James Gilchrist / Jeremy Backhouse / Jeremy Filsell / Vasari Singers

Francis Pott: The Cloud of Unknowing

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British composer Francis Pott (born 1957) wrote his oratorio, The Cloud of Unknowing, for the 25th anniversary of the Vasari Singers in 2007. Pott uses a variety of sources for his texts, including Psalms, the Revelation of John, the Prophets, William Blake, Thomas Traherne, the fourteenth century tract "The Cloud of Unknowing," and the work of several twentieth century poets. The work is unified by its focus on the universality of human suffering. Pott writes that the impetus for the work came from the numerous acts of international violence that dominated the news since the turn of the millennium. Scored for tenor soloist, chorus, and organ, the oratorio's mood of darkness is leavened by moments of repose, as in the setting of Psalm 23, and the work's tranquil, elegiac conclusion. Pott writes very much in the tradition and tonal language of the English cathedral composers of the early twentieth century. Although he uses conventional musical materials, his music is rarely merely imitative, and while, as a whole, the work may not have the clear dramatic trajectory of the greatest oratorios or the musical power to match the profundity (and admittedly, the ineffability) of its subject matter, it is consistently skillful, earnest, and often moving. Tenor James Gilchrist negotiates the very substantial solos with secure technique and deep feeling. The Vasari Singers, led by Jeremy Backhouse, sing with fullness and broad, expressive color and range. Jeremy Filsell plays the virtuosic organ part with the fire and delicacy it requires.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
The Cloud of Unknowing, for voice, chorus & organ
1
2:04
2
1:08
3
2:46
4
2:06
5
2:20
6
1:54
7
1:39
8
2:08
9
1:56
10
2:05
11
3:35
12
3:13
13
1:32
14
0:52
15
3:23
16
3:29
17
9:08
blue highlight denotes track pick