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Ultimate Chant

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Naxos' double-disc release of Ultimate Chant: Music of Ethereal Beauty brings together recordings by four groups trained in singing Gregorian chant and offers examples of the various types of chants historically used in the Roman Catholic Church. The performances are idiomatic and attuned to the special nuances of phrasing required in singing chants, particularly in the careful use of dynamics and tempos to keep the monody expressive and fluid. On the whole this collection is even in tone and consistent in mood, though the sounds of each group are distinctive, whether they are constituted of men, as is the Nova Schola Gregoriana, or of women, as are Aurora Surgit, In Dulci Jubilo, and Schola Hungarica. The program offers some well-known melodies, such as the Requiem aeternam and Crux fidelis, though the majority of the recordings are of less famous chants from the ordinary of the mass and the propers that are generally not the most frequently performed. Still, as a broad survey of chants that can also serve double-duty as an album for relaxation or reflection, Ultimate Chant fulfills its implied purpose, despite its rather pretentious title.

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