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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625)
Hymns and Songs of the Church (1623)
Songs of Joy [7.15]; Songs of Love [13.12]; Songs of Sacrifice [8.58]; Songs of Lamentation [10.19]; Songs of Triumph [10.47]; Songs of Unity [8.40]; Songs of faith [8.50]; Songs of hope [3.41]
Tonus Peregrinus/Antony Pitts
John Byfield (organ)
rec. 24-30 September 2004, Finchcocks, Goudhurst, Kent; also Bromley Parish Church. DDD 
full track listing at end of review
NAXOS 8.557681 [71.42]
 

Tonus Peregrinus are getting quite a name for themselves. They have been concentrating on medieval and renaissance music. Yet as their conductor is the ever-energetic Antony Pitts it’s not surprising that they have recently released a fine disc of music by him on Hyperion. On the present CD he is again featured as a composer and more especially as an arranger. In this he is joined by his brothers and by Alexander L’Estrange also known as a fine arranger of choral music.

The background to this collection is unique feel and needs some explanation. For the original 1623 publication, Gibbons, in setting texts by George Wither, with whom he collaborated, only wrote the melody and the bass line. Why? Because he took it for granted that musicians would be adding the inner parts by improvising or by following fairly well oiled rules. In other words the composer, in one sense, only did half the job. It is up to musicians performing this music to make their own contributions. That is what is happening here. Anthony Pitts and Alexander L’Estrange have made their contributions. As Pitts tells us in his booklet notes he has approached the task in three different ways. I quote: “We have adopted a variety of approaches from unadorned melody via pastiche to exuberantly post-modern counterpoint”. He adds later “The new hymns by L’Estrange, myself and two of my younger brothers, serve both to vary the palette and to show the continuing influence of Hymns and Songs of the Church on hymn-writing today.”

You might think that there is a curious and somewhat bizarre nepotism going on here but an explanation can be made with regard to the eight different A-mens which end each of the sections listed in the header. Pitts tells us that that at the family home “the A-men was and is sung with ad hoc harmonies by my family at the end of grace before mealtimes”. I wish they would invite me to dinner! So, all the Pitts boys are composers. Therefore why not, if you run a fine choir creatively involve your family?

Yet it should be emphasized that what makes this disc so fascinating, for me anyway, is that it is a collaboration, a holding of hands across the centuries between Orlando Gibbons and four young British composers. The music is performed by a fine group of 21st Century young singers of real talent and commitment. It’s the freshness of the singing that attracts me even in what could be considered a somewhat cerebral project. In all of their discs the choir radiates a real sense of discovery and thrill. They achieve this even when the interpretation may be a little suspect as for example the recent recording of Adam de La Halle’s Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion (Naxos 8.557377). Of course Anthony Pitts’ scholarship and exciting sense of discovery spills over into the singing. When they are called together for a new project there must be a real feeling of ‘What we will be doing next?’

The organ pieces were recorded at Finchcocks: the home for clapped out and rejuvenated keyboards. Pitts used a 1766 chamber organ with a most charming village church breathiness about it.

All texts are given alongside photographs and biographies of the performers. Anthony Pitts has also provided a most detailed and interesting description of each section of the CD. There he discusses not only the individual pieces but also the theological basis behind each section, how they are balanced in the full context and how he came to construct the programme.

Despite my enthusiasm I will not be playing this disc all that often. The new pieces are in many ways the most successful. Especially affecting to my mind was There is a Greenhill by Antony Pitts, although what possessed him to assemble Come unto me with its crawling harmonies I cannot say.

Gary Higginson

Songs of joy
01 Prelude [Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) [Song 1] 0'43"
02 A Song of Joy/Christmas Day (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Songs 47/46 3'33"
03 The Song of Angels (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 34 0'45"
04 Interlude (Orlando Gibbons) [Song 13] 0'22"
05 Thine for ever (Antony Pitts) 1'29"
06 Amen 0'22"
 
Songs of love
07 The First Canticle (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song  9   2'18"
08 The Fifth Canticle (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 13 2'47"
09 The Sixth Canticle (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 14 4'11"
10 The Tenth Canticle (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 18 1'29"
11 Thy way, not mine (John Michael Pitts) 2'01"
12 Amen 0'23"
 
Songs of sacrifice
13 There is a green hill far away (Antony Pitts) 3'45"
14 Interlude [There is a green hill] (Antony Pitts) 0'51"
15 Take my life (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) [Song 13] 3'54"
16 Amen 0'24"
 
Songs of lamentation
17 Lord, who by thy perfect offering (Antony Pitts) 1'02"
18 Lamentation 1 (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.L'Estrange) Song 24 4'41"
19 The Lamentation of David (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.L'Estrange) 2'33"
20 As now the sun’s declining rays (Alexander L'Estrange) 1'33"
21 Amen 0'30"
 
Songs of triumph
22 The First Song of Moses (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 1 2'02"
23 Lord, who b thy Resurrection (Antony Pitts) 1'06"
24 The Song of Hannah (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 4 2'12"
25 The Song of Deborah (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 3 2'20"
26 O Lord Most High (Richard James Pitts) 2'39"
27 Amen 0'23"
 
Songs of unity
28 Veni Creator (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 44 2'24"
29 St. Matthias (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 67 0'56"
30 Veni Creator (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 44 1'07"
31 We are of thee (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) [Song1] 1'39"
32 Hark, my soul (Antony Pitts) 2'06"
33 Amen 0'22"
 
Songs of faith
34 Come Unto me (Antony Pitts) 2'27"
35 The Second Prayer of Isaiah (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 20 0'44"
36 The Prayer of Habakuk (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 31 2'11"
37 Interlude (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) [Song 13] 1'07"
38 The Song of the three children (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.L'Estrange) Song 41 1'56"
39 Amen 0'22"
 
Songs of hope
40 Miserere Domine (Antony Pitts) 1'50"
41 The Prayer of Hezekiah (Orlando Gibbons arr. A.Pitts) Song 22 1'22"
42 Amen 0'24"


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