Charivari Agréable is recognized as ‘one of the classiest baroque bands’ (The Observer), and ‘certainly one of the most original and versatile groups on the Early Music scene today’ (Hexachord), whose musical ‘intuitions are always captivating’ (Goldberg). The group has been hailed for its ‘thinking musicians who treat music of the past more creatively’ via their arrangements of music, ‘based on a greater knowledge of the historical and social contexts for the music’. They represent ‘a new and very exciting phase of the early music revival, one that enriches the existing repertory and can bring us ever closer to the spirit of the original music’ (Gramophone).
Under the artistic direction of Susanne Heinrich and the musical leadership of Kah-Ming Ng, the ensemble specializes in the ingenious use of period instruments to produce ‘ravishing sonorities and full-bodied textures’ (Gramophone) with ‘their powerful cohesion, warm sound, and their eloquent authority’ (Diapason). The group has ‘carved something of a niche for itself in imaginative and well-thought-out programming’; ‘its work is the fruit of both scholarly research and charismatic musicianship, a combination that puts it at the forefront of period-instrument ensembles’ (BBC Music Magazine). With a chronological remit spanning epochs from the Renaissance to the early classical, the ensemble appears in many guises, from a continuo band (accompanying the recitals of such artists as Emma Kirkby, John Holloway and Simon Standage), a viol consort, and an Elizabethan mixed consort, to a baroque orchestra and many other surprising - yet historical - combinations.
Charivari Agréable (trans. ‘pleasant tumult’, from Saint-Lambert’s 1707 treatise on accompaniment) was formed at the University of Oxford in 1993, and within the year became prize-winners of an international Early Music Network (UK) competition, made its debut at the Wigmore Hall, and recorded the first of many subsequent live concerts for the BBC, including Radio 3’s ‘In tune’, ‘Music Restor’d’, and ‘The Early Music Show’. Charivari Agréable has since recorded for New York’s WNYC, and many other European radio stations, including the European Broadcasting Union. Their CD of French baroque viol chamber music entitled ‘The Sultan & the Phoenix’ won the Diapason d’Or. The same viols’ recording of viol consort music on the CD The Complete Works of Tallis vol. IX has just been made the Gramophone Editor’s Choice. The group’s recording of poignant German sacred cantatas for Holy Week entitled ‘Sacred Songs of Sorrow’ was voted The Best CD of the Year by International Record Review, while their transcriptions from the ‘The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book’ were selected for Classic FM’s Christmas Choice and named Outstanding CD of the Month by BBC Music Magazine.
Apart from hosting an annual summer festival of early music in Oxford, the ensemble regularly expands into Oxford’s resident period-instrument orchestra, Charivari Agréable Simfonie. The orchestra has on-going collaborations with some thirty vocal groups - choral societies and professional choirs alike - all over the UK, and has been conducted by many musicians of renown, including Sir Charles Mackerras. The ensemble has appeared at all prominent venues in London, including Buckingham Palace; recent and forthcoming engagements include major festivals in the UK, and tours to Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, South East Asia, Turkey, and the USA.