Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CD Review: Solemn Mass of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (St. Gregory Society)

I was very happy to receive in my mailbox yesterday a copy of the new recording from the St. Gregory Society, the Solemn Mass of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The recording was made as a celebration of the pope's motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum which was of course formally put into effect on September 14th of this year, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

What I found particularly interesting about the recording is the Mass setting used: Palestrina's Missa Sacerdos et Pontifex -- a seldom recorded Palestrina Mass setting.

Having had the opportunity to listen to the Mass setting, I can affirm that it is not for lack of beauty that this is so. As is usual for Palestrina, it is a hauntingly beautiful setting and, in my estimation, the Sanctus particularly stands out in this regard -- very much in the way I find the Kyrie in the Missa Papae Marcelli setting to stand out. Aside from Palestrina's setting, many beautiful Gregorian chants for this Mass setting are included.

Both the chant and the polyphony are executed with great beauty and precision by the Schola Cantorum of the St. Gregory Society. But don't take my word for it, listen for yourself:

Introit: Nos autem gloriari (Plainsong, Mode IV)

Agnus Dei: Missa Sacerdos et Pontifex (G.P. Palestrina)

One of the things enjoyable about the Saint Gregory Society, aside from the quality of the schola, is that you are receiving recordings within their liturgical context, rather than divorced from it. As such, you will hear the Sanctus bells ring, you will hear the gospel chanted and so on. In other words, the music is presented in the context in which it was intended, the sacred liturgy.

A further benefit is that you are supporting a Catholic schola and society by your purchase, and at only $16.00 USD it is pretty reasonable. It is further a great way to commemorate Summorum Pontificum and our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, sacerdos et pontifex maximus, and the great gift he gave back to the Church: her very own liturgical heritage.

While you are there, you may want to consider some of the other very fine recordings they have available.

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