Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/715

This page needs to be proofread.




ring to Eph., v, 19, exhorts as follows the young whose duty it is to sing in Church: "Let the servant of God sing in such a manner that the words of the text rather than the voice of the singer cause delight, and tliat Saul's evil spirit may depart from those who are under its dominion, and may not enter into those who make a theatre out of the house of the Lord". A cer- tain class of Mturgical singers are also mentioned in the "Canones apostolorum". The above-mentioned antiphonal and responsorial chant intended for the people shows that the singing was not confined to the choir. St. Augustine wrote a long hymn to be sung by the people in the form of Psalm cxviii — not in classic metre, but in popular accented verses with six- teen unaccented syllables and rhyming on the final vowel. Hymnology in classic form goes back to Am- brose and Hilarius. But sufficient has been said to in- dicate the practice and nature of chant in the early Church, under whose fostering protection it developed so wonderfully later on. History bears the most convincing testimony to the importance which the Church has always attached to music in connexion with her worship.

Church Regulations. — The interest taken by the Clmrch in music is also shown by her numerous enact- ments and regulations calculated to foster music worthy of Divine service. The right of the Church to determine the matter and manner of what shall be sung in connexion with her liturgy is incontestable. Narrow-minded musical partisans seem disposed to fear that music as an art does not receive due consid- eration, if it be not permitted to go its own way un- controlled. These fears generally have for their basis the theory that art is an end in itself, and should not serve, except indirectly, any end outside of and other than itself. This principle could only have a certain justification, if the external dependency were to hin- der the full development of music. But this is not the case. In point of fact, the history of its develop- ment shows that ecclesiastical music need fear no comparison between its achievements and those of secular music. Many competent musicians have frankly admitted this in the case of the simple Gre- gorian chant — not only men like Witt and Gevaert, but also Hal6vy, Mozart, and Berlioz. Halevy considers the chant "the most beautiful religious melody that exists on earth". Mozart's statement, "that he would gladly exchange all his music for the fame of having composed the Gregorian Preface", sounds al- most hyperbolic. Berlioz, who himself wrote a gran- diose Requiem, declared that "nothing in music could be compared with the effect of the Gregorian Dies irce" (cf. Krut.schek, "Kirchenmusik"). Ambros says: "The fundamental power, animating all music which is not made but which grew (as is the case with the folk-music), belongs pre-eminently to Gregorian chant." For this reason Gevaert considers the most characteristic quality of the chant to be the fact that it never grows stale, "as though time had no power over it". Not the most conspicuous, but the most simple artistic means produce the deepest and most lasting impression, when skilfully employed. The first requisite is that the sentiments contained in the text be given true expression, and be not obscured by obtrusive external forms. It must be acknowledged that pieces like the Te Deum, Lauda Sion, the Lamen- tations, the Requiem Mass, as well as many an introit, gradual, and tract, afford a never-failing pleasure, that they employ only the simplest means to express the desired mood, that they are admirably adapted to promote devotion.

The Church, however, does not de.spise artistic means of a more elaborate nature, as is shown by the long jubili of the traditional chant (as contained in the Vatican edition) and still more by ecclesiastical polyphonic music (Palestrina style). Upon this style modern musicians of the first rank have pronounced

favourable judgment. Wagner was an enthusiastic admirer of Palestrina; Mendelssohn made every effort to collect masses, impropreria, psalms, motets of the old masters, which he preferred to all ecclesiastical music by modern writers. There are, indeed, many works by Orlandus de Lassus, AUegri, Vittoria, wherein the most elaborate means of expression are used, but which, nevertheless, conform to every litur- gical requirement and are, as it were, spontaneous outpourings of adoring hearts (cf. contrapuntal or polyphonic music). Besides plain chant and the poly- phonic style, the Church also admits to her service homophonic or figured compositions with or without instrumental accompaniment, written, not in the old ecclesiastical modes, but in one of the modern major or minor keys. Gregorian chant the Church most warmly recommends, the polyphonic style she ex- pressly praises, and the modern she at least tolerates. According to the " Motu proprio " of Pius X (22 Nov., 1903), the following are the general guiding principles of the Church: "Sacred music should possess, in the highest degree, the qualities proper to the liturgy, or more precisely, sanctity and purity of form from which its other character of universaUty spontaneously springs. It must be holy, and must therefore exclude all profanity, not only from itself but also from the man- ner in which it is presented by those who execute it. It must be true art, for otherwise it cannot exercise on the minds of the hearers that influence which the Church meditates when she welcomes into her liturgy the art of music. But it must also be universal, in the sense that, while every nation is permitted to admit into its ecclesiastical compositions those special forms which may be said to constitute its native music, still these forms must be subordinated in such a manner to the general characteristics of sacred music, that no one of any nation may receive an impression other than good on hearing them."

Regarding modern music, the "Motu proprio" says: "The Church has always recognized and hon- oured progress in the arts, admitting to the service of religion everything good and beautiful discovered by genius in the course of ages — always, however, with due regard to the liturgical laws. Consequently, modern music is also admitted in the Church, since it, too, furnishes compositions of such excellence, sobri- ety, and gravity, that they are in no way unworthy of the liturgical functions. Still, since modern music has risen mainly to serve profane uses, care must be taken that musical compositions in this style admitted to the Church may contain nothing profane, be free from reminiscences of theatrical motives, and be not fashioned, even in their external forms, after the man- ner of profane pieces." It is very much to be re- gretted that the greatest masters of modern times, Mozart, Joseph Haydn, and Beethoven, devoted their wonderful gifts mainly to secular uses, and that their masses are entirely un.suitable for liturgical pur- poses — an unsuitability freely acknowledged by Men- delssohn, Liszt, and Wagner. The reason for their inadmissibility lies in their treatment of the .sacred text, the instrumentation, in the fact that they do not conform to the liturgical action, and often in an undue elaboration of form which seriously interferes with the devotion of the faithful. A few compositions by these masters (such as Mozart's Ave verum) do not deserve this reproach. The mere fact that a Gloria or Credo by Haydn, for instance, delays the progress of the ser- vice twenty minutes, while the other parts of these masses are of equally excessive length, is sufficient to render them unsuitable for liturgical use. The fol- lowing words from the "Motu proprio" are applicable to numberless compositions: ".\mong the different kinds of modern music, that which appears least suit- able for accompanyingjhe functions of public worship is the theatrical style, which was in the greatest vogue, especially in Italy, during the last century. This, of