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Howard Skempton (b.1947)

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Skempton: Lento

Skempton: Lento

Lento, by the British miniaturist Howard Skempton, must surely be heading for cult status… it is captivating in its simple wistfulness. - BBC Music Magazine Pick of 1992

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Skempton: Surface Tension

Skempton: Surface Tension

Howard Skempton (accordion) & Sarah Leonard (soprano)

Ensemble HCD-Productions (Frankfurt)

Originally issued in 1998, Skempton’s acclaimed Surface Tension is available again after being out of stock for several years. With its distinctly English vocabulary, witty turns, and spare yet memorable melodies, it offers a survey of Skempton's music in solo through quintet settings from the 1970s through the 90s. Here's what critics said of the original release:

“A typical Skempton miniature is at once a whimisical poem, an ultra-condensed technical study, and a tiny eclat. ... Deceptively bold and completely without self-pity, Skempton is the Webern among our minimalists.” Sunday Times, July 19th 1998

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Mode - mode061


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A Doll's House

A Doll's House

New Works for Percussion Ensemble

Bedford, D:

Bash Peace



Fitkin, G:


Hayes, N:

Dance Play

Leach, R:



Sound Asleep





Tippett, K:

Dance of the Dragonfly

Ensemble Bash

Formed in 1992, the British percussion quartet ensemblebash has forged a reputation as one of the world’s most innovative and groundbreaking chamber ensembles. Using the music of West Africa as both core repertoire and a guiding spiritual influence, ensemblebash mixes contemporary classical, jazz and music theatre into unforgettable performances.

This new recording marks 20 years since the formation of the group, with the programme made up of some of their best commissions from the 2002 to 2012.

“This selection of new works for percussion ensemble offers a myriad different directions, several more refined and delicate than you'd expect from music made by bashing. Howard Skempton's "Slip-stream", for instance, is the most restrained of percussive duets, with vibes and glockenspiel twinkling delicately over shimmering cymbal” The Independent, 8th September 2012 ****

“Their crisp precision and commitment to each work is abetted by vividly close-up and detailed engineering plus rapid DJ-like segues between selection that create a seamless, sustained programme.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2013

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Signum - SIGCD294


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Advent at Merton

Advent at Merton


Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming

arr. David Blackwell


Rorate coeli desuper (from Gradualia 1605)

Ecce virgo concipiet


O Radix Jesse


O Emmanuel


Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen

Jackson, Gabriel:

O Clavis David


O Oriens


Advent Antiphon

Martin, M:

Ecce concipies

O Rex Gentium

Praetorius, M:

Hymnus in adventu domini (Alvus tumescit virginis)

Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen

arr. Jan Sandström


O Sapientia


O Adonai


Ave Maria


Drop down, ye heavens, from above

The beginning of Advent is celebrated with a particular solemnity at Merton. For its second recording the college choir explores the musical riches that adorn this most special time in the church’s year, centring on a newly commissioned sequence of Magnificat antiphons from seven leading composers. Founded in 2008, the new Choir of Merton College, Oxford is led by newly appointed Organist and full-time Director of Music Benjamin Nicholas, and Reed Rubin Director of Music Peter Philips. The choir is rapidly emerging as a major force in collegiate choral music. The disc is recorded in the beautiful environs of Merton College Chapel, which has stood at the heart of the College as a place of worship for almost 750 years.

“The fresh, well-blended voices show vitality and drill, but the basses, in particular, bloom beautifully in James MacMillan's Advent Antiphon and John Tavener's O Adonai.” The Observer, 21st October 2012

“One of a handful of recordings that will stand head and shoulders above the flood of discs of music for the 2012 Christmas season” MusicWeb International, 31st October 2012

“At the heart of this Advent service is a set of seven antiphons specially commissioned from seven composers for Merton College chapel. They work splendidly as a sequence...Peter Phillips and Benjamin Nicholas elicit high levels of technical and expressive achievement from their student charges.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2012 ****

“The most notable chapel choir offering [this Christmas]...All the music is radiant, all of it is unexpected, including a set of seven Advent antiphons commissioned by the chaplain...and comes from a choir that's gone from being a minor player in Oxbridge choral music to becoming one of the most exciting groups in its area” Gramophone Magazine, December 2012

“The singing is fresh and opulent, and delivered with a clarity and precision that sits pleasingly with the resonant ambience of the recordings.” The Scotsman, October 2012

“an absorbing programme including seven Advent Antiphons commissioned for the choir by the Revd Dr Simon Jones … The quality of the singing throughout is very high – this is an immensely accomplished and responsive mixed-voice choir … This disc is an impressive achievement in every way … Delphian’s recorded sound is beautiful.” International Record Review, December 2012

“The radiant young voices, sumptuous acoustics and quality items s should make for gripping listening all year round.” The Times, 14th December 2012

“This richly varied collection of mainly contemporary music for Advent, most of it directed by Nicholas, is exquisitely sung...a fine seasonal disc.” Sunday Times, 23rd December 2012

“a satisfyingly solemn, serious affair. Here, the Advent progression from hushed anticipation to bright, hopeful light is given extra weight by the varied choice of material sung...the mixture of settings ancient and modern succeeds beautifully...Lovely, in other words.” The Arts Desk, 22nd December 2012

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Delphian - DCD34122


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A White Room

A White Room

Commissions for young and amateur musicians from The Schubert Ensemble's Chamber Music 2000 project

Barry, G:

snow is white


Haunted House

Boyle, R:

Campani in Aria


music for the night sky

Firsova, E:

Frozen Time

Hasse, Jean:

Next Dance


a white room


Coyote Star Song

Leech, O:

when the moon rises ...

Matthews, C:



Matthews, D:

Y Deryn Du

Novák, P:

Year of a Bird

Panufnik, R:

Let Me B


Follow, Follow


Combat in the Year Thousand


La gora di mulino


Less Fighting


Arise! Arise! You slumbering sleepers


toccata/ calmo/ nocturnal

“Definitive performances from the Schubert Ensemble, beautifully recorded.” The Strad

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A Year at York

A Year at York


The Lamentation (as sung in York Minster)

Premiere recording


Salvator Mundi


Give us the wings of faith

Carter, A:

The Magi

Premiere recording


A Prayer of Alcuin of York

Premiere recording


Audi coelum

Premiere recording


Factum est silentium


O sacrum convivium

Premiere recording

Jackson, F:

Alleluia, laudate pueri Dominum

Jackson, Gabriel:

Justorum animae

Premiere recording


There Is No Rose

Moore, P:

Caedmon of Whitby’s First Hymn

Premiere recording

Naylor, E W:

Vox dicentis: Clama

Philips, P:

Ascendit Deus


Nunc Dimittis in A (In memoriam Lionel Dakers)

Premiere recording


Ave Virgo sanctissima


I saw the Lord


Evening Service in G, Op. 81: Magnificat


If ye love me


O Wilhelme, pastor bone

David Pipe (organ)

The Choir of York Minster, Robert Sharpe (director)

The first in a new series from Regent charting a musical journey through the church’s year at well-loved cathedrals.

This journey in music through a year at York Minster features a number of works written for the Choir of York Minster.

Several First recordings.

Featuring either the boy or the girl choristers, together with the Songmen.

Includes Charles Stanford’s Magnficat in G sung by Isabel Suckling (The Choirgirl).

“the men have a rich tone, almost operatic at times. This can occasionally overshadow York's chorister, whose sound has an attractive fragility....An auspicious start to what should prove a major collection of choral recording.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2012

“York offers a particularly rich crop of new and relatively recent music...Naylor's Vox dicentis...[is] given with confidence, firm tuning, clear diction and phrasing and even a little drama, the excellent of the performances masking just how difficult it can be to make this sort of music work well.” International Record Review, March 2012

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Regent A Year at… - REGCD368


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A York Yuletide

A York Yuletide

Gruber, F:

Silent Night

arr. David Hill


Here is the Little Door

A Spotless Rose

Sing Lullaby

Long, Long Ago

Ives, G:

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming

Jackson, S:

The Virgin’s Song

Martin, M:

Nowell sing we


Jingle Bells

arr. Richard Shephard




Nativity carol

What sweeter music


Adam lay y-bounden


Ding dong! merrily on high

arr. Mack Wilberg

Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day

arr. David Willcocks

In Dulci Jubilo

arr. Bob Chilcott

Vaughan Williams:

Fantasia on Christmas Carols


All this time


Lullaby my Jesus

trans. Andrew Carter

David Pipe (organ)

The Choir of York Minster, Robert Sharpe

Christmas is arguably no better experienced than in one of England’s great cathedrals, not least at York Minster. Music plays a key role here: the uplifting sound of the choir in joyous repertoire, the grandiose sound of the organ, and the wonderful acoustic all come together to celebrate this season.

In this programme, the choir of York Minster offers up a feast of mostly 20th century and contemporary English music, including the four major carols by Herbert Howells, Ralph VaughanWilliams’ extended Fantasia on Christmas carols, and Richard Shephard’s hilarious new arrangement of Jingle Bells. Of special interest are recent new carols from Matthew Martin, Stephen Jackson, Francis Pott, and Grayston Ives – the first two works commissioned by York Minster and receiving their first recording here.

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Regent - REGCD467


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Bach, J S:

Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV1007

Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV1008

Cello Suite No. 3 in C major, BWV1009

Cello Suite No. 4 in E flat major, BWV1010

Cello Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV1011

Barry, G:

Triorchic Blues

Henze, H:

Serenade for Cello Solo

Holt, Simon:

Feet of Clay


Six Figures for Solo Cello

Zimmermann, B A:

Sonata for solo cello

Ulrich Heinen (cello)

Cellist Ulrich Heinen has over the years commissioned solo cello pieces from composers Simon Holt, Howard Skempton, and Gerald Barry. He has performed all of them many times, mostly in conjunction with Bach’s cello suites (as demonstrated here) or in connection with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. Also included on this recording are two 20th century “classics” – Hans Werner Henze’s Serenade and Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Sonata.

In order that these modern but very accessible pieces receive exposure to a wider audience, they are presented here with five of the six Bach suites – all played on the same cello (at modern pitch). The sixth and final suite is omitted as that asks for a 5-string cello with a top E-string, and have been performed in this manner by Heinen on many occasions.

Ulrich Heinen came to the UK in 1984 at the request of Sir Simon Rattle to become principal cellist of the CBSO. His formidable technique and musicianship have enabled him to further develop his solo career with numerous recitals, concerts and radio broadcasts. He co-founded the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, which is one of Britain’s most important ensembles for contemporary music.

Ulrich Heinen plays a cello by Giovanni Grancino (Milan 1722)

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Metier - MSV28511

(CD - 2 discs)

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Bryars, Skempton, Pärt

Bryars, Skempton, Pärt


The Porazzi Fragment

Ennelina's Aria from G

Epilogue from G


Wenn Bach Beinem Gesuchtet Hatte



Anna Fraser (soprano) & Alex Knight (baritone)

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Gavin Bryars

Gavin Bryars conducts the Adelaide Symphony orchestra in works by himself, including two arias from his opera ‘G’, and by Arvo Pärt and Howard Skempton. It’s the first issued recording of Gavin Bryars as orchestral conductor.

Gavin Bryars was guest composer at the 2015 Adelaide International Festival where he gave many performances including a concert which he conducted at Adelaide Town Hall. This recording presents its first half, featuring orchestral works, some almost like large-scale chamber pieces, with links to Wagner and Bach. “I also included works by two friends, Howard Skempton and Arvo Pärt who, perhaps like me, have emerged in a new and different way from a relatively obscure past.”

Howard Skempton’s Lento (1990) was commissioned by the BBC Symphony Orchestra to precede a performance of Wagner’s prelude to Parsifal and uses the same instrumentation while If Bach had been a Beekeeper (1976) by Arvo Pärt uses the well-known musical spelling of Bach’s name B A C H (the notes B flat-A-C-B natural) but here, rather than as an overt theme, this appears in the constant ‘buzzing’ of tremolo strings. Bryars’ The Porazzi Fragment (1999) for 21 solo strings originates in an enigmatic, and unpublished, 13 bar musical theme by Wagner that he reportedly played on the piano the night before he died in February 1883 in Venice.

The full title of G, Bryars’ third opera is “G, being the confession and last testament of Johannes Gensfleisch, also known as Gutenberg, Master Printer, formerly of Strasbourg and Mainz”. The first act of the opera is set in Strasbourg, where Gutenberg developed his technology, and the second in Mainz, where he ultimately produced his printing. The extracts here are Ennelina’s Aria in which G’s former fiancée prophesises his eventual ruin, and the Epilogue wherein a benign G, now singing from beyond the grave some 600 years after the event, muses on his achievement and asks, now that the print era he inaugurated is over, to be left in peace.

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GB Records - BCGBCD25


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First Drop

First Drop

Andriessen, L:

Un beau baiser

Gordon, M:

He saw a skull

Jackson, Gabriel:

The Armed Man

Lang, D:

when we were children

Ortiz, P:

Five Motets


Know What Is Above You

Clapping Music


Mexico City Blues


Rise up, my Love

More sweet


Walking Song

Conducted by Paul Hillier since 2003, Denmark’s Ars Nova Copenhagen has built an immovable reputation as one of the world’s most versatile and inventive vocal ensembles. First Drop is testament to that spirit; it’s a wide-ranging and ambitious project that interprets the choral work of some of the giants of contemporary classical music, including Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Louis Andriessen, Michael Gordon, David Lang and more.

“Almost all the works on this CD are first recordings,” Hillier explains, referring to one source of inspiration behind the title. “Ideally we wanted the idea of First Drop to remain ambiguous, but the diligent listener will sooner or later notice that it originates with Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

Recorded over a stretch of nearly ten years, in different locations and with different configurations of singers, the performances documented here still come across as parts of a seamless whole. From the haunting strains of Michael Gordon’s He Saw A Skull (composed specifically for the 12 voices of Ars Nova) to Hillier’s vocal arrangement of Steve Reich’s classic Clapping Music, First Drop channels a vernal energy that’s unparalleled in new vocal music

“their works sound remarkably fresh, thanks in no9 small part to Ars Nova’s refined naturalness of delivery…the soundworld is generally post-minimal – and the singing immaculate…the highlight in harmonic terms is Michael Gordon’s Talmud-inspired He saw a skull…a striking piece from a composer who merits wider attention” BBC Music Magazine, August 2017 ****

“Ars Nova Copenhagen is Denmark’s crack vocal group of 12 singers for whom this varied programme of contemporary choral music holds no fears. They rise to every challenge sent their way- and the results are breath-taking in their virtuosity and musicality.” Choir & Organ, September 2017 *****

“Hillier's collection is a true labour of love. It was recorded over the course of ten years and his advocacy and the commitment of this world-class ensemble do the project proud.” Classical Music, August 2017 *****

“As well as being a pleasure in itself, this disc makes an ideal sampler of new music being written for choirs…almost every piece is getting its first recording and there are some striking items among them, not least Howard Skempton’s sensual Rise up my love…performances by the 12-strong Ars Nova Copenhagen are first-rate.” Financial Times, 26th May 2017 ****

“A retrospect of Hillier’s years with his vocal group, this disc presents 11 contemporary works. Most impressive is Jackson’s L’Homme armé, an antiwar meditation deriving from a 15th-century song, and a harmonic triumph.” Sunday Times, 11th June 2017

“The 12 singers of Ars Nova are immaculate throughout.” The Observer, 2nd July 2017 ****

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Cantaloupe - CA21127


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