SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
Exaudiam Eum = Gregorian Chant for Lent & Holy Week – Consortium Vocale Oslo/ Alexander M. Schweitzer – 2L
Published on May 7, 2007
This is my first encounter with a Super Audio recording of the venerable Gregorian chant. The label 2L, also new to me, has given us a treasure-trove of a recital, the gorgeous Lenten melodies swirling around us in glistening 5.0 five-channel SACD, and the experience is ravishing.
Of course, there are a zillion Gregorian chant CDs out there, and unfortunately many of the more popular ones, like the huge-selling Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, are also among the most awful recordings ever made, supped-up for popular consumption. You can find them for Lent, Christmas, meditation, relaxation, you name it. And I suppose that these kinds of recordings might have their place. But for the real deal one needs to pursue a known ensemble that has the credentials to undertake this sort of project. Gloria Dei Cantores, for instance, has a number of recordings to their credit that show musicality, intelligence, and scholarship.
The Consortium Vocale Oslo is the male vocal ensemble of the Cathedral of Oslo, and they are also aligned, along with their director Alexander Schweitzer, with the International Society for the Study of Gregorian Chant (AISCGre), an organization that spends much time and effort attempting to prepare standardized editions of the chant, at least for those manuscripts that are in multiples, at variance, and yet reconcilable. Some of the results of this effort are heard on this disc.
We are given music from the first five Sundays of Lent, plus Palm Sunday and Holy Friday. The fourth Sunday gets more attention that the others because of its Easter-flavoring, a turn of emphasis that occurs in the Western and Eastern liturgical cycles.
The nine-member choir sings with precision and energy, yet is adept at allowing for the many textual changes that dictate the emotional tone of the chant. It is a most impressive sound, fluid and yet disciplined, and this disc is certainly worthy of a general recommendation for anyone just acquainting themselves with the beauties of this body of work (and some authorities date it back to the fifth century or earlier), or even for specialists with a host of recordings already on their shelves.
– Steven Ritter