Thursday, October 09, 2008

Simile Est: 1871 v. 1908

Simile Est is the communion antiphon that tells the Parable from Matthew 13, verse 45. What is the kingdom of Heaven like? Well, there was a merchant who looked for pearls to buy and sell. One day he found one of such incredible worth that he sold everything else, and bought this one pearl only. The kingdom of Heaven is this very thing: worth everything else you own or possibly could own.

The chant is astonishing in its rich presentation of the text. Heaven is here, but we might expect that. But we also have diving for pearls here. The elation of discovery is presented. The relative worth of this great pearl comes through, as does the selling of all other goods. Finally we so clearly hear the spiritual joy in the last phrase at the end of the parable.

Now, the first version from 1871 Ratisbon is not awful but it just isn't very rhapsodic or rich with musical meaning. Off accented melismas are gone. All rhythmic complications are missing. Oddly, the 2nd mention of the pearl of great worth ends in a downward motion, which is sort of disappointing. All in all, it is pretty but not particularly eventful.

Compare to the restoration by Solesmes. It is all here and more. Glorious work.

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