Florilegium started recording with Channel Classics back in 1992 with a programme of chamber music by Telemann. This new recording, our 37th collaboration with Jared Sacks, will take place in March in St Johns Church, Upper Norwood, London. We recorded our recent release of early Haydn Symphonies “Morning, Noon and Night” in this lovely church in 2022.
This recording showcases the wonderful English soprano Rowan Pierce in a virtuosic programme of music by Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. Ashley and Rowan have known each other for many years since Rowan was a student at the Royal College of Music. During her time there she regularly performed with the Historical Performance Faculty in concerts directed by Ashley both at RCM, at UK festivals as well as on international tours to Italy, Austria and Bolivia. Since graduating Rowan’s career has flourished and they continue to perform together, most recently at London’s Wigmore Hall.
What makes our project special
Florilegium have enjoyed performing works by Bach, especially some of his cantatas, for over thirty years but have only recorded a small number of these for solo voice on two previous CDs. The first of these was with the Dutch soprano Johanette Zomer which was awarded the prestigious and coveted Edison Prize in Holland. Our second Bach recording with Lucy Crowe included one of his most operatic cantatas Non sa che sia dolore. Our extensive discography also includes a disc of vocal and chamber music by Handel but nothing larger scale until now.
In this new collaboration with the remarkable voice of Rowan Pierce we will be presenting two larger scale works by Handel and Bach, two titans of the Baroque, together with a virtuosic aria from Vivaldi’s Opera Griselda, showcasing the effortless virtuosity of both Rowan and the ensemble. Having performed numerous times together at major concert halls over the last few years and ahead of a planned tour together in 2025, we will be recording this new cd to showcase our exciting musical partnership. Rather than a single composer CD, this new project will be a recital disc for Rowan and twelve members of Florilegium. As well as these three vocal works, Florilegium will also record a Concerto Grosso by Handel from his Opus 3 collection and one of Vivaldi’s technically explosive chamber concertos for multiple instruments.
We hope this programme will be both exciting and inspiring to record and have plans to release this in autumn 2024.
What we will record
The most substantial piece on this new recording will be Bach’s Cantata BWV 204 Ich bin in mir vergnügt (I am content within myself), scored for solo soprano, flute, oboes, bassoon and strings. This cantata was composed for an unknown occasion and dates from 1727-1728. The text is one of the most subjective and introspective of any that Bach set. If any cantata can be described as unjustly neglected, it is this one. Perhaps it is the personal nature of the text, or that it is composed for just one solo singer. However, this sensitive and inspiring work looks inward within the human psyche, exploring notions of personal demeanour, attitudes and the search for spiritual solace and inner peace.
Handel’s Tra le fiamme (HWV170) is a dramatic secular cantata for soprano and instruments written in 1707. The title of the cantata translates as “In flames” and explains that whilst the phoenix might rise from the flames, the butterflies will die if they get too close. The work is scored for recorders, oboes, bassoon, strings and contains a virtuoso part for the viola da gamba, which will be recorded by our solo gambist and core player Reiko Ichise.
The final vocal work is Vivaldi’s aria Agitata da due venti from his opera Griselda composed in Venice in 1735. This is one of Vivaldi’s most virtuosic and dramatic arias. The text compares love and duty as if caught like a sailor between two opposing winds, and the setting is correspondingly wild and fierce leaving you feeling quite windswept!
Florilegium will also be recording some instrumental music including Handel’s Concerto Grosso Op.3 No.3 for flute and strings and a chamber concerto by Vivaldi.
When and where
This recording is going to take place in London in the church of St Johns in West Norwood from 12 – 14 March 2024. I have many fond memories of recording three previous CDs in this church. The first was our CD with the soprano Elin Manahan Thomas of music by Vivaldi including his Laudate Pueri. The second CD was with the counter tenor Robin Blaze and Elin in a programme of music by Pergolesi featuring his Stabat Mater. Our most recent recording there was Haydn’s early Symphonies Morning, Noon and Night with our orchestra of 18 players in March 2022.
Why we need your help
A recording project like this needs a big investment from Florilegium. We are responsible for covering the costs of research, rehearsals, preparation of modern editions of the repertoire, and all player fees for the recording as well as hiring the church for the recording and providing historical keyboards that need to be tuned each day. As always, our partners in this enterprise will be Jared Sacks and Outhere, who will cover the substantial recording, production and post-production costs for the CD and booklet, delivering, as always, an exceptional product both aurally and visually.
We are looking for people to join our circle of supporters to help us make this project a reality and take the next vital step in Florilegium’s artistic development. It is an expensive undertaking and I appreciate that this is a difficult and challenging time to ask for financial support. We have already secured several very generous donations from Friends of Florilegium for this exciting project, and I am encouraged and motivated to meet our remaining target costs to ensure this project goes ahead. We need your help to raise £6,500 between now and the start of the recording sessions in March.
Florilegium Biography - Director Ashley Solomon
Regular performances in some of the world’s most prestigious venues have confirmed Florilegium’s status as one of Britain’s most outstanding period instrument ensembles. Since their formation in 1991 they have established a reputation for stylish and exciting interpretations, from intimate chamber works to large-scale orchestral and choral repertoire, working as an instrumental ensemble and also in collaboration with some outstanding solo singers and choirs.
Concert venues have included Sydney Opera House, Esplanade (Singapore), Teatro Colon (Buenos Aires), Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Konzerthaus (Vienna), Beethoven-Haus (Bonn), Handel-Haus (Halle) and Frick Collection (New York). Among the numerous residencies Florilegium have held was Ensemble-in-Residence at London’s Wigmore Hall, performing several series of concerts each year and becoming actively involved in the Hall’s education work. They are Ensemble in Association at the Royal College of Music, working regularly each term with students on both period and modern instruments in the area of baroque chamber music.
Florilegium’s numerous recordings for Channel Classics, have been awarded many prizes including two Gramophone Award nominations, three BBC Music Magazine awards, numerous Editor’s Choice from Gramophone, and half a dozen Diapasons d’Or and Chocs de la Musique in France, and their Bach Cantatas disc with Johanette Zomer was awarded an Edison Award, Dutch music’s most prestigious prize. In 2014 their 25th recording of the complete Bach Brandenburg Concertos was awarded a Dutch Luister 10 Award, Classical CD Choice CD of the Month and was Classic FM Featured Album. They have followed this award-winning release with a recording of Telemann: Concertos & Cantata ‘Ihr Völker hört’ with the mezzo soprano Clare Wilkinson. This CD received Gramophone’s “Editor’s Choice” and was shortlisted in the Gramophone annual awards in the category best baroque chamber music CD. Their most recent cd of early symphonies by Haydn entitled “Morning, Noon and Night” was released to critical acclaim in 2023.
Rowan Pierce biography
Yorkshire born soprano Rowan Pierce was awarded the President’s Award by HRH Prince of Wales at the Royal College of Music in 2017. She won both the Song Prize and First Prize at the inaugural Grange Festival International Singing Competition in 2017, the first Schubert Society Singer Prize in 2014 and the Van Someren Godfery Prize at the RCM. She was a Britten Pears young artist, a Rising Star of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and a Harewood Artist at English National Opera.
Rowan has appeared in concert throughout the UK, Europe, North and South America. She performs regularly with ensembles including the Academy of Ancient Music, Florilegium, Dunedin Consort, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Gabrieli Consort, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Royal Northern Sinfonia.
Rowan made her BBC Proms debut at the Royal Albert Hall in 2017 with the OAE and returned in 2019 for Handel Jephtha and 2023 for Mendelssohn Elijah, both with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. She made her Wigmore Hall debut with the London Handel Players and has subsequently appeared with many other chamber ensembles in repertoire including Bach and Wolf.
Other recent highlights include performances with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Freiburg Baroque, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, La Nuova Musica, Polyphony, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Early Opera Company and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.
Recent and future engagements include various roles in performances of both Purcell’s King Arthur and the Fairy Queen with the Gabrieli Consort and also with Ensemble Alia Mens in France, Oberto / Alcina for the Staatstheater Stuttgart, more performances of the Indian Queen with Opéra de Luxembourg, Opéra de Caen and Antwerp Opera and her Glyndebourne Festival debut singing Oberto. In 2022/23 she made her Covent Garden début singing Papagena.
What people are saying about Florilegium: (quotes from reviews)
- Florilegium is a bright star in the musical sky (Peter Millican, CEO, Kings Place London)
- Formed in 1991, the ensemble was so impressive that they were appointed Resident Wigmore Ensemble in 1998. It has been wonderful to see their international concert career flourishing and complemented by their many prize-winning recordings (William Lyne, Director Emeritus, Wigmore Hall).
- The RCM is delighted to enjoy a close association with performers whose virtuosity inflects historical principles with such personality, character and verve. (Professor Colin Lawson CBE, Director, RCM)
- Florilegium are brilliant, innovative, rigorous and daring in equal measure, with the generosity to share their art with the widest possible public and the next generation of talented artists, be they urban music scholars or indigenous villagers. (HE Nigel Baker, HM Ambassador, British Embassy to the Holy See)
- Florilegium’s lithe sound, committed focus on producing the very best results, alongside their infectious enthusiasm, all contribute to make them special within the arts in the UK. (David Hill, Music Director, The Bach Choir)