Schola Hungarica

Delectamentum: The Feast of Corpus Christi

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This Hungarian disc of chant certainly qualifies as arcane. Start with the title, Delectamentum, which the booklet notes (in Hungarian, French, and English, with chant texts in Latin, Hungarian, and English) assure us would have had a triple meaning within a medieval context. The booklet goes on to use words like "fashionable" and "sentimental" in relation to specific chants, and these words are obviously being used in ways intended for those whose familiarity with chant runs deep. Those individuals, and other listeners who are willing to buckle down and figure out just what is going on here, may nevertheless find the program intriguing. The idea in a nutshell seems to be this: the ensemble Schola Hungarica and annotator László Dobszay have assembled a group of chants that medieval Hungarian singers observing the feast of Corpus Christi might have picked for themselves. That enterprise involves several aspects. First, the music is conditioned by the fact that the feast of Corpus Christi took quite a while to find its place within the annual cycle of Catholic observance. Chief among those who helped codify it, in fact, was St. Thomas Aquinas, whose words are chanted here in a reciting-tone style (track 8). What that means is that the chants on the disc were mostly newly composed in the medieval era rather than those that had been handed down through centuries of oral tradition. These medieval chants have their own flavor; they seem more closely connected to their texts, also often new or at least troped, than do the classic Gregorian chants. Singers in Hungary might have also chosen material from Eastern European repertories; although by no means all the chants here are from Eastern Europe, several items will be unfamiliar from a Western perspective. Finally, with the inclusion of three motets by Guillaume Dufay, the program places polyphony within the context of the chant that would still, in the middle of the fifteenth century, often have surrounded it. This isn't so much an "authentic" performance of chant -- the singers sound like they are mixed in gender -- as an investigation of what a medieval chant repertory might have sounded like. Delectable? Only if you know what you're doing. Interesting and informative? Definitely.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:21
2
1:07
3
2:34
4
2:23
5
3:49
6
1:39
7
7:04
Summa Theologica, book
8
1:37
9
2:23
Summa Theologica, book
10
1:19
11
2:11
Summa Theologica, book
12
0:57
13
5:05
14
3:25
15
2:38
Scripture Reading, Bible
16
1:17
17
2:11
18
4:31
19
9:22
20
1:18
21
1:18
blue highlight denotes track pick