SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

The Chants of Mary – Gloriæ Dei Cantores Men’s Schola – Gloriæ Dei Cantores

A fine hi-res surround introduction to Gregorian Chant.

Published on November 11, 2012

The Chants of Mary – Gloriæ Dei Cantores Men’s Schola – Gloriæ Dei Cantores

The Chants of Mary – Gloriæ Dei Cantores Men’s Schola – Gloriæ Dei Cantores multichannel SACD GDCD 055, 65:19 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:

For some, Gregorian chant is an acquired taste; particularly in this day and age, when even the brilliant strains of classical music are so often overwhelmed under the daily grind of iPods and walk-along musics of all sorts, bombarded by the repetitive pounding of video game scores and sickly commercial soundtracks, something as pristinely pure and unsettlingly calming as church chant seems to be a bygone anachronism of an age long forgotten. There is indeed, some truth to this assertion. Rarely do people, even music lovers of a more serious stripe, take the time to really listen and appreciate—let alone be moved or affected by—one of the greatest and foundational treasuries of western music.

Chant of course has its origin in the very earliest years of Christianity, evolving slowly from many of the ancient synagogue melodies. Pope Gregory the First is normally assigned the completion of cataloging this massive project, but that remains open to question as some doubt whether notation had been established by this time. I tend to think there is something to this as the assignation is so strong, and he was such a notable personage that it is very probable that he had something important to do in the transmission of the tradition. But by the 10th-13th century the music was definitely being set down in rigorous notation, in accordance with the long-established tradition of the divine offices, and would remain the principle church music of the western tradition even though encumbrances were made in the later years when church music began to expand itself into multiple parts and more complex polyphony.

This SACD uses the men only of the renowned Gloriæ Dei Cantores, in a program that features music from the Conception, Nativity, Annunciation, Visitation, and Assumption of Mary. The men sing with unalloyed grace in their voices, powerful, not especially churchlike or considerate of monastic-like uniformity, but as I imagine the music was at one time performed in the public churches. Some of the more monastic recordings on the market today are exceedingly prim and soullessly pious. The men of this Schola bring not only a spiritual sense but also some full-blooded and genuinely religious fervor, as if the Latin words on the paper are pregnant with real meaning and an otherworldly mysticism, not just syllables to accompany dull or routine monody.

The surround sound is excellent, well-balanced and well-filled. This is yet another superb production (full color booklet and wonderful notes) from a source that sets the example time and time again. Do delve into the clear, cool waters of Gregorian chant—and this is a perfect place to start.

TrackList:

1. Missa IX Cum iúbilo: Glória

2. Responsory: Benedícta et venerábilis

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

3. Gradual: Benedícta es tu

4. Introit: Gaudens gaudébo

5. Antiphon: Salve Regína – Simple Mode

6. Antiphon: Salve Regína – Solemn Mode

Feast of the Nativity of Mary

7. Hymn: O gloriósa Domina

8. Brief response: Ave María

9. Antiphon: Alma Redémptoris Mater – Simple Mode

10. Antiphon: Alma Redémptoris Mater – Solemn Mode

Feast of the Annunciation

11. Offertory: Ave María

12. Hymn: Ave Maris stella

13. Antiphon: Regína caeli – Simple Mode

14.  Antiphon: Regína caeli – Solemn Mode

Feast of the Visitation

15. Gradual: Benedicta et venerábilis

16. Alleluia: Felix es

17. Responsory: Repléta est

18. Antiphon: Ave Regína – Simple mode

19. Antiphon: Ave Regína – Solemn mode

Feast of the Assumption

20. Introit: Signum magnum

21. Hymn: O Prima, Virgi prodita

22. Alleluia: Assúmpta est Maria

23. Antiphon & Solemn Magnificat: Beáta es

—Steven Ritter




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