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Plainchant The Chants of Easter
Propers for Easter Day and the Octave of Easter

Introit: Resurrexi
Gradual: Haec dies
Alleluia: Pascha Nostrum
Sequence: Victimae paschali
Offertory: Terra tremuit
Communion: Pasca nostrum
Introit: Introduxit vox
Alleluia: Angelus Domini
Offertory: Angelus Domini
Communion: Surrexit Dominus
Introit: Aqua sapientiae
Alleluia: Surrexit Dominus
Offertory: Intonuit de caelo
Communion: Si consurrexistis
Introit: Venite benedicti
Alleluia: Surrexit Dominus
Offertory: Portas caeli
Communion" Christus resurgens
Introit: Victricem manum tuam
Alleluia: Surrexit Christus
Offertory: In die eos Dominus
Communion: Populs acquisitionis
Introit:Exusit eos Dominus
Alleluia: Dicite in gentibus
Offertory: Erit vobis hic
Communion: Data es mihi
Introit: Eduxit Dominus
Alleluia: Haec dies
Alleluia: Laudate pueri Dominum
Offertory: Benedictus qui venit
Communion: Omnes qui in Christo
Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola/Richard J. Pugsley
Recorded 1994
GLORIAE DEI CANTORES GDCD15 [73.27]


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This disc contains the Propers of the Mass for Easter Day and the Octave of Easter, 31 items in all on a disc lasting over 73 minutes. It is quite tricky holding such a programme of short items together with nothing to bind it together. I did wonder whether performing fewer items, but binding them together with the Ordinary of the Mass would have made for more coherent programming.

The CD booklet informs us that '"The foundation of their interpretation in this recording is three-fold: the rhythmic marks of the Laon MS (Biblothèque municipale, 239) according to the studies of Dom Eugène Cardine; the implications of modality; and the corporate experience of using the chant for daily worship since 1976." Regrettably they do not expand on this rather gnomic statement, which leaves the average listener unenlightened about what, if any, differences there are between the singing of the Schola and contemporary practice in performing chant. (In fact Dom Eugène Cardine and the Solesmes school have emphasised the natural word rhythm as the basis for chant rather than purely metrical approach.) This is the only real musical substance in the booklet; it does not provide any information about the musical background to the chant. The booklet includes texts and translations for all the pieces, but what background there is here is a religious one. This is very admirable, but surely the booklet's editors should have considered their wider audience. It is fascinating to know that the Easter Day Feast is one of only two Feasts of the Church calendar with roots in the very earliest levels of Christian worship, but couldn't we have been given some information about how this, musically, affects the chants that are sung?

As far as the style of singing the plainchant goes, it is done pretty much in the way that I was taught and there are no real surprises. The Introits are all sung without the 'Gloria Patri' whereas the Communion sentences have all acquired Psalm sentences and 'Gloria Patri'. This is foreign to my (rather limited) experience and receives no comment in the booklet.

The Propers for Easter Day are shared out between a men's choir and a women's choir, except for the lovely Sequence, 'Victimae paschali', which is sung alternim with both groups singing the final verse - the only time on the disc that the women and men sing together. Henceforward the individual days are sung alternately by the women's or the men's choir. This is gives a welcome variety to the texture and presumably reflects their practice in services (the booklet does not say). But surely we could have had some items sung by both groups. These performances are not a slavish reconstruction of early performance practice, so there is no reason for both groups not to sing together. A number of members of the group take turns performing the role of cantor. This is an admirably democratic policy, but means that in some sections the solo voice is rather weaker than is ideal for the complex music involved.

Gloriae Dei Cantores are a Massachusetts-located choir numbering around forty, with female altos. They are a church-based, non-professional choir, singing weekly services. The Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola is a 16-person group dedicated to singing Gregorian Chant. They have been singing plainchant regularly since 1976, both the daily Benedictine Monastic Offices and the Ordinary and Proper of the Mass. They sing in an admirably flexible manner with beautiful diction. They have rather a habit of shading off the ends of phrases in rather an extreme manner, which can become a little annoying after a while. But, just how unanimous should chant be, especially on a recording? Here, both the men and the women exhibit small lapses in unanimity which causes the line to lack the firmness that it needs. In performance, or recorded in a more generous and forgiving acoustic, this would not matter. But here, on a disc that is fairly closely recorded, every little lapse is noticeable.

But in the end, we come back to the format of the disc. By the last track, no matter how admirably sung, I would have liked a little variety. Surely we would have appreciated the Propers more if fewer of them had been recorded and they had been offset by parts of the Ordinary of the Mass and some chanted Lessons. After all, this is how this music is supposed to be appreciated. After listening to this recording you rather feel like you have eaten too many truffles, a surfeit of good things.

Robert Hugill



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