Friday, November 02, 2007

The great chant rhythm controversy: exhibit Dies Irae

Readers have heard of the long-running controversy over chant rhythm. All Souls give us the chance to compare the two styles, one traditional Solesmes and then the non-rhythmic "semiological" approach which purports to recover pre-Guido rhythm from early chant manuscripts (a doubtful claim in light of Mocquereau's work). But I won't belabor the point but instead point to two excellent, tip-top versions of Dies Irae and you can compare.

The first is traditional Solesmes. Feel the underlying pulse and smoothness - you won't be quite aware of it unless you seek it out. Otherwise, it just sounds like...great music.

The second is more arty and interpretive, pretty much of the conductor's own invention. It is very beautiful too, but lacks that inner drive and direction -- I find it completely unpredictable and, finally, upsetting, but that might be my expectations at work. I'm also rattled at what it must have taken to get an entire group to agree on what to sing! But I'm not trying to bias you. Try this and see what you think.

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