Czech these singers out
…The music performed by this first-rate ensemble, whose singing is pure and evocative, is above all Bohemian plainchant from the Middle Ages as well as Gregorian chant from the ninth to 11th centuries and occasionally newly discovered works composed between the 13th and 15th centuries.
When one listens to the discs of this very finely tuned ensemble, one is never sure whether these are 10 first-rate musicians focusing on the exceptional delivery of a contemplative and, at times, mesmerizing repertoire or a group of monks praying in the monastery with total and sincere devotion…
In an era in which early-music ensembles flood the market, many competing for the same audience and performing identical repertoires, the Schola Gregoriana Pragensis is a rather unusual ensemble because its rich and beguiling repertoire is not performed by anyone else and because its performance floats magically between the mind and the soul…
Music lovers should not miss the opportunity to savour the performances and make sure to purchase some of their CDs after the concert. This is really once-in-a-life-time opportunity to delve deep into the rich tapestry of Bohemian early ecclesiastical music and reveal musical terrains never before encountered.
Michael Ajzenstadt, The Jerusalem Post, 28. 12. 1998
The corpus is compiled with a sense of original function of singing – we appreciate it opens with invitatorium, i.e. with an introductory singing of everyday hours services – and concludes with Marian antifona, which daily closes services … Vocal qualities of the Schola are proven not only as a common aggregate of individual qualities of mostly excellent, professionally trained voices but mainly as a well-balanced and beautifully coloured vocal unity. The unity of the Schola is not only vocal – it holds true for the feeling of phrases and presumably also for the singers´ mutual enjoyment of the spiritual dimension of the matter. As a result there is a discographic deed which captures a rare synergy of beautiful musical material and inspired dramaturgical erudition as well as interpretational qualities which we seldom come across…
Jana Novotná, The Harmonie Magazine No. 4, 1995
BOHEMORUM SANCTI + ROSA MYSTICA
…David Eben, fils du célebre compositeur Petr Eben, habille les longues monodies d'une chaleur et d'une poésie rares, sans que jamais l'esthétique empruntée ne sombre dans une mievrerie ou une componction de mauvais gout. De son étroite et fructueuse collaboration avec le Chour Grégorien de Paris (cf. le disque rassemblant les deux chours, Toussaint, Requiem. Chant grégorien á Fontfroide, Jade), David Eben a gardé l'approche traditionnelle du grégorien selon les canons de Solesmes. Son ensemble dépasse cependant largement en qualité vocale les productions monastiques françaises: la cohésion de l'ensemble, l'unité de tembre, la parfaite diction (admirable accentuation du latin) et surtout, l'intelligence du texte chanté, font merveille. Il se dégage de ce chant une suavité, une douceur, un rayonnement tout á fait exceptionnels.
Jamais lectures cantillées et psalmodies ne nous avaient paru á ce point captivantes (cf. Psaume 44, avec Alleluia entremelé, dans le disque Rosa mystica), jamais mélismes et accents ornementaux n'avaient été exécutés avec autant de ductilité et de souplesse (cf. dans le meme disque, Alleluia, Ave stillans melle), jamais enfin, plain-chant n'avait été habité avec autant d'intériorité mystique et de vivacité lyrique (superbe Salve Regina dans le disque Bohemorum sancti). Ce Plain-chant possede une vie intérieure qui manque trop souvent dans les productions d'un Ensemble Organum, par exemple: loin d'etre uniquement objet de microdissection paléographique, ce répertoire est avant tout oraison musicale, véritable efflorescence des sentiment humains les plus profonds.
Sylvain Gasser, Répertoire, No.2, Decembre 1996
…David Eben, a son of a well-renowned composer Peter Eben´s, clothes long monodies in ardour and precious poetry without endangering the artistic quality of the unit with prettyism or tasteless moaning. David Eben maintained a traditional proximity to Gregorian chant according to rotas of Solesmes, based on his fruitful co-operation with Choeur Grégorien de Paris. However, vocal quality of his ensemble has grown superior to French monastic production: ensemble coherence, timber unity, perfect diction (excellent Latin pronunciation) and mainly the sung word understanding - these all are the artistic virtues of the Schola. Singular suavity, sweetness, luminosity emanates from their singing… Never before have we heard the readings and psalms sung in such a captivating way (see the psalm 44 complemented with Alleluja of Rosa mystica recording). Never before have the melismata and ornamental decorations been interpreted with such tension and ductility (see Alleluja and Ave stillans melle of the same recording). And finally, never before has Gregorian chant been approached with such spiritual concentration and lyrical animation (excellent Salve Regina of the Bohemorum sancti recording). This Gregorian chant is endowed with an inner vigour that we for instance so often lack about productions of Ensemble Organum. Nothing is further from this repertoire than merely slavery interpretation of palaeographic relics, it is an earnest emanation of the deepest human emotions…
Sylvain Gasser, Répertoire, No.2, December 1996
Reprenant le méme princip que dans son anthologie précédente Bohemorum Sancti - lire le Monde de la Musique No. 202 - la Schola Gregoriana Pragensis a confronté autour du theme marial les sources les plus classiques du chant grégorien (fixées au VIIIe siecle) á des monodies et polyphonies élaborées en Boheme au XIVe siecle , dans la mouvance de la nouvelle piété mariale qui déferle alors sur l'Europe. L'interprétation, tres musicale, observe le délicat équilibre entre l'introversion des chants monastique et la démonstration musicologique de concert: traitée de façon légere, la maîtrise de la ligne (dans le graduel Audi filia par exemple) évolue dans une liberté de trait (Ave Maris stella) qui lui confere une grande originalité. Outre les monodies, la tres belle découverte que constituent les polyphonies tcheques á deux et trois voix nous incite á considérer cet enregistrement en priorité, tant le lyrisme particulier en est servi avec ferveur et simplicité
Marc Desmet, Monde de la musique, Octobre 1996
Schola Gregoriana Pragensis used the same proceedings as with the previous project Bohemorum sancti (see Le Monde de la Musique No 200) and confronted upon the background of the Marian theme the most classical records of Gregorian chant (fixed in the 8th century) with homophonic as well as polyphonic singing dated back to the 14th century Bohemia and which developed within a new European wave of Marian devotion. Very musical interpretation attends to a fragile balance between inwardness of monastic singing and a musicologically enlightened concert presentation. Proficiency of the melodic line, which is developed with a great easiness and freedom (e.g. in a gradual Audi filia, hymn Ave maris stella), makes the interpretation very original. Besides monodies, Bohemian polyphonic two- or three- tone compositions represent a charming discovery, too. Specific lyricism of these singers is put across with such a great verve and simplicity so that we are entitled to mark this recording with high preferences.
Marc Desmet, Monde de la musique, Octobre 1996
ANNO DOMINI 997
The way of the recording structure forming is remarkable. Individual chant songs are not excerpted only out of Bohemian sources – as one may presume according to the Bohemian Saint – but the recording tries to capture the vast range of Saint Adalberts´ tradition, which – like Saint Adalberts´ life as such – is not connected only with Bohemian environment at all.
The fact that even today it is possible and necessary to perceive and maintain Saint Adalberts´ tradition is made topical with two polyphonic and very purely interpreted compositions by Petr Eben, which set parts of the Saint Adalberts´ legend texts to music.
This whole vast context enabled me to understand the new title of the Prague´s Schola in two dimensions. The first one is an interpretatively flawless and inspiring performance of liturgical singing so-far unknown to the audience (especially arrangement of singers about the cathedral space is impressive). Another dimension is the return to the fundaments of the Czech nation, to the roots and principles, which may be more or less ignored nowadays, but which, however, epitomise the history and cultural life of the Czech nation. And this year´s anniversary seems to be a perfect ground for revival of such traditions and for their rediscovery by the just-budding new Czech society
Michal Rataj, The Harmonie Magazine 5/1997
ANTICA E MODERNA
ith its new album the Prague´s Schola Gregoriana Pragensis dramaturgically and "personally" extends its last year´s project of Saint Adalberts´ CD (Anno Domini 997). Two short little compositions by Petr Eben - a kind of symbol of the dateless Saint Adalberts´ tradition - were already incorporated onto the above mentioned CD. … Overlooking so-far issued albums of the Schola Gregoriana Pragensis it is possible to track down its continuously improving mutual interaction and internal communication – whether on the level of a soloist and the ensemble, mutually alternating lesser groups of singers, or on the level of the whole ensemble in the unison. Individual songs resound in the cathedral space in vigoroso but at the same time fluent and absolutely surely "copy" the Latin texts in naturally developed Gregorian forms. This "vigorous fluency" as if gets its second wind within the context of Petr Eben´s musical thinking; very gentle unison colouring of the ensemble – supported by Eben´s harmony – has some soaring tendencies, as if the words wanted to be launched higher…
Excellent solos (see esp. introitus Prijd, nevesto ma), unity of vocal character and velvet colouring of the unison are the qualities which form the backbone of the album. In future I would like to find myself amazed at such projects more often. Maybe they can help us to understand Gregorian chant nowadays and to listen to it comprehensively and in broader context than we can do in the case of individual chant albums.
Michal Rataj, The Harmonie Magazine No.12/1998
Franus Hymn-Book 1505-1999
The segment of Bohemian history of music framed with years 1500 and 1620 was once called the era of literary brotherhoods … and to those which we know relatively best belongs also the brotherhood at the church (today a cathedral church) of Holy Spirit in Hradec Králové. And it was this particular brotherhood for that a Hradec burgher and draper Jan Franus commissioned a hymn-book known nowadays in his name. … Some songs of the Franus Hymn-Book have been already recorded but only the latest recording of the Schola is really "about it". Despite few exceptions it contains really only songs incorporated in the Franus Hymn-Book. The selection is "focused" in such a way so that the hymn-book is introduced in its comprehension and at the same time peculiarities are accentuated … . It would be premature to guess whether the new Schola recording will help to put across to the public a more appropriate image of the then musical tradition in the Czech lands. However, it is absolutely undisputable that it will help the noted musical record to surface from editions and analyses and to enter the world of alive music. No matter how anxiously the Schola is expecting the reviews, one thing is clear already now: the draper master Johannes Franus will be satisfied.
Jan Frei, The Harmonie Magazine No.5/1999
Devotion of the Cross
…The singing is wonderful; both the Schola Gregoriana Pragensis and the boys' choir Boni Pueri have a firm, rich tone that should be the envy of any choir, whatever its repertoire. They also demonstrate a clear understanding of the musical-liturgical structure of what they sing, phrasing with great suppleness and sensitivity. The antiphon Ave rex noster (from Paris, B.N. lat 903) demonstrates well what the men's voices are capable of, for example, and is followed to great effect by the silvery but full tone of the boys in the Pueri Hebraeorum from the Graduale Triplex.
When boys and men combine, the effect is magical, as one can hear in their triumphant renditions of Gloria laus and Vexilla regis. Of particular interest is the Czech chant tradition to be heard in the two Good Friday Lamentations, Ursus insidians and Quomodo obscuratum est aurum, from manuscript XV A in the Národní Museum, Prague; and there is also a fine Litany and the antiphon Adoramus te Christe from Benevento, Archivo capitolre 34, which finish the Holy Week and Adoration of the Cross selections respectively. The disc concludes with the beautiful responsory Congregati sunt as a symbolic transition from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection.
This is chant singing of a very high level indeed, and deserves the warmest of recommendations.
Ivan Moody, International Record Review, June 2000
ACH HOMO FRAGILIS
One rediscovers lyricism with a downright joy. The singers of the ensemble Schola Gregoriana Pragenis can convey lyricism even in the case of the tiniest melisma. Vitality of ternary rhythms integrated in homophonic melodies of the lais is very convicting. Some of these lais offers us an opportunity to enjoy a gentle and natural colouring of Petra Noskaiová´s soprano. Polyphonic compositions dazzle with their stability in accords, which makes for instance the insertions of troped Gloria Spiritus et alme extraordinarily round.
Marc Desmet, Le Monde de la Musique, March 200