Y COLLEAGUE, Professor Charles Weaver of Julliard, has done the world a great favor by translating and then posting online a document by Dom André Mocquereau vis-à-vis the endings of plainsong phrases. This document has never before been translated into English.1 In his article, Mr. Weaver cites a letter signed by PIETRO CARDINAL RESPIGHI (d. 1913), vicar of Rome. It’s important to emphasize this was not the same person as Monsignor Carlo Respighi (d. 1947), nephew of the vicar of Rome. The cardinal’s nephew, Msgr. Carlo Respighi, was a musician who eventually ended up serving as Master of Papal Ceremonies. Furthermore, Msgr. [Carlo] Respighi founded—together with the Father Angelo De Santi—the Rassegna Gregoriana, which he directed until 1914.
Carlo Opposed Pothier • Monsignor Respighi was a staunch ally of Solesmes and became a thorn in the side of the president of Pius X’s famous “Pontifical Commission on the Vatican Chant Books.” Abbat Pothier was the president. The members of the commission who supported Pothier were: (1) Dom Laurent Janssens, Rector of Saint Anselm; (2) Monsignor Lorenzo Perosi, Perpetual Director of the Sistine Chapel; (3) Dr. Peter Wagner, president of the Gregorian Academy of the Holy See in Fribourg; (4) Dom David, not initially listed as a member. The members opposed to Pothier were: (1) Monsignor Carlo Respighi; (2) Father Angelo de Santi; (3) Monsignor Antonio Rella; (4) Dom Mocquereau, not initially listed as a member; (5) Professor H. G. Worth of London. Needless to say, Abbat Pothier sided with himself, so the committee was split equally.
M’s “Cadre Of Conflict” • Pope Saint Pius X had (naïvely?) declared on 29 April 1904: “With Dom Pothier, Dom Mocquereau, and Dom Janssens, we are an iron barrel and we are unafraid of our critics.” Poor Pius X did not realize Dom Mocquereau would soon create a cadre of internal conflict. In a private diary entry (23 June 1905), Father de Santi wrote: “The Holy Father is unhappy with the fact that, after we were all in agreement with Dom Pothier, now we have declared war on him” (Combe p361).
Mocquereau’s Rhythm Permitted? • Mr. Weaver cites a letter (2 February 1912) signed by Pietro Cardinal Respighi which said: “To ensure uniformity in the rendering of the chant in the different churches in Rome, [plainsong editions] may be used with the addition of the Solesmes rhythmical signs.” Father Angelo de Santi wrote (6 February 1911):
“I am prepared to swear on the Holy Gospels that it is true that the Benedictines placed this reservation on their donation; that the Holy Father acknowledged as much on two occasions, and that I was instructed by the Holy Father to give assurances on this matter in his name to the monks of Solesmes.”
Alleged Quid-Pro-Quo • Father de Santi claims Solesmes only agreed to assist in the creation of the Editio Vaticana if their monastery obtained permission “to reproduce the Vatican Edition with the rhythmic indications already used by Dom Mocquereau.” This promise was allegedly given by the pope himself on 23 March 1903 (cf. Combe p396). It was never written down, but Dom Pierre Combe claims “it was tacitly understood” (Combe, p253). Arguendo, let’s assume Father de Santi is telling the truth (although he is not always a credible witness). In other words, for the rest of this article, let’s just assume such an agreement did take place.
The Bottom Line • The pivotal question is: “What exactly did Pius X approve?” I highly doubt Dom Mocquereau told Pius X: “We intend to add tons of elongations which contradict the official rhythm.” I highly doubt Dom Mocquereau told Pius X: “We plan to distort the rhythm by randomly mixing up the pauses, even though the manuscripts don’t indicate this, and there’s nothing to be gained from a musical perpsective.” And I highly doubt Dom Mocquereau said to Pope Pius X: “Our intention is to corrupt every part of your edition, even phrases repeated over and over throughout the liturgical year. Furthermore, our egregious rhythmic distortions will be found on every page, and will be apparent even to tone-deaf listeners.” I suspect Dom Mocquereau told the pope that his rhythmic markings were “just a way to help singers stay together when they sing.” After all, many examples could be given which have Mocquereau’s rhythmic additions in perfect agreement with the official rhythm. Here’s one example:
Having worked with numerous elderly clerics over the years, I can say that misunderstandings have been known to happen!
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 The first volume of Le Nombre Musical Grégorien was translated by Aileen Tone in 1932. The announcement was made that volume 2 would also be translated into English, but it’s been almost a hundred years. I think we can safely say the project must have been abandoned, since it never appeared.