Gregorian Chant Liturgy of St Anthony.
Coro Gregoriano de Lisboa / Maria Helena Pires de Matos.
Decca 444 494-4DH; 444 494-2DH (43 minutes: DDD).
Texts and translations included.
The Coro Gregoriano de Lisboa is a ten-member, all-male ensemble, conducted by the sure hand of Maria Helena Pires de Matos. Their chant technique is built upon the firm foundation of what they had learnt from the Instituto Gregoriano de Lisboa, which was basically the style of Solesmes as disseminated world-wide in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s by the Institut Grégorien de Paris. But these Portuguese singers have also taken on board quite a lot of Dom Cardine's teaching, grafting it skilfully on to what knowledge of the chant they had already acquired. They produce a good, smooth unison, which is all the richer and fuller for being surrounded by an enhancing resonance. Their programme is a celebration of their most famous national saint, better known, paradoxically, as St Anthony of Padua rather than of Lisbon.
I cannot help thinking that had they searched a bit, especially in Portugal, they might have found a proper Mass and a proper Office in honour of St Anthony. Instead of that, they have simply taken what was to hand, the Common of Confessors and Doctors, from the Triplex, with a lovely Ordinary, Kyrie XIV. For the extracts from the Offices of Lauds and Vespers, they have chosen to use the monastic versions of these pieces, even though it is highly unlikely that either the Canons Regular of Coimbra or the Franciscans would have used the monastie rite indeed, it was the Franciscans who were instrumental in establishing and promoting the secular Roman rite. There are also one or two rather uncomfortabie 'mixes and matches' of rites; for example, the Magnificat antiphon O Doctor optime ... in the monastic version (with its strange B natural) is followed immediately by the Tone II solemn Magnificat in its Roman form.
I felt that the singers had been rather let down by poor editing. The gaps between sections are often too long. The two last verses of the Magnificat ("Gloria Patri..." and "Sicut erat...") are omitted and the first syllable of "Benedicamus Domino" has been clipped off. All it needed before being released was a little more tidying up, especially when there were minute - or more substantial - variations of pitch, between sections, or in the course of the same piece. But this is a choir who certainly have potential, and I look forward with anticipation to hearing their next recording. MB