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Prima Missa in Commemoratione Omnium Fidelium Defunctorum (Requiem Mass) [38.30]
The Monks’ Choir of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Martin, Beuron/Dr. Maurus Pfaff, O.S.B.
Recorded Beuron Abbey, 1 April 1954. ADD

Pristine Audio run a rather interesting music sales operation; all their recordings are available direct from them as CDs, but you can also download the tracks from their web-site as MP3 files. CDs are available as standard and premium; standard discs come in a cardboard slip case and you print the cover yourself from their website, premium discs come in the traditional jewel-box.

This recording is a re-mastering from LP of monks from the Benedictine Abbey of Beuron singing the plainchant requiem mass. It was originally recorded in 1954 and has come up very well in this transfer.

The German Abbey of Beuron lies on the south-west bank of Lake Laach, near Andernach in the Rhineland. The abbey was originally founded in 1093 and on the basis of this recording, must have had quite a thriving community in 1954.

The choir sounds quite substantial and makes a lovely, homogenous noise. Recordings of monastic communities from this period have the advantage of combining the technological advances in recordings, the technical facility of the monks themselves and their continued familiarity with the daily round of the Latin Tridentine mass. This latter would, of course, be disturbed as a result of the 2nd Vatican Council.

Here the choir sounds wonderfully confident and natural, as if they have been doing it all their lives. The acoustic is well captured so that though the choral sound is focused and the choir’s diction well captured, the resonance of the church itself is not neglected. The result is very atmospheric.

But let us not get too romantic about what we are hearing. It was generally common in the 1950s for communities to sing plainchant with organ accompaniment, though I am unsure whether or not this was true of the Beuron monks. But other congregations, recorded about the same time, caused disappointment when heard live; heard on their daily round the monks were technically less proficient and accompanied by a rather romantic organ. So quite what we would have heard if we had travelled to Beuron in 1954, I am not sure. Still, what we hear on this disc is entrancing and convincing.

The monks sing the Latin with a strong Germanic pronunciation (Requiem as Rekviem, Coeli as tsöli etc); this might take some getting used to but for me imbues the disc with a secure sense of place.

The plainchant sung is by and large traditional; at least it is mostly the chant I recognise from singing the Requiem Mass in modern Latin services. We get the mass more or less complete, with intoned Epistle and Gospel.

I can highly recommend this atmospheric disc and Pristine Audio’s distinctive delivery mechanism means that it comes at a highly affordable price; you could even download the complete mass to your IPOD.

Robert Hugill



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