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Judith Weir (b.1954)

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Weir: A Night at the Chinese Opera

Weir: A Night at the Chinese Opera


‘What are those weird, slashing, wondrous orchestral chords? How did she do that?’ New York Times

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Weir: Blond Eckbert

Weir: Blond Eckbert


‘Judith Weir’s hour-long chamber opera is a miniature masterpiece. Weir evokes a folk-like setting against the background of the Harz mountains with simple, undulating patterns, endearing in their repetitive naivety. But underneath one senses something unsettling … It’s brilliantly done, and most economically’ LONDON EVENING STANDARD

“Judith Weir's treatment of Ludwig Tieck's story Blond Eckbert creates a compelling world… with its own ingenious methods of narration, and a strong sense of movement towards an inescapable and tragic dénouement. Nicholas Folwell and Anne-Marie Owens are sympathetic as the couple at the centre of the story... Sian Edwards draws tidy playing from the ENO Orchestra. ...another chance to discover this remarkable and haunting piece.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2006 ****

“Ludwig Tieck's novella Der Blonde Eckbert (1796) is a dark tale of incest and despair made even darker by the ironic framework of a bird's song extolling the peaceful solitude that can be found in nature. Judith Weir, writing her own libretto, has seized on this essential contrast. While her bird sings eloquently, joyfully, her human characters articulate their growing awareness of the horrors that surround them in lines that are questing, often aggressive, though never shorn of the kind of lyricism that best represents vulnerability.
Unfolding over just 65 minutes to an ending suffused with a spirit of tragic radiance, the opera is a gripping, harrowing experience, and admiration of ENO for commissioning it is tempered only by regret at their failure to revive on a regular basis a work of such intense theatricality and musical approachability.
This recording (originally issued by Collins Classics) is not of one of the Coliseum performances but was made for a TV film shown on Channel 4. The balance strongly favours the voices and although most of the pungent, imaginative orchestral details still come across – with the use of brass and woodwind especially telling – the sound highlights a certain lack of nuance in Nicholas Folwell's account of the principal role and conveys little sense of stage movement or action. Nevertheless, Folwell and the rest of the small cast are persuasive, and the music is so immediate in its evocation of pastoral enchantment and menace that any studio-bound quality is far less of a hindrance than would often be the case.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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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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2000 Nails

2000 Nails

Contemporary Organ Works


Anderson, A:

Repetitive Strain

Bonaventure:

Animus 6

Cresswell:

The Urim and the Thummim

McGuire, E:

Prelude 4

McQueen:

2000 Nails

Nelson, P:

On the Beach

Weir:

Ettrick Banks

Wild Mossy Mountains


"I find myself listening in awestruck fascination" BBC Radio 3, CD Review

“Bonaventure commissioned all of these works and he is a thoroughly convincing advocate. His registrations combine colour with clarity, captured in atmospheric sound, from the joyful splashing of Judith Weir's Ettrick Banks to the intense low throbbing cluster that dominates the end of his own Animus VI.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2005 ****

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Advent at Merton

Advent at Merton


 

Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming

arr. David Blackwell

Byrd:

Rorate coeli desuper (from Gradualia 1605)

Ecce virgo concipiet

Dubra:

O Radix Jesse

Ešenvalds:

O Emmanuel

Heiller:

Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen

Jackson, Gabriel:

O Clavis David

MacDowell:

O Oriens

MacMillan:

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

Skempton:

O Sapientia

Tavener:

O Adonai

Victoria:

Ave Maria

Weir:

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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All The Ends Of The Earth

All The Ends Of The Earth

Contemporary & Medieval Vocal Music


anon.:

Kyrie eleison c. 1000

Vir perfecte 13th century

Gemma nitens 4th century

Stella maris 14th century

Mater ora filium 14th century

Campanis cum cymbalis 14th century

Dunstaple:

Quam pulchra es

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Finnissy:

Stabant autem iuxta crucem

Harvey, J:

O Jesu, Nomen Dulce

Holloway, R:

Sanctus

Agnus Dei (Missa Canonica)

Jackson, Gabriel:

Thomas, Jewel of Canterbury

Northcott:

Salve Regina

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Weeks:

Sint lumbi

Weir:

All the Ends of the Earth


“The vibrant relationship between contemporary sacred British choral music and the music of the medieval era' is what this disc sets out to celebrate, and Judith Weir's All the Ends of the Earth, the opening selection, vividly illustrates that particular symbiosis. ...an interesting programme, performed with a brightness of timbre and attack sometimes missing among fully professional exponents.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2006 ****

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Signum - SIGCD070

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Ascendit Deus: Music for Ascensiontide & Pentecost

Ascendit Deus: Music for Ascensiontide & Pentecost


Dean, B:

Was it a voice? (Music for Ascension Day)

world première recording

Elgar:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me (from The Apostles)

Finzi:

God is gone up, Op. 27 No. 2

Gowers:

Viri Galilaei

world première recording

Grieg:

Pinsesalme, Op. 23, No. 25

Harvey, J:

Come, Holy Ghost

Martin, F:

Mass for Double Choir: Credo

Muhly:

Let all the world in every corner sing

world première recording

Philips, P:

Ascendit Deus

Ross, Graham:

Ascendo ad Patrem meum

world première recording

Stanford:

Coelos Ascendit Hodie, Op. 38 No. 2

Swayne:

God is gone up (A Song for the Ascension)

world première recording

Vaughan Williams:

O Clap Your Hands (Psalm 47)

Weir:

Ascending Into Heaven


Peter Harrison, Matthew Jorysz (organ)

Choir of Clare College, Cambridge & The Dmitri Ensemble, Graham Ross

The Feast of the Ascension, celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, is one of the chief feasts of the Christian year, in which the resurrected Jesus was taken up to Heaven in the presence of 11 of his disciples. The Feast of Pentecost, which falls 10 days after Ascension – seven Sundays (50 days, hence the name) after Easter Sunday – commemorates in the Christian church the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Both feasts are rich in imagery and in musical material. Many of the Ascensiontide works in this programme set all or parts of psalm 47, whose fifth verse begins ‘God is gone up with a merry noise’. 'Ascendit Deus' is a 5-part setting of that verse in Latin by the English Renaissance composer Peter Philips, which leads to a triple-time ‘Alleluia’. Ralph Vaughan Williams’s 'O clap your hands', dating from 1920, sets the opening verses of the psalm, performed here in the composer’s expanded version for choir, organ, brass and percussion. Patrick Gowers, an alumnus of Clare College, is known mainly for his film and television scores, but his double- choir setting of 'Viri Galilaei' is much performed and was written for the ordination of the Bishop of Oxford at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1987. Graham Ross’s expanded arrangement for choir, organ, brass and percussion receives its world première recording here, alongside four new works, commissioned by Graham Ross and the Choir of Clare College in 2014, also receiving their world première recordings.

“the famous setting of Ascendit Deus by Peter Philips spurts forward like a colt sprung freshly from a stable, the vocal decorations spinning vertiginously round like Monteverdi. It's a bracing opening salvo...Amid the muscular Christianity there are welcome oases of reflection. Conductor Graham Ross's Ascendo ad Patrem meum is one of them.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2015 ****

“Peter Philips's Ascendit Deus is splendidly bright and vigorous...Nico Muhly's Let all the world, quite unlike the RVW setting, is gentle, almost contemplative; Giles Swayne's God is gone up offers another surprise with its quiet ending. These and the well-known Elgar and Finzi pieces are all beautifully performed by this accomplished choir. Let's hope an Easter disc is on its way.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2015

“This is another very fine and varied album from Clare College. The singing is consistently superb in every respect throughout a demanding programme.” MusicWeb International, 3rd April 2015

“This is a very fine choral disc that will bring enjoyment not just at Ascensiontide and Pentecost but throughout the year. The recordings from three different venues all add a spaciousness and breadth with producer and engineer, John Rutter, knowing just what to achieve with a choral sound. There is a beautifully produced booklet that includes colour photographs of various pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows.” The Classical Reviewer, April 2015

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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

Beamish:

Haunted House

Boyle, R:

Campani in Aria

Cashian:

music for the night sky

Firsova, E:

Frozen Time

Hasse, Jean:

Next Dance

Hellawell:

a white room

Knotts:

Coyote Star Song

Leech, O:

when the moon rises ...

Matthews, C:

Waltz

March

Matthews, D:

Y Deryn Du

Novák, P:

Year of a Bird

Panufnik, R:

Let Me B

Runswick:

Follow, Follow

Rushton:

Combat in the Year Thousand

Skempton:

La gora di mulino

Warbeck:

Less Fighting

Weir:

Arise! Arise! You slumbering sleepers

Woolrich:

toccata/ calmo/ nocturnal


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

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Contemporary String Quartets from Scotland

Contemporary String Quartets from Scotland


Clapperton:

Great Divorce for string quartet

Dempster, K:

String Quartet No. 4 “The Cold Dancer”

Sweeney, W:

String Quartet No. 3

Weir:

String Quartet


Edinburgh Quartet

“James Clapperton has lived outside Scotland for much of his adult life. The Great Divorce derives from the title of a CS Lewis book…It’s highly contemplative and still…Judith Weir’s 1990 Quartet…has her accustomed grace and generosity…it sounds very rewarding to play and equally rewarding to hear…William Sweeney’s long Third Quartet…For all its length there’s no fat here – everything counts and counts well…these are fine works by four excellent composers. The Edinburgh Quartet plays with tactile and bright commitment; no warming cocoon and fully attuned to the acerbities of the writing. So not always pretty – but invariably on the money emotively.” MusicWeb International

“a bright sound with a ring of steel around it that is ideal for modern music” The Telegraph

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Drop down, ye heavens: Advent antiphons for choir & saxophone

Drop down, ye heavens: Advent antiphons for choir & saxophone


Allain:

O Day-spring

Allwood:

O Virgin of virgins

Certon:

O Adonai

Despres:

O virgo virginum

Kaner:

O Adonai

Miksch:

There is no rose

Mornable:

O clavis David

Pott:

O Key of David

Praetorius, M:

Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen

Rathbone, S:

O Root of Jesse

Todd:

O Wisdom

Turnbull, S M:

O Emmanuel

Weir:

Drop down, ye heavens, from above

Wilson, G:

O King of the Nations


Sam Corkin (saxophones)

Siglo de Oro, Patrick Allies

Siglo de Oro’s first commercial recording sees the choir and its director Patrick Allies in collaboration with saxophonist Sam Corkin. Their intriguing programme highlights the saxophone's natural kinship with the human voice, as well as the endless expressive possibilities which this versatile instrument stimulates in the imaginations of modern composers. Its athletic vigour launches Will Todd’s O Wisdom, the first of eight settings of the Advent antiphons in English which, having been commissioned by the present artists, now form the backbone of this recording. Elsewhere the instrument soars above the voices’ urgent prophecy and imploration, while the choir is heard unaccompanied in glowing renditions of sixteenth-century polyphony – works by Pierre Certon, Antoine de Mornable, Michael Praetorius and Josquin des Prez, whose music complements the atmosphere of quiet expectancy proper to Advent. -

“a debut with a difference... A novel, ungimmicky project, vividly executed” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2016

“Invigorating… Professional London startups can sound frustratingly generic but this one hits you with its character and depth” Gramophone Magazine, December 2016

“This marvellous disc offers a stimulating new slant on the music of Advent. Don’t pass it by as “just another Christmas disc”. This is highly original and superbly performed. Siglo de Oro have made a most auspicious debut on disc” MusicWeb International, December 2016

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