Hungaraton's Codex Sanblasianus: Medieval Mass for the Feast of the Annunciation is a rather mysterious entry for a number of reasons. One will look in vain for the title "Codex Sanblasianus" anywhere outside the context of this disc, and that raises a red flag as to exactly what manuscript János Mezei and the Schola Cantorum Budapestiensis is referring. It is British Museum Add. 27630, a South German manuscript from the second half of the fourteenth century. Edited by Wolfgang Dömling, the so-called "Codex Sanblasianus" was published in 1972 under the title "Die Handschrift London," i.e. "The London Manuscript," or "LoD" for short. The origin of this source is still a matter of debate; some suggest that it was compiled for use in the monastery of St. Blasien, hence "Sanblasianus." The Schola Cantorum Budapestiensis is utilizing the Dömling edition in conjunction with a half-dozen other sources, including some surprising ones to consider in the context of German Latin church music, such as the Spanish Codex Las Huelgas. One source not consulted, equally surprisingly, is Codex Engelberg 314, a manuscript volume already established as having close ties with LoD.
Whatever the nagging inconsistencies may be in the textual aspect of Codex Sanblasianus, there is no questioning the fine qualities of the performances therein. The members of Schola Cantorum Budapestiensis' day job is in fostering children through choral singing at two of Budapest's major high schools and fulfilling professional engagements in the evening. This does not leave a lot of time for mulling over fine points of musicology, but it does allow for music making of a very practical, no nonsense kind. There are no sopranos soaring into the stratosphere or speculative attempts at "period" chant ornamentation here, just very solid, straightforward ensemble singing embellished with an outstanding children's choir. It may not strike one as being especially soulful or expansive in the manner of a professional early music group, but Codex Sanblasianus provides a respectful and accurate rendering of mostly two-part music, Organa, and the occasional inclusion of necessary monophonic sequences and chants. The bottom line in a musicological sense is that Mezei found enough of the Feast of the Annunciation among the 82 pieces in Add. 27630 to put together a coherent liturgy, and simply made use of other material to fill in the blanks. This program had been performed many times in concert even before Hungaraton recorded it, and the refinement and polishing that Schola Cantorum Budapestiensis has put into performing this Mass pays off handsomely. Schola Cantorum Budapestiensis treats this historically remote liturgy as a living, breathing part of the repertoire, as though it were a Beethoven symphony or something else that is part of the common heritage within the classical tradition, and as such, Hungaraton's Codex Sanblasianus: Medieval Mass for the Feast of the Annunciation is excellent. Hungaraton's sound is a little quiet and distant, but adequate -- nothing turning up the volume a bit cannot cure.