Fel was the soprano who held an entire generation spellbound at the Paris Opéra and at Louis XV’s court during one of the most glorious periods of French music. With a voice described as ‘pure, charming, silvery’ (La Borde), ‘touching and sublime’ (Grimm) and ‘always lovely, always seductive’ (d’Aquin), she inspired some of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s finest music and introduced a whole new level of virtuosity and expression into the French singing tradition. Her long, triumphant career is traced through this fascinating recording.

Carolyn Sampson talks to Presto's Katherine Cooper about the disc here.

“don't be put off by the apparently recherche repertoire: this is a programme that leases as much today as it did in [Fel's]...the longer we listen to Sampson's voice, the more she seems to inhabit the aura of Fel...Sampson's performance is the more admirable for evoking the spirit of another singer. Start to finish, Jeffrey Skidmore devotedly shapes and paces the programme.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2014

“Sampson is quite remarkable. She has the capacity to soften the vocal line with carefully controlled vibrato, but also deploys tone of crystalline clarity...bright, vibrant, responsive and entirely in tune with the expressive language and virtuosic demands of the period.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2014 *****

“I’m sure Jeffrey Skidmore and Ex Cathedra won’t mind me saying this is a very English interpretation...Sampson sings it all beautifully: words, affect, heart and spirit in everything, plus the most natural-sounding control in the coloratura. A really lovely disc of rare and beautiful music, performed with love.” Opera Now

Presto Discs of 2014


GGramophone Awards 2015

Winner - Recital

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2014

Early Music

Hyperion - CDA68035


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Poulenc: Stabat mater

Poulenc: Stabat mater


Stabat mater

Sept Répons des Tenèbres

Poulenc’s 'Stabat Mater', which he described as a ‘requiem without despair’, was written in 1950 following the death of Christian Bérard who designed the sets for Cocteau’s films and plays and was a leading figure of 1940s Paris. This masterly work, dedicated to the Virgin of Rocamadour, gives pride of place to the chorus and clearly shows its line of descent from the French grands motets. On completing it, Poulenc wrote to Pierre Bernac: "It’s good, because it’s completely authentic".

From the time of his pilgrimage to Rocamadour in 1936, Poulenc's religious output was filtered through his Catholic interpretation of the world and his personal trajectory. The 'Stabat Mater' is no exception to this rule, in that it associates the events and circumstances of his own life with the drama of the Gospels. It identifies the three figures of Christ, the Virgin and the Faithful Disciple with biographical figures: Bérard, Poulenc, and the latter’s lover Lucien Roubert, whom he was to refer to as ‘the secret’ of the 'Stabat Mater' and 'Dialogues des Carmélites'.

In December 1959 Leonard Bernstein commissioned a new work from Poulenc for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He chose to write the 'Sept Répons des Ténèbres' (Seven Tenebrae Responses) for treble soloist, a chorus of boys’ and men’s voices and symphony orchestra. The posthumous first performance took place on 11 April 1963 at Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) under the direction of Thomas Schippers. Poulenc had insisted on these all-male vocal forces, but, 50 years after his death, it is important to allow for more widespread performance of this fascinating score which has too long languished in the shadows.

“The word 'powerful' is not one we naturally associate with Poulenc...Still, these are vivid and, yes, powerful performances.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2014 ****

“Carolyn Sampson is a wonderful soloist and the combined choirs, which number just short of fifty singers, perform Poulenc’s varied and demanding music expertly...The splendid performances on this disc make the best possible case for Poulenc’s sacred music.” MusicWeb International, 9th April 2014

“This is a beautiful recording, and a valuable coupling of Poulenc’s two most serious works for chorus and orchestra … Very warmly recommended.” International Record Review, April 2014

“Sampson eloquently expresses the isolation and apprehension of the solo line [in the Sept Répons], and the mixed voices...sensitively and dramatically project the sombre, fearful, abject world in which Poulenc finds himself. Theirs is also a fine performance of the Stabat Mater...The choir and orchestra rise fully to the eruptions of emotion.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2014

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Your Tuneful Voice: Handel Oratorio Arias

Your Tuneful Voice: Handel Oratorio Arias


Belshazzar: Oh sacred oracles of truth

The Triumph of Time and Truth: Mortals think that Time is sleeping

Esther: Tune your harps to cheerful strains

Alexander Balus: Mighty love now calls to arms

Jephtha: Overture

Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne HWV74 'Eternal source of light divine'

Solomon: Welcome as the dawn of day

Carolyn Sampson (soprano)

Your tuneful voice (from Semele)

The Choice of Hercules: Yet can I hear that dulcet lay

Jephtha: Up the dreadful steep ascending

Samson - Overture

Israel in Egypt: Thou shalt bring them in

Esther: Who calls my parting soul

Carolyn Sampson (soprano)

The Triumph of Time and Truth: On the valleys, dark and cheerless

Esther: How can I stay, when love invites?

Acclaimed countertenor Iestyn Davies and The King’s Consort perform an outstanding programme of Handel arias from some of the composer’s finest oratorios.

Eleven varied solo arias include ‘O sacred oracles of truth’, the delicate ‘Tune your harps’, ‘Eternal source of light’ (with supreme trumpet playing from Crispian Steele-Perkins), the melodious ‘Your tuneful voice’ and the virtuoso ‘Mighty love now calls to arm’, as well as rarities including ‘On the valleys, dark and cheerless’ and an especial jewel, ‘Mortals think that Time is sleeping’.

Iestyn is joined in two glorious duets by soprano Carolyn Sampson, including the ecstatic ‘Welcome as the dawn of day’ and the ghostly ‘Who calls my parting soul from death’.

Recorded in the well-nigh perfect acoustic of Menuhin Hall with a large and colourful orchestra, who also contribute two splendid overtures.

36 page booklet with authoritative liner note (in three languages) by renowned Handel scholar Prof. Donald Burrows, together with full texts, and 16 photos from the recordings.

“he cherishes the words while negotiating the technical hurdles with amazing fluency and consistency of timbre...Davies’s definition of the varying moods in these arias is of an absorbing order, matched as it also is by the King’s Consort’s judicious range of colour in the orchestral accompaniments on a disc that highlights a countertenor voice in its prime.” The Telegraph, 6th February 2014 ****

“Iestyn Davies brings a grace and calm entirely appropriate to these Handel arias...Throughout, Davies’ control is remarkable.” The Independent, 8th February 2014 ****

“[the slow arias] allow us to appreciate Davies's extraordinary evenness of tone, his immaculate breath control and the rapt subtlety of his phrasing...the handful of virtuoso arias are delivered with terrific panache and a bravura technique that is second to none. The King's Consort under Robert King are dark-toned and admirably sensual throughout.” The Guardian, 13th February 2014 ****

“a first class anthology of Handel arias. The singing of Iestyn Davies is a delight from start to finish and he receives ideal support from Robert King and his players.” MusicWeb International, 12th February 2014

“Davies's quick coloratura is dazzling in the final aria, 'How can I stay when love invites?'” Gramophone Magazine, March 2014

“Davies's phrasing is to be admired, spanning as it does long lines of breath control.” International Record Review, March 2014

“Davies is in his prime of vocal flexibility, and authoritative in modes both pious (‘O sacred oracles of truth’) and warlike (‘Mighty love now calls to arm’). Two cameos from Carolyn Sampson are, naturally, ravishing.” Early Music Today

Early Music

Vivat - VIVAT105


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