Written during the time of Elizabeth I and re-imagined for the Diamond Jubilee year of Elizabeth II, these are the most precious words ever written about love.
Performed on instruments from the early 17th century, played by the cream of the world’s period instrument specialists, conceived with immense passion, commitment and integrity, Shakespeare: The Sonnets was recorded in London over the last 6 months.
Fresh from his success of recording an outsize Renaissance mass for a massive 40 parts that had not been heard for 400 years (and winning a Gramophone Album of the Year Award in the process), Robert Hollingworth, director of vocal ensemble I Fagiolini (also a judge on the UK’s Choir of the Year and involved in a number of films) was looking for a new challenge.
To a specialist of the Renaissance period, Shakespeare’s sonnets are an intriguing challenge: the most romantic and personal poems ever written but rarely set to music.
All the lyrics are Shakespeare’s own and no additions made, although occasionally lines have been moved around to fit the contemporary song structures. Within this, the meaning is never altered and the emotional content of the sonnets is always sustained.
What is amazing is how modern some of Shakespeare’s language is: ‘Blind Fool Love’, or the ‘blues’ sonnet ‘No Longer Mourn’ – or the final track, ‘Love is a Babe’.
Singers from all over the UK perform on the album, but finding players of these rare and ancient instruments ought to have been incredibly difficult. In actual fact, the UK is the world leader in modern performers on these recreated ‘period’ instruments, and experts in playing in period style.
The important feature of this project is its blend of early instruments and playing styles with modern recording techniques and the very modern groove.
Percussion is played by famed drummer Geoff Dugmore who can usually be found playing with Robbie Williams, Rod Stewart and Tina Turner, as well as helping out modern day X Factor winners like Matt Cardle.
Shakespeare’s poetry. Shakespeare’s instruments. Modern songs.
SHAKESPEARE: THE SONNETS
Out on April 23rd (Shakespeare’s birthday)