What is a psalm 'di concerto'
  • This morning I am making my way through Pius X's Tra le sollecitudini and he states:
    The psalms known as ‘di concerto’ are therefore forever excluded and prohibited.


    Could someone please explain what form of psalm settings he's referring to? This is an unfamiliar term to me.

    As an aside, I'm finding this fascinating reading; I realize some of these norms are perhaps considered abrogated by current liturgical rubrics, but it's mind-boggling to think that we've strayed so far from what he decreed hardly a century on. His wisdom seems so timeless, even if it feels restrictive in certain respects. It is utterly freeing in others, however.

    I've been speaking to my schola recently about how essential it is for us to sing music that is truly 'sacred' and set apart for God; further still, that there should be no whiff of profanity (in the true sense of the term) in the style of compositions. This has led to lots of chant and polyphony which has forced a bit of a shift in mindset for certain members of my larger choir. It's wonderful to have such clear prescriptions to lean on for support.
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  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,024
    From the last paragraph of this article in the old Catholic Encyclopedia.
    "theatrical compositions . . with soli, chorus, and orchestra, comprising adagios, allegros, and often dance airs"
  • AFH, that was very helpful. Thank you.

    That's more/less what I expected it to mean, but I wanted to make sure there wasn't some other codified form of psalmody I wasn't aware of.
  • Is this sort of thing that is meant?

    https://youtu.be/0A83lDufk78
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  • I believe so. This is an excellent example.
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  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,024
    provided the singers seem to be psalmodising among themselves
    I think the Josquin passes that test.
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  • The Josquin falls squarely in the genre of classic sacred polyphony which Pius X specifically acclaims as "[agreeing] admirably with Gregorian Chant, the supreme model of all sacred music, and hence it has been found worthy of a place side-by-side with Gregorian chant in the more solemn functions of the Church..."
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,608
    Basically what it means is that Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, Handel's Psalms for the Carmelites that he wrote when he was in Rome, etc., are all forbidden.

    The thing is, Tra le was enforced in greater or lesser degrees depending on the place. The rather Ultramonatist Caecilian Movement tried to rigorously enforce it--especially in the U.S. where you ended up with White Lists and Black Lists, whereas other groups tended to ignore it, more or less, because they were concerned (one could make the argument, rightly concerned) that a full enforcement of the Motu Proprio would be an extreme upheaval to cultural life. What, for example, would happen at the Stephansdom if Orchestral Masses were suddenly forbidden?

    If I may be so bold as to make this statement: I think that Tra le was an important document for its time: It gave the needed impetus for the revival of Gregorian Chant, and it restored Sacred Polyphony to its proper place. The turn of the 20th century was also the perfect time for the Tree of Sacred Music to undergo a much needed and radical pruning. Many branches, particularly of Concerted music, were dead or dying, etc., and needed to be cut back. This allowed for regrowth. Unfortunately, there is/was a tendency among some to prefer the heavily pruned trunk and refuse to let new branches grow or flower.

    Now the tree is coming to a flowering, in a way. The time in which Pius X wrote it no longer exists, and this should be acknowledged. The worst examples of Concerted music are long gone, only pulled out occasionally to be laughed at by musicians, and yet the Stephansdom is still singing Mozart, Salieri, the Haydns, Beethoven, Hummel, et al. Gregorian Chant is given the principle place: in the E.F., and, thanks to God's providence during the pandemic, in more places in the O.F. Thanks to the work of the Early Music Movement, much research has been done to unearth works from the Renaissance and Middle Ages, and these are gaining their rightful place in repertories. Etc.

    The important thing, I think, is to see the Motu Proprio as a product of a certain age, intended to deal with certain problems of that age. As good a document as it is, and as valid as many of its points still are, it is not Holy Writ.
  • On the one hand, I agree with you, on the other, I struggle with a few of your sentiments. Yes, it was a product of its time. This is true of every document ever written. That said, he issued the document with the clear intent of the force of ecclesiastical law. He sent it to all the bishops of the world, and intended it to be implemented. Many of his principles are timeless: gregorian chant, polyphony, universal nature of music that is truly sacred, no whiffs of profanity (in the true sense of the term) etc.

    Stephansdom is a strange example in that many cathedrals have always had their exceptional (but typcially appropriate) customs; perhaps it could be better phrased as: many cathedral parishes appear exceptional in that they are the only parishes in their given regions where the fullness of solemn liturgy can be realistically achieved.

    I was blessed to sing a Beethoven mass with full orchestra there and it was incredible. It was one of the only masses I've ever attended where it felt like mass was important and worth the effort to adorn it to the nth degree. By the same token, this is the type of mass that Pius X specifically condemns as being too operatic (read: profane in its very nature, even if it is high art; as such, such masses fail one of the conditions necessary for genuinely sacred music). While it's definitely great—from an artistic perspective—that the tradition of these masses continues there, one can argue it is less of a value—liturgically speaking—since such masses often have 40 minutes of music or more. Pius X specifically states that all sacred music must have recourse to chant, and the more it resembles chant, the better, and the less it resembles, the worse. A 2hour operatic mass hardly resembles chant, and is, in a very real sense (also outlined in this document) an abuse in the way that single portions of the ordinary are chopped up into totally independent musical movements and the liturgical ministers are required to stop and wait while the concert (let's be real, such masses are essentially concerts) shoves on.

    As an aside, I have to say that I'm extremely perturbed by the shenanigans that goes on at that cathedral, specifically, and would hardly look to them as a bastion of healthy traditions. Covering up the high altar with giant purple sweaters and having men literally dressed as the devil dancing on the altar rail are genuine sacrileges. That church needs to be reconsecrated.
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  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,608
    Oh, No, I agree. The Stephansdom as it is Now is nothing to be emulated, and should only in many respects be looked at as a via negativa.

    Now, as far as the Orchestral Masses are concerned, things like the Mozart C Minor, or the Beethoven Missa Solemnis, are the exceptions of that repertoire, not the rule, and they are definitely inappropriate for liturgical use, except maybe on the most important public occasions, like the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor. They have come to be better known today through concerts, because they can take up an entire concert, but they were hardly the 'meat and potatoes' of 18th century churches. The majority of the Orchestral Masses that come down to us are of the Missa Brevis type, and are of relatively short duration: Mozart's and Haydn's Missae Brevis have a performance duration of 12 to 20 mintutes; by contrast many of Palestrina's Masses are over 30 minutes. And when it comes to the longer movements (Gloria & Credo), whether they're sung in an Orchestral setting, a Polyphonic setting, or even a Chant setting, the Sacred Ministers will have to wait: it takes less time to whisper "Etinterrapaxhominibusbonaevoluntatislaudamustebenedicimusteadoramuste..." (about 30 seconds) than to sing it (Gloria more Ambrosiano, about 2-min. 30-s.; Palestrina Missa Papae Marcelli, about 5-min. 30-s.; Mozart K317 "Kronungsmesse", about 5 min.).

    I used to be, making allowances for where Novus Ordo practice completely changed things, somewhat rigid regard the prescriptions and proscriptions of the Motu Proprio and documents related to it. When I first began as a liturgical musician, I never would have thought that I would direct a liturgical performance of Schubert's G Major because I would have considered it and its style inappropriate, per Pius X; but my zealousness has mellowed, and I directed that work (with textual corrections) a couple years ago. YMMV.
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  • I don't mean to be too rigorist. I just look around and see so much chaos that I wish to anchor to one of the only clear moorings for miles of coast amid treacherous waters. I find Hadyn's masses utterly charming (sung two of them, one in Austria at the Berg Kirche up the hill from the palace in Eisenstadt) and love all the great rep. We sang the Michael Haydn requiem in Philly last year and that was absolutely amazing too. The fact that he whipped it up in a matter of days is only more proof to his genius and the mad-masterwork that it is.

    I struggle with T.L.S. too; for instance: no women singing. This struck me as odd because women would have been chanting in monasteries for centuries (and I'm told serving at the altar too, in some cases, although I'd love more information about that). I can only presume he's basing that decree almost exclusively on the fact that the schola steps in for clergy of old. But I can't say that I agree with it. Of all the various things for women to be doing in church, singing strikes me as perhaps the most appropriate and beneficial. I regularly have my ladies chant together while the men stay mute because it is so lovely and has a monastic tone.
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  • I would guess it's more to do with social issues? In rural and traditional areas of Brazil men and women who aren't family don't hang out or socialize together the way one is used to in much of the US.