Antica e moderna

SGP - Antica e moderna

Gregorian chant for the liturgy of the Consecration of the Temple and Suita liturgica for one voice choir and the organ by Petr Eben. Together with Petr Eben (organ).
Supraphon, SU 3373-2231 © 1998
Total time 64:07

Complete texts and commentary in Czech, English, French and German
Choc du Monde de la Musique (May 1999)

Schola Gregoriana Pragensis: Hasan El-Dunia, Jiri Hodina, Ondrej Manour, Martin Prokes, Stanislav Predota, Jan Stetka, Matous Vlcinsky, Radim Vondracek
artistic director - David Eben

Missa in Dedicatione Ecclesiae - Feast of the Consecration of the Temple
1. Litaniae Sanctorum 0:53
2. Introitus Terribilis est locus 1:59
3. Kyrie XIII 1:54
4. Gloria XIII 2:32
5. Lectio Ad decus ecclesie 5:23
6. Graduale Locus iste 2:55
7. Alleluia Adorabo ad templum 2:03
8. Praefatio & Sanctus XIII 2:49
9. Agnus Dei XIII 1:17
10. Communio Domus mea 3:16
11. Tropus ad Benedicamus Zacheus arboris 0:59
Petr Eben: Suita liturgica
12. I. Dominica de Passione
Introitus Zjednej mi pravo 
Graduale & Tractus Vysvobod mne, Pane 
Offertorium Oslavovati te budu, Pane
13. II. Theresiae a Jesu Infante
Introitus Prijd, nevesto ma
Offertorium Velebi duse ma Hospodina
14. 14. Dominica IV. in Quadragesima / 4. neděle postní
Introitus Vesel se, Jeruzaléme
Festum Omnium Sanctorum / Svátek Všech Svatých
Offertorium Duše spravedlivých
15. In Ascensione Domini / Nanebevstoupení Páně
Introitus Muži galilejští
Alelluia Vstoupil Bůh za plesání
Communio Prozpěvujte Pánu

Commentary by David Eben:

The title of this CD, Antica e moderna, is meant to symbolise a dialogue between old and new music, with the two mirroring each other, at once keeping a distance from each other and being close to each other. What also brings the works featured here together is, among other things, the purpose for which they were destined: namely, to be sung during an act of Christian worship.

The conception of this project as a whole is based upon the polarity of two major components: the first presents liturgical song in its earliest form, that of Gregorian chant; while the second section brings the intimate experience of plainsong embodied in the musical idiom of the 20th century.

First, then, we shall join the liturgy of the Consecration of the Temple, which ranks among the fundamental liturgical festivals. Its repertoire was initially intended for the feast of the dedication of Rome’s Basilica to the Virgin Mary and the Martyrs. The basilica had originally served as a pagan pantheon. In the seventh century Pope Boniface IV had it dedicated to the Virgin and the Holy Martyrs whose relics he had removed from the catacombs to the new church. The chants composed for the occasion of the church’s dedication then passed into general usage, as repertoire accompanying the consecration of a church.

The introit Terribilis est locus sets the sanctified church premises in the context of Jacob’s vision described in the first book of Moses: In his dream, Jacob sees a ladder whose top reaches to heaven, with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. When he awakes from his sleep, Jacob calls out: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

As has been indicated above, the origin of the chants on the feast of the Consecration of the Temple harks back to the first millenium. The repertoire, however, can likewise be found in Bohemian sources dating from the high and late medieval periods, where they are enriched with certain new compositions. One of them is the lesson from the Apocalypse, which is recorded in one of the manuscripts of Archbishop Arnošt z Pardubic dating from the second half of the 14th century. The biblical text proper is interspersed there with passages of poetic meditation commenting on the extract from the Apocalypse.

The last chant of this first part of the programme is the two-voice trope, Zacheus arboris, also drawn from a 14th-century Bohemian source. Worth noting here is the technique of transposition of voices (so-called Stimmtausch): the melody is comprised of two motives which are delivered alternately by the two voices, in a way resembling the canon. The words are inspired by an excerpt from the Gospel which is read during the mass on the feast of the Consecration of the Temple. It tells the story of Zacheus the tax collector who climbed up a tree to be able to see Jesus passing by. As Jesus thereafter entered Zacheus’ house and sat at his table, so does Christ enter the church, to prepare the spiritual feast for the worshippers.

The Suita Liturgica was compiled from select parts of Petr Eben’s “Liturgical Songs”, which the composer supplemented with obligato organ interludes. Petr Eben described his attitude towards Gregorian chant, and his “Liturgical Songs” as follows:

“To me, Gregorian chant has been a lifelong major source of inspiration. Three of its properties in particular have constantly fascinated me: for one, its single voice which confronts the ear accustomed to the hybrid outpour of 19th-century harmonics with the sudden experience of a simple solitary melody, one that is moreover both autonomous, comforting, meditative, and monumental. This single-voice format likewise brings me to the second of the aforementioned crucial qualities: with it, I am free to quote the theme in the style of my own idiom, something I could hardly do in trying to quote for instance a Bach chorale. Finally, the third peculiar quality of Gregorian chant is its loose rhythmic pattern. After the iron rules of accented, heavy divisions whose regular strides have nailed melody down to earth ever since the time of the Baroque basso continuo to this day, here bar divisions are obliterated, the music flowing freely in space, progressing unhindered in a continuous stream.

I wrote the Liturgical Songs between 1955 and 1960, as propria for the individual Sunday and festival services. At that time, still prior to Vatican II, we were particularly concerned with making the texts sung during mass accessible to the worshippers, which was best achieved through the Czech language.

In my work on the setting I realised the magnitude of the contrasts in the atmosphere of the various feasts, and I strove to express them in musical terms. I was inspired — as I have already suggested — by the melody and rhythmic pattern of Gregorian chant. While of course, conveyed by a more modern idiom the melodies may occasionally be strongly chromatised, I stuck to the Gregorian form of alternating antiphon and psalm.”

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