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Choir of King's College, Cambridge: Gregorian Chant

Mass For The Octave Of The Nativity Of The Blessed Virgin Mary
First Vespers For The Nativity Of The Blessed Virgin Mary

Directed by Stephen Cleobury

The listener trying to get a basic grip on what medieval plainchant was all about could not ask for a better introduction than this release. The Choir of King's College, Cambridge gets back to its roots, so to speak, performing chants that could have been heard at the college's chapel half a millennium ago. With the chapel's magnificent acoustics as a backdrop, the album takes listeners through the series of decisions choristers would have made concerning what to sing. Those decisions began with the liturgical year, which called for specific chants corresponding to specific days in the cycle. "In this recording," writes John Milsom in his admirably clear and informative liner notes, "the annual cycle has been stopped at two points," both of them days connected with the birth of the Virgin Mary. A mass from one day and a Vespers service from the other are included. Some of the chants contain tropes that place them in their specific time and place. Both are presented more or less complete, with the connective tissue of text-bearing chants retained along with the big ornate pieces; Milsom compares focusing exclusively on the latter to cutting the illuminated initial letters out of a medieval manuscript. For most listeners, he points out, the experience of hearing chant is akin to that of strolling into a museum and looking at an illuminated manuscript; one experiences a richly colored, ornate thing that carries mystery associated with extreme age and remoteness in each case. But we get to the real mystery by trying to penetrate it a bit, and this recording is an ideal aid. Those who experience chant in a more mystical way will likewise benefit from this album; director Stephen Cleobury's tempos are deliberate, and he pulls back from time to time to let the sound of the choristers reverberate around the chapel.

Item code: 8636C | 1 CD | $15.95 |add item to cart
Early Music  | A Cappella | Male | England
72435579832

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