Ambrosian chant, connected with the city of Milan, was attributed in legend to St. Ambrose just as Gregorian chant was attributed to Pope Gregory; both men contributed little or nothing to the chant repertory, which evolved as an oral-written tradition over centuries, but there is a kernel of truth in both tales. Liturgical chant existed in various traditions around Europe, most of which were suppressed by the waves of administrative standardization promulgated by Charlemagne and the other Carolingian Frankish kings, and only Ambrosian chant continued to be used. Comparative recordings illustrating the relationships among these traditions are much needed, and the title of this German release suggests that one is going to be offered. The booklet notes (in English, German, and French) even state that "Gregorian and Ambrosian hymns are juxtaposed to bring out the similarities and differences of the two styles." However, only one of the two CDs in the set involves Ambrosian chant; the second offers a collection of chants suitable to the texts pertaining to the mysteries of the Rosary, alternating with Messiaen-like organ improvisations. No justification is given for this curious procedure, which is effective in a mystical way but doesn't fit with the concept of the first disc and apparently doesn't represent an actual performance tradition; the chants and the organ improvisations were recorded separately, in different locations and at different times. And the first disc relates Gregorian and Ambrosian chant only in the most general way. There is a fund of similar chants in common between the two traditions, but you don't get an alternation or comparison of those; instead the musical liturgy consists of epiphany chants drawn in irregular sequence from Gregorian and Ambrosian sources, and it would probably take a medievalist to distinguish between the two without direction. The singers of the Schola Cantorum Coloniensis (of Cologne), with added members of the Schola Choralis Solingen, sing well enough to please those who value chant for its purely meditative qualities, but the concept of the recording is hazy.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1