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The Pleasures of the Imagination

The Pleasures of the Imagination

English 18th-Century Music for the Harpsichord


Arne:

Sonata No. 3 in G

Bach, J C:

Harpsichord Sonata, Op. 17 No. 2 in C minor

Blow:

Dr Blow's Chacone in Faut

Clarke, Jeremiah:

Suite No. 2 in A major

Croft:

Suite in D minor

Greene, M:

Suite of Lessons in C

Jones, Richard:

Third Set of Lessons in B flat


Sophie Yates (harpsichord)

On this new album, our exclusive artist Sophie Yates focuses on English harpsichord music, after successful French and Spanish recordings and a highly praised Handel series, among much else.

As she explains: ‘With this anthology, I hope to give an overview of English keyboard music during the course of the eighteenth century. Two significant figures cast their long shadows over this period of music in England: the first of these is Henry Purcell, whose legacy dominated the beginning of the century; the second is George Frideric Handel, who embodies the idea of eighteenth-century English music for so many. However, this recital explores the work of the other English composers who, in their various ways, wove the fabric of the musical scene in London at a time when it was the most vibrant city in Europe.’

From the influence of Purcell in the opening pieces by his pupil John Blow to the distinctive harmonic language of the concluding Sonata by Johann Christian Bach, this recital spans a century of forgotten yet immensely diverse English music for the harpsichord.

“Although several of the composers here have occasionally been the subjects of dedicated recordings, it is nice to have a selection sampling across the range…as usual, Yates plays with precision and a winning sense of enjoyment and bounce. She makes less use of spread chords and rhythmic dislocation than many other harpsichordists do these days…providing crisp gains in clarity and presence” Gramophone Magazine, September 2016

“A splendid recital in every way.” MusicWeb International, October 2016

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Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0814

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JS Bach: The Transcriptions of Concertos by Vivaldi

JS Bach: The Transcriptions of Concertos by Vivaldi


Bach, J S:

Keyboard Concerto in D major (after Vivaldi), BWV972

Keyboard Concerto in G major (after Vivaldi), BWV973

Keyboard Concerto in D minor (after Marcello), BWV974

Keyboard Concerto in G minor (after Vivaldi), BWV975

Keyboard Concerto in C major (after Vivaldi), BWV976

Keyboard Concerto in F major (after Vivaldi), BWV978

Keyboard Concerto in G major (after Vivaldi), BWV980

Keyboard Concerto in C minor (after Marcello), BWV981


Sophie Yates (harpsichord)

This recording brings together all the arrangements for harpsichord by Bach of instrumental concertos by his Italian contemporary Antonio Vivaldi, adding those of one concerto each by the brothers Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello. They are performed by Sophie Yates who has made a series of solo CDs for Chandos, many of which have won international awards. She has been described by Gramophone as ‘hugely talented’ and by BBC Music as playing ‘with exceptional poise’.

The concertos by Vivaldi are taken from three different sets: L’estro armonico, Op. 3, La stravaganza, Op. 4, and the set of twelve Concerti a cinque, Op. 7. These are all works which Vivaldi composed early in his career, when he was still making his reputation. For these concertos, Vivaldi chose a Dutch publisher, which crucially allowed the concertos to become available in Northern Europe. This in turn helped to increase the popularity of the concertos, not to mention the influence of Vivaldi’s style. In the words of The New Grove dictionary, L’estro armonico was ‘the most influential music publication of the first half of the eighteenth century’.

So why did Bach choose to tackle the difficult problem of conveying the quintessential Venetian violin sound on a keyboard instrument? One explanation could be that Bach transcribed these concertos for his own education, later adopting the new ideas in works such as the Concerto in the Italian Style for harpsichord. Or perhaps Bach simply enjoyed these works so much that he wanted to experiment with them. Yet another explanation is provided by the German musicologist Arnold Schering, who wrote: ‘we shall have to seek the purpose of these arrangements in practical music-making and be able to accept that within a short time the new concerto of the Italians became such a favourite that players wanted to be able to play the particularly popular concertos with their own two hands on clavichord or organ. Bach’s arrangements would then be considered to be what they really are: keyboard extractions, “for the soul’s refreshment of music-lovers”.’

“performances that outclass most of the catalogue competition...Her finely honed legato technique shines in slow movements...Yates's informative, well-written notes complement the stylish sensitivity of her harpsichord artistry” Gramophone Magazine, August 2013

“[Yates's playing] is decisive and sensitive. She responds as much to the music’s inherent grandiloquence as to its measured lyric repose in slow movements...[the harpsichord] sounds really marvellous and lacks for nothing in subtlety.” MusicWeb International, 27th August 2013

“Yates gives a lively, fluent account of these showy pieces, always keeping in mind the importance of textural transparency.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2013 *****

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Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0796

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Balbastre: Pièces de clavecin (1759)

Balbastre: Pièces de clavecin (1759)


Balbastre:

La De Caze

La D’Hericourt

La Segur

La Monmartel ou la Brunoy

La Boullogne

La Castelmore

La Courteille

La Bellaud

La Lamarck

La Berville

La Lugeac

La Suzanne

La Genty

La Malesherbes

La Berryer ou la Lamignon

La Laporte

La Morisseau


Sophie Yates (harpsichord)

Claude-Bénigne Balbastre, the French composer, organist, and harpsichordist, was one of the most famous musicians of his time. His suite of pieces from 1759 is here performed by Sophie Yates on a harpsichord specially chosen for the repertoire, a double manual instrument built by Andrew Garlick in 1996. It is a copy of a French harpsichord by Jean-Claude Goujon, made in Paris in 1748, which today forms part of the collection of the Musée de la Musique at the Conservatoire de Paris. Sophie Yates has made a series of solo CDs for Chandos, many of which have won international awards. She has been described by Gramophone as ‘hugely talented’ and by BBC Music as playing ‘with exceptional poise’.

In the eighteenth century, aristocratic or, ideally, royal patronage was the undisputed key to an artist’s success. In the case of Balbastre, the young composer was quickly and efficiently introduced to the Parisian musical circles and high society by no less a figure than Jean-Philippe Rameau, and made a brilliant career. He played at the Concert Spirituel until 1782, became organist of the Notre-Dame cathedral and of the Chapelle Royale, harpsichordist to the French royal court where he taught Queen Marie-Antoinette, and organist to Louis-Stanislav-Xavier, Count of Provence, later Louis XVIII, King of France. His fame grew so great that the archbishop of Paris had to forbid Balbastre to play at Saint Roch during certain services, because the church drew excessive crowds whenever he played.

Because of his royal patronage, Balbastre developed a compositional style that displayed strong elements of nobility and grandeur, but there was also a great deal of exuberance, which meant that his works were commonly regarded as more popular than intellectual. The music on this recording takes the form of descriptive ‘pièces de charactère’. Some of them – ‘La Suzanne’, for example – require a sparkling virtuosity, whilst others, such as ‘La Berville’, calls for the sensitivity to create a supple line. The title Giga at the top of ‘La Lugeac’ is a clue to its Italianate vigour, and its infectious spirit shows off Balbastre’s gift for the common touch. ‘La d’Hericourt’ and ‘La de Caze’ are more noble and traditional. By contract, the pastoral style, so very popular in eighteenth-century France, is clearly heard in the so-called Air Champêtre, ‘La Castlemore’.

This collection of pieces was composed at the time when Balbastre was enjoying his greatest success in Paris, just before the old regime and all that went with it came to a dramatic end. It embodies the last flowering of the French harpsichord repertoire.

“Yates favours steady yet flexible tempi, plus tasteful embellishments that do not pull focus from the music's melodic trajectory...Her rendition of "La Lugeac" is a truer "giga" than most, and she manages to bring out the music's unbuttoned, almost Handelian vigour without sacrificing grace or lilt...Yates's intelligent, polished playing will surely satisfy collectors seeking these works.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2011

“Yates is a flawless interpreter, fully au fait with the distinctive rhythms, embellishments and etiquette of French rococo style. This is poised, tightly controlled playing, animated with a subtle understanding of contemporary dances, from the Italianate gig to the courtly French gavotte...[The harpsichord is] a gorgeous, highly responsive instrument, its sound luxuriously warm (and beautifully reproduced here); its varied colours luminous.” BBC Music Magazine, June 2011 ****

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Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0777

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J.C. Bach - 6 Sonatas, Op. 5

J.C. Bach - 6 Sonatas, Op. 5


Bach, J C:

Harpsichord Sonata, Op. 5 No. 1 in B flat major

Harpsichord Sonata, Op. 5 No. 2 in D major

Harpsichord Sonata, Op. 5 No. 3 in G major

Harpsichord Sonata, Op. 5 No. 4 in E flat major

Harpsichord Sonata, Op. 5 No. 5 in E major

Harpsichord Sonata, Op. 5 No. 6 in C minor


Sophie Yates (harpsichord)

‘Sophie Yates confirms her credentials as one of Britain’s most talented harpsichordists.’ The Daily Telegraph.

Besides many operas and works for the concert hall, Johann Christian composed keyboard music of a predominantly light character. Much of this keyboard music was intended for social purposes but these pieces should not be regarded as second-rate. The virtues of Johann Christian's keyboard works were aptly summed up by Leopold Mozart in a letter to his son: The small thing is great, when it is written in a naturally fluent and light style and when it is efficiently put in a composition. To compose in this way is more difficult than to write all the artificial and incomprehensible harmonic progressions and hardly performable melodies. [...] This distinguishes the master from the bungler in detail.

Johann Christian left two suites of sonatas, Op.5 and Op.17, each containing 6 sonatas, composed for keyboard solo. Both suites bear the title For the Harpsichord or Piano Forte, but this present recording is one of the only available performances on harpsichord.

Suite Op.5 was designed to explore and showcase the capabilities of the then relatively new pianoforte, and was played in public at the Hanover Square Concert rooms to a fascinated London public on a square piano by Zumpe. Karl Geiringer, in his book Die Musikerfamilie Bach, regards the Sonata in C minor Op.5 No.6 as one of the most eminent works by Johann Christian.

This charming collection of classical sonatas is elegantly played by Sophie Yates.

“Bach's Sonatas are enormously appealing and Yates brings out their ingenuous charm with natural grace and a fluent virtuosity which avoids anything in the nature of overstatement or empty gesture.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2009 *****

“…Yates is an engaging advocate: registral choices are intelligent, making the most of the "orchestral" sound that periodically underlies Bach's writing, and her playing has the lightness and wit without which the point of the music would, I suspect, be entirely lost.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2009

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Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0762

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Couperin, A-L: Pièces de clavecin

Couperin, A-L: Pièces de clavecin


Sophie Yates (harpsichord)

“According to accounts Armand-Louis Couperin was a likeable man whose life was led free from strife and uncorrupted by ambition, and it is not fanciful to say that such are the qualities which inform his harpsichord music. Mostly rather rangy character pieces, though with a sprinkling of dances, they show the bold textural richness of the later French harpsichordist-composers, if without the galloping imagination of figures such as Rameau, Balbastre or Royer. Instead, they prefer to inhabit a contented rococo world, into which they bring considerable professional polish.
If that makes the pieces sound predominantly 'pleasant', well, so they are… as agreeable a body of solo harpsichord music as any. But they are not vapid and neither are they easy, and we can be grateful that this selection has fallen to a player as technically assured and as musically sympathetic as Sophie Yates. Whether skipping through the wide-spread arpeggios and scales of La Semillante, firing out the repeated notes of Les Caqueteuses or tumbling down the helterskelters of L'Enjoué, she exudes invigorating virtuosity. Yet she shows delicacy, too, in the little gavottes and minuets, and sensitivity in the melancholy L'Affligée (a piece somewhat reminiscent of Rameau's L'Enharmonique). Her harpsichord, a copy of a 1749 Goujon, sounds superb, being resonant without boominess and clear-voiced without excessive punchiness of attack. One of Sophie Yates's best yet.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0718

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Handel - Harpsichord Works Volume 3

Handel - Harpsichord Works Volume 3


Handel:

Set 1 (1720): Suites Nos. 6, 7 & 8

Set 2 (1733): Suites Nos. 7 & 8 & Preludio from Suite No. 9


Sophie Yates (harpsichord)

“Sophie Yates brings formidable technique and strong dramatic feeling to these suites. The works of the first collection (1720, HWV426-33) are the more demanding, each of them opening with a prelude (or overture) – complex, pensive, often sombre – with a large-scale, fully worked fugue.
Yates plays these in an appropriately rhetorical manner, rhythmically taut yet with enough flexibility and attentiveness to the music's caesuras to shape and characterise it, at the same time giving it some sense of the improvisatory. Then she takes the fugues at a lively pace, just a touch too fast for the music to sound comfortable: this is brilliant, edge-of-your seat playing.
Her playing, with its thoughtful details of timing, clearly conveys the structure of the music. She finds the same grandeur of manner in the Passacaille that ends the G minor Suite. For the rest, it's mainly dance music: some lively courantes and exuberant gigues, sober and deliberate allemandes, spacious and noble sarabandes – the crisp and precise fingerwork in that of the B flat Suite in the Second Set (1733), with its intensely detailed line, is a delight.
These are the most appealing versions of Handel's suites: fresh, alive, with a real command of style and technique but also just a hint of risk about the playing. Handel's harpsichord music has sometimes been called dull, but there isn't a moment here when you'd believe that.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0688

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Handel - Harpsichord Works Volume 2

Handel - Harpsichord Works Volume 2

(1720)


Handel:

Keyboard Suite, HWV 426 in A major

Keyboard Suite, HWV 427 in F major

Keyboard Suite, HWV 428 in D minor

Keyboard Suite, HWV 429 in E minor

Keyboard Suite, HWV 430 in E major 'The Harmonious Blacksmith'


Sophie Yates (harpsichord)

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Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0669

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Rameau - Pièces de clavecin

Rameau - Pièces de clavecin


Rameau:

Premier Livre de pièces de clavecin (1706): suite in A minor

Pièces de clavecin (1724, rev. 1731): suites in E minor & D minor


Sophie Yates (harpsichord)

“The release of a CD devoted to Rameau's harpsichord music is relatively rare. But it's less Rameau, and much more French keyboard music in general, that suffers neglect from an over-cultivated image. However, if Rameau's music is highly allusive, it's also possessed of an immediacy that makes it approachable today. Sophie Yates's firmly grounded yet sensitive and spirited playing will quickly dispel any lingering reservations, and she writes with authority and charm in the accompanying booklet (and plays here a copy of a 1749 Goujon harpsichord made by Andrew Garlick).
Yates's astute selection from Rameau's output is bound to please. The first suite, in A minor, is from the book of Pièces de clavecin published shortly after Rameau arrived in Paris in 1706, and displays a youthful brilliance that relies heavily on ornamentation (as, for example, in the Allemande 1 and the Courante) and, delightfully, occasionally reveals a certain provincialism – although Rameau never travelled to Italy, he clearly made certain assumptions about life there: his 'La Vénitienne' makes particular allusion to the beggars' bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy.
The second and third suites, from his later book of 1724 (rev 1731), are altogether more stylish and sophisticated. The E minor Suite begins sedately and with the gravitas befitting an Allemande, but is otherwise shot through with fashionable, pastoral rondeaux, and includes two of Rameau's best-known party pieces, 'Le rappel des oiseaux' and 'Tambourin'. The D minor Suite amuses with pièces de caractère (the flirtatious 'La follette', the devious 'Le lardon' and the pathetic 'La boiteuse') and amazes with the virtuosity of 'Les tourbillons' and 'Les Cyclopes'.
But only a player of Yates's calibre can address the musical subtleties of 'Les soupirs', the deceptive 'Les niais de Sologne' and the sensuous 'L'entretien des muses'. A tour de force in every sense.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0659

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Handel - Harpsichord Works Volume 1

Handel - Harpsichord Works Volume 1


Handel:

Keyboard Suite, HWV 434 in B flat major

Keyboard Suite, HWV 435 (Chaconne) in G major

Keyboard Suite, HWV 436 in D minor

Keyboard Suite, HWV 437 in D minor

Keyboard Suite, HWV 438 in E minor

Keyboard Suite, HWV 439 in G minor


Sophie Yates (harpsichord)

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Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0644

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The Caged Byrd

The Caged Byrd

Music for voices, viols & harpsichord, from a time of persecution


Byrd:

Vigilate (from Cantiones sacrae 1589)

Crowned with flow'rs and lilies

The Tennthe Pavian, Sir William Petre

O quam gloriosum est regnum

Rejoice unto the Lord

Deus venerunt gentes

Rowland

Why do I use my paper, inke and penne?

Quomodo cantabimus

Walsingham

The noble famous Queen

Domine, tu iurasti

The Queen's Alman

Laudibus in sanctis

Monte, P:

Super flumina Babylonis


Sophie Yates (harpsichord)

I Fagiolini, Concordia

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Chandos Chaconne - CHAN0609

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