Clef Question - Offertory Verses 1935
  • I've started getting into the offertory verses available online (the 1935 edition), and I'm running into a recurring clef question. Take, for example, the offertory of Lent II - Meditabor. The antiphon ends on 'la', and the clef switches from a 'do' to 'fa' clef for the verse. The cue note in this edition suggests that the starting note of the verse is a sixth lower. However, most recordings I can find make 'fa' the same note as 'do' (in other words, the note bracketed by the do clef in the antiphon is the same note bracketed by the fa clef in the verses). Thus, the verse is performed in the same basic register as the antiphon rather than in a lower register. This is certainly easier, but I'm wondering why the 1935 tells you to move to a much lower register for the verses. Is the edition mistaken, or are the performances mistaken? Or is it performance practice to keep verse and antiphon in the same register for the sake of utility?

    This is something I've noticed in many 1935 offertory verses vs. recordings, by the way. And a similar issue pops up in some of the Tenebrae responsories (with the verse in a much different register).

    Any explanation would be much appreciated, as our schola is singing these during lent.

  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    I'd have to see the music but it almost sounds like the edition is mistaken.
  • Possible, but it would have to be mistaken for many, if not most of the offertory verse/antiphon relationships.

    Another bit of information I forgot to include is that there are B-flats in the verses that only make sense if we have a 'fa' rather than a 'do' clef. So if we make do and fa the same note, we've effectively transposed modes.

    Attaching Meditabor here

    Maybe I'm being thrown off by a few bad recordings?

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  • Or for another example, I've attached Laudate Dominum (Lent IV), and here is a recording that makes 'do' = 'fa':
  • It seems to me that the music as printed in your edition is correct. You do, indeed, begin the verse a sixth lower, and this works out just right when you repeat the antiphon starting at ' lavabo' on a 'g' ('sol'). Equating fa and do as in your recordings does work out well, but I think that your notation is correct. Otherwise, the custos makes no sense, and it seems unlikely that such a 'misprint' would be repeated on multiple antiphons as per your examples. (I would bow to a different opinion from superior knowledge.) The change in register in both the offertories you give does seem rather jarring, but the return to the antiphon works out quite well register-wise. It would be essential to pitch the antiphon's beginning with a view to comfortably accomodating the anticipated change of register.
  • CGM
    Posts: 483
    The first Offertory in the Offertoriale (Ad te Domine) actually notates the return of the partial antiphon at the conclusion of the verses. Note that "Etenim universi..." in the antiphon at the beginning is notated with Fa clef, and as given at the end of the verse, is notated with Do clef. If we were going to follow the custos-indicated pitch-adjustment into the verse, then the antiphon returns a fifth higher than it was originally sung. This seems to me to be a highly unusual outcome, so I'm guessing that there's a mistake in there, perhaps in the placement of the custos, or (with much more problematic implications) in the selection or placement of one of the clefs.

    There are numerous Offertories in the volume where no clef change into the verse is indicated at all, and in those, the registers traversed by antiphon & verse are roughly the same. So those look like good precedents.

    Additionally, the Offertory for the funeral Mass as printed in both the Liber Usualis and the Graduale Romanum includes Antiphon and Verse, and neither clef nor mode changes from antiphon to verse. Taking that Offertory as normative, alongside the Offertoriale selections which lack a clef change, the case might be made that all Offertory verses should be in the same mode & basic tessitura as their antiphons.

    With Meditabor, if the 'do' of the antiphon becomes the 'fa' of the verse, then the flats in the verse ('te') match the similarly-located scale-degree in the antiphon ('fa').

    That is, counting up:
    antiphon do-re-mi-fa
    is equivalent to
    verse fa-sol-la-te
    - if the 'do' of the antiphon is the same pitch as the 'fa' of the verse.

    The flats in the verse serve to keep it in the same mode as the antiphon, it appears to me. [Or is this what you mean by "effectively transposed modes"?]

    In Laudate Dominum, if the 'fa' of the antiphon becomes the 'do' of the verse, then the only conflicting tone would be the 'ti' of the antiphon vs. the 'fa' of the verse. However, since there's no 'ti' anywhere in the antiphon, nor any 'fa' in the verse, the mode remains unchanged (with this pitch shift of antiphon into the verse).

    The ensemble doing the recording you linked to is run by a fellow who's a longtime faculty member of the Papal Institute of Sacred Music in Milan, and the ensemble bills itself as dedicated to "the correct musical representation of the ancient exegetic tradition of the sacred texts." There are certainly numerous rhythmic variants (and occasional pitch ones, too) in their performance as compared to the scores in the Offertoriale, so they probably have some good reason(s) for the pitch choice they make linking verse to antiphon.

    About the custos - it's curious that they indicate one to get into the verse, but they don't indicate one to get back into the antiphon, which seems an even more challenging transition (especially since not the entire antiphon is repeated).

    Also curious is that usually they usually indicate a repeat of the antiphon at the end of each verse, but in a few cases (such as Meditabor) they only indicate the return to the antiphon after all the verses, and in others (such as no. 68, Sanctificavit), they don't indicate a return to the antiphon at all. I wonder if that's because these antiphons actually have different formal structures, or if it's rather an inexplicable inconsistency. If the latter, perhaps the seemingly-oddly-indicated pitch relationships between some of the antiphons and verses is just another such inconsistency.
  • Apparently this rabbit hole goes deeper than I thought...

    Both MJO and CGM make good cases, and I can see this going either way. It seems like a pretty important question, though. We need Mahrt! I'll message him and see if he will weigh in.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Fr Columba Kelly would be the one who could solve this problem.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Felicity
    Posts: 77
    Among the curiosities/inconsistencies is the fact that the verse for "Mediator" for the Second Sunday of Lent is set LOWER than the antiphon while the verse for " Justitiae" for the Third Sunday of Lent is set HIGHER than its antiphon with its second verse set even higher than the 1st verse.

    Like CGM, I wonder if this is a matter of intentional structure, especially when I look sequentially at the translation/meaning of these two Offertories with their verses ("Mediator" first followed by Justitiae).

    The Men's Schola which I accompany is beginning to use these Offertory verses more any and all clarifications are greatly appreciated.

    kirchenmusik, thank you for starting this thread.

    Deo gratias!
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 793
    I recall an article by Prof. Ruth Steiner (under whom I studied at Catholic U.) published back in 1966 about this very publication of Offertory verses, and the many errors / typos it contained. (I think the point was that Willi Apel relied on the book in his own book on Gregorian chant.) I think Prof. Mahrt would be familiar with it.
    Thanked by 1Felicity
  • CGM
    Posts: 483
    I Googled "Ruth Steiner Offertoriale," and up popped a 2010 book entitled INSIDE THE OFFERTORY, by Rebecca Maloy. Page 16 mentions the "unreliable" edition of Karl Ott, containing "anomalous tonal progressions" "not found in any known manuscript source". Ott's book happens to be our friend, the 1935 Offertoriale. See the attached image for more.

    So I think we have an answer, of sorts: this edition is, at least in part, demonstrably defective.
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  • I have Maloy's book. Now, it seems, I really need to read it more carefully!
    (And, I retract the comments I made above: I really somehow intuited that I was trying to make sense out of nonsense.)

    We are indebted to Kirchenmusik for bringing this matter up!
    Thanked by 1Felicity
  • CGM - so the "unusual tonal progressions" presumably refer to the odd leaps between verse and antiphon?

    Here's my other question, then - is the Offertoriale triplex accurate, and does anyone have one on hand to compare to the 1935? I don't right now, unfortunately.

    FWIW we just sang Meditabor yesterday (as found in 1935) and it seemed to work ok tonally. But then, to keep it singable, the verse had to be LOW. Do was Ab, to accommodate the leaps up to 'mi' in the antiphon, which meant most of the verse took place between low Ab and Db. Maybe the low rumbling tone obscured the unusual progression...
    of course, the low bass I assigned it to was happy!

  • The MCMLXXXV Offertoriale Triplex shows the same notation as your MCMXXXV: the same downward sixth.
  • CGM
    Posts: 483
    In the page from Maloy's book that I attached earlier, it mentions in a footnote that the Offertoriale Triplex was "reprinted" from the 1935 Offertoriale. So they'd be the same, sharing the same inaccuracies, alas.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Maloy's transcription has the verse a fifth higher than Ott's.