Sunday, November 13, 2011

Classical music either speaks for itself or it does not

'It is unnecessary and indeed presumptuous to come between the author and the reader of Cosmas or the Love of God. The book either speaks for itself or it does not.'
That quote from translator Peter Hebblethwaite's introduction to the French novel Cosmas or the Love of God should be displayed boldly in every classical radio presentation studio. Pierre de Calan's novel is notable for several reasons. It provides an accessible introduction to the tensions of the monastic vocation, and it is the only novel from a financier who ended his career as president of Barclay Bank's French operation. Soundtrack for this post is The Great Offertories sung by Les Chantres du Thoronet. This new CD from French independent label Psalmus is itself notable for several reasons. Les Chantres du Thoronet recreate the sound of early plainsong as heard before the ornamentations of virtuoso cantors were proscribed by Gregory the Great (590-604), who went on to homogenise Christian liturgical chant and give it the name by which it is known today. The Grand Offertories is also notable for being recorded in the literally divine acoustic of the 12th century former Cistercian Abbaye du Thoronet in Provence, see photo below. Le Corbusier acknowledged the influence of Le Thoronet in his design for La Tourette monastery, near Lyons, a building which was designed in partnership with architect and composer Iannis Xenakis. I bought the CD of The Grand Offertories during a recent visit to the Abbey of Saint-Michel de Kergonan in Brittany, a Benedictine house that is still recovering from a disastrous fire in 2007. And speaking of monasteries, advance notice that I will be allowing the music to speak for itself by going off air in a few days to visit my friends and spiritual sparring partners at L'Abbaye Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux near Avignon.


* In an interesting variation on my toxic sponsorship thread the very informative booklet for the Psalmus recording of The Great Offertories contains a full page advertisement for the Bordeux premier cru Chateau Ferrand Lartique.

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2 comments:

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

It's admirable that the way you've pursued your dialog allows you to use the phrase, "my friends and spiritual sparring partners at L'Abbaye Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux". Wishing you safe travels (without hospital visits!) and a good visit with the community.

Pliable said...

Thanks Lyle, your comment reminds me that a while back I did receive an email from a reader who is also quite a well known journalist which said -

"I ordered the fascist nun's CD - thanks for the great article on them."