EXAUDIAM EUM - Gregorian Chant for Lent and Holy Week
Consortium Vocale Oslo / Alexander M. Schweitzer

Copyright 2007 - Fanfare, Inc.

This schola's first recording (26:1) presented many problems for a disc that had so many admirable qualities, so this is a surprisingly satisfactory sequel. The Norwegian schola of men's voices was formed by a former assistant choirmaster at St. Ottilien archabbey, where a fine series of chant recordings was made on the Calig label. This disc offers 21 Mass chants for Lent and Holy Week, all familiar, though none are too much duplicated on records. The only new recording is an offertory verse. The two most striking aspects of the interpretations are the semiological approach and the revised melodies. With the former, Dom Cardine's teachings are exemplified in a manner that is notably agreeable, Cardine's rhythmic ideas executed so smoothly that the beauty of the melodic line is not disturbed. With the latter, Schweitzer and other disciples of Cardine continue to publish their critical editions of selected chants in Beiträge zur Gregorianik. This is the review of the Intemational Association for Gregorian Chant Studies, and these restitutions, as they are called, now number over 200 published items. All the Mass Propers recorded here were, in fact, edited in three successive numbers of the review (24-26). Some of these new editions are rather drastic, though they always illustrate the problem of transcribing adiastematic neumes (notation that shows no precise pitches). The difference between the Graduale Triplex and the restitutions usually involves the size of the intervals from one note to the next, not the overall shape of the melody. These restitutions will be incorporated into any future critical edition of the Graduale that is published at Solesmes. The one new recording is the second verse of the offertory Laudate Dominum for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. This is the first addition to my discography of offertory verses that has just appeared in The Offertory and its Verses: Research, Past, Present and Future (Trondheim: Tapir, 2007), the proceedings of a 2004 symposium in Norway. In the discography, 189 recordings account for 71 of the 110 offertories edited by Carl Ott in 1935. (Now we have 72.) All but a dozen of these have been made since 1977, an indication of the blossoming of interest in this subject. The verses are the most elaborate compositions in the whole repertoire of chant, but they went out of use around the 12th century and were little known until Ott published his edition. Among the other contributors to the symposium are four scholars who wrote their dissertations on different types of offertory verses, an indication of renewed interest in the subject.
As in the current chant practice, the introits are sung with one verse but no doxology; the graduals are sung with the repetition of the respond; the communions are sung with a psalm verse. All the verses are solos, beautifully sung. The style of singing suggests a monastic choir made up of professional singers. The sound is spectacular in a natural way, for it is the work of Morten Lindberg, an engineer who runs his own record company. This is the second Super Audio CD to come my way (after "Chant Wars," 29:5), and I look forward to the next. Recommended.

J.F. Weber

Nov/Dec 2007