AVE YOU EVER heard a story called The Boy Who Cried Wolf? I thought everyone knew it, but some who run Catholic “news” blogs seem unfamiliar with it. Every few minutes these provocateurs spotlight Church scandals in their relentless quest for internet clicks. Like the boy who cried “wolf,” their credibility is diminished with each post. They would do well to ponder our Savior’s question (Mk 8:36): Quid enim próderit hómini, si lucrétur mundum totum, et detriméntum ánimæ suæ fáciat? Fulton J. Sheen aptly described such people: “Their eyes are never so bright as when they’re revealing a scandal.” But when Saint John Vianney learned of sinful behavior, he went to his room and scourged his flesh until blood flowed. No Catholic should ever rejoice in scandal.
Sensationalism Is Bad • Once tarnished, a reputation is virtually impossible to mend. For that reason, we’re vigilant when it comes to naming articles. On the other hand, colorless (stale) titles aren’t good, either. For instance, few would bother clicking on an article with a dull title like: “A Minor Observation About Gregorian Chant, Which Everyone Is Free to Disagree With.” I’m sure some will criticize the title of my article today, but my first draft was even bolder: Did One Monster of a Human Being Single-Handedly and Irrevocably Vandalize, Desecrate, and Otherwise Mutilate the Pristine Product of Abbat Pothier, Thereby Deliberately Wrecking Everything Heretofore Noble, Good, and Sublime in the Universe and Stabbing Pius X in the Back? That would have been a terrific title, but it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
Your Reward Has Arrived • Today’s article might be slightly ‘dry’ or ‘boring’ for some readers, so let me start by giving you a little reward. Below—for the first time in history—is a scanned copy of the Pustet GRADUALE ROMANUM (1911). A volunteer carefully went through and prepared it for online publication, based off a xerox copy I made back in the 1990s. As of a few minutes ago, you can download this esteemed edition completely free of charge:
* PDF Download • GRADUALE (Pustet, 1911)
—“Graduale Sacrosanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ … Cui Addita Sunt Festa Novissima” (1911).
Is Jeff Insane? • With regard to my title (“Did One Man Single-Handedly Sabotage the Gregorian Restoration?”) let me say the following. It’s possible for adults, even when they feel passionately about something, to disagree without being disagreeable. It’s praiseworthy to present one’s argument accurately and—in the final analysis—useless to “walk on egg shells” or “beat around the bush.” Therefore, without further ado, I will attempt to make my case. After you read it, you can decide whether I’m insane.
1,000 Words! • One of my professors used to say: “An example is worth a thousand words.” Let’s consider the INTROIT we sang at Mass a few Sundays ago, for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost. Below is how it appears in the official edition, created by order of the MOTU PROPRIO “Col Nostro” (25 April 1904) issued by Pope Saint Pius X. [Even in the year 2023, this is still the official edition of the Catholic Church.]
You probably noticed the absence of any rhythmic signs. That’s because the “rhythmic signs” (which have become ubiquitous) weren’t supposed to be added to the official edition. Therefore, if you examine every authorized printing of the Editio Vaticana—except for the version published by Dom André Mocquereau—you won’t find rhythmic markings. I’m talking about versions by (to name several) Father Mathias, Max Springer, Marcel Dupré, Monsignor Nekes, Aloys Desmet, Flor Peeters, Father Weinmann, the Wiltberger brothers, Professor Amédée Gastoué, Styria, Schwann, Mechlin, and Pustet. [Moreover, some added tiny signs to help clarify the official rhythm. Examples of scholars who did that would include: Abbat Urbanus Bomm, Joseph Gogniat, Monsignor Johannes Overath, Karl Gustav Fellerer, and Dom Lucien David.] The official edition is not a “Jeff Ostrowski” thing.
Why Did Dom Mocquereau Do It? (1 of 3) • For what reason did Dom Mocquereau add rhythmic signs to the official edition? They certainly weren’t added to clarify the rhythm intended by those who created the official edition. Indeed, his markings—with the possible exception of the KYRIALE—often contradict the official rhythm, by omitting elongations supposed to be there or by adding elongations where they don’t belong. So what’s the reason?
Why Did Dom Mocquereau Do It? (2 of 3) • As far as I can tell, there were three (3) basic reasons Dom Mocquereau decided to contradict the rhythm intended by those who created the magnum opus of Pope Saint Pius X. First of all, Dom Mocquereau had been working feverishly for years on his own special edition of Gregorian Chant, which was finally published (in Latin) in 1903, followed quickly by a French edition in 1904. When Pope Pius X officially decided not to use Mocquereau’s edition (cf. the letter dated 24 June 1905, paragraph 6), Dom Mocquereau was not about to discard all the work he’d done. Rather, from what I can tell, he was going to force it on the official edition “by hook or by crook.” Another reason Dom Mocquereau chose to superimpose his rhythm on the official books—in spite of Vatican decrees condemning this—was for financial gain. Specifically, Katharine Ellis of Cambridge University discovered a letter in which he was advised to “put as many rhythmic signs as possible in the Gradual and Antiphoner.”
Why Did Dom Mocquereau Do It? (2 of 3) • The third reason Dom Mocquereau contradicted the official rhythm is because he had a strong predilection for a handful of manuscripts. For whatever reason, he felt those manuscripts were “the best” and tried to reproduce some (not all) of their rhythmic markings even when they were contradicted by other very important manuscripts. Several manuscripts for which Mocquereau felt a predilection—such as Bamberg6LIT|905—were quite gorgeous and impressive, so it’s not difficult to understand why such manuscripts would take his breath away. What’s difficult to understand is why Dom Mocquereau was willing to ‘ignore’ or ‘snub’ or ‘disregard’ the testimony of so many other manuscripts (which were also very ancient) when they contradicted the ones he preferred. For example, in an article I posted a while back, I produced the following comparison chart:
* PDF Download • COMPARISON CHART (“Clivis with Episema”)
—Comparing manuscript evidence for the “Exaudi Domine” Introit.
Effects Still With Us • In 1924, Dom Mocquereau presented a paper called “The Rhythmic Tradition in the Manuscripts,” which was translated into English in 1952. At that time, nobody reading such a pamphlet would have had access to any of the ancient manuscripts. The internet would not become widespread in America for another 71 years. However, over the last twenty years, countless manuscripts have been made available for free (!) online. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that Dom Mocquereau was being dishonest in that 1924 pamphlet. He made zillions of statements which are absolutely indefensible. For example, he claimed there’s “absolute agreement” among the rhythmic signs of the ancient manuscripts. In another place, he says: “the manuscripts do not contradict each other. Down to the smallest details which at first might surprise us, they bear one another out.” There’s no need for me to demonstrate how inaccurate such statements are. Even a quick glance at the tiny comparison chart (see above) speaks more convincingly than I ever could. Some errors from that 1924 pamphlet are still repeated today. For example, in 2012 Mæstro Charles Cole of the London Oratory published “The Solesmes Chant Tradition: The Original Neumatic Signs and Practical Performance Today” in the CMAA journal. Throughout that article, the author speaks of the ancient Saint-Gall manuscripts as if they’re in agreement! In reality, Mæstro Cole seems (usually) to be referring to just one of them.
Unimpressive Name • Had he desired to be accurate, Dom Mocquereau would have named his 1924 pamphlet: “The Rhythmic Tradition in a Handful of Manuscripts I Prefer.” An even more accurate title would have been: “The Rhythmic Tradition in a Few Manuscripts Which Don’t Correspond to Hundreds of Others.” But who would purchase such a book? Instead, to sound impressive, Mocquereau called his monograph: “The Rhythmic Tradition in the Manuscripts.” That word “the” is reprehensible, inexcusable, and outrageous. Moreover, when it comes to the handful of manuscripts for which he has a predilection, Mocquereau never raises (much less answers) an important question: viz. why are his favorite manuscripts contradicted by so many ancient manuscripts? In other words, why were other manuscripts selected for preservation, instead of those for which he has a predilection?
He Who Thwarted • Let’s return now to my primary thesis. Dom Mocquereau single-handedly thwarted the proliferation of Cantus Gregorianus. Consider the example mentioned earlier: viz the INTROIT from the 5th Sunday after Pentecost. Here’s my attempt to sing it according to the official edition:
Now consider the version with rhythmic modifications by Dom Mocquereau (below). In particular, notice how the official rhythm ‘emphasized’ or ‘highlighted’ or ‘pointed to’ the words “ad Te.” That is to say, the official version emphasizes the involvement of Almighty God: “Hear, O Lord, my voice, with which I have cried to Thee.” Contrariwise, in Mocquereau’s version, the emphasis on God seems lost owing to all the added elongations:
Secret Permission From Pius X? • Where did Dom Mocquereau get the gumption to ‘deface’ or ‘modify’ or ‘correct’ the official edition? After all, the Congregation of Sacred Rites under Pius X issued a stern warning on 14 August 1905: Nihil prorsus addito, dempto vel mutato, adamussim sint conformandae, etiamsi agatur de excerptis ex libris iisdem. Translated into English, that means when it comes to the official edition “absolutely nothing may be added, removed, or changed.” Indeed, Dom Mocquereau included that self-same decree in his 1905 KYRIALE editions (as did all the publishers). The followers of Dom Mocquereau maintain that, during a 23 March 1904 meeting, Pope Pius X gave “verbal” permission to employ their rhythmic markings in the official edition, the bulk of which would not appear until half a decade had elapsed. What precise promise was given? Since it was all verbal, nobody knows for sure. Does anyone believe that on 23 March 1904 Pope Pius X was told something akin to the following?
“Holy Father, when the official edition is released four years from now, we intend to contradict the rhythm in approximately 60,000 places. Where the official edition has an elongation, we will contradict it. When elongations are supposed to occur, we will go against those as well. Do you authorize these contradictions?”
I doubt anything like that was said to him on 23 March 1904. Instead, I suspect Dom Mocquereau told Pius X something like this:
“Your Holiness, we’ve developed a system of rhythmic signs that help amateur singers execute plain-chant properly. Do we have your permission to continue with this system when the official edition is released?”
Moreover, Pope Pius X said absolutely nothing about any ‘exceptions’ or ‘verbal contracts’ in the important letter issued in his name 18 February 1910. On page 394 of The Restoration of Gregorian Chant: Solesmes and the Vatican Edition (Catholic University of America Press, 2003), Dom Pierre Combe claims that Pope Pius X was deeply involved with the formulation of that letter.
No Lines • Since 2003, I have attempted to explain the “white notes” in the official edition. Basically, in a melisma—and only in a melisma—whenever there’s a blank space equal to an individual note-head’s width, a slight mora vocis (“elongation” or “dying away of the the voice”) is to be added. These “white notes” can be difficult to spot. Therefore, Abbat Pothier’s protégé, Dom Lucien David, published an edition in 1931 which marks them by means of little black hooks:
I believe Abbat Pothier carefully avoided using lines to divide neums in the official edition. I don’t have anything to back up my hypothesis except to remind readers that around the time Joseph Pothier was growing up, all the ‘corrupt’ plain-chant editions used lines excessively. Consider this 1818 version of the ANTIPHONALE:
“Trochee Trouble” • Countless times on this blog we’ve discussed the problematic issue of “Trochee Trouble.” In general, I’ve made a distinction between the French & German Trochee. The German School (Springer, Schwann, Weinmann, Mathias, Nekes, etc.) is represented adequately by Dr. Peter Wagner, Commissionis Pontificiæ Gregorianæ Membrum. Consider his setting of CREDO IV:
On the other hand, the French School, represented by the followers of Mocquereau (Gajard, Desrocquettes, Bragers, Potiron, etc.) do something quite different for Trochees. Consider Dom Mocquereau’s 1924 version of CREDO IV in modern notation:
Is Abbat Pothier To Blame? • What would your response be if someone confronted you with the following statement? “Abbat Pothier was foolish to place into the hands of each individual choirmaster the determination of Trochee length.” My response would be: “If one marks every Trochee as either long or short, one runs the risk of encouraging a mechanical, unmusical, thoughtless performance.” According to Professor Amédée Gastoué, Abbat Pothier had already finished (broadly speaking) his LIBER GRADUALIS in 1868. It was first published in 1884, and—by order of Pope Pius X—served as the basis for the official edition. Think of it! Abbat Pothier had finished his magnum opus three years after the American Civil War, and forty-six years (!) before World War I. How can we blame him for leaving the Trochee length up to the sensibility of each individual choirmaster? Looking back 155 years later, does his course of action not strike us as eminently sensible? Indeed, the more I sing CANTUS GREGORIANUS, the more I question whether we can genuinely assign “precise values” to Trochees which occur at the end of musical phrases. Consider the word “tibi” in GLORIA XI as I just recorded it for you:
Do you really hear that as “doubled,” or do you agree with me that it’s quite ambiguous?
Conclusion • Let us soberly consider what was gained by the illicit modifications made by Dom Mocquereau. From a musical perspective, his excessive elongations often cause plainsong to sound plodding and heavy. Indeed, the results of his tampering sometimes create a “Neo-Mensuralism.” Plainsong ought to sound simple and light. Its melodies should glide and “soar” effortlessly. Why didn’t Dom Mocquereau simply sing the edition as it was intended to be sung by its creators? Some say Dom Mocquereau was “restoring” rhythmic nuances or markings from certain ancient manuscripts, but he had no right to impose his particular theories on the official edition. Moreover, Mocquereau selected a few manuscripts—for which he had a predilection—while at the same time spurning hundreds of thousands of pages of ancient (and very important) manuscripts. Dr. Peter Wagner, a member of the Vatican Commission on Gregorian Chant, called Mocquereau’s modifications “an untraditional garment is draped over the melodies.”
I Dare You! • When it comes to the melodies of the Editio Vaticana, can anyone point to instances where the rhythm is somehow musically deficient or lacking? Why on earth should we sing the the official edition in a way that conflicts with the rhythm intended by the very creators of that edition? Is anyone willing to publicly make the following statement?
“Dom André Mocquereau was right to contradict the official rhythm in approximately 60,000 places. Every other publisher should have done likewise. Indeed, the very best thing would have been for twenty other publishers to do what Dom Mocquereau did. The result would be that editions floating around would contain 1,260,000 variants of the official rhythm. How wonderful that would have been!”
Can there be any doubt that Dom Mocquereau single-handedly sabotaged the Gregorian restoration?