The repertoire recorded here largely has the sound of medieval plainchant, but it was in fact newly composed in eighteenth century France at the Cathedral of Auxterre. The bishop of Auxterre was determined to create a body of music specific to French liturgical traditions rather than simply following Roman models, and this CD draws on that extensive repertoire. While many of the chants are virtually indistinguishable from those of centuries-old monophonic traditions, an occasional use of ornamentation or specifically Baroque gesture serves as a reminder of the genesis of this music. Some of the chants veer surprisingly into polyphony of a distinctly modern character (for the eighteenth century). This strange and unpredictable juxtaposition of old and new conventions makes for an intriguing listening experience and is a testimony to the ongoing vitality of the tradition of plainchant. Because this music was written not for a monastic population but for a congregation, Ensemble Organum performs it with mixed voices, although certain selections use only women or only men. Conductor Marcel Pérès, a preeminent scholar of the varieties in chant, is an ideal interpreter for understanding and expressing the idiosyncrasies of the repertoire. Ensemble Organum sings with exceptionally pure and sweet tone and with a gorgeous blend. The makeup of the ensemble varies from chant to chant, with some solos, some large groups, and variously constituted smaller groups, so the diversity keeps the very simple music constantly engaging. Harmonia Mundi's sound is clean, but warm and nicely resonant. The fine performances make this a CD that should interest both early music specialists intrigued by the individuality of the repertoire and more casual listeners looking for a collection of music for quiet meditation.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
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