Album Title: Exaudiam Eum
Performer: Consortium Vocale Oslo
Label: 2L SACD 2L43
Recorded: Ringsaker Church, September 2006

No offense to most of the Gregorian chant recordings which are released each year for Christmas or in a New Age attempt at reconnecting with a deeper spirituality but overall, they don’t have much in common with the real thing. At best they miss the unique ambiance that surfaces in a church brought back to life by the purest of vocal music forms but most of the time they also take serious liberties with the recorded material. If you want to discover Gregorian chant at its most pristine, most fundamental emotional intensity, I know no better recording than 2L’s Exaudiam Eum. Recording quality is probably the very best from 2L and their standards are high to start with. This SACD preserves the magnificent acoustic of Ringsaker Church and the games played by voices echoing from wall to wall but more importantly, the performers are simply exceptional.

I have attended multiple church concerts and for the first time, a disc manages to capture the warm caress of a Gregorian schola. If it were not deeply spiritual music, I would almost speak of sensuality in the most fundamental meaning of the word, speaking to our senses. Evidence of chanted liturgy in the Catholic church goes as far back as the fourth century but for hundred of years the music was only transmitted orally and it is not until the ninth century that the first rudimentary written interpretation indications can be found above the text. Those neumes as they are called typically do not provide any guidance for pitch and simply give a vague idea of rhythm relative to the melodic line. It took a few more centuries for full pitch and melodic annotation to develop while at the same time slowly drifting away from the original material, a drift that has unfortunately accelerated in the twentieth century when Gregorian chant resurfaced.

Consortium Vocale Oslo here presents a program revolving around Lent and Easter and tries to return this repertoire to its original purity and beauty, at least what we know and understand of it today. The material selected is of the highest quality, superbly involving and charged with emotion, musical emotion. You don’t need to adhere to the catholic faith to sense the fervor being radiated through the church. To my ears, this attempt is by far the most successful and convincing I have ever heard, making it both the best Gregorian chant recording I know and my favorite 2L disc. Simply phenomenal.