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Pitts: Seven Letter / Antony Pitts, Tonus Peregrinus


Release Date: 07/12/2005 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67507   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Composer/conductor Antony Pitts (b. 1969) is a 1990 First-Class Honors graduate of New College, Oxford, and has written for choral ensembles ranging from the Westminster Cathedral Choir to the Swingle Singers. The eight-voice ensemble Tonus Peregrinus was assembled by Pitts during his undergraduate days and recently (2004) garnered a Cannes Classical Award for its rendition of Arvo Pärt’s Passio. Indeed, listeners who are at all au courante with the current choral scene will readily recognize Pitt’s stylistic affinity with Pärt and such other luminaries as Morten Lauridsen. To my mind, complaining about this would be just as churlish—and just as pathetically beside the point—as suggesting that Mozart should have written in a Read more different style because his real style sounds too much like Haydn; I do hope we’ve gotten past that circa-1970s mindset in which “originality” was regarded as effectively synonymous with “quality.”

Pitts writes that “all the texts here are sacred words—either from the Bible, or filtered through liturgical traditions of the last two thousand years—and the pieces on this recording form a sequence of personal responses to those words and the realities behind them.” The selections range in date from 1988 (The First and Last) through 2000 (Amen)—a pretty wide chronological swath for a composer still in his mid-thirties. O Wisdom of God sets the same series of Advent antiphons that provide the text for the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel; the Seven Letters are those addressed by the Spirit of God to the seven churches of Asia Minor in the Book of Revelation. As the comparisons with Pärt and Lauridsen suggest, Pitts’s harmonic language is rich with added seconds and piquant cross-relations—though the earliest piece, The First and Last, is robustly, joyously triadic, and I for one hope that Pitts hasn’t revoked his self-granted permission to write in this mode when he feels like it.

Most of the music on this program is performed one to a part; in this context, unlike a larger ensemble, one expects individual voices to be discernable, but still sufficiently well matched in strength and timbre as to produce a seamless musical fabric. I cannot find even the tiniest fault with Tonus Peregrinus in this respect. The program notes by Jeremy Summerly are illuminating but not intimidating; my only miniscule quarrel with the documentation, given the obvious care taken over most of the text credits, is that I’d like to know the author of the metrical paraphrase of Revelation 1:13-18 used in The First and Last.

My first impulse on hearing this disc was to commend it unreservedly to each and every man, woman, and child on the planet, including those who think they don’t like religious music, choral music, or music. Further consideration compels me to admit that the rather prosy texts of the Seven Letters may make for somewhat rough sledding for some of the uninitiated; but even this possibility seems to be anticipated in the layout of the disc, with this relatively meaty musical entrée flanked by appetizers and dessert in their proper sequence—the Advent antiphon O Holy of Holies providing a pleasantly astringent musical sorbet. Heatedly recommended.

James Carson, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1.
Seven Letters by Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
2.
Adoro te by Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999; London, England 
3.
The Lord's Prayer by Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997; London, England 
4.
The First and Last by Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; London, England 
5.
O Love by Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999; London, England 
6.
O Wisdom of God by Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1991; London, England 
7.
O Holy of Holies by Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1995; London, England 
8.
Amen by Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2000; England 

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