From plainchant via simple 9th-century harmonies and the virtuosic
duets of Master Léonin (known as organum), this hauntingly
beautiful sequence charts the birth of polyphony up to the first music
in four independent parts – composed by Master Pérotin and
sung during the liturgy at the new Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris.
From the official laying of the cornerstone in 1163 to the completion
of the famous Western façade almost a hundred years later,
Notre-Dame was the fertile home of singers and composers whose
extraordinary handiwork has come down to us in the magnus liber organi:
the “Great Book of Organum”.
1. Beata viscera [6:09]
monophonic conductus · PÉROTIN — soprano Rebecca Hickey
2. Viderunt omnes [2:22]
plainchant — MEN, FULL
Viderunt omnes [17:35]
2-part organum · LÉONIN?
[tenor R. Eteson + tenors A. Hickey, T. Watson, bass F. Brett]
3. Viderunt omnes ... · 2-part organum [2:09]
4. ... fines terre salutare dei nostri jubilate deo omnis terra · plainchant [0:54]
5. Notum fecit ... · 2-part organum [0:45]
6. ... Dominus ... · 2-part organum [1:35]
7. ... salutare suum ante conspectum gentium revelavit ... · 2-part organum [3:44]
8. ... justitiam suam · plainchant [0:24]
[soprano J. Forbes + soprano R. Hickey, alto K. Oswald, countertenor A. L'Estrange]
9. Viderunt omnes ... · 2-part organum [1:20]
10. ... fines terre salutare dei nostri jubilate deo omnis terra · plainchant [0:53]
11. Notum fecit ... · 2-part organum [0:49]
12. ... Dominus ... · 2-part organum [0:56]
13. ... salutare suum ante conspectum gentium revelavit ... · 2-part organum [2:08]
14. ... justitiam suam · plainchant [0:23]
[UPPER & LOWER CHOIRS]
15. Viderunt omnes ... · 2-part organum [0:38]
16. ... fines terre salutare dei nostri jubilate deo omnis terra · plainchant [0:58]
... Dominus... • Factum est salutare / ... Dominus ... [4:47]
2-part clausulae ... Dominus ...
17. I [0:56] LOWER CHOIR
18. II [0:54] UPPER CHOIR
19. III [0:59] LOWER CHOIR
20. IV [0:38] UPPER CHOIR
21. V [0:39] LOWER CHOIR
22. Factum est salutare / ... Dominus .... [0:40] soprano J. Forbes, UPPER CHOIR
Viderunt omnes [16:01]
4-part organum • PÉROTIN
[soprano R. Hickey, tenor A. Hickey, bass F. Brett + tenor T.Watson/countertenor A. L'Estrange/A. Pitts]
23. Viderunt omnes ... · 4-part organum [5:15]
24. ... fines terre salutare dei nostri jubilate deo omnis terra · plainchant [0:56]
25. Notum fecit ... · 4-part organum [3:55]
26. ... Dominus ... · 4-part organum [0:47]
27. ... salutare suum ante conspectum gentium revelavit ... · 2-part organum [3:38]
28. ... justitiam suam · plainchant [0:24]
29. Viderunt omnes fines terre salutare dei nostri jubilate deo omnis terra · plainchant [1:12] FULL
30. Non nobis Domine [7:10]
organum examples (Psalm 115/113b) after 9th-century Scolica [Scholia] enchiriadis — FULL
31. Sederunt principes [13:31]
4-part organum / plainchant • PÉROTIN
[sopranos J. Forbes, R. Hickey, alto K. Oswald + countertenor L'Estrange/A. Pitts]
32. Vetus abit littera [2:29]
4-part conductus — FULL
Joanna Forbes, Rebecca Hickey — sopranos
Kathryn Oswald — alto
Alexander L’Estrange — countertenor
Richard Eteson, Alexander Hickey, Timothy Watson — tenors
Francis Brett — bass
TONUS PEREGRINUS is a group of individual musicians each forging their own diverse careers, yet unified when they meet to make music from many times and places. The ensemble was founded by the composer and producer Antony Pitts in 1990, while studying at New College, Oxford under Dr Edward Higginbottom. The Latin term tonus peregrinus was the name given to one of the Church’s ancient psalm tones; in turn, this chant was based on a Jewish melody which may have been sung by Jesus and the disciples at the Last Supper. This particular psalm tone was unusual in that it had a different recitation tone in each half, hence its name, ‘wandering tone’; it was also known, despite its history, as the tonus novissimus, or the ‘newest tone’. TONUS PEREGRINUS combines these two characteristics in a repertoire that ranges far and wide from the end of the Dark Ages to scores fresh from the printer, and with an interpretative approach that is both authentic and original. It was a recording of Pitts’s sacred choral music, Seven Letters (now on Hyperion CDA67507) that led Klaus Heymann to commission the ensemble’s first two recordings for Naxos: Arvo Pärt’s Passio (Naxos 8.555860), which hit the top of the BBC Music Magazine chart and won a Cannes Classical Award, and a pairing of the earliest complete polyphonic Mass and Passion settings The Mass of Tournai (Naxos 8.555861). Forthcoming releases include Sweet Harmony, Masses & motets by John Dunstable (Naxos 8.557341), the first-ever opera Le Jeu de Robin et Marion by Adam de la Halle (Naxos 8.557337), and Hymnes and Songs of the Church (Naxos 8.557681). The Naxos Book of Carols is available both as a CD (Naxos 8.557330) and as a book published jointly with Faber Music. The ensemble’s website is at: www.tonusperegrinus.co.uk; for a free e-newsletter, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joanna Forbes studied cello and piano from an early age and read Music at Hertford College, Oxford. Best-known for her work with world-renowned a cappella group the swingle singers, of which she was soprano/Musical Director for over six years, she enjoys a varied career as a classical soprano, both as a soloist and in consorts, jazz singer, arranger, lyricist, CD producer, workshop leader and singing teacher.
Rebecca Hickey has sung in choirs from a very early age. She started her formal singing studies whilst at university in York and now sings in a number of small choirs and vocal ensembles.
Kathryn Oswald read Music at Worcester College, Oxford, where she held a Music Scholarship. She now pursues a busy and varied musical career, performing regularly with other leading choirs and ensembles, and also as a solo recitalist. She features as a voice-over artist for BBC Radio 3 and Unknown Public Radio, and is editorial director at Faber Music.
Alexander L’Estrange was a chorister at New College, Oxford and later read Music at Merton College, singing in the choir of Magdalen College and graduating in 1994 with First Class Honours. Besides singing countertenor professionally, he is also much in demand as a composer, arranger and jazz double bass player.
Richard Eteson has been singing all his life. From an early age he was a chorister at King’s College, Cambridge, and later a choral scholar there. He has since sung tenor in many of London’s finest choirs and vocal ensembles whilst being in demand up and down the country as an oratorio soloist.
Alexander Hickey started singing as a chorister in Hereford Cathedral, went up to Christ Church, Oxford, as a choral scholar and now practises as a barrister. He regularly sings with renowned amateur and professional choirs in and around London.
Francis Brett was a choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge where he read Music. He studied as a postgraduate at the Royal College of Music and has since performed a wide variety of music including opera at Covent Garden and many of the major works of oratorio.
Timothy Watson studied history and French at Oxford, completing a doctorate on the French Renaissance, and lectured at the Universities of Oxford and Newcastle. A former principal percussionist of the National Youth Orchestra, he studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon with François Dupin, and performed for the first time with Tonus Peregrinus in 1990, playing vibraphone in the première of Music for a Large Audience. He has also sung with the choirs of Magdalen and Christ Church Oxford, Schola Cantorum of Oxford, and the Opéra de Lyon. In 2002 he left British academe for the religious life, and is currently a member of the Chemin Neuf Community in south-east France.
Antony Pitts was born in 1969 and sang as a boy in the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace. He was an Academic Scholar and later Honorary Senior Scholar at New College, Oxford and graduated in 1990 with First Class Honours. While at New College he founded TONUS PEREGRINUS and in 2004 won a Cannes Classical Award for his interpretation of Arvo Pärt’s Passio with the ensemble. He joined the BBC in 1992, and worked for many years as a Senior Producer for BBC Radio 3, winning the Radio Academy BT Award for Facing the Radio (1995) and the Prix Italia for A Pebble in the Pond in 2004. For the turn of the Millennium he devised an eighteen-hour history of Western music called The Unfinished Symphony, and more recently harmonized all four Gospel accounts of the Passion in A Passion 4 Radio. He began composing at an early age and has written pieces for Cambridge Voices, the Clerks’ Group, European Chamber Opera, the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, Oxford Camerata, the Oxford Festival of Contemporary Music, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Schola Cantorum of Oxford, the Swingle
Singers, and the Choir of Westminster Cathedral. Faber Music publish some of his scores, including the forty-voice motet XL, and Hyperion have recently released a CD of his sacred choral music called Seven Letters (CDA67507). He also teaches at the Royal Academy of Music.
Recorded at Chancelade Abbey, Dordogne, France, from 5th to 9th January, 2004
Producer: Jeremy Summerly • Engineer: Geoff Miles • Editor: Antony Pitts
Performing editions and booklet notes: Antony Pitts
Recorded and edited at 24-bit resolution
Cover Picture: The south transept rose window at Notre-Dame by Maria Jonckheere
(by kind permission)
℗ & © 2005 Naxos Rights International Ltd.
The cornerstone of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris was laid in 1163; by
c.1250 its imposing Western façade had been completed. During
this period the vast body of polyphonic music known as the magnus
liber organi was composed, compiled and edited – capped at
the turn of the 12th century by Magister Pérotin’s
celebrated organum Viderunt omnes, one of the very first pieces
written in four independent parts. Pérotin and his generation
were building on the legacy of another “master”,
Léonin: the extra 2-part versions of "Dominus" were designed to
replace the sections of Léonin’s original organum. The
foundations of polyphony and the Notre-Dame style are found in the
simple organum of a 9th-century treatise. Underneath it all, and
supporting a thousand years of Western musical history, is plainchant
– the ancient melody of the Church.
Viderunt omnes... “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” – this great Old Testament vision aptly sums up the inspiration for both the architecture of Notre-Dame in Paris and the liquid equivalent to be found in the Cathedral’s magnus liber organi – “the great book of organum”.
A picture postcard of Notre-Dame Cathedral tells you something of its form and appearance but little of its detail and none of its power: even the best efforts of imagination are not enough to appreciate fully its immensity until you are right there, standing next to what John Julius Norwich neatly summarised as the “first cathedral built on a truly monumental scale”. Likewise the music written for the cathedral needs to be heard as near to lifesize volume as feasible to understand its intensity and force.
Visitors to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame are first of all struck by the imposing Western façade, but on entering the building the experience is transformed by what Abbot Suger of St Denis – one of the forefathers of the Gothic style of architecture – had conceived as “the wonderful and uninterrupted light of most sacred windows pervading the interior beauty”; then there is the awareness of a vast mass of people contained within the towering walls and arches; and above all, the unmistakeable sound of distant voices and movement reflected from innumerable ancient corners. For the Parisian musicians and worshippers living in the late 12th and early 13th Centuries, however, this was a dynamic experience as the new structure slowly took shape above the city skyline: a building project that would span several generations from the laying of the cornerstone in 1163.
Léonin, who was considered the master of polyphonic composition in his time and who appears to have been responsible for the magnus liber in its original form, must have spent much of his career in the unfinished ‘choir’ or Eastern portion of the Cathedral, separated from the regular sounds of construction by some kind of temporary screen which perhaps was moved column by column westwards over the years. By the time Pérotin made a new edition of Léonin’s magnus liber and added his own massive polyphonic versions of two Gradual chants – most likely for feast-days in 1198 and 1199 – practically the entire space of the Cathedral was ready to resonate in sympathy. Over the next half-century and beyond work continued on the building until it was as complete as it ever would be.
Certainly that is the story that seems to be corroborated by the enormous body of music in the magnus liber itself. The foundation of this repertoire is plainchant – unmeasured melodies associated with every liturgical moment in the Church’s calendar. Viderunt omnes (track 2) is a chant for Christmas Day and its octave, the Feast of Circumcision.
There are two very simple ways of constructing polyphony out of plainchant: either by adding a drone – one note held on as a pedal under the plainchant, or by simultaneously singing the same plainchant at a fixed interval above or below (the most obvious example is of men and women, or men and boys singing the same tune an octave apart). The 9th-century treatise Scolica [or Scholia] enchiriadis demonstrates this spontaneous and unwritten practice of parallel organum with a number of examples which we have recorded here as individual verses of a psalm (track 30).
On top of these early edifices in Western polyphony we can imagine ad hoc experiments in the performance of plainchant in a measured style (with each note either the same length or twice as long as the next), and in the improvisation of a free part over the existing plainchant. Today it is easy to forget how well these tunes, especially those for feast-days such as Christmas or Easter, would have been known by both the professionals in the choir and the congregation in the nave.
The two-part music or organum duplum from Notre-Dame most commonly associated with Léonin (tracks 3-16) is built upon all these earlier developments, with the familiar tune of the plainchant either slowed down while a second part elaborates a clearly soloistic line (organum purum), or rhythmicised into the same ‘modal’ system as the new solo line (discantus). The rules for unravelling 13th-century notation are relatively unambiguous for discantus or discant style, but they leave us with plenty of rhythmic options for the longer, more virtuosic sections of organum purum – on this recording we have explored a number of the many solutions (compare tracks 3 and 9).
It was the more regular discantus sections which proved most memorable and consequently attracted the attention of up-and-coming composers, including Pérotin. One section from the Viderunt omnes in particular – with the single, crucial word “Dominus” (tracks 6 and 12) became favourite fabric for rhythmic and harmonic experimentation, and many new two-part versions of this section were composed (including tracks 17-21), either to be inserted as substitute clausulae or possibly as free-standing pieces. In the furnishing of new words to the upper part in Factum est salutare / Dominus (track 22) there are the audible seeds of the motet – which was to become a separate musical structure with a future far outside its original liturgical setting.
With the addition of a third, and then a fourth voice, the rhythmic organisation of the discant style of organum was fully extended to the upper parts throughout – just as the Cathedral’s original arcade, gallery, triforium, and clerestory had to be carefully co-ordinated. And just as the exceptional height of the Gothic style of architecture required new solutions to the problems of this scale of weight-bearing, there were also further harmonic implications of combining so many voices – composers had to discover how to balance intricate mixtures of consonance and dissonance (harmonic intervals which sound relatively more or less pleasing to the ear) over a long span of time. According to an Englishman visiting Paris in the later 13th Century (the posthumously-labelled ‘Anonymous 4’) it was “Master Pérotin who made the best quadrupla”, and it is these earliest surviving examples of four-part harmony which open the manuscript Florence, Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana, plut. 29.1 (‘F’) from which the editions for this recording were largely made.
Our approach on this recording has been to combine what we know of 12th- and 13th-century notational theory with the practical results of our own encounter with this celebrated style; above all, we have aimed to adopt a pace and an intensity to match the scale of the building for which this music was written. If, as for today’s visitors to Notre-Dame or for the scribe of the manuscript known as ‘F’, it is size that creates the best initial impression, then go straight to Pérotin’s Viderunt omnes (tracks 23-28) or Sederunt principes (track 31) – written for the day after Christmas when St Stephen the first Christian martyr (and co-patron of the Cathedral) was remembered. If, however, time allows listening all the way through from Pérotin’s freely-composed melody Beata viscera (track 1) to a four-part conductus Vetus abit littera (track 32), then hopefully we will have conveyed something of the staggering cumulative effect of a Gothic cathedral-in-progress.