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GRAMOPHONE (12/2019)
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Bernard de Clairvaux: Chants Of The Cistercians Product Image

Code-barres / Barcode : 4010072021724


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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

Unlike more specialised ensembles, Officium’s remit ranges broadly across the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This tightly organised plainchant programme focuses on the Cistercian order and its founder, St Bernard of Clairvaux (d1153); some of these chants are traditionally attributed to him. His preference was for a sober style of worship; nonetheless, the rhythmicised chants heard here set the toes tapping.

The approach is varied, to say the least: at times the chant is set to drones, at others to simple organum; some is simply doubled at the octave with mixed voices. On the other hand, Officium eschew the ornaments and microtonal inflections embraced by more specialist chant ensembles, which seems a missed opportunity given the sensuousness of the texts from the Song of Songs, which held a special fascination for the order’s founder. As in everything they do, Officium are never less than considered and careful (in the best sense), but here it can appear that the idiom is apprehended from the outside rather than fully inhabited – an impression confirmed by the motet from the Codex Las Huelgas (a Cistercian foundation) that closes the disc. Worth exploring, nevertheless.

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