Czech Saints in Holy Jerusalem

SGP - Bohemorum sancti - Czech Saints in Holy Jerusalem

Offices of local Saints (Saint Adalbert, Saint Procopius, Saint Ludmila and Saint Wenceslas) from the original Bohemian plainchant tradition.
Supraphon, SU 0003-2231 [CD], SU 0003-4231 [MC] © 1994
Total time 60:02

Complete texts and commentary in Czech, English and French
Choc du Monde de la Musique (October 1996)
10 de Repertoire (December 1996)


Schola Gregoriana Pragensis: Jiří Hodina, Ondřej Maňour, Michal Pospíšil, Stanislav Předota, Jan Štětka, Matouš Vlčinský, Radim Vondráček, Vladimír Jelen
umělecký vedoucí - David Eben


Office to St. Vojtech (Adalbert), Bishop of Prague
1. Invitatorium Hodie exultandum 2:33
2. Hymnus Martir Dei 1:54
3. Lectio I. Homilia Beati Augustini 1:52
4. Responsorium Alme presul et beate 2:30
5. Lectio II. Homilia Beati Augustini 0:56
6. Responsorium O presul Cristi 3:04
Office to St. Ludmila, princess and martyr
7. Antiphona Laudes canens Davidicas 1:53
8. Antiphona Sic Hester in regia 1:31
9. Antiphona Salutem ex inimicis 1:47
10. Hymnus Lux vera lucis radium 2:18
Office to St. Prokop, abbot
11. Antiphona Letare Bohemia 1:49
12. Hymnus Confessor Dei lucidus 2:17
13. Responsorium O Procopi vir Dei 1:47
14. Antiphona Pium patrem 2:28
Feast of St. Vaclav (Wenceslas), prince and martyr
15. Cantio Svatý Václave 1:15
16. Introitus In virtute tua 3:18
17. Kyrie Fons bonitatis 3:46
18. Sequentia Salve pater optime 2:08
19. Lectio Sancti Evangelii Si quis vult - tonus solemnis 2:32
20. Hymnus Dies venit victorie 1:50
21. Cantio Wenceslao duci claro 2:31
22. Hymnus Urbs Ierusalem beata 2:27
23. Introitus Laetare Ierusalem 2:54
24. Graduale Laetatus sum 2:23
25. Communio Ierusalem, quae aedificatur 2:01
26. Antifona Salve Regina 2:31

Commentary by David Eben:

“Hope, love and faith accorded a place there to the good Czechs”, reads the inscription attached to a charming picture of Heavenly Jerusalem in the Prague manuscript version of “De Civitate Dei” by the Latin Father St. Augustine of Hippo (see CD cover). Respect shown to the principal Czech patrons of Bohemia has permeated the history of a nation that has identified its saints with its own spiritual essence. Besides numerous shrines dedicated to their cult - including Prague’s cathedral - this tradition gave rise, before the end of the 14th century, to more than a few liturgical songs in their tribute. The present recording is centred on that particular repertoire which attests to the dynamic creative activities taking place in that field in Bohemia during the high and late Middle Ages. One ought to bear in mind there that 14th-century Prague was the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor, and that together with Paris it was one of the two largest cities north of the Alps. It grew to become a major cultural centre whence emanated what was to be known as the “beautiful style” of Gothic art. Likewise, the period living practice of liturgical singing is documented by a good many surviving sources.

The introductory part is devoted to St. Adalbert, the second Bishop of Prague who died a martyr’s death in 997 on a missionary expedition to pagan Prussia. This is a brief cross-section of a matins - or night office - reconstructed from sources of the Prague cathedral. It opens with an invitatory; a brief melody of the antiphon, Hodie exultandum interposed between the individual verses of Psalm 94, Venite exultemus. Part and parcel of a matins are readings (here, from St. Augustine’s sermon), each of them followed by a melodically developed form of responsory. The responsories related to St. Adalbert, Alme presul and O presul Cristi, are of a relatively later date, which is reflected here both in the type of texts (mediaeval poetry whose language is characterized by a specific “flourish”), and in melodic differences involving the use of elaborate ornaments that generate a somewhat “Baroque” impression. These differences become particularly obvious when contrasted with songs of the so-called “ancient repository” of Gregorian chants dating from the time of the Carolingian Empire, represented on this album by the final two sections (tracks 22 - 26).

The following three antiphons, Laudes canens, Sic Hester, and Salutem ex inimicis, are parts of a rhymed office to St. Ludmila. Princess of Bohemia and consort of the country’s first Christian ruler Borivoj, she died by the hand of her pagan daughter-in-law in 921. The poetic text of the office, which deals with the saint’s life, probably dates from the 13th century. Interestingly, we even know the name of its author, or more precisely, compiler, which is an exception in the otherwise strictly anonymous domain of liturgical vocal literature of this period. A note on the margin of one of the manuscript’s folios (Pu IV C 17) refers to him as “Domazlaus predicator”, or “preacher Domazlaus”, which may identify him as a Dominican, a member of the “Order of Preachers”. In the hymn, Lux vera, its proper one-voice melody alternates with polyphonic treatment. Thereby, it exemplifies the incorporation of early polyphony into the monodic plainchant.

A similar compositional method is illustrated by the office to St. Procopius, hermit and founder of Sazava Monastery. Once again, all the texts are rhymed. The antiphon, Letare Bohemia, is a remarkable, exceptionally dynamic composition posing considerable demands on singers. The hymn, Confessor Dei, clearly signals a departure from the original Gregorian modality. Its melody resembles modern major tonality.

Foremost among Bohemia’s patrons is St. Wenceslas, the country’s ascetic ruler and epitome of its consolidating Christianity. Wenceslas was assassinated by his brother around 929, while on his way to church. The block of compositions devoted to him here opens with the oldest Czech sacred song, Svaty Vaclave. Chronicler Benes Krabice of Weitmile referred to it as “Cantio... ab olim cantari consueta” - “song that has been sung since ancient times”. That would have dated its origin to the 13th century or earlier. It was traditionally sung during the coronations of Bohemia’s kings. It is followed here by several songs from a mass in honour of St. Wenceslas. The introit, In virtute tua, is a late variant, reconstructed from the manuscript of the Prague Metropolitan Chapter. The Kyrie’s prescribed trope for that particular occasion is Fons bonitatis. Here, too (as in the hymn, Lux vera), one-voice melody may alternate with a two-voice version. The hymn, Dies venit victorie, featuring a magnificent arching melody, is associated with the hour of vespers. The part dedicated to St. Wenceslas closes with the Latin sacred song, Wenceslao duci claro, which already contains elements of regular rhythm.

Inspired by the mediaeval illuminator’s joyful vision of Bohemia’s saints’ secure place in the Heavenly Jerusalem, we devoted the final section of this programme to songs extolling the heavenly city and the Virgin Mary, Queen of Saints.