An oratorio for our times by Antony Pitts remixed with Biblical narration by David Suchet, Jerusalem-Yerushalayim is an extraordinary musical cross between Handel’s Messiah, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and classic rock anthems, and tells simply but powerfully the Old Testament story of Jerusalem – in modern English but with ancient Hebrew names for familiar Biblical characters and places. Performed by TONUS PEREGRINUS and friends with a cast of outstanding singers and players.
The Eton Choirbook is a giant 500 year-old manuscript from Eton College Chapel, and one of the greatest surviving glories of pre-Reformation England. This recording features the earliest polyphonic Passion by a named composer, two heartrending motets for five and six voices, two thrilling settings of the Magnificat, and an extraordinary canon in 13 parts, Jesus autem transiens. The ensemble TONUS PEREGRINUS has been widely acclaimed, not least for its “richly sung and very well recorded” programme of Orlando Gibbons, L’Estrange, and Pitts. (The Penguin Guide on 8.557681)
"There are few better examples of a composer’s style developing concurrently with the emergence of a vocal group than in the a cappella vocal music of Antony Pitts. The TONUS PEREGRINUS octet exists to perform ancient and modern works interspersed with music written by its director. The two-way influence between consort and composer is palpable. The resulting compositions are as much theological statements as stand-alone pieces of music and as such they bear comparison with some of the monuments of, for instance, the music of the English Reformation. Building on the success of their first Hyperion release Seven Letters, this disc contains contains further dazzling, ecstatic, arresting, thought-provoking works, sung with limpid beauty by TONUS PEREGRINUS." (Jeremy Summerly)
Orlando Gibbons’ exquisite tunes and rock-solid bass-lines for the first English hymn-book, Hymnes and Songs of the Church (1623), were written to be sung and played both at home and in church. Specially realized by Antony Pitts and Alexander L’Estrange for this recording, the complete collection is interleaved with new English hymns and arranged in eight sequences following the Church’s liturgical year.
Award-winning classical artists TONUS PEREGRINUS apply their unique a cappella treatment to Roland Orzabal’s iconic 80s pop song, Mad World. This Mad World E.P. is available exclusively through iTunes and features two additional tracks – a new setting of George Herbert’s The Flower and an extract from a cycle of music by Antony Pitts given its world première at the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music.
Adam de la Halle “the Hunchback” is justly the most famous composer of the late 13th century, and his greatest gift to posterity, Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion, is the first-ever opera – a pastoral romp brimming with delightful songs that so easily stand the test of over seven centuries. In this authentic yet innovative performance, the narrator (stage-right) tells the story in the original French dialect with his many voices – from coarse to courtly – while the singers move between a contemporary English interpretation (stage-left) and the timeless mediaeval lyrics and melodies of the super-troubadour himself..
John Dunstaple (a.k.a. Dunstable) was not just the first truly great English composer, he was also musical godfather to the Renaissance. In the middle of the 15th Century poet Martin le Franc famously described how Dufay had adopted the English manner championed by Dunstaple – la contenance Angloise – and how, to Continental ears, this new style of music sounded so fresh, and above all, joyful. From the sweet-sounding triads of Quam pulchra es to the total harmonic control of Veni Sancte Spiritus – Veni Creator, this selection of Dunstaple’s sacred music must simply rank as some of the happiest music ever recorded.
From plainchant via simple 9th-century harmonies and the virtuosic duets of Master Léonin (known as organum), this hauntingly beautiful sequence charts the birth of polyphony up to the first music in four independent parts – composed by Master Pérotin and sung during the liturgy at the new Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris. From the official laying of the cornerstone in 1163 to the completion of the famous Western façade almost a hundred years later, Notre-Dame was the fertile home of singers and composers whose extraordinary handiwork has come down to us in the magnus liber organi: the “Great Book of Organum”.
Pitts’s choral music combines a jazz-infused idiom within a tight structure of traditional musical form and a response to the sacred texts which is both fervent and captivatingly heart-on-sleeve. At the centre of this recording is Seven Letters... each ‘letter’ is declaimed by one of the seven virtuosic members of TONUS PEREGRINUS over a cyclical choral backdrop which insistently increases in intensity as the work moves through the seven ‘letters’ of the musical scale, A to G. Such multifaceted intricacy is typical of Pitts’s approach in the other pieces presented here. In each case a ‘pop’-style ‘hook’ provides the listener with an immediate entry point, while repeated listening allows the full scope of the musical vision gradually to unfold.
The Naxos Book of Carols is a collection of both the very old and very new. It is a selection of best-loved and new-found carols, drawing on centuries of tradition. The settings are all new, commissioned by Naxos for this recording (scores available for download from www.naxoscarols.com in association with Faber Music). the carols unfold in four narrative sequences each focusing on a different part of the Christmas Story – from the hope of Advent to the announcements of the Message, the joy of the Birth of the Baby and the celebration of the coming of the King of Kings. there are 24 carols, one for each day of Advent.
The earliest complete polyphonic settings of the Mass and the Passion that have come down to us are the 14th-century Mass of Tournai from what is now Belgium, and an English St Luke Passion from the early 15th-century ‘Windsor’ Manuscript. Both settings are anonymous and in three-voice polyphony, and the six movements of the Mass of Tournai reflect both the old-fashioned and the more up-to-date practices of ars antiqua and ars nova. The St Luke Passion displays characteristic English sweetness in its harmony, as well as unexpectedly dramatic responses to the events of the 24 hours from the Last Supper to Jesus’s short-lived entombment.
This performance of Passio is different to previous recordings in its approach to the pacing of the whole structure and in its fidelity to the rhythmic durations in the score. Pärt, after hearing the first edit of this recording, was inspired to clarify exactly what he meant by the pauses between the different sections , and his decisions are reflected in the final version. These subtle differences underline more than ever the heartrending and powerful force of this music, and in the resulting performance sound and silence hold equal weight, transporting the listener into a state of ecstatic wonderment. This radical late 20th-century masterpiece manages to convey the truth and power of the ancient Christian Gospel story in a new and compelling way. On the surface the music seems to be contained within cloistered limits, but underneath there is an ocean of detail bathing each word in its own particular shades of colour.