S A YOUNG CONDUCTOR, I took delight in plainsong variants. My motto was: “The more atypical and unexpected, the better!” Our readers undoubtedly realize that different countries—and different monasteries!—had their own style, their own dialect, their own voice. In those days, we sang Spanish variants, Sarum variants, German variants, and even Dutch variants … but eventually I came to realize that (broadly speaking) it’s better to stick with the Editio Vaticana. Furthermore, as the years went on, the modifications by Dom Mocquereau became more and more vexatious. In almost every piece of plainsong, Dom Mocquereau ignores mandatory elongations, while adding elongations where they were not intended. A perfect illustration is ALLELUIA: Éripe me (from the 9th Sunday after Pentecost), in which Dom Mocquereau sabotages—by means of his modifications—the modality, the rhythm, and even the typography. People would ask: “Why don’t we sing the edition as it was meant to be sung?” I had no good answer to that question.
Nightmarish Accompaniments • I have often described Dr. Peter Wagner’s harmonizations as (perhaps) the most ghastly Gregorian accompaniments ever written. Then how come I’m so excited to share with you these rare accompaniments? It’s because we can gain insight with regard to the rhythm of the official edition. We gain this insight by examining editions created by those who sang the Editio Vaticana according to the official rhythm (i.e. how it was intended to be sung). I’m talking about people like: Flor Peeters; Monsignor Nekes; August and Carl Wiltberger; Max Springer of Beuron; Dr. Karl Gustav Fellerer; Dom Ermin Vitry; Monsignor Overath; Abbat Urbanus Bomm; Monsignor Francis Schmitt; Professor Joseph Gogniat; Father Karl Weinmann; Father Franz Xaver Mathias; and so forth.
* PDF Download • ORGAN ACCOMPANIMENT BOOK (138 pages)
—Ordinarium missae, juxta editionem Vaticanam • Composed by Dr. Peter Wagner (d. 1931).
Polemical Preface • The PREFACE to Dr. Peter Wagner’s accompaniment book had never been translated into English … until today! Professor Charles Weaver was the one who solved that problem—as you’ll see when you download the book—and it does not disappoint! Here’s a salient excerpt:
“Well known is the glory that the Most Reverend Dom J. Pothier has given to the world with the traditional melody and the equally traditional way of performing it. Everyone who practices liturgical chant has accepted his principles and follows them. But the Most Reverend Abbot of St. Wandrille had some disciples who did not understand that the greatest merit of their master is precisely that he did not have a system. They believed they could add some new things to his teaching; sadly, while some of these are useful, others are manifestly dangerous and arbitrary.”
Who Is Wagner? • Father Michael Hermesdorff (d. 1885) was a German cathedral organist, choirmaster, and composer who published several important editions of Gregorian chant (which are available at the Lalande Library). He founded at Trier a society for the research of ancient chant manuscripts. His successor at that society was Peter Bohn (d. 1925). On 10 October 1893, Mr. Bohn wrote a letter to Dom Mocquereau in which he described Peter Wagner in these words: “A private lecturer at the University of Freiburg in Switzerland, a former student of Hermesdorff and myself, who, after graduating from our high school, continued his musical studies in Strasbourg under Professor Jacobsthal—also for a few years in Berlin—and for some time has been [teaching] in Freiburg.” Mr. Marcus Dahm kindly sent me a message (dated 13 May 1886) written by Dr. Peter Wagner to Margaretha Josephine Gracher (d. 1917), the niece of Father Hermesdorff. Peter Wagner said: “So I owe your family everything that I can call my own in musical matters. I here speak not only knowledge, but also books, and so forth. Your blessed uncle—who always preferred me to his other students—laid the foundation for my musical education.” Speaking to her of Haberl’s edition of the MEDICAEA, Wagner exclaimed: “…oh that Father Hermesdorff would still have the good fortune to watch the funeral procession of the Regensburg chant!” To learn know more about Dr. Peter Wagner (“membre de la commission Vaticane de chant grègorien”), click here.
Deliciously Dazzling Discovery • It turns out the organization that published these (admittedly dreadful) organ accompaniments by Dr. Peter Wagner published a journal on sacred music. It is quite interesting—for those who read French—and you can conveniently access and download all the installments at this link:
Unless I’m mistaken, a few earlier copies of that same journal can also be obtained by searching GALLICA for: “Revue musicale Sainte-Cécile.”
Kyriale Timeline • Father Angelo De Santi wrote on 6 September 1905: “We were invited to a meeting on Friday, August 18, at 3:00PM. Dom Pothier said that the Kyriale was ready and that he had sent the approval for printing from Strasbourg. […] Wagner suggested that a declaration should be made to the Congress [of Strasbourg] in the name of the Commission that the Kyriale was ready, and that it contained the results of the latest work of Solesmes.” On 21 September 1905, Father De Santi wrote a letter to Dom Mocquereau which said: “The Kyriale is now printed.” Indeed, on 14 August 1905, the Congregation of Sacred Rites promulgated the Editio Vaticana as the typical edition and stipulated that “nothing should be added to it, deleted, or changed” (Nihil prorsus addito, dempto vel mutato adamussim sint conformandae etiamsi agatur de excerptis ex libris iisdem). Furthermore, the Congregation of Sacred Rites declared that it was the wish of Pope Pius X that all other editions of Gregorian chant already approved (even for religious orders) should be removed from the Churches little by little—gradually, but as soon as possible—in such a way that “use is made only of the liturgical books of Gregorian chant composed according to the preceding rules and in complete conformity with this typical edition.”
Grab A Copy? • Scholars in those days had (virtually) none of our modern conveniences. Electric lights had been invented by the year 1905, but even as late as 1925 only about half of American homes had them! Even though the Kyriale was sent to the printer’s (in Rome) in August of 1905, how could someone in Germany or England obtain a copy? The books were very heavy. There were no airplanes, and automobiles would not become common for another fifteen years. One could take a boat, but doing so in those days was no ‘picnic.’
Mistakes Crept In • In light of what I just told you (pardon the pun), we should not be surprised that minor errors sometimes crept in. For instance, consider the “Kyrie” from Mass V. Clearly, there should not be an “MMV” (melismatic mora vocis) at the pink line, whereas there should be one at the yellow line and at the green line:
We see that—for reasons unknown to me—Dr. Peter Wagner gets the green line right, but goofs on the other two:
Joseph Gogniat, a disciple of Dr. Peter Wagner (who studied with him at the Gregorian Academy in Fribourg, Switzerland) has no difficulties correctly marking the MMVs:
Dr. Wagner’s “disease” must have been contagious, because we see that Max Springer of Beuron falls into the same errors:
Monsignor Nekes of Aachen does not make any mistakes:
The 1917 Schwann edition in modern notation does something very odd at the pink line, as you can see (below). It’s like they’re trying to hedge their bets:
What’s even more disturbing is to see that the 1917 Schwann edition doesn’t quite adhere to the 1906 edition:
Mæstro Flor Peeters, as we would expect, is spot on. He doesn’t make any mistakes:
I was shocked to see Father Mathias—who’s usually impeccable—making inexplicable errors:
The Cause? • Why is there such confusion in this particular piece? Is it because the notes before the green line are identical to the notes before the pink line, so editors are tempted to create a type of symmetry? Perhaps. The culprit is not the 1883 “Liber Gradualis” (which served as the basis for the Editio Vaticana) as you can see:
I suspect the culprit was this:
Needless to say, that edition is identical to this:
Conflict Of Interest? • Am I the only one astounded to find Dr. Peter Wagner publishing two versions of the KYRIALE at the same time he was supposed to be working on the creation of the Editio Vaticana version?