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Hyperion Records

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The Burning Bush by Blandine van Noordt-Grauer
http://paintings-blandine.site.voila.fr / Photo by Harry Jonckheere
Track(s) taken from CDA67668
Recording details: June 2007
Bromley Parish Church, United Kingdom
Produced by Stephen Rice
Engineered by Mike Skeet
Release date: February 2008
Total duration: 41 minutes 6 seconds

'Tonus Peregrinus is proving to be one of the most skilful vocal groups around. Its composer/founder/director demands much from his singers, which they accomplish with impressive fluency and musicality. Pitts shows considerable ingenuity and flair in his settings of sacred texts, which include The Peace of Jerusalem, Sanctus and Benedictus, A Thousand Years and the totally captivating My Dove. The outstanding work is The I AM Sayings of Jesus, which Pitts constructs using various combinations of voices and intervals from the unison to the octave, but never in a mathematical sequence. The moods range from the austere to the ecstatic, from the simplistic to a dissonant but ordered turmoil—it's a remarkable achievement' (Choir & Organ)

'The beauty of the choir's sound is as impressive as its technical accomplishment, doing full justice to their director's fascinating, inventive compositions' (BBC Music Magazine)

'A disc worthy of serious attention … this is a most successful recording, Tonus Peregrinus never wearied by the vastness of its task and the vision of Christ always palpable in the composer's creative insights' (International Record Review)

'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 … textures are magnificently managed … Francis Brett is the superb bass soloist … a winner' (Fanfare, USA)

'This music strives for, and frequently succeeds in expressing a state of astonishing, soaring, feral ecstasy. Pitts' work frequently includes dense chromatic harmonies that in other contexts might sound raw, but when sung, are complex, but warm, even lush. He may flirt with a reassuring, familiar sentimentality, but he never succumbs to it, and the effect is bracing. On the other hand, his music is never so uncompromisingly dense that it loses the listener; it's rooted in triadic harmony and has an undeniable emotional directness that never leaves the work's meaning in doubt … in the double quartet that he conducts, Tonus Peregrinus, Pitts has assembled an ensemble for which he can write with impunity. Their ability to negotiate the music's extreme demands is staggering, and they do it with wonderfully pure tone, warm blend, and impassioned expressiveness. Pitts is a composer to watch out for: these remarkably assured and compelling works should be strong interest to any fan of contemporary choral music' (AllMusic, USA)

'The principal work on this programme is the 'I AM' sayings of Jesus which at 40 minutes makes up almost two thirds of total playing time. The comforting yet perplexing texts allow Pitts free reign to express his vivid word painting and the music is also informed with great restlessness and agitation. The other four works are similar to the main opus but each has its own distinct message to convey. Tonus Peregrinus are a capable choir, founded by Pitts himself to promote the Christian message and they perform with spellbinding excitement matching spirituality with technical prowess. This is a sumptuously beautiful disc on all counts' (Classical.net)

'Pitts's gestures are highly expressive, fresh-minted by the words, without cliché … performances are by the utterly brilliant, and utterly fearless, choir Tonus Peregrinus' (Oxford Today)

'A winning combination of choir and composer and a triumphant recording' (Cathedral News)

The I AM Sayings of Jesus
composer
1996-2007
author of text
verses from Exodus, John and Revelation

Introduction
The ‘I AM’ sayings of Jesus are pillars of the New Testament, and refer back provocatively to the sacred Name of God revealed to Moses at the burning bush of Exodus. Comforting and perplexing at the same time, they create metaphors which allow Pitts free rein in his word painting. While these eight interlinked movements possess an individuality and solidity of musical expression, there is nevertheless an undercurrent of turbulence and restlessness. The interpretation of these canonic sayings can never be straightforward, and their musical settings sound fragile and monumental at the same time: they are simultaneously simplistic and virtuosic, logical and serendipitous. For every moment where musical common sense prevails there is a passage where, Escher-like, the conventions of melody and harmony spiral into a continuum where perspective is distorted.

Each of the motets in the ‘I AM’ cycle is set for a different number of voices ranging from one to eight: ‘The Door’ is a single melodic line, ‘The Way’ is a duet, ‘Before Abraham’ a trio, ‘The Bread’ a quartet, ‘The Light’ a quintet, ‘The Vine’ for six voices, ‘The Resurrection’ for seven, and the final ‘Alpha and Omega’ for eight voices. While these dispositions clearly affect the sound of each piece, it is remarkable that all eight motets inhabit a world that is empirically choral; in short, there is nothing missing in the sparser movements and nothing overblown in the fuller ones.

from notes by Jeremy Summerly 2008

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