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, some of whom have performed at the New York Metropolitan, La Scala Milan and just about every stadium and concert hall across the globe. Finding players of these rare and ancient instruments ought to have been incredibly difficult but in fact the UK is the world leader in modern performers on these recreated period instruments, and experts in playing in period style. What proved to be harder was securing their services, as they are constantly flying around the world, giving concerts and making recordings of the music of the time. February 6th seems like the perfect day to launch the project, the day in 1952 that Elizabeth II became queen. Words composed in the time of one Elizabeth, re-imagined in the time of another. The album The Sonnets will be officially released in the UK this year on Shakespeare s birthday, April 23rd.