The Caecilian Movement: Best Of
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I've now heard the "Caecilian Movement" bashed more times than not, and yet the more I read about it, the more it interests me. Here's a wiki paragraph:
    The Cecilian Movement of church reform was centered in Italy but received great impetus from Regensburg, Germany, where Franz Xaver Haberl had a world-renowned Kirchenmusicschule. (Haberl was also the Regensberg Domkappellmeister, where he directed a choir highly skilled in polyphony and chant.) The Cecilian Movement was a reaction to the roughly hundred years (c.1800 to c.1900) when Gregorian Chant all but vanished from Catholic Masses. In many serious church musicians there was a deep-seated desire to revive Chant as well as the Renaissance polyphony of Palestrina, Lassus, Victoria, Anerio, et al., and to rid Masses of the more entertaining, operatic style of music. [snip]

    What's not to like? I've heard that their own polyphony is "trivial" and "insipid" compared to Victoria, Lasso, Palestrina, et al, but good grief, that's a bit unfair. Surely their aim was more humble: to write sacred music in that same style as the greats, but smaller in scale, for non-courtly use, and not as difficult to perform. I recently came across a wonderful Mass by Hans Leo Hassler (NOT a Caecilian, by the way, but a contemporary of Lasso's), and it is very much like that. Did the Caecilian composers ever write at his level?

    I'm wondering what their "best of" list would look like, and we might afterwards broaden it to include other composers as well. The criteria being:

    - Renaissance-style polyphony
    - smallish in scale (length)
    - not as difficult to sing
    - high artistry

    I offer Hassler's "Missa 'Dixit Maria'" as a model. Here's a nice recording (Herreweghe). Any more like this?
  • Lawrence
    Posts: 123

    The problem with the Cecilians is that their efforts were based on a very minimal understanding of Renaissance polyphony. I won't rule out the possibility that there is some good Cecilian music, but I've never heard any of it, and I have looked.

    At the same time, they would insult Bruckner's work as being too modern--save for the Mass in E minor. This amounted to shooting themselves in the foot.

    I really think that the Cecilian model is to be avoided, as they were more or less reactionaries of uneven quality, to say the least. A much better approach is how to write truly modern music in a fashion that is appropriate for sacred worship, a la Poulenc, etc.
  • Our experience with this music is that it is...boring. You sing through it and just sense that it is uninspiring. Only one of the pieces have we stuck with, and eventually we just gave up on it.

    Oh speaking of new compositions, I passed our Lawrence's O Sacrum to a new choir 15 mins before Mass last week. They sight read it once only. Then we sang it for postcommunion. The choir was wild for it. It was just spectacular. Easy and wonderful. Here is a model!
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Oh, darn. I was hoping to come across a little silver mine of small polyphonic Ordinaries. I'll rummage for another week and then call it quits.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,450
    Well, wasn't Bruckner part of the Cecilian mvt.? That's some of the best stuff ever for good choirs, and highly neglected imo. There are the Great masses, but scores of little works too.
  • Bruckner kind of was part of it, but the Cecilians gave him a hard time for his chromaticiscm and other Romantic traits. I think that's why so many here are suspicious of the Cecilian music. Great idea, poor implementation.

  • Lawrence
    Posts: 123
    Bruckner was never really a true blue Cecilian. What associations he did have with that group were destroyed when F.X. Witt crossed the line one day and "corrected" a "wrong" note in one of Bruckner's scores that was to appear in the Cecilianverein periodal, Musica sacra.

    For more information on this, see my article, "Sacred Music and the Hermeneutic of Continuity," which appeared in Vol. 7, No. 3 of the St. Austin Review.
  • Jeff (Dec. 11, 2007)
    I wonder whether we are talking about the same music. My understanding has been that Vito Carnevali and Licino Refice were "Cecilians," if I understand the term correctly. I have never found their music "boring," "uninspiring," and the like.
    Lawrence (Dec.11,2007)
    You claim you have never heard any good Cecilian music, inspite of your attempt to find some. You also claim that the Cecilians had "a minimal understanding of Renaissance polyphony."

    ad Laurentium: please peruse the score of Licino Refice's Missa Choralis (pub. J. Fischer and Borthers, 1916), esp. the Gloria, the Credo; and the score of Vito Carnevali's Missa Ave Verum for contrapunctal passages.

    ad Jeffrum (?): I wonder whether you wouldn't find the following passages very moving:
    V. Carnevali: Missa Stella Matutina: the Credo, esp. the solo "et incarnatus est..."; and the Sanctus and Benedictus;
    V. Carnevali: Missa Ave Verum: the Gloria and the Credo, esp. the passage "genitum non factum, consubstantialem Patri...up to the solo "et incarnatus est...," a gorgeous theme which is repeated in the Benedictus.
    I love the music to which your association is dedicated, but hearing and participating as a boy soprano some 50 -55 years ago in the Immaculate Conception Grammar School Choir in Jamaica, NY singing these masses at solemn high masses shaped my love of the Latin liturgy from boyhood on and left me with an indelible appreciation for beautiful cantilene. Please tell me what you think.
    P.S. If you know where I can locate the SATB scores of these and other masses I mentioned in the forum under "Choral Matters," Italian Composers of Sacred Music, please let me know.
  • musico48
    Posts: 16
    All do respects to the intents of the Cecilia Movement, but haviung began my musical joourny ast the tail end of this liturgical movemnet in the l950's to mid 60's.
    I can say with all honesty that there was much unnfounded fear among musicians to offend anyone that we wound up offending quite a few people!!! Most parishes in this era were shifting from choral to congregational music. This was the era of 3 hymnals-THE PEOPLE'HYMNAL(1955) THE NEW ST.BASIL'S(l958) and THE OUR PAPARISH PRAYS AND SINGS(1959)the Dialouge Masses wioth hymn singing was much more asttended than the High Mases, except at Christmasand Easter(some choirs were singing choral Masses from the bannned Black List!Remember Fr. Turner's Mass of St, Caecilia, and Farmer's Mass in F for example?) Just pondering what had taken place back in that era!
  • I quite enjoyed this read on the subject of the ideal: