Saturday, 12 June 2010

The new Antiphonale Romanum

As I mentioned a few posts ago, my most recent impulse purchase was of the new “Antiphonale Romanum II” from the monks of Solesmes.

One of the problems with the post conciliar Liturgy of the Hours is the lack of musical settings for the antiphons, which makes singing the psalms of the Hours somewhat problematic. The excellent Liber Hymnarius, covering the hymns of the office, came out nearly thirty years ago but there was a long wait until more music for the office came out in the form of the Antiphonal Monasticum, which started appearing in 2005. This new book pertains to the Roman office and is therefore, in a sense, more suited to the needs of parish life. This new volume contains all that is needed for the celebration of the office of Vespers on a Sunday, for every week of the year.

Reviews of the new Antiphonal Romanum have started appearing, for example at the New Liturgical Movement and at the CMAA. I’m not going to offer a full review here, but I’ll make a couple of observations. The first is that the book is beautifully produced and a joy to handle and look at. Also, there are a number of features that make the singers’ life easier:

the psalm texts are accented and have cadences indicated in bold text;

the Magnificat is given special attention to show how to fit the words in the different tones and in an appendix the text is given accented and bolded for each of the psalm tones.

However, as with the new Antiphonal Monasticum, Solemnes seems to have given up any attempt at rhythmic indications: so there are few dots and the episema and ictus have been banished. (There are some interesting comments about this in the Antiphonale Monasticum at the Gregorian Association’s website). This means more work for the musical director! This may be difficult on two levels: for the first, getting the rhythm from the text is often relatively straightforward to do in simple Gregorian settings, but antiphons not uncommonly contain florid melismata for which a bit of rhythmic indication would have been helpful; on the second level, there’s nothing like chant rhythm to start a punch-up between chantists, so the poor musical director will be caught in the middle!

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