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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Dunstable’s most famous piece (and justly so) is the isorhythmic motet, Veni sancte spiritus, in which a comparatively enigmatic formal structure becomes totally dwarfed by the music’s expressive beauty. But the Mass movements here are, if anything, more beautiful. Sample the Gloria a 4 or the Credo and Sanctus Da gaudiorum premia, where the soprano voices soar up ravishingly to the heavens. The eight singers of Tonus Peregrinus sing all this music with richly blended tone and deep feeling, and Antony Pitts, their director, has arranged a little encore with a performance of Dunstable’s four-part Gloria in Canon to which he has added a two-part canon underneath, as ‘in the original work there must have been some kind of harmonic support’. Altogether a superb disc, fully worthy of a great but still little-known musician from the distant past.




David Vernier
ClassicsToday.com, December 2006

This is an interesting adventure for early music fans--70 minutes devoted to one of the most influential and respected English composers ever, but one who is rarely heard today except as an occasional contributor to early music compilations. (Another excellent all-Dunstable disc, from 1995 by the Orlando Consort on Metronome is still available.) This disc's title, Sweet Harmony, comes from the uniquely sonorous feature of Dunstable's music that inspired imitation by composers throughout Europe--the manner in which he used and combined thirds, whether in blocks or as coincidental occurrences among polyphonic parts. The result produces pleasingly vibrant sequences of harmonic consonance, often interrupted with surprising cross-relations or redirected with unusual "backward" harmonic shifts--and there are many times where the boldness of the harmony and complexity of the rhythm can only leave you with renewed respect for this 15th-century music's sophistication and inherent expressive qualities. The eight voices of Tonus Peregrinus--two sopranos, alto, countertenor, three tenors, and bass--make the most of those expressive qualities, in clear, vibrato-colored timbre, captured in the ideally resonant acoustic of Chancelade Abbey in Dordogne, France. The program, which primarily consists of a group of Mass movements framed by two of Dunstable's better-known motets, concludes with a remarkable, recently-discovered Gloria in canon, reconstructed by Margaret Bent and first recorded on the abovementioned Orlando Consort disc in five parts--the original probably had six or seven (the full manuscript is not intact). Here, the singers fill out the existing reconstruction with their own realization, adding an accompanying two-part canon to more closely approximate the style and presumed structure of the original. However authentic or inauthentic, it's a marvelous piece and a sublime rendition that, along with the rest of these works, fully justifies the words of Dunstable's famous epitaph, which honors one "who had secret knowledge of the stars" and "scattered the sweet arts of music throughout the world." Outstanding!



Fanfare, May 2006

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D. James Ross
Early Music Review, December 2005

Founded by the composer/producer Anthony Pitts in 1990 to sing music ancient and contemporary, Tonus Peregrinus apply their skills here to various mass movements by John Dunstable as well as the motets Veni Sancte Spiritus and Quam pulchra es, perhaps his most famous single work. Like their previous disc for Naxos of music from Notre-Dame Cathedral, this recording is made in the spacious acoustic of Chancelade Abbey, although on a less stormy day than the previous one. The approach is dynamic and yet makes good use of the large acoustic, ranging in from a crisp forte to a whispering pianissimo. The singing of the stratospherically high solo voices in the Sanctus (sine nomine) is stunning, but the star of the show is the newly deciphered canonic Gloria with its splendid passing dissonance. The ensemble has a highly developed sense of line (which allows the music time to speak), as well as of ensemble; and if the voice types aren’t always a complete match, the sound is ravishing.



Gramophone, November 2005

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