Author Topic: Chant  (Read 22233 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #40 on: October 14, 2018, 06:24:24 AM »


The review in Gramophone says something quite interesting about this challenging and stimulating and at times gorgeous recording. It has to do with the resonant ambience of The Vatican, something which the recording captures very evocatively. Of course it means that in polyphonic music things get a bit mushed up. In fact, it’s so echoey that even monophonic chant is fuzzy, presumably in context the singing appears to come from all over, from out of alcoves and from behind pillars. A fog of words, like T S Eliot’s cat in Prufrock.

The Gramophone review says that this might be a deliberate theologically inspired plan, something to make The Word slightly ineffable, to counter  the idea that understanding The Word is something that is graspable if you attend hard enough - like you might grasp the words of a schoolteacher.

Anyway I thought that was interesting as an idea, at least.

Mary Berry was clearly a bit of an inspiration to her singers, because the sheer variety and intensity of expression that she gets out of them is astonishing.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2018, 06:27:36 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Biffo

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Re: Chant
« Reply #41 on: October 14, 2018, 06:51:31 AM »


The review in Gramophone says something quite interesting about this challenging and stimulating and at times gorgeous recording. It has to do with the resonant ambience of The Vatican, something which the recording captures very evocatively. Of course it means that in polyphonic music things get a bit mushed up. In fact, it’s so echoey that even monophonic chant is fuzzy, presumably in context the singing appears to come from all over, from out of alcoves and from behind pillars. A fog of words, like T S Eliot’s cat in Prufrock.

The Gramophone review says that this might be a deliberate theologically inspired plan, something to make The Word slightly ineffable, to counter  the idea that understanding The Word is something that is graspable if you attend hard enough - like you might grasp the words of a schoolteacher.

Anyway I thought that was interesting as an idea, at least.

Mary Berry was clearly a bit of an inspiration to her singers, because the sheer variety and intensity of expression that she gets out of them is astonishing.

Sounds like the sort of tweddle you would find in Gramophone. The Vatican and all the other magnificent cathedrals were built to impress, not to mention intimidate. Acoustics were secondary and good or bad by accident. The Word of God was handed down by the Church via a priest not the choir. Even in a good acoustic the words of what is being sung is near unintelligible and pre Vatican II in a language few of the congregation understood.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #42 on: October 14, 2018, 07:03:28 AM »
The Word of God was handed down by the Church via a priest not the choir.

You may be right. What was the point of chant if not to express The Word?

Does anyone have the CD (I don’t) It would be interesting to know if they talk about The Vatican acoustics in the booklet essays,
« Last Edit: October 14, 2018, 07:07:59 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Biffo

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Re: Chant
« Reply #43 on: October 14, 2018, 07:33:11 AM »
You may be right. What was the point of chant if not to express The Word?

Does anyone have the CD (I don’t) It would be interesting to know if they talk about The Vatican acoustics in the booklet essays,

The chant was part of the act of worship, to glorify God not enlighten the congregation. This idea of imparting the Word of God is a very Protestant idea. In large cathedrals the chant or polyphony would have been almost inaudible or unintelligible to most of the congregation. Only those near to the choir ie. the clergy and the aristocracy would have heard very much. A small choir can fill a large building with sound but it not necessarily intelligible sound.

The singing was another part of the decoration of these great buildings and not always there for the glorification of God. When Cardinal Wolsey was Archbishop of York the minster had a choir of just 12 men and boys, not very impressive for such a large building. Wolsey lavished all his attention on his Cardinal College in Oxford. The college had a sizeable choir of men and boys as well as 30 'singing priests'. This was for the glorification of Thomas Wolsey, not God, certainly not for imparting the Word.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #44 on: October 14, 2018, 08:08:43 AM »
Interesting, thanks for such a clear response. Someone once said to me that they thought that the reason people sang monophonic or heterophonic chant in the middle ages was so that the words could be really clearly understood, but as far as I remember it was just an assertion.
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Offline Biffo

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Re: Chant
« Reply #45 on: October 14, 2018, 08:19:26 AM »
Interesting, thanks for such a clear response. Someone once said to me that they thought that the reason people sang monophonic or heterophonic chant in the middle ages was so that the words could be really clearly understood, but as far as I remember it was just an assertion.

I really can't comment on that either way but it seems unlikely to me. The problem is that custom varied from place to place and over time and it is probably possible to find examples to fit any theory. Certainly in a large cathedral intelligibility would be restricted to a very small number. In a monastic situation quite often the monks would be singing entirely for themselves.

After the Reformation, in most Protestant countries, chant was abolished along with the choirs that sang it. Elaborate polyphony was also abolished and great stress was placed on intelligibility. This was certainly the case in England in the reign of Edward VI and composers had to adopt a whole new style.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #46 on: October 14, 2018, 08:37:49 AM »
Thanks

Unfortunately I've become interested in something which you really need to be part of a university to understand, I don't even have access to a decent library, and I have no contact with anyone working in the field!
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Offline Biffo

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Re: Chant
« Reply #47 on: October 14, 2018, 08:52:48 AM »
Thanks

Unfortunately I've become interested in something which you really need to be part of a university to understand, I don't even have access to a decent library, and I have no contact with anyone working in the field!

I can sympathize. I have always been interested in history and music history has been a growing part of that. I am only an amateur and specialist books on medieval and renaissance music, even where available, are usually beyond my competence.

It is frustrating in a discussion like this when something I have read in the past has some relevance but it is only half-remembered. Quite often the internet is useless - articles come and go and are quite often incorrect. Some learned journals are available online but you usually have to subscribe to them and are probably too specialised.


Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #49 on: November 11, 2018, 11:33:39 AM »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #50 on: November 13, 2018, 09:41:27 PM »


This was Pérès’ first recording with Ensemble Organum. What interests me most is the restraint of the expression, the accuracy of the execution, the way the edition they use makes the polyphonic and heterophonic music sound harmonically non-tonal, and the sense of inferiority and rapt prayer. C12 polyphony in Aquitaine is something I’m interested in. I know of four recordings dedicated to it - this, two from Sequentia (Shining Light and Aquitania),  and one from an American ensemble called Heliotrope (The Fire and the Rose) which I have just ordered. If anyone knows any others please let me know.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2018, 10:06:04 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #51 on: January 09, 2019, 10:56:42 PM »




For some reason I just can't explain, this one has had less of an impact on me, apart from one song which is a real knockout - called O homo coruit.



The song O homo coruit is indeed very special not least because of the way it really takes off at the end. On revisiting this recording the thing that impressed me most was the quality of the singing, their palpable engagement. Pérès knows how to get the best from the people who work for him. In additional to the extraordinary track O homo coruit, I’d single out now, two years later, for its rapt quiet beauty Libri Sapientiae, which is one of the best renditions of this sort of elaborate organum I’ve ever heard, there Pérès seems to me to get his singers to singing modally in the sense of Rebecca Stewart.

In O magnum mysterium Dominique Vellard gives what is possibly the best rendition  of a monophonic chant that I’ve ever heard. It isn’t easy for to perform monody, the singer has nowhere to hide, you have to have a singer with a talent for diction. It takes a Peter Pears to do it. Hats of to Vellard here.

The end shows Pérès’s experience as an entertainer. The long number starts with Pérès improvising  on an organ, I’d say stylishly - it’s well judged in terms of timing, 3 minutes is just right. They get all the singers on for the final set - like in Tristan and Isolde! - which contains a virtuosic soaring tenor line, it must have been a very memorable ending for in concert. I can imagine the ovation.

So I feel much more enthusiastic now for this recording compared with what I wrote two years ago, I guess part of the reason is that I’ve learned more about how to listen to this sort of music.

This image is more informative of what’s going on in this valuable CD

« Last Edit: January 10, 2019, 12:41:41 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #52 on: January 11, 2019, 04:01:39 AM »


Vellard’s version of Perotin’s Viderunt Omnes does not sound like anyone else’s prior to the production of this recording as far as I know. This is no doubt in part due to the choice of manuscript, and of individual clausulae, for his edition. But it’s more profound than that. The most obvious unique selling point  is that it involves a radical re-evaluation of the energy hoquets which dramatically alters the mood of the music. He’s quite bullish about what he’s managed to make of the Perotin’s composition, he thinks that he’s the first to reveal Perotin’s art for its full expressive glory. I was particularly interested in his comments about cross relations

Quote
I believe the factor responsible for limiting recognition of the richness contained in Perotin’s organa quadrupla has been the attempt to deduce the work’s overall tempo from its melodic themes - which are delightfully simple - without taking into account the fascinating variety of har- monies generated at the points where these melodic lines meet, whether on long notes or short. Reproduced below is the passage (conclusion of the vocalization on gentium) at the verse-ending of the Viderunt Omnes [8] quadruplum - an especially moving passage marvelously evoking the mystery of Christmas (musical example on page 13). Thought with a solemn, sweeping movement, this work exhibits a grandiose architectural construction and variety in each section which in no way impede the broad, moving sonority our century’s performers and lis- teners still find so impressive today (see illustration of the original manuscript on page 20).

I’m reminded of a comment by Christopher Page talking about Ars Nova, about the trade off between bringing out harmonic details, and producing excitement - at the time he favoured excitement, Vellard clearly does not.

How much has Vellard’s approach to Perotin been influential?

I think there just may be one recording of the chant which does draw on Vellard’s ideas, and maybe rivals Vellard's performance. It’s by Tonus Peregrinus on Naxos. Tonus Peregrinus too are very conscious of the potential harmonic interest of the music, as a matter of fact they are to my ears more intereting harmonically, less white note, than Vellard. And they make the obvious point, but worth saying nevertheless, that somehow their pace (and by implication Vellard’s) matches the scale of the cathedral itself.

In fact what they actually say is worth quoting   

Quote
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.

It’s that intensity which their harmonic awareness gives the performance. So top choice for me in this four part organum attributed to Perotin, this one by Tonus Peregrinus

« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 06:39:42 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #53 on: January 14, 2019, 12:08:29 AM »
Useful text on Abelard here

https://books.openedition.org/pur/18406?lang=en#notes

I found it while searching for the words with translation for the plactus De Profundis. can anyone help?
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #54 on: January 14, 2019, 03:20:36 AM »


I would say this recording of chant and Tallis lamentations from Nigel Short is very superior indeed. I found it in an unusual way. I was listening to a planctus attributed to Abelard sung by Schola Gregoriana Cambridge on this CD



It is very fine, monophonic mostly, and to get away with that sort of music you need really good, inspired singers. Mary Berry has just that, in particular a bass singer. Now, annoyingly, according to allmusic there are two basses on that recording, John Rowlands Pritchard and Michael McCarthy.

https://www.allmusic.com/album/abelard-12th-century-chant-mw0001811553/credits

I don’t know which of the two caught my attention for having such a wonderful sense of diction and such an expressive timbre at the opening of Abelard’s De Profundis. But searching further revealed that Michael McCarthy is on this recording from Nigel Short.

There is, by the way, another recording of the mediaeval De Profundis from Paul Hillier, which hasn’t quite inspired my imagination as much as Mary Berry’s, it’s on this CD


« Last Edit: January 14, 2019, 03:33:09 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline San Antone

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Re: Chant
« Reply #55 on: January 14, 2019, 04:48:56 AM »
The best website for information regarding chant is this http://www.solesmes.com/history

The monks of L'Abbaye Saint-Pierre Solesmes have issued dozens of recordings of chant and these can't be beat for this music.  Jerome F. Weber, who for decades was the primary reviewer at Fanfare for early music, is a specialist in Gregorian chant and created a comprehensive discography. http://chantdiscography.com/

He knows more about this music than anyone I've ever encountered. 

He retired from reviewing a few years ago, but for a short period of time we were in contact via email.  He also knows a lot about the Machaut mass, and Liszt piano sonata - both areas we had in common.  I initially contacted him about his ongoing discography of Palestrina masses but we quickly found other areas of interest we shared.  A wonderful and fascinating guy, who I later discovered is a Catholic priest.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/qNuJQbLJ-3I" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/qNuJQbLJ-3I</a>

I own the Willi Apel scholarly book on chant - but suggest the smaller more accessible book by Dom Daniel Saulnier, translated by Mary Berry - Gregorian Chant, A guide to the History and Liturgy.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2019, 08:43:26 AM by San Antone »

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #56 on: January 14, 2019, 07:25:50 AM »
Thanks, re Mary Berry, I believe this recording is one of hers.

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Chant
« Reply #57 on: January 14, 2019, 10:38:46 PM »


A quick point about this, which has some of the best Gregorian chant I’ve ever heard. What it’s taught me is that in this sort of chant, the pauses really do matter! it’s the silences in the antiphons which make them so magical.
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Traverso

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Re: Chant
« Reply #58 on: January 15, 2019, 01:39:44 AM »
It is striking that the recordings of the Choralschola der Wiener Hofburgkapelle are not mentioned. In my opinion they are ideal interpretations, not too academic and with a choir sound that I prefer above that of Solesmes.


<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/Sd5BL8m7Ai4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/Sd5BL8m7Ai4</a>



Offline San Antone

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Re: Chant
« Reply #59 on: January 15, 2019, 03:52:37 AM »
Several years ago CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on the Monks of Norcia (Italy) - here's the CD, which is a very good example of chant.



Norcia is the birthplace of St. Benedict, the founder of western monasticism and patron saint of Europe. The Monks of Norcia, who guard the St. Benedict’s legacy there, lost their monastery and basilica in town after powerful earthquakes ravaged the region in 2016. The monks all survived, but are now working to restore a former Capuchin monastery on the mountainside overlooking the town to be their new permanent home.