Beneventan Chant Performances in Benevent

I would like to suggest that Beneventan chants should be performed on a regular basis on their proper feast days in Benevent by a small group (around 7 or 8 singers) of well-trained singers with very clear voices who are able to deliver the long melismas very smoothly and who have some deal of "sweetness" in the upper register, i. e. who do not sing high notes too loud: It would be best if such a group could specialize on this repertory and be based in Benevent permanently. All informations about performance practices (including the use of boys for certain chants or portions of chant) which may be valid for this repertory should then be collected and tried out in performance. Especially appropriate places for such chant performances would be: Sancta Sofia, Sant' Ilario, San Francesco, Museo del Sannio and the museum in the crypta of the dome. When the ensemble has reached a certain level of fluidness

and specialization, a row of CDs with especially beautiful and characteristic chants could document Beneventan chant. Extremely low pitch and "orientalizing" ornaments/tone production such as the Ensemble Organum does with other chants should in my view NOT be realized, as it is not very probable that these were taken up in THIS way by Western singers, even if there was  some orthodox influence in the repertory: Only such performance practices should be taken up which are really in keeping with pertinent sources and/or which seem likely and beautiful (which permanently low pitches and a profusion of ornaments which cover up music and text too musch are certainly NOT).

It would also be good to make available all melodies online, giving all the source information and possibly even linking transcriptions with scanned sources.

All of this would surely be a strong contribution to enhance the appreciation of the beauties of Beneventan chant!

Christoph Dohrmann

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  • The question is just, for whom it is impossible?

    I have to say that the fact, that I have very few connections with the catholic church, was a very important condition for those singers of my ensemble who are catholic, because they would never trust someone who fits to your description. On the other hand, the Old-Beneventan rite which you discuss here as Beneventan rite is a past tradition (although it did not simply dissappear by the time, when the first manuscripts known today had been written, this is wishful thinking, but one which is very unlikely). Any reconstruction would be a museum-like approach. I have no problem with such an approach, but we have to see, if it will move or even change something within Campanian communities. It is a question of doing it and of the quality, how to do it, and less of talking about it.

    In general I agree with Mr Dohrmann, but a careful field research of the living tradition is an important part of such a reconstruction. It is not necessary to reconstruct a whole Old-Beneventan calendar, the different options given in the known manuscripts are already enough.

  • Albeit possibly to a lesser degree, I am afraid the same is true for Old Roman, Milanese, and even the socalled Gregorian chant, not to mention Old Hispanic. Since the seventies several specialized ensembles worked very hard to come to interpretations. But still there are several conflicting opinions as to an 'authentic' performance practice. Concerning 'liturgical' performance the case is probably even worse. It seems sheer impossible to abandon post-Vatican habits in favor of a 'Carolingian', or for that matter tenth or eleventh-century liturgical practice. We simply don't know enough. And apart from that, the elementary wish to do so is hard to find. I don't think this is really a problem, because liturgical standards (and to some extent even the liturgy itself) are something of the past. Just like the many local repertoires, the different interpretations simply add to the wealth of our contemporary view to liturgical music.

  • Yes, I know about the edition: My proposition would be that on the long term all melodies should be made available online - transcriptions as well as sources (linked with the pertinent transcriptions). If we would have a truly SPECIALIZED ensemble (or better several such ensembles) which concentrate only or mainly on Beneventan chants, a much more thorough, and idiomatic approach towards style and questions of performance practice could be reached: which portions of chants were only sung by a soloist, which possibly by or with boys, how ornamental neumes were (likely) performed etc. - all such things could best be approached with (a) chant ensemble(s) specialized on ONE repertory, performing this one type of chant regularly in a liturgical context (as suggested above by Mr. Ricossa): I would even go further and suggest that a Center for Beneventan Chant should be established in Benevent - where performers, musicologists and interested listeners would come together regularly discussing and listening, inviting various ensembles etc.. The same thing should be done for Old Roman Chant in Rome. You see the - the big problem with almost all of today's performers of early music (including chant ensembles) is that they are NOT truly specialized on a repertory: therefore they rarely reach the desirable degree of stylistical and performance practice accomplishment. I think that it's time to change this - concentrate on one given repertory, perform it regularly, especially at those places and if possible even in contexts where it originally belonged, approach questions of performance practice very CARE- and THOUGHTfully, rather avoiding extremes, and above all, not mixing up different styles/traditions etc. which (probably) did not belong together. If we would have such truly specialized ensembles for Beneventan, Old Roman, Ambrosian and even for different phases of Gregorian chant, they could produce recordings of which would probably come closer to a more idiomatic and truly "historically informed" approach than ensembles which are NOT specialized on one chant tradition: Such recordings could then be linked online with transcribed chant melodies and chant sources so that every interested person could read and listen to a chant at the same time online - one could check sources and hear how certain (for instance ornamental) neumes are being performed according to a really careful, very knowledgeable approach by singers who concentrate on the repertory, try out different solutions (hopefully coming to good and well founded solutions). Things that are not known (exactly) could be tried out in performance carefully - the most LIKELY solutions could probably be found more easily, if specialized chant ensembles develop a "feeling", a more intimate understanding of a certain chant tradition.

    I am very probably not the only one who wants to be able to read transcriptions/sources and listen to a given chant at the same time online in recordings which are really carefully prepared and "responsible" from a stylistical and performance practice point of view: It will prove VERY helpful in delving into the peculiarities of a repertory, truly learning to understand it better from an aesthetical point of view. And it will certainly be of avail when one wants to compare melodies from different chant traditions to have online databases for each different tradition which not only include the melodies and sources, but also GOOD recordings and bibliography.

    I have heard chant recordings (Gregorian tradition) which did not even TRY to realize certain "doubtful" neumes - e. g. the quilisma (which was probably some sort of vibrato, i. e. "tremula", possibly  combined with a sort of portamento): That's certainly not a "responsible" approach - not even trying!


            C. Dohrmann

  • When I wrote about oral traditions of Campania and Apulia, I just wanted to emphasise that it is full of ornaments including microtonal shifts. What you would like to make out of it concerning your ideas of performing medieval chant, is a personal question which is addressed to your phantasy and capacity as a performer.

    I assure that local musicians in Campania would never subscribe certain conventions of performing Gregorian chant. The reason is that musical creativity has survived until today.

  • Dear Christoph Dohrmann

    Thank you very much for your feedback concerning my neume introduction.

    As musician as well as a musicologist and ethnomusicologist, I avoid imperatives like "you should", because most of your aesthetic ideas cannot be verified on the base of the sources (concerning register and ornamental style), and we do know so few indeed. Doing field research in Italo-Albanian communities which revived Greek communities in Campania, Molise and Apulia (including a certain adaption of local liturgical customs), I could learn so many things which I would hardly have imagined before.

    I regard it rather as my job to encourage musicians to develop their own ideas, how to perform microtones and ornaments as they had been notated by cantors and described in treatises during the middle ages. Traditional music in Campania today is orally based like Western plainchant was for all singers concerning their local schools and their masters (notation was rather a clandestine practice between different generations of cantors who could read and write notation). I simply discovered that they are very far from any performance based on medieval manuscripts of Beneventan chant which I listened so far. There is still a lot of work to do.

    Concerning your refuse of Ensemble Organum's interpretation as far as they rely on ornaments of the living practice of Greek-Orthodox chant, I can hardly prove that is less correct than any other interpretation. Campanian Langobards strongly identified with a community of tradition, which existed between the Langobards and the Italogreek communities. Even some catepanes, responsible for the administration of the Byzantine provinces (themata) in Italy, had been Langobards and some of them experienced hostility by only one of the patriarchs – Keroularios who was very afraid of the political alliance which existed between Pope Leo IX and the Byzantine Emperor. Concerning the cathedral rite, they cannot even be divided into a Greek and a Latin part (at least not on the base of notated sources), because the Greek manuscripts rather document the monastic tradition of Greek monks. The Greek population lived there before Pythagoras. In Southern Apulia, in a region called terra d'Otranto, the Greek language was spoken by the majority of the population, when Benventan manuscripts had been written. They lived together with Muslims, Normans, Sephardim, and "Christians of the Latin rite".

    I am sure that they knew and emphasised the differences between their traditions, but they were also open-minded, so that their creativity was based on a rich exchange within the a community of Mediterranean traditions. This explains, why Campania until today, especially Bari, is so proud of the local Byzantine background (Bari was the residence of the Catepanate of Byzantine Italy, before Barese and Venetian merchants ravished the tomb of St Nicolas to establish local reliquary cults for the Saint).

    In addition to Matthew's edition I also recommend the proceedings of a conference initiated and published by Nicola Tangari. You might be particularly interested in Roger Reynold's contribution, but not only I guess.

    Musica e liturgia a Montecassino nel medioevo
    Dear Colleagues, I would like to announce the publication of the Proceeding of the recent International Symposium 'Musica e liturgia a Montecassino n…
  • Aquí está el enlace:

    Alberto Diaz-Blanco a dit :

    La primera propuesta interpretativa... (problemas de tamaño)

  • Dear Mr. Dohrmann,

    Who can disagree with you that beautiful performances of Beneventan chant would sound wonderful in the churches of Benevento? I hope that your wish is fulfilled, even though it might be difficult to reach a consensus on what constitutes beauty...

    You might like to know that a complete edition of Beneventan chant, edited by Matthew Peattie and myself, is now in press.

  • La primera propuesta interpretativa... (problemas de tamaño)

  • Interesante reflexión acerca de lo que debería ser la práctica y la interpretación del canto beneventano. Os dejo tres propuestas de interpretaciones (existe un disco dedicado al beneventano difícil de encontrar pero muy recomendable de la Schola Saint Grégoire de Canada dirigido por Jean-Pierre Noiseux).

    Aquí tenéis la referencia de las tres propuestas

    1) Choralschola des Instituts für Kirchenmusik und Orgel, Canticum Canticorum ...stark wie der Tod ist die liebe (2008)

    2) Nova Schola Gregoriana, Labirinto musicale, antico canto d'occidente - Beneventano (2006)

    3) Dialogos, Lombards & Barbares (2002)

    Alberto Díaz-Blanco

    07 Tractus - Sicut cervus.mp3

    02 Antiphona - Doxa en ipsistis, Gloria in excelsis.MP3

    Chant Discography
  • Interesante reflexión acerca de lo que debería ser la práctica y la interpretación del canto beneventano. Os dejo tres propuestas de interpretaciones (existe un disco dedicado al beneventano difícil de encontrar pero muy recomendable de la Schola Saint Grégoire de Canada dirigido por Jean-Pierre Noiseux).

    Aquí tenéis la referencia de las tres propuestas

    1) Choralschola des Instituts für Kirchenmusik und Orgel, Canticum Canticorum ...stark wie der Tod ist die liebe (2008)

    2) Nova Schola Gregoriana, Labirinto musicale, antico canto d'occidente - Beneventano (2006)

    3) Dialogos, Lombards & Barbares (2002)

    Alberto Díaz-Blanco

    Chant Discography
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