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Pitts: Alpha And Omega / Pitts, Tonus Peregrinus


Release Date: 02/12/2008 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67668   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Antony Pitts
Performer:  Rebecca HickeyAlexander HickeyFrancis Brett
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



A. PITTS The Peace of Jerusalem. Sanctus and Benedictus. A Thousand Years. My Dove. The “I Am” Sayings of Jesus Anthony Pitts, cond; Tonus Peregrinus HYPERION 67668 (68:05 Text and Translation)


In terms of sheer beauty of performance and recording, this disc takes some beating. Antony Pitts was born in 1969. From early on, he was immersed in the world of the choir, first at the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace and then as a choral scholar at New College, Oxford. In the year Read more of his graduation, he formed the vocal ensemble captured on the present recording, Tonus Peregrinus. Their previous disc of music by Pitts was unreservedly welcomed by James Carson in Fanfare 29:2, and I find myself waxing just as enthusiastic about the present release.


Pitts’s frame of reference is large. His use of suspensions in particular refers back to the 16th century, but the overarching use of dissonance is decidedly of our era. Occasional jazzy rhythms sit side-by-side medieval hocketing with little sense of disjunction.


The first piece on the disc, The Peace of Jerusalem , is actually the choral coda of a new oratorio called Jerusalem-Yerushalayim , which dates from 2007. The text is taken from Isaiah. Pitts shapes the piece as a single trajectory from gentle pianissimos through to radiant climax. The singers of Tonus Peregrinus are exquisitely blended. There is a purity to the three female singers that is very effective in its evocation of reverent piety. The Mass of the English Renaissance informs the Sanctus and Benedictus (1993), two brief settings that celebrate stasis. A Thousand Years (1999) comprises two movements that form a meditation on the line “A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” The use of unison, rhythmic chanting is highly effective in the middle section.


All credit to the sopranos for coping with the high, sustained writing of My Dove (1997), a gentle lullaby setting of a text from the Song of Songs. The remainder of the disc is taken up by The “I AM” sayings of Jesus , a cycle of eight motets each of which uses a different number of voices. Composition stretched from 1996 until 2007. Each movement is based on a different interval, from the seconds of the opening through to the sevenths of “I AM Alpha and Omega.” The booklet notes, by Jeremy Summerly, point out the influence of Medieval music on the first movement, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” while a comfortable mixolydian basis for “I AM the bread of life” creates an atmosphere of cozy security which is disturbed by the story of Lazarus in “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” The final, almost ecstatic melismas of this movement are taken over as an ostinato basis for the brief “I AM the light of the World.” Again, Pitts connects this movement to the one that follows, this time by placing the resolution of the final sonority of “I AM the light of the World” at the very begining of “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” As the basic interval widens to a fifth, a sense of space is clearly invoked.


“I AM the True Vine” is by far the lushest and longest movement so far. Textures are magnificently managed by Tonus Peregrinus. Francis Brett is the superb bass soloist in the penultimate motet, “I AM the door—I AM the good shepherd” before the final, and longest, motet, “I AM Alpha and Omega,” provides an expansive end to this most impressive cycle. The use of the octave to suggest infinity is coupled with a thematic summing-up by sequential quotations from the preceding movements before ending on a question mark.


Full English texts are provided, and Jeremy Summerly’s notes are consistently illuminating. A winner.


FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

1. Jerusalem-Yerushalayim: no 13, The Peace of Jerusalem "Though the mountains be removed" by Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
2. Sanctus and Benedictus by Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
3. A Thousand Years by Antony Pitts
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
4. My Dove by Antony Pitts
Performer:  Rebecca Hickey (Soprano), Alexander Hickey (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 
5. The I AM Sayings of Jesus by Antony Pitts
Performer:  Francis Brett (Bass)
Conductor:  Antony Pitts
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tonus Peregrinus
Period: 20th Century 

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