HEN I STARTED WRITING FOR CORPUS CHRISTI WATERSHED, I had to affirm that I accept all Church teachings. I couldn’t have expected that I would have to defend Vatican II in response to another contributor, but we live in strange times! Dogmatic teachings are one thing; discerning “the mind of the Church” is something else, especially when the mind of the Church in the year 1903 is being pitted against that of 1954, 1963, or 2023. I am not a theologian, and I don’t wish to stray too far from my areas of expertise. Dr. Kwasniewski’s objections notwithstanding, my observation is that some traditionalists—especially musicians—actually love to quote the previous paragraph of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which says that “Gregorian chant should be given pride of place in liturgical services”; ¶ 36, which says that “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites”; and even ¶ 101, which says that “the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office.” The creation of the Vatican edition was regulated by several motu proprios. I would need to consult a canonist to say for sure, but I believe they all have the same weight as Traditionis Custodes, representing the current position of a particular Pope. Sacrosanctum Concilium, on the other hand, was voted for by 2,147 bishops and Council fathers, with only another four voting against it. If that doesn’t represent the mind of the Church, what does?
Cardinal Albareda’s Ballot for Sacrosanctum Concilium
Defining Terms • According to archivists.org, a critical edition is “A text that has been published with an editor’s extensive annotations, commenting on variations between different versions of the text (manuscripts, drafts, editions), and that provides an understanding of the text based on other sources.” The Graduale Triplex does not meet these criteria. The 1974 Graduale Romanum is a typical edition, also in accordance with SC 117, but not a critical edition. It retains the text (here I mean not only the words but also the musical notation) of the 1908 Vatican edition, but reordered for the new rite. The 1979 Graduale Triplex adds Messine and St. Gall adiastematic neumes to the 1974 Graduale Romanum, with some variants noted, but I am only aware of one change to the words, and none to the notes, note grouping, or bar lines. Again, it does not fulfill the requirements for a critical edition.
A 117-Year-Old Problem • The need for subsequent revisions had already been admitted by Rome before the Vatican edition had even been completed:
It had long been recognized that paleographical research had sufficiently advanced to be in a position to improve upon the work done somewhat rapidly at the beginning of the twentieth century in preparing the editions already issued. The Holy See (in a letter of Secretary of State Merry Del Val to the archbishop of Cologne) acknowledged in 1906 that changes in the official editions would be necessary but would not be carried out in the immediate future; see Moneta Caglio, “Constitutio,” 374. SC 117 did not call for an editio critica (“critical edition”), but an editio magis critica (“more critical edition”), which is an implicit acknowledgement that the original melodies cannot be reconstructed definitively, but only approximated more closely. (Fr. Anthony Ruff, O.S.B., Sacred Music and Liturgical Reform, p. 322, n. 30)
Such a revision had been in preparation by the monks of Solesmes since at least the 1940s but was never published. More information concerning the project can be found by consulting the brief bibliography below. In the Graduale Novum, published in 2011, the words editio magis critica iuxta SC 117 appear on the title page. Both volumes, the second appearing in 2018, are published in cooperation with the Vatican press, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, and the papal tiara and crossed keys appear on the half-title page. While the Graduale Novum is neither “official” nor a typical edition, I refer the reader again to the Pietras dubia response and the motu proprio Col nostro concerning the liceity of singing versions other than the Vatican edition as long as the chants come “from the authority of other good Gregorian codices.”
Vatican Edition or Solesmes Method? • By his inclusion of the quote from Dom Desrocquettes, Mr. Frederes’ position remains nebulous. Which edition does he consider official? Is it the pure Vatican edition with its inherent equalist rhythm, the Solesmes rhythmic editions based on the nuance and ictus theories, or the Graduale Triplex, which, generally speaking, provides enough indications for a satisfactory rendition in either equalist, nuanced equalist of the Solesmes or semiological variety, or proportional rhythm? Has a typical edition of the postconciliar Graduale Romanum been published that lacks the Solesmes markings? I don’t believe so. If defending the pure Vatican edition, why include the reference to “another system [that] is perfect and is actually better than Solesmes”? His position is further muddled by the inclusion of the excerpt from Cardinal Martinelli’s letter reiterating the equalist rhythm of the Vatican edition. I have conclusively demonstrated that the official rhythm is not used for papal Masses—and probably never was! You can easily confirm this for yourself by listening to the recordings. The Martinelli directive is, for all intents and purposes, a dead letter. Nobody today is obligated to comply with it, and I find it more than a bit odd that people are trying to resuscitate it some 113 years later, despite a contradictory decision in the dubia response published not even five years ago.
Another Erroneous Claim • Mr. Frederes again discredits himself by claiming that Montpellier H. 159 is “a note for note replica of the Vatican edition’s Puer natus est.” (Besides, if true, wouldn’t it be the other way around?) This manuscript from the late tenth or early eleventh century indicates pitches using the letters a through p, excluding j. Anyone knowledgeable of the rudiments of music can decipher this notation if he or she knows that h is an octave above a, p is another octave above h, and k is an octave above c. Here is a literal transcription of the chant in question:
Do we not find here six divergences from the Vatican edition? If the notes were the same, at the second nobis, we should see klkk ghg, not klik hg (two discrepancies). At the first eius, the i with quilisma is absent in the official edition, as are the final liquescent h of the second & and l of magni; and -li- of consilii is lacking the lower note, which would be notated as h. Let the reader confirm that my transcription and analysis are accurate.
May, Should, or Must? • I challenge Matthew Frederes to state his position unambiguously. I have been clear about my positions, and he, not I, is the one encouraging resistance and asserting that “progress trumps antiquity,” without recognizing that he is resisting both! For the traditional (extraordinary form) Latin Mass, is the Vatican edition with its equalist rhythm something that we may, should, or must use? What about the rhythm of the Solesmes editions? May, should, or must? It is obviously impossible to observe both equalist and nuanced rhythm simultaneously in the same chant! Must we observe the words and notes of the Vatican edition to the exclusion of any other variant of the chant? That position contradicts the motu proprio and dubia response I mentioned above. It seems that we have more mays than musts. As for shoulds, the prudent course would be to follow the wishes (as opposed to definite directives, which fall under musts) of one’s choirmaster or director, pastor, and superiors. As I like to say, remember rule number 1: Keep the boss happy!
Dom Eugene Cardine, O.S.B., “Regarding the Critical Edition of the Graduale: Its Need, Advantages and Method,” The Gregorian Review, vol. 5, no. 1 (1958), pp. 21–30.
Dom Jacques Froger, O.S.B., “The Critical Edition of the Roman Gradual by the Monks of Solesmes,” Journal of the Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society, vol. 1 (1978; original French article published in 1954), pp. 81–97.
Dom Joseph Gajard, O.S.B., “The Role of the Principal Families of Manuscripts in the Restoration of the Authentic Gregorian Versions,” The Gregorian Review, vol. 5, no. 1 (1958), pp. 31–45.
Fr. Rembert Weakland, O.S.B., “Review: Le Graduel romain,” Caecilia, vol. 89, no. 2 (1962), pp. 71–72.