14 Comments on “Brilliant or Blasphemy?

  1. The Catholic Church used to forbid percussion instruments in church – pianos, drums, dulcimers, xylophones and such. That's why Rossini called his Petite Messe Solonnelle his last mortal sin as it was scored for forbidden instruments including two pianos and a harmonium. I doubt the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would bother about it too much these days……..unless it was performed by Four Poofs and a Piano :-Q.

  2. Nothing sinful about Petite Messe Solennelle, Tom – although it is neither particularly petite nor solennelle – a joyous piece of music, in my view (or perhaps joy is sinful?). Wasn't it for two pianos OR one piano and one harmonium? Were they really sinful instruments? Now guitars and drums are a different matter … a criminal offence, even.

  3. I agree, it's lovely Jill, but unaccompanied chant is the best IMO – see the latest disk from the nuns of l'Abbaye de l'Annonciation du Barroux, 'Voices from Avignon'. Perhaps with a little organ support can be allowed on festive occasions. The Abbot of Quarr used to sing the gospel at Matins with discreet organ accompaniment for the great festivals even though this was strictly forbidden under the liturgical rules. The sin was all the more delightful in that it was committed in a Solesmes monastery. (Under Dom Guéranger the Solesmes monks had been commission by the Church to restore the chant to its purest form and get rid of all those Gallican extravagances such as 'farced kyries' and sequences filled with 'legendary' unbiblical texts.)

    By the way, I thought after his posting on the Great O Antiphons Peter might be on his way to the Ordinariate!

  4. Yes, plainchant is lovely in its proper setting, but I find it does pall after a while in my suburban semi. Early polyphony is really more my thing. Can't get enough of it.

    I have been to Solesmes twice, and absolutely loved it. The brothers didn't seem to have much difficulty in keeping the pitch – but perhaps there was a surreptitous pitch pipe in somebody's pocket.

  5. Oh Peter I hope you've checked there's no secret message if you play it backwards.

    Jill, the Vespers of 1610 may not be early enough for you but I love the way Monteverdi introduces the sound of fluttering wings in the antiphon Duo Seraphim. But even in plainchant there is a hint of this kind of programming of music to words. In the introit for the first mass of Christmas the text reads 'Dixit Dominus ad me' sung to a lullaby, marking not only the nativity of Jesus but also the generation of the Son from the Father.

  6. Tom, you are obviously far more knowledgeable on the history of music than me – I hadn't understood the significance of the trilly bits in the Vespers – but I found a video and listened to it again – lovely! I could just picture the seraphim. Thank you for bringing it to life!


    My knowledge extends only as far as watching Simon Russell-Beale's TV series and listening to the Music of The Sixteen (I once heard them singing Spem in Alium in St Paul's Cathedral – in the round – and it blew me away) but I love singing and have belonged to a number of choirs over the years. (Though not to quite the same standard as The Sixteen, alas!)

    I can't say Peter's choice did it for me – are you sure anyone would really notice if it was played backwards?

  7. Sorry, actually I should have written Dominus dixit ad me for the introit. Dixit Dominus (domino meo) is from ps 109 sung at Sunday vespers as I recall.

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