Capella Antiqua München / Konrad Ruhland

Capella Antiqua Munchen

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Gregorian Chants by Capella Antiqua München under Dr. Konrad Ruhland on the Celestial Harmonies label is a single entry among a couple dozen monophonic chant recordings made by the good doctor over the past five decades. This particular recording was made in the Parish Church of St. Martin in Högling, Bavaria, for Telefunken in April 1966, and was originally released on LP in 1967 under the title Gregorianische Gesänge; Hymnen, Sequenzen, Responsorien um 400-1400. The Celestial Harmonies compact disc edition is the third made from the album; the second, Quietude on Teldec, was given a fancy cover and trotted out at mid-price to meet an anticipated swell of market demand in the wake of the popularity of EMI Angel's disc Chant. Celestial Harmonies followed with this version only a couple of years later, for much the same reason, at full price.

Capella Antiqua München's performance of chant was state-of-the-art in 1966 and still is 40 years later -- after all, Gregorian chant isn't subject to radical fluctuations in interpretation over short spans of historic time. Experienced listeners of chant will note that the disc opens with a couple of familiar "hits," the advent hymn Conditor alme Siderum and the Christmas sequence Nato canunt Omnia. It is in the performance of the sequences where this collection truly excels, with Peter Abelard's Mittit ad Virgenem being of especial interest here. The choir even breaks into polyphony briefly at the beginning of the fourteenth-century Bavarian Kyrie fons Bonitatis, so the program is not entirely dominated with a single musical texture.

The booklet to Gregorian Chants is attractive in its design, being made of thick, black cardstock with the liner notes printed in blue on translucent tissue paper inside. However, this feature makes Ruhland's liner notes practically impossible to read. While Gregorian Chants is an excellent recording that has some historic value, the Celestial Harmonies packaging is impractical and, for the price, a little short on measure at just 49 minutes in length.

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