Harmonia Early Music

Gregorian Chant From The Thomas Gradual

Two Gregorian Masses from the Thomas Gradual St. Thomas Church, Leipzig, c. 1300

The exterior of Thomaskirche

Photo: Eric Pancer (wikipedia)

The exterior of Thomaskirche

Music from the Thomas Gradual

Two fourteenth-century Gregorian Masses from the library of the Leipzig Church of St. Thomas have been recently recorded for a new CD by the ensemble Amarcord.  The two masses on this recording are both preserved in a manuscript known as the Thomas Gradual.

Gradual

A gradual is basically a song book, or a book of Gregorian chants used during the Catholic mass. But, if you didn’t already know that bit of trivia, one of the nice things about this recording from the Apollon Classics label, is that the CD comes with a handy and wonderful informational book, laid out in an approachable interview format.  So, if you want to learn about the history of the Gradual, while enjoying a gorgeous performance, this recording really puts it all at your fingertips.

Dedication Mass

Of the two masses included on this recording, one is a mass for the dedication of the church, and the other is a mass honoring the apostle Thomas.  The dedication mass is the only mass where the Offertory music is supplemented by two extra verses. Sung as solos, these verses served a functional purpose in the mass. The extra music extended the length of the movement giving churchgoers time to bring personal possessions, gifts and offerings forward to the Alter during this part of the service.

Mass for St. Thomas

The other mass included on this CD is a mass for St. Thomas.  Named for the patron saint of the Leipzig Thomaskirche, the Thomas Gradual was a book probably written and intended for this very church, and thus would have been a high point of celebration each year for the local parish.

J.S. Bach

The Thomas Gradual is a valuable source of German medieval liturgical music, especially so because the Reformation in Germany did away with many other liturgical manuscripts from this geographical area.  But the Thomas Gradual continued to be used even into the Protestant years at the Thomaskirche.  One famous cantor who was likely familiar with the Thomas Gradual in the Leipzig Thomaskirche library was none other than J.S. Bach.

And now that you’re thinking about Bach, here’s something to consider. The Thomas Gradual has some additions to the liturgy that are not really found anywhere else. One of these differences includes the addition of the word Altissima into the Gloria text. And get this! Bach also used the additional altissima text in his b minor mass. Since this addition is not part of the Latin Missal (and, by the way, not allowed in the Catholic liturgy), it seems likely that Bach could have used the Thomas Gradual as source material when composing his b minor mass.

Tr. 4. Missa for the Dedication of a Church: Graduale: Locus iste; Tr. 7. Missa for the Dedication of a Church: Offertorium: Domine Deus; Tr. 13. Apostle Mass for St Thomas: Gloria
Amarcord — Two Gregorian Masses from the Thomas Gradual (apollon classics, 2012)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

 

Tr. 4. Missa for the Dedication of a Church: Graduale: Locus iste; Tr. 7. Missa for the Dedication of a Church: Offertorium: Domine Deus; Tr. 13. Apostle Mass for St Thomas: Gloria
Amarcord — Two Gregorian Masses from the Thomas Gradual (apollon classics, 2012)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Janelle Davis

Janelle Davis is a violinist and performer with period instrument ensembles throughout the United States. She is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University, Bloomington where she specializes in early music.

View all posts by this author »

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Harmonia Early Music:

More Subscription Options

Follow Us

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Harmonia Early Music

About The Hosts

Search Harmonia Early Music

where to hear harmonia