Notes and Editorial Reviews
HISTORIA DE COMPASSIONE GLORIOSISSIMAE VIRGINIS MARIAE
CPO 777 604-2 (57:57
Text and Translation)
From the ninth century on, a great deal of chant was composed for Masses and Offices of new saints, most of them added to local rather than universal calendars of feasts. Most of them used rhymed texts, and often the modes of the chants were selected in ascending order, 1 to 5 for antiphons of Lauds and Vespers and 1 to 8, plus 1 repeated, for the antiphons and responsories of Matins. All were abolished
by the reforms of the Council of Trent in the 16th century, although an early example survives in the introit of the Mass of the Holy Trinity. Andrew Hughes has devoted decades to their study, in the process overturning the common term “rhymed offices” formerly used.
Hughes lists five Offices of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin in his
Late Medieval Liturgical Offices
, but the one recorded here is not one of them. Its source in the Hamburg library (ND VI 471) was edited last year by Viacheslav Kartsovnik, but, exceptionally for a recorded series devoted to sacred music in Hamburg in the 17th and 18th centuries, this pre-Reformation work of the previous century is included as the oldest monument of composition in the city. During the later period, the city had a music director supervising all the churches in the city, a post of great prestige that attracted Keiser, Telemann, and C. P. E. Bach (the office ceased to be filled in 1822).
The Office is not rhymed, a rarity in this late period of liturgical Offices. We hear the invitatory and three nocturns of Matins, the latter consisting of three antiphons (with truncated psalms) followed by three responsories (without lessons). This is a sensible way to present the Office, though the disc still had room for antiphons of First Vespers, Lauds, and Second Vespers. The source also has Mass Propers for the Blessed Virgin and St. Ann, but these were not part of the planned recording. The notes by Kartsovnik are notably clear, even for one who is unfamiliar with medieval Offices.
The ensemble is made up of former choir boys of St. Thomas in Leipzig. This is their first recording on this label after several issued in their own series on Raum Klang, notably a Mass by Pierre de La Rue with chant Propers (
29:6). I find their rendition of chant exceptionally smooth, sensitive to their understanding of the proper rhythm. This is an excellent addition to the growing collection of late medieval liturgical Offices that can now be heard on disc.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Works on This Recording
Kyrie eleison by Anonymous
Ecce Maria by Anonymous
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