Gregorian Chant for Good Friday (Alberto Turco/ Elite/ Nova Schola Gregoriana) (Naxos: 8.550952)
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In Passione et Morte Domini
Gregorian Chant from the Liturgy for Good Friday
Domine, audivi auditum tuum (tractus)
(Lord, I heard Thy voice)
Christus factus est (responsorium graduale)
(Christ was made obedient unto death)
Evangelium passionis et mortis Domini
(Gospel of the Passion and Death of the Lord)
Ecce lignum crucis (antiphon)
(Behold, the wood of the Cross)
Popule meus, quid feci tibi? (improperia)
(My people, w hat have I done to you?)
Crux fidelis (hymnus)
At the heart of the celebration of the liturgical year, the Easter of Christand of the Church, Good Friday occupies a central position. Before proclaimingthe glorious resurrection of Jesus, the Church identifies herself in her owndestiny of death, involving herself totally in the experience of the Cross.
The liturgy of Good Friday is unlike that of other days. It has in commonwith the celebration of the Vigil of Easter a special and exceptional dimension.
In the Vigil the resurrection of Christ is celebrated: Good Friday opens awindow on the principal aspect of the Easter mystery. This is to be understoodby the people of God not so much on a rational plane, which always risksremaining detached and cold, as from an outside observer, as through a total andpersonal participation in every way, from reason to imagination, from deepfeeling to bodily gesture. This didactic preoccupation of the Church is shown inthe many and various ritual elements that mark the action of the liturgy.
From the pre-Carolingian period, the afternoon celebration of Good Fridaycontained various elements that we find fundamentally unchanged still in themodern liturgy, the Liturgy of the Word, that ends with the solemn chant of theuniversal prayer, the Adoration of the Cross, the Communion.
The first three tracks of the present recording belong to the Liturgy of theWord. The tract Domine, audivi, illustrates the ancient practice ofdirect psalmody, consisting of the singing of psalm verses without the additionof other elements, such as antiphons. The mode of re (Mode I) reveals thederivation of this melody as from a Frankish source, when the melody iselaborated and enriched by the ornamentation proper to the tract.
The second chant is the responsorium graduale Christus factus est,which comes between the scriptural texts. Notwithstanding the melodic andmelismatic development (notably the long vocalisation that underlines thecentral words of the verse, exaltavit illum, raised Him up), this chantbetrays its origin as a psalm formula. Extreme care has been taken to suit themusic to the text, something evident in all the nuances, with strong contrastsof expression (in addition to that already mentioned, one may draw attention tothe treatment of the words mortem autem crucis, the death of the Cross).
This gradual is not reserved solely or the Good Friday liturgy but is also sungat Mass on Palm Sunday and in many churches it is also sung after the Office ofTenebrae on the last three days of Holy Week, from Maundy Thursday to HolySaturday.
The Passion constitutes the climax of the Liturgy of the Word. The ancientproclamation follows the customary cantilation, the singing of the Scriptureswith fixed inflexions of the voice to correspond with the punctuation of thetext. The narrative is elaborated to provide a dramatic element. Thepost-Carolingian tradition has called for the participation of at least threesingers, to whom are given the words of the Evangelist, of Christ and of others,individuals and the crowd. The singing of the Passion could be accompanied bydramatic movement, such as, for example, the rending of the curtain thatseparated the priests of the choir from the rest of the church. From a musicalpoint of view the tradition has continued of allotting the part of theEvangelist to a tenor, singing in free rhythm, while the voice of Christ, deeperin register, has an air of solemn serenity. The other characters are sung at ahigher pitch, as evidenced always by the manuscript sources that make use ofvarious letters for the voices, such as h (humiliter - humbly) and t (tenere -tenderly) for Christ, c (celeriter - quickly) for the Evangelist, s (sursum -upwards) for other individuals.
The Adoration of the Cross, that opens with the antiphon Ecce lignumcrucis, sung three times in succession, each time at a higher level, isaccompanied by various chants, among which there stand out the Improperia thatbegin with the words of the Prophet Micah, Popule meus. The Improperiademonstrate various special features, with a rounded structure, a series ofmusical phrases that appear between the verses, the reproaches of Christ to thepeople of Israel, who have not recognised their Messiah and Saviour. To thisattitude of the Jewish world is contrasted the faith of the Church, whichproclaims Christ as God in a triple acclamation in Greek and in Latin.
The Improperia have a probable origin in seventh and eighth century Ravenna,with clear derivation from the world of Byzantium, still imbued with theanti-Jewish polemic of the first centuries of Christianity. The reproaches toIsrael vary in different sources both in number and in order of succession.
Contrast of timbre has here been provided by the use of two choirs, and soloistsfor each choir.
Conflicting texts of high dramatic value, actions and differing timbres foreach part are also found in other parts of the liturgy for these days, forexample in the Kyrie trope Qui passurus from the Office ofTenebrae and the better known Quem quaeritis. These elements of the liturgyprovided the basic elements of liturgical drama, the origin of modern Europeantheatre.
Of particular interest is the last track of the present recording, the hymn Cruxfidelis. The text is the work of Venantius Fortunatus, born in 535 atTreviso. Unlike the hymns of the Divine Office, this processional chant has itsopening words Crux fidelis...flore, germine, or its closing words Dulcelignum, dulces clavos, dulce pondus sustinet, repeated after each strophe ofthe hymn, a structure analogous to that of the Easter Salve festa dies byVenantius Fortunatus. This manner of performance reflects preoccupation with theparticipation of all those present in the chant: while it would be impossible toremember the whole hymn, it was possible to memorise a single strophe repeatedseveral times as a refrain.
Ab. Bonifacio Baroffio, O.S.B.
President of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome
(English translation by Keith Anderson)
Nova Schola Gregoriana
The Nova Schola Gregoriana can boast experience of some twenty years in thestudy of Gregorian chant, basing its work on the research of scholars such asEugene Cardine and Jean Claire, monks of Solesmes, of Luigi Agustoni and ofAlberto Turco, the present director of the Schola. The Nova Schola Gregorianahas been greeted with international critical acclaim at appearances throughoutthe world, at festivals in Paris, Avignon, Avila, Cuenca, Como, Pomposo, Aronaand elsewhere, and concerts in Italy, France, Switzerland, Greece, with tours ofJapan and the United States of America. In 1987 the Schola was awarded theOrphee d'or by the Paris Canteloube Foundation of the Academie Nationale duDisque Lyrique.
Alberto Turco is th