The sonnets of Shakespeare have been set to music for the Cultural Olympiad. Using period instruments and styles with modern recording techniques, the album Shakespeare: The Sonnets has been recorded in London over the past six months.
The project has been led by I Fagiolini’s Robert Hollingworth. He said of the project: ‘I’m not sure you ever need an excuse to work on Shakespeare, but 2012 does seem a very good time; the Cultural Olympiad, the focus on Shakespeare by the RSC and the Globe.’
The lyrics from all of the songs on the album come directly from Shakespeare, with no edits or additions having been made. In some cases sentences have been switched to create a more contemporary structure, but the entirety of Shakespeare’s words remain untouched.
The album includes instruments such as the lirone, a 13-string cello-like instrument and the theorbo which appears on eight of the album’s tracks. Other more commonly-known period instruments also appear such as the viol, harpsichord and lute. Hollingworth said: ‘Our recording brought together a lot of Tudor instruments, Italian instruments from the time as well, together with London’s fantastic crop of singers.’
Vocals for the album are provided by artists such as Megan Henwood, who won BBC Radio 2’s Young Folk Musician of the Year competition, folk singer Eliza Carthy and Hollingworth’s ensemble I Fagiolini feature on the track Love is a babe.
Vocalist Robin Scott said: ‘What we’re doing is bringing Shakespeare to life in a modern and relevant way. We’ve taken works that were written during the reign of Elizabeth I and reimagined them for the reign of Elizabeth II.’
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