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Medieval Chant
Riga Mass
A 14th Century Mass from the Cathedral of Riga

Introitus - Terribilis Est
Kyrie Tropus
Graduale - Locus iste
Alleluia - Vox exultationis
Sequentia - Res est admirabilis
Offertorium - Domine Deus
Pater Noster
Agnus Dei
Communio - Domus Mea
Responsorium - Fundata est
Hymnus - Urbs Ierusalem beata
Benedicamus Domino
Schola Cantorum Riga
(Janis Mors, Aigars Reinis, Kaspars Milasevics, Gatis Zelmenis, Janis Laucenieks, Rihards Dubra, Guntars Pranis, Gundars Regers, Karlis Bimbers)
Recorded Riga Cathedral, May 2002
UPE Classics 4750404004024 [53.40]

From UPE Classics please sample on line

Founded in 1995, the Schola Cantorum Riga (originally the Schola Gregoriana Riga) started as a specialist ensemble for the authentic interpretation of gregorian chant. It grew out of gregorian chant weeks held each summer in Latvia. Gradually it became a group with a comprehensive and varied repertoire. The group believes one of its missions is to perform music by Latvian composers. Spiritual music by contemporary Latvian musicians is part of the choir's repertoire and the group enjoys the support of the Latvian composer Rihards Dubra (known in the UK mainly for his fine approachable chant-inflected liturgical music). The choir performs Dubra's music regularly and has released a CD devoted to Dubra's music. Dubra was a founder member of the group and is still keen participant in the choir's activities and sings on this record.

The group numbers around 15 singers in full and their routine includes both spiritual concerts and frequent participation in church services. Their musical director, Guntars Pranis is the Cantor of Riga Cathedral and teaches Gregorian Chant at the Latvian Music Academy. On the current recording the group numbers 9 singers.

This ingenious recording uses propers taken from a 14th century manuscript (the Missale Rigense preserved at Riga Cathedral) to construct an entire plainchant mass. The foundation stone of Riga Cathedral was laid on July 24th 1211. The anniversary of this date would probably have been celebrated with a mass - the Mass for the Consecration of a Church. The propers for this mass are those which have been preserved in the Riga manuscript.

This very evocative recording was made in Riga cathedral and the cathedral's resonant acoustic almost becomes an additional performer.

The ordinary of the mass is sung to the plainchant mass 'Kyrie fons bonitatis'. This mass is still in the contemporary Liber, but the group here sing the Kyrie in its original troped form. The plainchant of the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei were originally 10th century whilst the Gloria and Sanctus date from the 13th century. The Credo used is Credo I. Both this and the Pater Noster are identical to that in current use today.

Most of the propers used are in the contemporary Liber, but, as with all the chant on this record, there are slight differences between what is sung and the modern versions of the chants. The record is completed by a group of vespers chants for the consecration of a church.

Generally, the Schola Cantorum sing the chant straight, but the Kyrie includes some striking organum. And two of the vespers chants are given a striking bass drone, in the orthodox manner (as in the recordings of early Roman chant by Marcel Perez and his group). On a stylistic issue, I am not sure whether their attitude to ornaments and repeated notes represents a local tradition of an attempt at period practice..

The chant is sung quite vigorously and swiftly but with a good sense of line and shape. Not all the solo work is up the generally high standard of the rest of the record. The Schola Cantorum has a distinctive, but well blended sound. They pronounce latin in a germanic manner with a slight accent, which only adds to the evocative atmosphere of the recording. In an era of homogenisation, it is so pleasant to come across a recording so firmly rooted in one place and one time.

Apart from the propers, I am a little unclear how much of the remainder of the recording is taken from the Missale Rigense. The recording contains only a background essay with neither texts nor details of the changes. Some discussion of their performance practices and the theoretical background to their performance would have been welcome in the booklet.

Robert Hugill

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