Buddhist Shõmyõ & Gregorian Chants
Buddhist Shõmyõ & Gregorian Chants
Musica Sacra ~ A dialogue of two spiritual cultures
based on the musical repertoire of the Buddhist and the Christian tradition,
performed by the Ensemble Schola Gregoriana Pragensis
and "Gjosan-rjú Tendai Sómjó" (Buddhist Monks from Japan)
Conductors: Saikawa Buntai and David Eben
The live-recording of a concert in the church of the German
UNESCO World Heritage Site Maulbronn Monastery
HD Recording · DDD · c. 73 Minutes
eaningful dialogue between religions is no doubt one of the most pressing challenges of the modern world. Developments over the past few years clearly confirm what a significant role this aspect of human communication represents. Despite breathtaking technological breakthroughs and the related trend of rational scepticism, man still remains a religious creature. Ignoring this sphere of human personality not only leads to an impoverishment of the spiritual culture of a nation, but also to mutual estrangement of nations. And so what a wonderfully enriching experience it is then two cultures meet in mutual dialogue rather than confrontation.
As a biblical quotation has it, Spiritus flatubivult - the Spirit blows wherever it pleases. These words suggest an image of the unbound "blowing of God's spirit" traversing all religious traditions. It is precisely by seeking this spirit that we can liberate ourselves from long established differences and share the common "message" of religions. Many would agree that music plays an important role in such communication, crossing barriers and working as a kind of universal language.
The intention of the Tendai monks and the Schola Gregoriana Pragensis ensemble was to create a dialogue of two spiritual cultures based on the musical repertoire of the Buddhist and the Christian tradition. Thus, this recording is the fruit of mutual collaboration at concerts and liturgy in Prague in 2000 and a tour of Japan in 2005. These meditative encounters focus on interesting contrasts in the two musical languages and expressions, at the same time seeking common elements present in both traditions. Parallels can be found, for example, in the recitation of the sacred text or in the interpretation principle of alternating a soloist with a choir, which overlaps the boundaries of confession repertoires. Another striking feature is the tonality based on the pentatonic scale appearing both in shomyo singing and Gregorian chant.
Gregorian chant is the earliest liturgical singing of the western Christian tradition. Its roots reach back to the first centuries of the Christianera. The core of this sacral repertoire was established in about the second half of the 8th century under the reign of Charles the Great. Homophony and Latin texts are typical features of this style. Most prominent in the Gregorian chant is the singing of psalms, sometimes conceived in a simple recitation (as in the psalm Misere mei Deus and the antiphon Alieni insurrexerunt) and in others (such as the tractus Deus, Deus meus) in a richer melodic shape. While the core of the repertoire has remained more or less unchanged since the early Middle Ages, liturgical singing is still a dynamic phenomenon, having incorporated new musical forms and accepting even polyphonic compositions.
Gregorian chants on this recording draw predominantly from the earliest part of the repertoire (around the second half of the 8th century), as it seems to resonate best with the meditative feeling of shomyo singing. To create contrast, several examples of late medieval music including a polyphonic composition (the conductus Mundus a munditia) have been selected for the recording.
There are also two songs of Czech origin. The procession antiphon Sedit angelus from the Easter Vigil has survived in Bohemia in an accompaniment of an interesting two voice verse. Ave virgo gloriosa also represents the repertoire of Czech sacred songs (cantiones) of the late Middle Ages. It is complemented interestingly on this recording by the "hum" of the recited Lotos sutra.
Gjosan-rjú tendai Sómjó:
Nagamune Kōshin, Ōtsuki Myōyu, Kobayashi Shūshin, Shimizutani Zendō, Chōdō Enshun, Yamashita Ryūgen, Yoshida Meiryō
Conductor: Saikawa Buntai
Schola Gregoriana Pragensis:
Martin Prokeš, Hasan El-Dunia, Ondrej Manour, Michal Medek, Stanislav Predota, Marek Sulc, Matous Vlcinský
Conductor: David Eben
1. Allerheiligen Litanei · Procession
2. Goschin-bo · Ritual Protection
3. Oi sange · Die Große Buße
4. Veni Sancte Spiritus · Komm, Heiliger Geist
Moteto Veni Sancte Spiritus
5. Shoten Kango no san · Lob der himmlischen Mächte (Solo)
6. Alleluia Magnus Dominus · Halleluja. Groß ist der Herr und allen Lobes wert
7. Sorai kada · Lobgesang
Psalm 51. Miserere mei Deus · Erbarme dich über mich, Gott
8. Oratio Ieremiae Prophetae · Gebet des Propheten Jeremias
9. Antiphona Alieni insurrexerunt · Feinde haben sich gegen mich erhoben
Shoten Kango no san · Lob der himmlischen Mächte (Chor)
10. O virgo splendens · O strahlende Jungfrau
11. Kudshó Shakudshó · Gesang und Rasseln zur Vertreibung böser Mächte
12. Graduale Iustus ut palma · Der Gerechte blüht wie eine Palme
13. Amida-kyo · Amida-Sutra
Kyrie IV · Herr, erbarme dich
14. Jinriki-hon · Von der göttlichen Macht · 21. Buch der Lotos-Sutra
Cantio Ave virgo gloriosa · Sei gegrüßet, Himmelskönigin
15. Kikyo bongo no san · Lobgesang der Freude und des Segens
16. Chant · From Old Slavic Liturgy
The experiment works very well indeed. Initially, the two choirs alternate their chants, the Westerners more formal in structure, the Easterners more fluid in theirs. It was interesting for me to hear Japanese monks as compared to Tibetans who are much more familiar here in the U.S. The Japanese monks all chant in a higher pitch, more in the tenor range, although some of their members are capable, as are Tibetans, of "chording" with the voice from time to time. As for Schola Gregoriana Pragensis, they are quite simply a beautiful-sounding group with great feeling in their singing.
As the concert progresses, both choirs begin combining their religious chants to fascinating effect. Despite the musical and cultural differences, everything blends surprisingly well.
This is an excellent recording in every respect and in its own way more universal than many such "chant" CDs out there. In the spirit of the music presented, I feel a little odd recommending the disc, but as you can probably tell I was very moved by these performances.