Tonus Peregrinus, Music from the Eton Choirbook

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 08.16.12 in Reviews
A small sampling of Eton treasures

The Eton Choirbook, compiled circa 1490, is the main source for late medieval English music. It contains some of the smoothest textures in music history: lots of parallel thirds, and mostly stepwise movement rather than leaps. Five composers are represented on this album, which among its small sampling of Eton treasures includes the first recording of Hugh Kellyk’s five-voice Magnificat, one of the older works in the Choirbook. It is an ecstatic work with a wide range and a more serpentine melodic sense than anything else heard here. The six-voice Stabat mater of John Browne is a darkly beautiful setting full of sensual phrases and widely separated voices that lend a great sense of drama. Other highlights: the four-voice Magnificat by William Stratford with its odd structural deviations that colorfully depict the text, and Robert Wylkynson’s uniquely eccentric 13-voice Credo, full of lively rhythms. Tonus Peregrinus has made its own modern edition of this music, so even collectors who have recordings of this repertoire will want to hear their unique application of scholarship to the questions of cross-relations and unwritten accidentals, which give these performances a piquancy missing from some of the competition.