Amuse Bouche was recorded in All Saints, Tooting, London, 29 June to 2 July 2015.  Some of those involved share their memories.


2015-06-30_IFag_Photo-reh-16-AC-CW_credit-Matt-BrodieClare Wilkinson, mezzo (& page turner)
Just as RH got to know the Beatles through King’s Singers arrangements, I got to know the slow movement of Ravel’s piano concerto in G through Roderick Williams’ arrangement for I Fagiolini. A joy to discover it, and to be reminded of Anna’s remarkable skill & sensitivity at the piano. My other favourite moment of this recording was smearing chocolate mousse on Nick’s beard dressed as a chef.


Greg Skidmore, Ben Rowarth, Eamon Dougan and the bottle of brandy

Eamonn Dougan, baritone
There is normally plenty of bouche at I Fagiolini rehearsals, often much of it quite amusante. Recording sessions are not much different, with the customary level of witticism and word play. What was different with this disc was to be tackling music from a time much closer to our own and all French – a long standing passion of Robert’s which he has passed on to us. My first ever I Fagiolini gig was standing in for Matthew (Brook) at terrifyingly short notice for a programme which included Poulenc’s Un soir de neige. This set and his Sept Chansons have been core repertoire for us and they are always a joy to return to. Poulenc’s language is instantly recognisable – one has only to hear the smallest snippet to know it is his writing – yet, there are always new intricacies to explore. He doesn’t really write long, extended passages, but rather a collection of exquisitely crafted phrases which come together to form a beautiful whole. Within these cells though are moments of heartbreaking lyricism, biting drama, cheeky humour, often cheek by jowl with each other. Clarity of the text is, of course, tantamount and Robert is relentless in his quest to get us to squeeze ever more out of the word-setting. Unfortunately, my diary only permits me to do a handful of the sessions for this disc. Infuriatingly I have to miss being part of the Daniel-Lesur, a work which I adore, but I will at least be able to sit back and enjoy it without wincing at my own contribution. I do, however, get to sing the Deux poèmes by Darius Milhaud. Again, these are pieces which we have sung on many occasions, yet I’ve never come across them anywhere else. They are utterly delightful and Milhaud achieves so much with so little material, always the sign of a good composer. They are aural snapshots – wonderfully evocative, fragrant almost and sensual in the way which just seems to be part of the French make-up. Fragrance and sensuality are absolutely at the heart of Jean Françaix’s Ode à la gastronomie – a work like no other I’ve ever encountered! The sessions recording this piece were full of fun, humour and mischief, hopefully exactly what Françaix had in mind. Certainly his son and daughter didn’t seem to object and it was a treat to have a direct link to him through their being with us. As for the filming, well, I’ll leave that for you to see for yourself. Mine’s another brandy, please…
2015-06-30_IFag_Photo-reh-138-AC_credit-Matt-BrodieAnna Markland, piano / Anna Crookes, soprano
Gosh, do you mean singing AND playing? On the same disc?” my rather bemused response to Robert just over a year ago now…

The Satie Gnossiennes are perfect little “sorbets” between all the vocal richesse of the rest of the CD; what a treat to get to know them! Having perused a number of different editions, and listened to rather more different interpretations, my gut instinct was to follow a much older form of performance practice; to go back to an urtext Edition and play them pretty much as they were printed; trying to keep faithful to Satie’s precise rhythmic embellishments, particularly in number five, but also to let these extraordinary little sound worlds speak for themselves.

Recording the Ravel was very special; making music with some of my favourite people on one of the best pianos I have ever played on! The Ravel concerto has been one of my “desert island discs” for so many years; Roddy Williams has been a great friend and colleague for even more, and I Fagiolini has been an integral part of so much of my professional musical life; it all seemed to come together on that hot sultry day in Tooting, and was simply one of the most joyous and spine tingling collaborations I have ever been involved in.

Adrian Peacock, producer
What a great set of sessions. Not so much an amuse-bouche but for me a banquet gourmand of talent, artistry, humour and great music. Most striking was the enthusiasm that everybody had to capitalise on Robert’s passion for this repertoire – and there is no doubt that this passion and wit comes across on the disc. An hour of indulgence sompteuse is guaranteed for all lovers and discoverers of this repertoire alike.


‘Tenors’ (the missing section from ‘Carnival of the Animals’). Back row L-R: Hugo Hymas, Simon Wall, Thomas Herford, Front row: Matthew Long, Nicholas Hurndall Smith, Nicholas Mulroy

Muriel Hall & Sheila Poole, tea & cake
Coming in from dazzling sunshine we find the church cool and quiet, and the atmosphere already charged with purpose. We get our bearings – following the trail of cables to the recording room, and identifying the doors that squeak – before settling in the kitchen. We are here to keep the troops supplied with coffee and cake, to be supplemented with cherries on these hot June days. Timing is all, and the breaks are busy, but between whiles we are rewarded with the chance to observe and listen to the music – the sheer beauty of the Poulenc, the quirky humour of the Ode à la gastronomie, and the wonder of the Ravel, with Anna in the role of pianist among her fellow singers. We marvel at the quality of the performers, completely focussed on the music and the moment, and responding with such ease to Robert’s direction, and to instructions from the disembodied voice from the recording room. It’s teamwork at a high level, and pleasure in working together is unmistakably a key part of it. Particular memories? Arriving midweek to find no water because of a burst main creating a 50ft waterspout; and seeing the car park at lunchtime dotted with singers on their mobile phones.

Helena CookeHelena Cooke, alto
I was one of 8 singers involved from University of York where we had sung the Daniel-Lesur Cantique des Cantiques in 2014 with ‘The 24’, also conducted by Robert.  Getting to sing this piece with consort singers of the highest calibre was just incredible. I was very struck by the great atmosphere throughout the sessions. Recording can so easily be a slog, but this was just invigorating in the extreme – certainly helped by the sense of humour which seems to underpin everything.  They always seem to be having such a good time… I absolutely adore French 20th century choral music, and all the music on this CD deserves to be better known. I hope this will make it so!

Ana Beard FernandezAna Beard Fernández, soprano
Having already performed a selection of the intricate, rich (and in the case of the Françaix sublimely silly) works on Amuse-Bouche as a student with ‘The 24’ at the University of York, I found the process of revisiting and refining the Daniel-Lesur 12-voice Cantique des Cantiques an enormously rewarding experience as a new professional. The musical symbiosis that permeates I Fagiolini for not only their performances, but also the quite intimate, and emotionally intense recording sessions was very exciting to be a part of, and the shared love for exhilarating music-making profoundly fulfilling. Look out for my three-bar humming solo in the Daniel-Lesur.

The composer Jean Françaix’s son and daughter talked on camera to Robert Hollingworth during the recording sessions about their father, and their impressions of I Fagiolini


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