Raindrops are falling on my chant

In my rave review of Antony Pitts directing Tonus Peregrinus' on Naxos in medieval choral music from the Notre Dame School I commented that I thought you could faintly hear rain falling as Rebecca Hickey gave a ravishing account of Perotin’s Beata viscera.

I made contact with Antony after posting and asked him if I was correct. He is one of the switched-on musicians who understands the importance of music weblogs, and he came straight back with this helpful answer.

Pliable (in haste) - indeed it is. Beata viscera was recorded on our last morning in Chancelade Abbey, before a mad dash to the airport, so we couldn't wait for the rain to stop...

So now there are three excellent reasons to buy this Naxos CD. First, because you get seventy minutes of the most gorgeous singing you will hear for a very long time. Secondly, because if you are an audiophile you can test the resolution of your gear, and impress your buddies, with the Perotin raindrops test. And thirdly, because you can't hear the rain on low-res MP3 it gives you a great reason to keep supporting musicians by buying good old fashioned CD's. I must emphasise that the noise doesn't detract at all from the music. Listening intently on both my B&W Nautilus 803s and top end Sennheiser HD580 headphones I can just hear rainwater gurgling in downpipes. It is just a lovely touch which adds a unique sonic signature to a beautiful recording.

Antony also supplied useful information about his new work XL. It is a companion piece to Tallis' Spem in alium and has just been released on Harmonia Mundi. The scoring is for eight choirs, SATBarB, BBarTAS,BBarTAS, SATBarB, BBarTAS, SATBarB, SATBarB and BBarTAS, and the Faber published score gives three alternative layouts for the choir. It could be an interesting new option for programme planners who are scheduling the Tallis 40 part motet. .

If you enjoyed this post take an overgrown path to Classical misunderstandings - Hildegard
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Pliable said…
Antony Pitts has emailed me...

Pliable, there's a Scorch version of the score at: http://www.tonusperegrinus.co.uk/TPmsc165.html
It's possible to listen to it playing via MIDI - very pedestrian
etc, but it gives the basic idea.

philosophia said…
What a witty title for this informative and fun entry! I like the picture, as well.
Pliable said…
Thanks Sophia I really appreciate that comment. As a rule humour and word play doesn't seem to work on this blog, but I soldier on with them. I do get concerned that On an overgrown path can get a bit po-faced and try to introduce both some lighter subjects, and something diferent occasionally. Despite a very large number of readers for this, and other, music blogs lack of reader feedback is a real problem.It is a bit like throwing stones down a well, you rarely hear them hit the bottom. Then a post like the Bernstein Mass one creates a big splash.Your comment is really valuable. I would appreciate any other candid comments on what works, and what doesn't on an overgrown path. If you don't want to post a comment email me, the address (in non-machine readable form) is on the top right.
Pliable said…
It would be unfair to give the impression that XL is an Antony Pitts' CD. There are a lot of other fine things on this release. I particularly commend Knut Nystedt's Immortal Bach and the main work (which unfortunately gets subsumed in the Tallis/Pitts headline packaging) Zoltan Kodaly's substantial Laudes organi
Garth Trinkl said…
Thanks for mentioning the Zoltan Kodaly Laudes organi. I'll check it out. ... Speaking of new choral music, has anyone here heard Russian composer Alexander Knaifel's Amicta Sole (Clothed With The Sun) and Psalm 51 (50), on ECM? Jens Laurson, blogging at ionarts.org, says of the CD: "Psalm 51 (50) is an austere, spheric, single instrument pursuit of a musical line that has the meditative, solitary quality of Orthodox church music. The instrument is the cello, and it's played by none other than "Slava," Mstislav Rostropovich. It's almost unbearable in its static monotony, but then that may just be its point. The title piece, Amieta Sole (“Clothed with the Sun”), is similar, but the voices of boys' choir, solo soprano, other assorted throats, and orchestra give it colors that easily sustain interest over its thirty-some minutes. Its subtitle “for soloist (female) of soloists” invites to ponder – the music should appeal to those who like Paert, Silvestri, Kancheli, and the like."


Sound samples from both of these Knaifel works are available at:


And speaking of raindrops on recordings, I recall that when Rostrapovich and TELDEC recorded, live at Washington National Cathedral, Alexander Knaifel's
"Eigth Chapter" ["The Eighth Chapter", canticum canticorum for choruses and cello (1993)
World Premiere on 7 April 1995 in Washington's National Cathedral.
CD Teldec 0630-10160-2: The Choral Arts Society of Washington, Norman Scribner (director); The Washington National Cathedral Choristers, Douglas Major (director); The National Cathedral School Lower School Chorus, Jill Bixler (director)], there was a different ambient effect on the CD.

Although the TELDEC engineers asked the audience to be especially quiet due to the recording and the quietness of much of the work (and they distributed cough drops beforehand), one audience member decided to exit the hall less than one minute into the recording. Unfortunately, this woman required the use of metal walking aides, and the clacking of her exit marred the opening for many audience members. Here unfortunate exit is captured on the CD. I will never forgot the horror on the engineers' faces (they were located near me). I wondered, then, about audio correction technology and I was a little surprised that when the CD came out, there was no attempt to mask the clanking sounds.

For more on Knaifel, see Onno van Rijen's "Soviet Composer's Page" at:
jfl said…
i've had that CD - but i was sorely disappointed with the choir which bungled too many phrases for my taste. especially the high registers seemed awfully strained. i remember laughing out loud in pain with a friend while listening to it. a shame, because it is - program wise - a great CD. i'll have to listen to it with headphones (same HD580) to hear the rain. that should be great fun.



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