On Thursday KIPA/APIC reported on the traditional Latin Mass celebrated in St. Charles’ Church in Vienna by Bishop Vitus Huonder of Chur, Switzerland on the memorial of St. Charles Borremeo. Any time a bishop appears in cappa magna (“huge cape”), it’s a photo op that gets noticed.

See more photos at Una Voce Austria.

Many interesting things about this event, but I’ll take up just two – one about simplicity in the liturgy, and one about chant melodies.

First, liturgical simplicity. According the Giuseppe Gracia, Huonder’s spokesman, the bishop was invited by Una Voce of Austria for the annual Borromeo celebration. Asked how the highly baroque appearance of Bishop Huonder fits with the appeal to simplicity of Pope Francis, Gracias replied, “Even the new pope may not work toward the goal that only one form of liturgy is acceptable, striving for a sort of monoculture.”  The simplicity of the church and its officials enjoined by Pope Francis does not refer “primarily to a liturgical dimension,” but refers above all to “material and moral way of life,” he emphasized. He noted that the bishop of Chur annually earns 90,000 Franks (about $100,000, I believe) and drives a Skoda. “You couldn’t make that claim of any number of tax-funded bureaucrats who earn many times more.”

Simplicity doesn’t refer to liturgical style but to way of life: what do you think?

Second, Katholisches reports that the Gregorian Chant was sung according to the Medici edition. Strictly speaking, I don’t believe this is permitted since Pope St. Pius X decreed a reform of the chant editions and approved the reformed Graduale Romanum (based on the work of the monks of Solesmes) of 1908. The Medici edition of 1614 is one of many “reform” editions created all across Europe after the Council of Trent, in the mistaken belief that the medieval chant had become more melismatic and complicated than the original Gregorian chant and needed to be simplified (in effect, hacked up). After Pius X, all the varying local editions were superseded by the universally binding official version.

Chant research has established rather conclusively that the work of Solesmes, however praiseworthy, can be improved upon. The Second Vatican Council, in article 117 of the liturgy constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, called for a melodic reform of all the official chant books. This work is still in progress, and fifty years later there is not yet an official reformed Graduale. All across Europe (but not at Solesmes itself, be it noted) it is rather common to sing Latin chant from scholars’ unofficial improved editions. Anyone who tracks European chant recordings of the last two or three decades will know how common this practice is, though it’s praeter legem.

I’ve long wondered what the Tridentinists would do when the reformed Graduale comes out – will they accept the new-fangled thing or cleave to 1908? (Probably not many other people worry about this…) Of course the so-called Tridentine Mass was celebrated for most of its history since Trent with melodies more like 1614 than 1908, and the chant melodies changed many times between Trent and 1908, but would that persuade? I suppose one could argue that the 1908 melodies were in force in 1962 so that is what should forever be sung with the Missal of 1962. But I would hope they’d accept the improved official chant edition, just as their forebears once had to give up Medici and the like when the very different 1908 Graduale landed. See this Medici 1908 comparison.

Europeans are interested in reconstructing musical practices of past eras, and this feature of secular musical culture doubtlessly has more influence on church music than in the U.S. I suspect this is what was going on at the Karlskirche – Charles Borremeo lived in the 16th century, so the historically-informed participants appreciated chant coming from roughly the time he lived. Fine with me. I would have enjoyed hearing it once in its liturgical setting. If we can use scholarly editions that improve upon 1908, though they aren’t yet approved, then I guess they can do this.

Official and unofficial chant editions: what do you think?