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Gregorian Requiem
Plainchant Antiphon: Apud Dominum and Psalm 129; Antiphon: Habitabit and Psalm 14; Antiphon: Subvenite Sancti Dei; Antiphon: Rogamus te, Domine; Antiphon: Antequam nacerer; Antiphon: Credo quod Redemptor; Antiphon: Qui Lazarum; Antiphon: Libre me, Domine; Introit: Requiem Aeternam and Psalm 64; Kyrie XVIIIB; Gradual: Requiem Aeternam; Tract: Absolve, Domine, animas omnium; Sequence: Dies irae, dies illa; Offertory: Domine Jesu Christe; Sanctus/Benedictus XVII; Agnus Dei XVIII; Communion: Lux aeterna, luceat eis Domine; Introit: Sicut oculi servocum and Psalm 122; Gradual: Convertere, Domine aliquantulum; Tract: De profundis clamavi; Offertory: Domine convertere; Communion: Amen dico vobis; Antiphon: In paradisum; Antiphon: Chorus angelorum; Antiphon: Ego sum resurrectio et vita; Canticle: Benedictus;
Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola/Dr. Richard J. Pugsley (director)
Recorded 1995, Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.


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The plainchant requiem has threaded its way through our musical culture since the medieval period. Masses have been based on theses lovely chants and many composers have written their own settings for parts of the service. But complete sung requiem requires a considerable amount of chant and in some cases a number of alternatives may be sung.

On this disc, Gloriae Dei Cantores perform a complete survey of the plainchant for the requiem mass. They start with two psalms and antiphons for the vigil, going on to the six antiphons sung in church before the mass. These are followed by a complete mass, with Ordinary and Propers, plus the Dies Irae. This latter is not currently in the Requiem Mass but it has been an important part of this mass since 13th Century. This complete mass is followed by another set of Propers, giving some of the many alternatives that are available. The disk is completed by two Antiphons and the Canticle and Antiphon that are sung as the body is being taken from the church, though in the medieval period these were sung at the graveside.

This recording is not an historical reconstruction. The group sings Mass and the Benedictine Monastic Offices regularly at the Church of the Transfiguration, Orleans, Massachusetts, so the style of singing and the selection of chant is firmly based on current usage. The Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola numbers about 16 people, here directed by Dr. Richard Pugsley. They are a mixed group and generally the sexes take it in turns to sing complete chants, but the whole group chants the psalms.

The group is a non-professional one, which has advantages and disadvantages. From their daily singing of the Offices, the group have developed a familiarity and flexibility which is admirable and must certainly be impressive and moving when heard live, during services. But on a recording, even one as sympathetically recorded as this one, small slips can give them away. This is notable in the occasional lack of a clean attack or the lack of unanimity of line. These are small, but significant faults. They are balanced by the group's undoubted virtues and their wonderful commitment to text and music. But some listeners may find that, on repeated listening, these blemishes may become irksome.

The role of cantor is shared among a number of singers and again this reaps mixed rewards as not all the singers are of true solo stature, but all of them are committed and sympathetic to the group's musical ethos.

The chant is sung at a very steady pace. This works, pretty well, in the more elaborate passages. But the psalms, sung at this speed with significant pauses in the texture, easily start to sound a little bogged down. Even in the more developed chant I would have liked a greater sense of flow (and speed). This performance might work well in a building with a resonant acoustic. But this recording is sympathetically close and we could have done with a greater feeling of movement. I would have especially liked this in the Dies Irae, which starts to rather outstay its welcome. It is not performed alternim, but sung through by the men at a very steady pace pitched rather too low for the comfort of the group. This movement, in particular, does feel like a missed opportunity.

Naxos have also issued a plainchant requiem, sung by the female group Aurora Surgit. The layout of the Naxos disc differs somewhat from the Gloriae Dei Cantores and this may affect your choice (though at super budget price, the enthusiast could afford both). Aurora Surgit do not prefix the mass with all the psalms and antiphons that Gloriae Dei Cantores do. Aurora Surgit sing only one set of propers as theirs is a complete mass reconstruction, with Epistle, Gospel, Preface and Eucharistic Prayer. The result is to lay more emphasis on the service itself. Whereas Gloriae Dei Cantores, by including far more chant than would be included in the average service, place more emphasis on the chant for its own sake.

This recording will be a must for anyone who has opened their Liber to sing part of the Requiem Mass and wondered what all the other music would sound like. Here, rather enterprisingly, Gloriae Dei Cantores give us the ability to find out.

Robert Hugill

A remarkably comprehensive disc of chants from the Officium Defunctorum, including not just the mass but the psalms and antiphons from before and after the mass see Full Review

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