Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 121(1151), p. 30 – Graduale – Notkeri Sequentiae

Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 121(1151), p. 30 – Graduale – Notkeri Sequentiae

Scope and Purpose 

This Gregorian Archive originated in my effort to provide chant singers and scholars, familiar and often expert in Gregorian chant, with recorded performances of all the chants known to be in the early repertory, in an easily accessible format in which any chant could be immediately heard for study and compared to any other chant.

I call this Gregorian Archive a study edition. I mean that the proper materials of study are the 578 chants themselves, to be studied chant by chant, note by sounding note, arriving at whatever kind of knowledge you can.

The recordings are mostly of my performances simply because that was the only way in which I could present the whole early repertory in performances consistent enough to facilitate melodic comparisons. The recordings are mostly of performances by myself, singing solo; additional solo voices are sometimes included.

In this Archive of sound recordings I will attempt to include all the melodies in the ninth-century Carolingian repertory commonly known as Gregorian chant. In its most delimited form this repertory includes melodic settings of the Propers of the Roman Mass (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Tract, Offertory, Communion), and these are what will be included in the Archive.

Knowledge of the repertory means knowing all the pieces in the repertory. As access to this kind of knowledge, the Archive will offer for study all the pieces there are in the earliest recorded state of the repertory, in a format that will make it possible to listen to any and all pieces in the repertory while facilitating the comparison of their sound.

My purpose is to record a study edition of the whole repertory of Gregorian melodies for the Mass Propers, restricting this repertory to the form it had circa ad 850, excluding later additions. My selection of chants to be recorded is simply that of inclusion in René-Jean Hesbert’s Antiphonale missarum sextuplex (Brussels 1935), to which every recorded chant is referred.

I want to record this ninth-century repertory in a version as close as I can get to that written down in musical notation in the chant books Laon MS 239 and St. Gall Cod. 359, which represent the earliest comprehensive chant books available. The contents of these tenth-century sources are at hand in the Graduale triplex (Solesmes 1979), the most practical source for singing Gregorian.

For me, the most important aspect of chant performance has become the so-called nuance notation. Found in certain of the earliest manuscript sources (including the two just mentioned), this notation calls for subtle interpretation on the part of scholars and especially singers. In particular, I want to offer my performance as one interpretation of the signs of nuance included in those chant books.

This Archive can be considered to be an edition with annotations of interpretation, realized in sound recording rather than in printed form. An interpretation seems to me to be needed in the publication of any kind of music, but especially in the case of Gregorian chant, where there is so little documentation that might inform a musical performance. In fifty years of chant practice, however, I have found no way of presenting chant in any graphic form—hand-written or printed—that would adequately communicate any interpretation of the chant. Hence, I am presenting my interpretation in the form of a recorded performance.

In this Archive, the Gregorian Mass Propers are not presented in any liturgical context. Each type of chant—Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Tract, Offertory, Communion—is recorded as a group, subdivided into modal groups (Introits in mode 1, mode 2 . . . Graduals in mode 1, mode 2 . . .). In liturgical context, in contrast, a single chant, say, an Introit, is sung followed by one each of the other types, intermingled with chants of the Ordinary of the Mass and with the other items of the Mass. That context can be reconstructed with the help of chant books and other liturgical materials. In addition to the reference to liturgical assignment given by Hesbert in the Sextuplex a referemce is given for each chant given to the liturgical assignment in the Graduale triplex.

Gregorian chant is intended for performance by a mixture of solo voices and small vocal ensembles; at least, such performance is the earliest documented, and can be considered the most appropriate. Such performance is not, however, represented in the Archive, which uses only one, or sometimes two, solo voices. Because of this limitation, which is purely a function of feasibility, the Archive can be considered only a study edition.