HE 1895 LIBER RESPONSORIALIS was published two years after Dom Joseph Pothier left Solesmes to become Prior of Ligugé, but was entirely the result of his research. In addition to those parts of Matins which don’t change, it contains first class feasts and the Common of the Saints: martyrs, confessor bishops, virgins, etc. This book is only for Matins, but the hymns are often repeated at Vespers.
The pre-Urban hymn texts (i.e. non-corrupted) were employed, just as Dom Pothier had done in his 1891 Liber Antiphonarius. For instance, we find “Praelium certaminis” instead of “Lauream certaminis” in Fortunatus’ Pange Lingua. About a decade later, in September of 1904, the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican Edition would adopt the following motion:
22. The Congregation of Sacred Rites shall be requested to return to the medieval text of the Hymns (a.) because the text corrected by Urban VIII is ill-suited to the needs of the chant; (b.) in consideration of the artistic unity of the whole of the liturgical work; and (c.) out of respect for the ancient and holy authors of a great portion of these chants.
They were not granted permission at that point, but some publishers included the ancient texts as an option. According to Fortescue, the major Roman basilicas never adopted the revisions of Urban VIII.
The 1895 Liber Responsorialis is significant because of its relationship to Solesmes’ Chants Abrégés. Choirmasters for the Traditional Latin Mass will be familiar with this book, whose origins were explained by Fr. Robert Skeris in the 2008 Sacred Music Journal, Vol. 135, No. 4:
The most difficult chants in the Graduale have always been a particular challenge for even the average parish choir, in any country. It is by no means only the XXth century that has sought to overcome this difficulty in practise by proposing simpler alternatives. The Chants Abrégés are an attempt to find a via media which would be useful in a typical parish. Dom Gajard (1885-1972) was chef d’atelier of the Paléographie musicale at the time, and under his supervision the booklet went to press. The tunes seem to have been chosen from various sources ranging from ordinary psalm tones simple or solemn (e.g. Introit psalmody) through melodic types for Allelujas etc. (e.g. Processionale of 1887) and Toni Communes for Gloria and Alleluja in the Matins responsories (e.g. Liber Responsorialis 1895) to tones for Invitatory psalms or other simple cantillation formulae such as lections or Historiae Passionis, similar to those which Gajard suggested to Mrs. Ward for the booklet of seasonal Mass Propers she published during the Second War.
When the CMAA first released both versions of the Chants Abrégés (1926 and 1955), a rumor was circulated saying the 1926 melodies were not in conformity with Church law, necessitating the 1955 edition. Actually, there is no truth to that statement, and these melodies were a constant topic of discussion by the Gregorian Commission of Pope Pius X. Some wanted the Gradual, Tract, and Alleuia melodies made optional; Fr. Angelo de Santi, a key advisor to Papa Sarto, suggested they be replaced (!) by organ interludes; but Abbot Pothier and Dom Mocquereau felt that Gajard’s approach was best, and since the Liber Responsorialis is now online we can better observe his models. For purposes of comparison, the 1891 Antiphonale (PDF) can be downloaded at the St. Jean Lalande Library, and the 1883 Processionale Monasticum (PDF) is available at Google books.
Although the excessively legalistic rumor about the Chants Abrégés is false, there is some truth to the notion that the Solesmes editions were not officially allowed until 3 September 1958. This topic has been treated many times — and often misunderstood — taking its basis Roman decrees such as those dated 2/14/1906, 2/18/1910, 1/25/1911, and 4/11/1911. At this point in history, debating this point seems rather futile, but it’s interesting to read Abbot Pothier’s 1906 commentary on the Solesmes rhythmic signs, which made quite a stir at the time!
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