Frank interview of Msgr. Domenico Bartolucci, “maestro in perpetuo”

In my years in seminary in Rome, I would walk often passed the door leading to the rehearsal rooms of the boys choir of the Sistine Chapel choir.  I could hear them rehearsing with their maestro, Mons. Domenico  Bartolucci, the maestro in perpetuo, director for life, of the Sistina.   Mons. Bartolucci lived in the same palazzo as that in which our seminary was housed and he also spent some time in the countryside in my diocese as well.

The way Mons. Bartolucci was muscled out of his position by the Master of Ceremonies and chapter of St. Peter’s was a pretty shameful affair.  But, it happened.

Don’t get me wrong.  The Sistina was dreadful.  It still is dreadful.  But at least the old maestro had the right idea about sacred music. 

I was very interested to read the other day an interview with the old maestro, in Italian on the site Disputationes Theologicae.  I didn’t have the time to translated it, since I have been fighting with my computers, more than one of which has decided to try to die on me.  So, I was delighted that Rorate put some elbow grease to the task, thus saving me time and doing us a service.  Be sure to visit Rorate.

My emphases and comments and only a few adjustments here and there.

August 12, 2009

Mons. Bartolucci speaks about the liturgical reform and the “reform of the reform”

The liturgical reform of the 1970-ies is today taking up much space in the theological discussions, because liturgy and theology are mixed up in a – may we venture to say so – “transcendental relation”. It is not possible to discuss the one without taking up the other, if one does not want to fall into that theology of watertight compartments that was in use in the 1950-ies. Today it is necessary – in the wake of a more vast debate in which we engage ourselves – to formulate an open and straightforward analysis of what has happened and take an appropriate attitude towards the practical remedies and above all remedies that are “realizable” (realizzabili) as Saint Pius X used to repeat. Upon the request of so many of our readers, our Editorial Office also would like to occupy itself with the argument, if possible avoiding the repetition of the methodological errors of the past. Therefore it is our wish to initiate the true transmittance of the authentic Tradition.– basing ourselves on the testimony of those who have known the past, because of their age and their prestige, and not only because of their authority. As liturgy is also practical science, we have not wished to start off with pontificating “liturgists” who say they have read so and so many books and codices, but rather [NB:] take the matter up with someone who has lived and touched the liturgy as nobody else has, because he has prepared, repeated, coordinated and known the religious ceremonies in his Tuscan countryside, ceremonies which concluded with the “Messa in terza” (a mass celebrated by three i.e. Solemn Mass — CAP) and the unfailing processions with a musical band, as well as the splendors of the “Cappella Papale” in the Sistine chapel. We have the honor of introducing to you Monsignor Domenico Bartolucci, in an interview done by us lately. He was born in 1917 in Borgo San Lorenzo (Florence)., Tuscan by birth, Roman by pontifical summons, in 1952 he became substitute next to Perosi in the Sistine Chapel and from 1956 he became its Maestro Perpetuo. On the 24th of June, 2006 the reigning pontiff organized a special ceremony in honor of the musician (see the picture above), in order to consecrate “ad perpetuam rei memoriam” his closeness to the great master. During the occasion the Pope said: “ sacred polyphony, especially the one belonging to the Roman school, is a legacy which we must preserve with care (..); a genuine updating of the sacred music can only take place within the great tradition of the past of the Gregorian chant and of the sacred polyphony”. S.C.

INTERVIEW WITH MONSIGNOR. DOMENICO BARTOLUCCI
by Pucci Cipriani and Stefano Carusi

A meeting with Monsignor Domenico Bartolucci, the distinguished Mugellan musician, Maestro Emeritus of the Sistine Chapel, admirer, friend and collaborator of Benedict XVI.
It is a sunny afternoon on the green hills of the Mugellan landscape, when we arrive on the Roman church of Montefloscoli, in the antique rectory full of memories the Maestro Perpetuo of the Sistine Chapel is enjoying the fresh air, behind him a framed photo of the hug the reigning pontiff is giving Monsignor Domenico Bartolucci, the successor of Lorenzo Perosi in the Sacred Palace. On his writing-desk the now-famous book of Monsignor Brunero Gherardini: “Il Concilio Vaticano II- un discorso da fare” (“The Second Vatican Council – a debate to be started”), edited by Edizioni Casa Mariana.

It is on the subject of the liturgical reform that we start our conversation with the Maestro, with Domenico Bartolucci, who in liturgical and musical matters has been at ease working and giving counsel to five popes and who is a friend and collaborator of Benedict XVI, whose work he says is “an immense gift to the Church, if only they would let it work”.  [An old friend of Bartolucci, in his day, the late Msgr. Richard Schuler – a warrior for decent, properly understood sacred music on the other side of the Atlantic – would just "Just do what the Council asked!"]

Maestro, the recent publication of the Motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” has brought a gust of fresh air into the desolate liturgical panorama which surrounds it. Even you may now celebrate the Mass of all time (“messa di sempre”.)

To tell the truth, I have always and without interruption celebrated it since my ordination … on the contrary, I sometimes found it difficult to celebrate according to the modern rite, even if I never said so.

The Mass which never was abolished, is it not?

Those are the words of the Holy Father even if some people pretend not to understand and even if many in the past have argued that the opposite is true.

Maestro, you have to admit to those who are denigrating the old Mass that it is not a Mass open to participation.

So that you won’t think that I’m just saying anything, I know how participation in old times was like, [As you read what follows, remember that liberals think people are tooo stooopid to understand liturgy in Latin.  Now … read on…] both in Rome, in the (St. Peter’s) Basilica and outside it, for instance down here in Mugello, in this parish, in this beautiful countryside, which was then populated by people strong in faith and full of piety. During Sunday Vespers the priest could just start singing “Deus in adiutorium meum intende” and thereafter fall asleep on his seat to wake up only at the “chapter”, the peasants would have continued alone and the heads of the family would have intoned the antiphon[I know this is entirely possible.  Consider first that once the liturgical movement took hold, hand missals had texts also for vespers.  Also, I have been in a parish where Vespers was still sung every Sunday afternoon.  People knew the antiphons at least of the regular Green Sundays by heart and the psalms as well.]

Do we see a veiled polemic, Maestro, in your confrontation with the current liturgical style?

I do not know, if you have ever been at a funeral and witnessed those “hallelujahs”, hand-clapping, giggly phrases, etc. One really asks oneself if these people have ever read the Gospel. Our Lord himself cried over Lazarus and his death. Here now, with this oily sentimentalism, nothing is respected, not even the suffering of a mother. I would like to show you how the people in old times participated in a Funeral Mass and how in the midst of that compunction and devotion, the magnificent and tremendous “Dies Irae” was intoned.

Was the reform not done by people who were conscious of what they were doing and well educated in the teachings of the Roman Church?

I beg your pardon, but the reform was done by arid people, arid, arid, I repeat it. And I knew them. As for the doctrine, Cardinal Ferdinando Antonelli himself, once said, I remember it well: “How come that we make liturgists who know nothing about theology?”

We agree with you, Monsignore, but is it not true that the people did not understand….

Dearest friends, have you never read Saint Paul: “It is not important to know anything but what is necessary”, “it is necessary to love knowledge ad sobrietatem”. At this rate, after a few years people will pretend to understand “transubstantiation” in the same way as they explain a mathematical theorem. But just think of it that not even the priest may quite understand this mystery!

But how could it have come to this twisting of the liturgy?

It became a kind of fashion. Everybody talked about it, everybody “was renewing”, everybody was trying to be like popes (tutti pontificavano) in the wake of sentimentalism, of eagerness to reform. And the voices that raised themselves to defend the two thousand year old Tradition of the Church, were cleverly hushed. There was the invention of a kind of “people’s liturgy” … when I heard these refrains, it came into my mind something which my professor at the Seminary used to say: “the liturgy is something given by the clerics to the people” (“la liturgia è del clero per il popolo”). It descends from God and does not come up from the bottom. I have to admit, however, that this mephtific air has gotten a bit rarefied (quell’aria mefitica si è un po’ rarefatta). The young generations of priests are maybe better than those who came before them, they do not have the ideological fury of an iconoclastic ideology, they are full of good feelings, however they lack in education.

What do you mean, Maestro, when you say “they lack in education”?

It means that they need it! I am speaking of the structure that the wisdom of the Church had so delicately chiseled in course of centuries. You do not understand the importance of the seminary: a liturgy that is fully lived, the orderly articulation of the different periods of the year and all this experienced in social communion with the brothers… Advent, Lent, the big feasts that follow after Easter. All of this is educational and if you only knew how much!

A foolish rhetoric wants to depict the seminary as something which spoils the priest, that the seminarians, remote and far away from the world, remain closed in themselves and distant from the people. This is pure imagination, invented by people who wish to dissolve an age-old formative richness and replace it with emptiness.  [A little "rupture" there, maybe?]

Let us return to the crisis of the Church and to the fact that so many seminaries have closed down, do you, Monsignore, support a return to the continuation of Tradition?

Look here, to defend the old rite is not the same as being a worshiper of ancient times; it is to be “eternal”. You see, when one gives the traditional mass names like “Mass of Saint Pius V” or “Tridentine” one is wrong, it makes it seem as if it is a mass belonging to a certain epoch. It is our Mass, the Roman universal Mass, valid everywhere and in all times, a single language spoken from the Oceania to the Arctic’s. Concerning the continuity in time, I would like to tell you an episode. Once we were together with a Bishop whose name I forgot, in a small church in Mugello, when there came the sudden notice that a brother of ours had died. We suggested that we at once celebrate a Mass, but then we realized that we only had old Missals at hand. The Bishop refused categorically to celebrate. I will never forget it and I repeat that the continuity of the liturgy means that – except for small details – it can be celebrated today, with that old dusty missal standing on a bookshelf and which for four centuries or more has served my predecessors.

Monsignore, there is much talk about a “reform of the reform” which could take away the deformities that came in the 70-ies.

The question is rather complicated. That the new rite had deficiencies is by now becoming evident for everybody, and the Pope has many times said and written that we must “keep what is ancient” (guardare all’antico). However we must beware of the temptations of introducing hybrid measures. [Hmmm… no gravitational pull?  Or only in one direction?] The liturgy with a big “L” is the one that comes to us from centuries back, it is the reference, it is not the debased liturgy which holds so many compromises “that make God sad and the enemy happy” ("a Dio spiacenti e a l’inimici sui”)

What do you mean, Maestro?

Let us for instance take the innovations in the seventies. Some ugly songs in beat that were in vogue in the churches in 1968, are today already archeological pieces. Giving up perennity and emerging oneself in time, means that one is condemned to the fads of fashion. In this connection I come to think of the Reform of the Holy Week in the 1950’s, made with some hurry under the pontificate of a Pope Pius XII who was already exhausted and tired. Only some years later, under Pope John XXIII who in liturgical matters was of a convinced and moving traditionalism, [I often remind people that John XXIII was not the liturgical liberal.  That came later.] came a telephone call to me from Mons. Dante, Master of Ceremonies of the Pope, who told me to prepare the “Vexilla Regis” for the coming celebration on Good Friday. I was somehow taken aback and answered: “They have forbidden me to do it”. The answer was: “But the Pope wishes it.” In a few hours I organized the practices of the songs and very happily we sang again the same songs which the Church had sung in many centuries on that day. All this only to say that when one distances oneself from the liturgical context those voids become difficult to fill and you can be sure they are noticed! In front of our liturgy of many centuries we should contemplate it and venerate it and remember that in our mania for “improvements”, we only risk doing great damage.

Maestro, what role does music play in this process?

It has an incredibly important role for many reasons. The affected “Cecilianism” to which certainly Perosi was no stranger, with its tones that were so mild and enticing to the ear had introduced a new romantic sentimentalism, which had nothing to do, for instance, with the eloquent and solid physicality of Palestrina. Some extravagant deteriorations introduced by Solesmes had cultivated a subdued gregorianism, which also was the fruit of a pseudo-restoring passion for the Medieval ages, which were so popular in the nineteenth century.

The idea of an opportunity to recuperate the archeological vein, both in music and liturgy, of a past, from which the so called “dark ages” (seculi bui) of the Council of Trent separated it ….. in short an archeology which has nothing at all to do with Tradition and which wishes to restore something which maybe never existed, is a bit similar to certain churches restored in the “pseudoromantic” style of Viollet-le-Duc.

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.

Maestro, how far have we come in our days with the restoration of Sacred Music and the Liturgy?

I cannot deny that there some signs of restoration, but I still can see that there persists a certain blindness, almost a complacency for all that is vulgar, coarse, in bad taste and also doctrinally foolharfy. Most important, do not ask me, please, to make a judgement on the guitar-players and on the tarantellas which are sung during the Offertory.….The liturgical problem is serious, do not listen to the voices of those persons who do not love the Church and who oppose the Pope and if you want to cure the sick then remember that the merciful doctor makes the wound fester (fa la piaga purulenta).

I am sure you will want to dig into some of the points he raised.

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37 Responses to Frank interview of Msgr. Domenico Bartolucci, “maestro in perpetuo”

  1. John L says:

    All true about the liturgy. Can anyone explain the issue behind ‘This means that the Gregorian chant is modal, not tonal and not rhythmical’, in a way that a musically ignorant person can understand?

  2. medievalist says:

    “…everybody wanted to be like popes…”

    How true then. How true now.

  3. Kimberly says:

    “oily sentimentalism”

    I have not heard it put this way but I do appreciate it’s meaning. I hope others join in on this because it goes to the heart of all the confussion. His love for the Church is easy to see but his heart appears to have been hurt deeply. I understand that.

  4. haleype says:

    Maestro, the recent publication of the Motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” has brought a gust of fresh air into the desolate liturgical panorama which surrounds it. Even you may now celebrate the Mass of all time (“messa di sempre”.)

    To tell the truth, I have always and without interruption celebrated it since my ordination … on the contrary, I sometimes found it difficult to celebrate according to the modern rite, even if I never said so.

    The Mass which never was abolished, is it not?

    Those are the words of the Holy Father even if some people pretend not to understand and even if many in the past have argued that the opposite is true.

    This excerpt says it all IMO and it demonstrates that what was once held as sacred must remain sacred for us as well. But remaining sacred for us does not mean being placed on the shelf and admired as some museum piece with only a few public enactments. Thank God, there are some young priests that are beginning to see the value of the traditional Mass. Hopefully, some time in future the EF will become the OF, as it once was, throughout the Latin Rite

  5. samorsot says:

    This man is my new hero. He has said many of the things I wished someone would say. May God bring him to life everlasting.

  6. ruben says:

    I am so happy to hear what he has to say about liturgical music which in its proper form being prayer is also I believe a type of sacramental or iconography for the ears. Nowadays a lot of music which is used in the liturgy seems to fit as well in liturgy as a picture of SpongeBob Squarepants would fit on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

    I was listening to an old Fulton Sheen program where he mentioned something to the effect that the world is immersed in a philosophy of having, but that what we really need is a philosophy of being. I think that in a way sums up much of what has happened with the understanding of the faith and the Liturgy. Nowadays often the intention is “let’s have this” or “let’s have that” in the liturgy, as opposed to let’s “be” what Christ intends for us to be, which is to be transformed in Him through the Mass.

  7. Luis says:

    Great interview! Thank you Father. One question: What does he mean by
    “the merciful doctor makes the wound fester (fa la piaga purulenta)” in the context of the Benedictine reform….?

  8. Dave N. says:

    “The Sistina was dreadful. It still is dreadful.”

    One of my greatest hopes when he was elected was that Benedict XVI, music lover that he is, would fix this. I don’t see how anyone can stand listening to this over a long period of time.

  9. Ygnacia says:

    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”.

    Yes!!! As someone that has been singing chant for many years, that tendency towards forcing it to be rhyhmical has often irked me.

  10. robtbrown says:

    All true about the liturgy. Can anyone explain the issue behind ‘This means that the Gregorian chant is modal, not tonal and not rhythmical’, in a way that a musically ignorant person can understand?
    Comment by John L

    The Solesmes method, which dominated Greg Chant since the publication of the Liber Usualis more than 100 years ago, generally gives chant a more Romantic, aesthetic sound, for example, with certain notes held longer. Other approaches such much more austere.

    Anyone who has ever heard Carthusian chant can tell the difference.

  11. Sid says:

    With respect to Solesmes and its methods, it is my understanding that when Solesmes chose its chant in the 19th C, it chose from a vast body of chant, chose from that body what it liked, and chose guided by an aesthetic that was in sharp contradistinction to the aesthetic of the previous two centuries which had shaped the practice of chant up until Solesmes.

    Did Solesmes choose well? The 19th C was a period of good and elevated musical taste, certainly better than contemporary musical taste — which leads me to think that Solesmes did indeed chose well, and perhaps better than we might choose today.

  12. TJM says:

    Interesting interview. I loved his comment about some liturgists being “arid.” That sums it up pretty well. Tom

  13. Rob Cartusciello says:

    I still uncertain as to what his critique of Solemnes is. I am reminded, however, of a more robust chanting style at St. John Cantius in the mid 90’s when I was in the chorus there.

  14. Jenny says:

    John L,

    Most of the music we hear today is either in a major or minor key and is tonal meaning that the melody leads the ear to rest on a particular tone (the key). So if a piece is in C Major, the note C sounds like home and is a resting spot for the ear. When you hear a melody in a tonal key that sounds incomplete or unresolved, it is your ear searching for the home (key) note. Tonal music has very strong leading tones that sets up an expectation to the ear as to what the next note should be. ‘Do a Deer’ from the The Sound of Music is a good example of a piece in a major key.

    In modal keys, the ear does not search for such resting spots nearly as strongly. An example of a modal key is D dorian. D dorian begins on the note ‘D’ but has the key of C major. So the whole structure of the melody breaks the ear’s search for the home note of C. Modal music has much weaker leading tones, so the ear is more open to accept a variety of subsequent notes. An example of a D dorian piece is the folk song ‘Drunken Sailor.’

    I hope my explanation is not too complicated. If so, I’ll try again. It is hard for us steeped in music to know what the non-musical don’t know.

  15. Paul Q says:

    Jenny,

    thank you for your explanation for us non-musical types (though I sing fairly well and appreciate classical music, I’ve never studied music theory). The “Drunken Sailor” reference was especially apt, as some of what passes for hymns in Masses I’ve been to seem to have been written by the same. :-)

    BTW, if any of you haven’t discovered it, http://www.choraltreasure.org is great.

    Paul

  16. robtbrown says:

    Did Solesmes choose well? The 19th C was a period of good and elevated musical taste, certainly better than contemporary musical taste—which leads me to think that Solesmes did indeed chose well, and perhaps better than we might choose today.
    Comment by Sid

    I like Solesmes chant, which is of course used by Fontgombault and Clear Creek. My point is that the Solesmes method leads to a highly aesthetic sound, while other approaches sound more austere.

    By and large, the chant argument today is merely an academic one.

  17. robtbrown says:

    Also: Some years ago I was at the liturgy at Sant Anselmo, and tbe chant sounded very, very Semitic. A monk told me afterwards the style was “more authentic”.

    The question is what is meant by “authentic”.

  18. Sandy says:

    Can we put him in a time machine and make him younger? My favorite statement in the interview is about always celebrating the “Mass of all time”.

  19. William of the Old says:

    robtbrown: FYI—–the Institute of Christ the King also uses the Solesmes method

  20. TJM says:

    Solesmes is certainly a better method of rendering chant than the “Sistine Operatics” method. Tom

  21. Humilitas says:

    I agree with TJM concerning the Solesmes method.
    As much as I love Mons. Bartolucci, I found his method of singing Gregorian Chant to be too “dramatic” and not very prayerful.
    But that’s only me.

  22. Amator says:

    All true about the liturgy. Can anyone explain the issue behind ‘This means that the Gregorian chant is modal, not tonal and not rhythmical’, in a way that a musically ignorant person can understand?
    Comment by John L — 19 August 2009 @ 2:21 am

    By modal, scholaists mean that the relationship between notes in chant depends on how far apart they are, not on any given pitch. Thus,a given note change would be a fifth, not just a “c” to an “f.” Modern music is actually founded on this, but uses the pitch relationships. Modal also means that given a certain mode (series of related intervals) all the pitches in that particular piece fall into the given interval values for that mode. The “non-rythmicallness” of chant, as it were, means that chant does not have a specific rhythm (such as a four-beat measure, with a quarter note having one beat) but uses groups of notes, that group in to a one-two, one-two, one-two, one-two-three, or any variation of the double and ternary rhythms grouped into one phrase.

  23. wmeyer says:

    As to our inability to cope with the Latin, I began following the Latin when I was about seven or eight. When there were words I did not understand, I asked my mother or grandmother, and learned something. But in truth, I was raised with phonics, and it was pretty quickly apparent tat Latin was somewhat easier to convert from print to voice than is English. And the beauty of the Latin Mass, of course is ineffable.

  24. Ioannes Andreades says:

    “The Sistina was dreadful. It still is dreadful.”

    I was watching old footage of Pope John XXIII’s coronation mass, and the singing was pretty much unrecognizable to me as Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli.

  25. SidMJr says:

    “The Sistina was dreadful. It still is dreadful.”

    The Sistina was trained to sing in that way because St Peter’s is to big that the poor boys were instructed to scream and not to sing. Now, even with the advance of sound amplificators, they maintained their traditional method of singing…

  26. Davidtrad says:

    Perhaps the best criticism I’ve read of the “reform of the reform.” I’m surprised it has been commented upon so far. I’m sure there are many traditional Catholics who will feel vindicated by Msgr. Bartolucci’s words in this regard.

  27. TNCath says:

    Tom wrote: “Solesmes is certainly a better method of rendering chant than the “Sistine Operatics” method.”

    Sorry, but I find the Solesmes version of chant sounds anemic and generic. I realize that, especially on television, the Sistina can sound harsh and as if they are screaming. However, at least it has some strength to it. Recently, I have notice that the Cappella Giulia, the choir of St. Peter’s Basiilica under the direction of Fr. Pierre Paul, O.M.I., has improved immensely the last few years They have the strong voices, and their singing inspires the congregation to join in the responses. I’ll take them over Solesmes any day.

  28. jerzm says:

    Well, these remarks about Solesmes does not seem to be just and wise.

    Solesmes did a great work of reconstructing the melodies and methods of singing, which are proper for Gregorian Chant. Important research on Gregorian Chant is still being done in Solesmes. Msgr. Bartolucci seems to be very critical with respect to this work, but it is hard to follow his thought.

    He tries to attack Solesmes by saying “Gregorian Chant (…) has nothing to do with “one, two, three, one, two, three””. This description seems to be an oversimplification of the Mocquereau method (Dom Mocquereau suggested to build the most fundamental rythmic structure of gregorian singing from blocks of two or three notes). But this method was much more subtle and it is not the only method of rythmic organisation of the chant used by Solesmes!

    He wrote that “Some extravagant deteriorations introduced by Solesmes had cultivated a subdued gregorianism, which also was the fruit of a pseudo-restoring passion for the Medieval ages” but also that “A song from the Middle Ages is not interpreted with theories of today, but one should go about it as it was then.” So, if we should sing “as it was then” (i.e. in the Middle Ages) what was wrong with “passion for the Medieval ages”? On the other hand how could he know the method of singing in the Middle Ages?

    His remark “the Gregorian chant of another historical time could also be sung by the people” suggests that he thinks about singing Gregorian Chant in so-called Medicean version, which is well-known as an example of a bad reform done in the name of the following the style of “our good times”.

    So, in this part about Solesmes he gives strong objections but rather incoherent explanations of his claims.

  29. chironomo says:

    Jerzm;

    I think Msgr. Bartolucci has earned the right to express his opinion about sacred music in general, and even chant in particular.

    I am reminded of a story told by Mel Brooks when they were filming Blazing Saddles. The estate of Heddy Lamar sued the production company for a parody of her name in the film (Hedly Lamar) and the production company was preparing to fight the suit. Brooks went to the producer and said: “Just pay her the money… for God’s sake…she’s Heddy Lamar! She was at the Casbar with Charles Boyer!”

    The point is, some people have earned the right ask for and say things by virtue of their efforts in the past. Msgr. Bartolucci has been there, done that, and his interpretation of chant needs to be given weight…I would doubt that anyone could argue his views as being “wrong”….

  30. Obumbrabit says:

    Great interview! Thank you Father. One question: What does he mean by
    “the merciful doctor makes the wound fester (fa la piaga purulenta)” in the context of the Benedictine reform….?
    Comment by Luis

    I think he means that a merciful (maybe not the best translation) doctor might hesitate to cut out the dead tissue in an attempt to spare the patient some pain, but really, if the dead tissue is not cut out, the wound will not heal.

  31. albizzi says:

    “Guardare all’antico” doesn’t mean exactly “keep what is ancient” but rather “watch to the ancient”.

  32. robtbrown says:

    Sorry, but I find the Solesmes version of chant sounds anemic and generic. I realize that, especially on television, the Sistina can sound harsh and as if they are screaming. However, at least it has some strength to it. Recently, I have notice that the Cappella Giulia, the choir of St. Peter’s Basiilica under the direction of Fr. Pierre Paul, O.M.I., has improved immensely the last few years They have the strong voices, and their singing inspires the congregation to join in the responses. I’ll take them over Solesmes any day.
    Comment by TNCath

    There is a distinction between Monastic and Basilican liturgy (of which parochial liturgy is a subset), which has sadly been lost. Chant in the former, even in its more austere forms, is more contemplative, with a more gentle, anonymous, and far-off sound that invites participation by listening, not by singing. No voice stands out from the group, and strong forced-voice singing in inimical to s monastic chant.

    The Solesmes method (which is sung in higher registers and sounds more delicate) probably exaggerates the monastic approach, so that it is more different from what is, or was, heard in cathedrals and parishes. Obviously, people can prefer a more Basilican sound, but they also have to recognize that Benedictines have been charged with the guardianship of Greg Chant. And in the past 100 years those guardians have been Solesmes Benedictines.

  33. AM says:

    robtbrown, we know there is a formal (rubrical) distinction between monastic and secular liturgy in regard to the Office, and that the various orders (especially the Dominicans) have their own chant books with variant or alternate melodies, and variant rubrics for the Mass.

    But is there a formal distinction in the way of singing, to produce what you describe as “more contemplative, with a more gentle, anonymous, and far-off sound”?

    For example, are there historical instructions for the manner of chanting in parish or cathedral setting that clearly differ from such instructions as may be extant for monastics?

    Thanks,
    AM

  34. Tradster says:

    I know about as much about music theory as I do about flying the space shuttle. So I cannot comment about Solesmes. But I’ll take the worst Gregorian chant over the best “On Eagles Wings” any day!

  35. jerzm says:

    Chironomo:
    I think everyone deserves to be under well justified criticism, Solesmes too. It is difficult to classify remarks of Msgr. Bartolucci as justified, they are rather harsh and spontaneous impressions than well documented claims – that’s all.

    By the way: I know achievements of Solesmes and many fruits of the work of Dom Pothier, Dom Mocquereau, Dom Gajard, Dom Sunol, Dom Cardine, Dom Saulnier. Could someone describe to me main achievements of Msgr. Bartolucii (as a director, as a scholar, etc.)?

  36. robtbrown says:

    AM,

    I wasn’t referring to rubrics.

    Monastic liturgy is contemplative. Basilican liturgy has a pastoral bent, even though it should be informed by a contemplative component. In fact, my principal complaint about the liturgical changes (incl the Breviary) is that they were a fundamental break away from the influences of monasticism.

    There are of course formal distinctions between the Solesmes method and the other approaches, but I think the difference btwn monastic and basilican chant is that in monasteries the liturgy is the center of the life (opus dei acc to St Benedict). In basilican situations (incl the Dominicans) it is a part of the life. And so monasteries are much more careful about it, and it is usually done more slowly and more carefully. And in the Solesmes method this has been taken even further, turning chant into a work of art.

    I don’t know whether that helps.