URING THE 1990S, my Schola Cantorum sang from the LIBER USUALIS of Solesmes. Each of us had a slightly different edition—meaning the page numbers seldom matched—but for some reason that never bothered us.
The print size of the Liber Usualis was minuscule, but I cannot recall experiencing difficulty reading it. Perhaps my eyesight was better 20 years ago. One day, our Pastor (ordained in the 1950s) showed up at Church with a book called the LIBER BREVIOR. He exclaimed, “Jeff, I bet you never knew that everything essential in the Liber Usualis could be printed in a much smaller book, eh?” He showed me the book, but I was used to the Liber Usualis and had no plans to jump ship.
I failed to realize that the final pages of the Liber Brevior contain a very special arrangement of all the Graduals, Alleluia verses, and Tracts:
Almost ten years ago, Jeffrey Tucker scanned & uploaded the entire LIBER BREVIOR (1954) of Solesmes:
The reductions found in the Liber Brevior are nice, but Solesmes produced an even nicer collection in the 1920s called CHANTS ABRÉGÉS, and Jeffrey Tucker scanned & uploaded this book about five years ago:
Without question, however, the supreme version of the CHANTS ABRÉGÉS was produced in 1955. Jeffrey Tucker also scanned & uploaded this book:
The publications produced by Solesmes during the 1950s are quite staggering, and give witness to the vibrancy of Gregorian singing in those days. We will have to forgive the rather silly warning appearing in the front of several of these books:
“All Rights Reserved on the rhythmic signs and the rhythm they represent…”
Much of “the rhythm they represent” is given by signs in the Editio Vaticana, which cannot be copyrighted. The whole point of the Vatican Edition (published by Pius X) was that no individual publisher could claim the rights to it. Nevertheless, Solesmes is not the first publisher to overstate their claims in an effort to sell books…
Reducing the Graduals, Alleluia verses, and Tracts was quite common. For example, in the 1917 Graduale by Schwann, they mix “recto tono” with more ornate melodies—which will hopefully get the “feel” of the chant into one’s ear in spite of the simplification—as you can see in this example from Ash Wednesday: