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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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The Naxos Book of Carols
The Hope

?13th century arr. A. PITTS
O come, o come, Emmanuel

Piae Cantiones 1582 arr. A. PITTS
Of the Fatherís heart begotten

A. PITTS

O quickly come

?13th century arr. A. PITTS
Verbum Patris umanatur, O, O

T. OLIVERS, M. MADAN arr. A. PITTS
Lo! He comes

The Message

Coll. C. J. SHARP & A. PITTS arr. A. PITTS
The holly and the ivy

?PRAETORIUS arr. A. PITTS
Lo, there a Rose is blooming

English, 15th century arr. A. PITTS
Alleluya Ė a new work

J. TABOUROT arr. A. PITTS
Ding! Dong! merrily on high

C. TYE, G. KIRBYE arr. A. PITTS
While shepherds watched

O. GIBBONS arr. A. PITTS
The Song of Angels

F. MENDELSSOHN arr. A. PITTS
Hark! The herald angels sing

The Baby

F. X. GRUBER arr. A. PITTS
Silent Night

W. J. KIRKPATRICK arr. A. PITTS
Away in a manger

Czech trad. arr. A. PITTS
Baby Jesus, hush! Now sleep

J. M. PITTS arr. A. PITTS
O little town of Bethlehem

17th century, figured J. S. BACH arr. A. PITTS
Jesu, the very thought is sweet

Coll.? J. F. Wade arr. A. PITTS
O come, all ye faithful

The King of Kings

Piae Cantiones, 1582 arr. A. PITTS
Personent hodie

M. PRAETORIUS, J. S. BACH, J. STAINER arr. A. PITTS
In dulci jubilo

Piae Cantiones, 1582 arr. A. PITTS
Good King Wenceslas

J. H. HOPKINS arr. A. PITTS
We three kings of Orient are

English trad. arr. A. PITTS
I saw three ships come sailing in

A. PITTS

Hail to the Lordís Anointed

Tonus Peregrinus/Antony Pitts
Recorded at the Church of St. Jude- on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, 28th-29th July 2003 DDD
NAXOS 8.557330 [78:59]

 


These new arrangements, interspersed with a small number of originals, have been commissioned especially for this recording from the director of the eight part vocal ensemble Tonus Peregrinus, Antony Pitts. Organised as an advent sequence with a carol for each day, the twenty-four carols are bracketed into four groups, The Hope, The Message, The Baby and The King of Kings.

As you would expect, given that the disc comes as a joint venture by Naxos and Faber Music, there is an additional commercial angle behind it. With an eye on the lucrative seasonal music market amongst amateur choirs, the music is all down-loadable via the Faber Music website at a price of ten pounds per carol. Yet more Christmas commercialism one might say. The project does however yield some worthwhile results and most of all gives us a disc that is a pleasure to listen to for the quality of the singing alone.

Whether the arrangements themselves hit the spot will depend on your stance as a traditionalist or otherwise. Antony Pitts has clearly relished the opportunity of arranging for his own choir and has taken full advantage, indulging in the possibilities for intricate counterpoint and adventurous harmony with abandon. In certain cases this undoubtedly reaches the point of overkill, as in Hark! The herald angels sing, where it strikes me that Pitts has simply tried to do too much with the inner parts and the final verse. The same can be said, albeit to a slightly lesser degree, of O come, all ye faithful.

Elsewhere however there are some notable successes. O come, o come, Emmanuel proceeds from a suitably plainsong like opening, effectively reflecting its thirteenth century origins before the writing becomes ever more sophisticated, the organ joining only in the final verse and adding its voice to an unexpected, if possibly unnecessary final chord. In O quickly come, a quirky little original in 7/8 time, the detailed counterpoint is strikingly effective and whilst no doubt tricky to sing (Tonus Peregrinus make it sound admirably easy with diction of the highest quality) I can see this becoming a popular addition to the seasonal choral repertoire. In similar fashion Ding! Dong! merrily on high features some athletic and admirably well-articulated singing, the semi quaver runs that abound being heard with crystal precision. The arrangements of Silent Night and Away in a manger will once again depend upon ones stance given the licence that is taken with the harmonisations although it cannot be denied that Silent Night in particular features some meltingly lush moments. The well-known words of O little town of Bethlehem are here given a new setting by J. M. Pitts, presumably related to Antony Pitts although the booklet notes give no confirmation of this. Not surprisingly the result lacks the melodic strength of Vaughan Williamsí original and upon the entry of the organ vaguely reminded me, in style at least, of Howard Goodallís theme music to The Vicar of Dibley. I particularly enjoyed the more familiar Personent hodie, Pitts weaving In dulci jubilo into the organ part of the final verse whilst a sparklingly joyful realisation of Good King Wenceslas also works particularly well. The original that closes the disc and ultimately heralds Christmas day, Hail to the Lordís Anointed, loses its direction to a degree part way through but culminates in suitably blazing paean of praise.

Arrangements that can vary between the wayward and the highly effective then, yet sung with fervour by a young vocal ensemble that I hope to hear more of. Either way, for the usual Naxos fiver you really canít go wrong.

Christopher Thomas

see also reviews by John Quinn and Rob Barnett

 



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