If your impression of Gregorian Chant is of pleasant, fashionably stress-busting strains echoing around vaulted mountain-top monasteries, this production from 2L is for you. Consortium Vocale is a group of eight male singers under the direction of Alexander M Schweitzer, and are based in Oslo, Norway.
The recording itself is fully a partner in capturing these performances. It was made in a 12th Century church in the small country town of Ringsaker, north of Oslo. Producer Morten Lindberg and his engineers have captured the ideally warm, responsive acoustic of this building in their multi-channel track. The choir are in front of us, just far enough away to hear their soft intakes of breath if one's listening room is quiet. The sound-field allows all the detail to come through but adds its own distinctive contribution to the music. I was amazed by the silence surrounding the building: even with my subwoofer on, I could not detect any disturbing traffic rumble in the 5.0 track (my amp always puts the LF into the sub channel).
There is very little Gregorian Chant available in DSD, but this 2L release would be an important addition even in the CD market. Welcome indeed, for this reviewer! More than mere stress-busting; a deeply moving musical experience with consummate engineering.
Audiophile Audition -
This is my first encounter with a DXD recording of the venerable Gregorian chant. The label 2L, also new to me, has given us a treasure-trove of a recital, the gorgeous Lenten melodies swirling around us in glistening 5.0 five-channel sound, and the experience is ravishing.
Of course, there are a zillion Gregorian chant albums out there, and unfortunately, many of the more popular ones, like the huge-selling Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, are also among the most awful recordings ever made, supped-up for popular consumption. You can find them for Lent, Christmas, meditation, relaxation, you name it. And I suppose that these kinds of recordings might have their place. But for the real deal, one needs to pursue a known ensemble that has the credentials to undertake this sort of project. Gloria Dei Cantores, for instance, has a number of recordings to their credit that shows musicality, intelligence, and scholarship.
The Consortium Vocale Oslo is the male vocal ensemble of the Cathedral of Oslo, and they are also aligned, along with their director Alexander Schweitzer, with the International Society for the Study of Gregorian Chant (AISCGre), an organization that spends much time and effort attempting to prepare standardized editions of the chant, at least for those manuscripts that are in multiples, at variance, and yet reconcilable. Some of the results of this effort are heard on this disc.
We are given music from the first five Sundays of Lent, plus Palm Sunday and Holy Friday. The fourth Sunday gets more attention than the others because of its Easter-flavoring, a turn of emphasis that occurs in the Western and Eastern liturgical cycles.
The nine-member choir sings with precision and energy, yet is adept at allowing for the many textual changes that dictate the emotional tone of the chant. It is a most impressive sound, fluid and yet disciplined, and this disc is certainly worthy of a general recommendation for anyone just acquainting themselves with the beauties of this body of work (and some authorities date it back to the fifth century or earlier), or even for specialists with a host of recordings already on their shelves.