Interview with Msgr. Domenico Bartolucci
  • RORATE CÆLI provides the Italian-to-English translation

    This did jump out at me:

    What does it mean, Monsignore, when in the musical field you attack Solesmes?
    This means that the Gregorian chant is modal, not tonal and not rhythmical, it has nothing to do with “one, two, three, one, two, three”. We should not despise the way people sung in our cathedrals and replace it with a pseudo-monastic and affected murmuring. A song from the Middle Ages is not interpreted with theories of today, but one should go about it as it was then. Moreover the Gregorian chant of another historical time could also be sung by the people, sung using the force with which our people expressed their faith. Solesmes never understood this, but we should recognize the learned and large philological work executed on the old manuscripts.


    His first statement seems to be an attack on the Mocquereau method, though I don't necessarily see that method as competing with others (I use a freer interpretation of it, personally). Maybe it's late, but I'm not really understanding the gist of this answer. Or maybe it's the translation? (I don't know, as I don't read Italian.) The underlined passage recalls in my mind the Medicean edition, available on MusicaSacra as a PDF. (Too lazy to look for the link now.)

    (The interview deals with more than just his views on liturgical music, which is why I've placed in this category. Feel free to comment on other aspects of the interview.)
  • He might have been talking about Mocq but my sense is that Mocquereau is often caricatured, which is what always happens when people drift too far from the source material of intellectual giants. If you actually read what he wrote, his discussion of 2s and 3s isn't really a method of pedagogy and even less a style or approach to singing. It was a way of understanding the most fundamental rhythmic building blocks of the chant. Nor did he write that the chant consists only of 2s and 3s. those are fundamental units but there are other larger units and ever larger units and circles within circles. He was only reaching for the core that no one had yet found (in his view). I find all his writing on this topic to be brilliant and innovative, at once imaginative and scientific, and it seems completely unassailable to me, a theory that once stated seems very clear but which takes a great mind to generate. the trouble came when his insight was reduced and democratized and propagated into the sole way, the beginning and the end, of understanding Gregorian music, which of course is ridiculous. If you want to read what he actually wrote, see his stunning Le Nombre Musical Gregorien.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    I have read several articles by Msgr. Domenico Bartolucci, and I found each one sillier than the next. I don't even want to waste my time responding to his statements, but I would point out all the things Solesmes has accomplished, not only making the most beautiful and wondrous Gregorian chant recordings of all time, but also what they have done over the last 150 years for chant scholarship. Contrast this with what Msgr. Domenico Bartolucci has accomplished, and it becomes clear to me he is trying to gain attention for himself by attacking a monastery that has done NOTHING BUT GOOD for Gregorian chant.

    If Msgr. Domenico Bartolucci has produced a recording that shows "how people sang chant in the middle ages" I will purchase it tomorrow. Of course this is nonsense. My sense, however, is that he desires an operatic singing of chant, which was probably how he was taught. I'm glad no one today seriously considers following this method.
  • And the people sang "Ameh_ehn" without affect.
  • JT: Indeed. Even amongst directors who use the Mocquereau method (I can think of four in my area), there is a wonderful latitude in interpretation. (I recall a thread here, I think, where a contributor gave a concrete example of it.) But to my mind, the prayer's the thing. I just find it easier, perhaps, to pray (and to teach others to pray) in what Mgsr. Bartolucci caricatures as "pseudo-monastic and affected murmuring." But in what style would he classify the chanting of, say, Stift Heiligenkreutz, which I understand has an long, unbroken tradition in matters plainsong?

    JO: Spending time writing that response was time well spent; thanks for it. The thing about operatic singing is that it neither sounds humble (if humility has a sound) nor accessible. What I understand him calling "affected murmuring" has a lower barrier to entry than opera—I myself think that operatic singing is inaccessible to me, personally.

    CC: Ameh–ehn!
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,712
    Ahhh, yes. The Monsignor whose choir knew two directions: "Bellow!!" and "Bellow LOUDER!!"

    With/without his comments about Solesmes, I think we can come to a judgment about his musicianship by listening to his choir's performances.

    'Nuff said......
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    I'm not great follower of Solesmes, but this interview was so full of sour grapes that I had to buy a bottle of a Central Coast Chardonnay to get the taste out of my mouth.

    It was an unfortunate example of settling various professional scores and grinding old axes. And we should all take it as a cautionary example as we age.

    Besides, how does he know what it sounded like in the middle ages? I can't believe he's that old.
  • I'll inform Eberle or Robert Hall that their Chardonnay is elixar for surly Italianates.
    "Besides, how does he know what it sounded like in the middle ages? I can't believe he's that old."
    One: he's Italian; Two: he was curia; Three: see #1.
    Sorry, off-thread, but as sommelier it's my duty.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I actually enjoyed the interview. And I suppose the question is which solesmes is he railing against, old solesmes or new? If he's actually promoting the old-old-old "operatic" style, I have to agree with him in so far as if people sang chant with gusto, no matter how inaccurately, it's a good thing. Kind of like how we retain the corrupted Snow Our Father.

    Charles, I didn't need to know how smelly you are...
  • Oh Gavin, you whippersnapper. I'm not sure how you extracted that olefactory reference, but I can assure you, I take great pains not to offend any of the senses, save for the sight of me.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Somellier = smellier. Actually I'm just envious, learning about beer/wine and letting other people know that I know more about beer/wine than them is my sole talent in life. If only I could get paid for that, I could drop this church music nonsense!
  • Well, in front of AOZ, the Bowed Tied One, The Mahrt, Turko, Mary Ann, Kathy, Geri, Norman, those who braved the second floor that glorious eve, and our Lord, I give my oath: all I did was bring some wine. I leave the nose stuff to the pro's and self-proclaimed stuffed shirts. Toting around a dipsquirt little silver cup on a chain 'round my neck versus the Cross of Benedict or a Celtic Cross is no where's near even-Steven. I require more serious indulgence, if you please.
    But, you're right- carrying on as a professed Catholic musician often and finally will amount to nonsense in dis woild. I suggest we all take another look at Aristotle's poster, and remind ourselves of just who the most interesting mortal man is in this, our world now, and "stay churchy, my friend."
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    Aren't the Italians always going to judge the artistic efforts of the Francs to be a little too "precious" and "effete." Maybe he's on to something.
  • Mr. Z's comment reminded me of this (French) sitcom clip. (Those who understand French or saw it on YouTube before it got pulled for copyright will find or remember an off-color joke in this related to the comment above.)
  • don roy
    Posts: 306
    what bothered me about this interview was an apparant intellectual laziness and certainty of the correctness of his point of view. This tempered with the caterwalling of the sistine choir pretty much negates any enthusiasm i might have for what this man believes.
  • To me the most interesting part concerns the reform of Holy Week. It seems like it was a sort of foreshadowing going on here. PXII approves it late in life and then requests Vexilla. Maestro says, but it is now forbidden! And he is told, don't be ridiculous, the Pope wants it! So they sang it anyway.

    Apparently the same thing was repeated with poor Paul VI concerning the choral Sanctus. He was aghast to find that the people he trusted with reforming the Missal reform intended to abolish it, which is like taking a wrecker ball to cathedrals. He scratched that line out of the implementation document and told everyone that he had no intention of getting rid of it. And then I often think of his Jubilate Deo -- too little too late. He must have seen what he had unleashed and despaired for what to do about it. the Vatican went so far as to release that music book into the public domain -- talk about a radical step! ;)

    Anyway, the anecdote from PXII gives an indication of the dangers of any one generation believing that it has the wisdom and savvy to take on the task of undoing tradition according to its own preferences. There are always unintended consequences to this form of rationalism.