Septem dies – Seven Days with Music at Prague University
Medieval choral works
Corina Marti (clavicymbalum); Schola Gregoriana Pragensis/David Eben
Supaphon SU42822 63:51 mins
This unusual and meticulously researched disc offers a snapshot of a typical musical week at Prague’s medieval university, drawing repertoire from the 14th to the 15th centuries. Historical documents reveal that Bohemian students were encouraged to study music theory, to take part in the liturgy and to sing sacred songs in Latin; secular works (especially those with bawdy texts), dances and loud instruments were banned or strongly discouraged.
Director David Eben draws pliant, supple singing from the Schola Gregoriana Pragensis who imbue the chants with a sense of songful introspection. Interspersing hymns, psalms and troped Mass movements are some idiosyncratic and forward-looking pieces as well as foreign imports: ‘Ein schöne liebe Junckfraw’ is a sort of nascent German Lied, while ars nova motets and lyrical chansons show a marked French influence. An interesting touch, based on recent research, is the addition of a clavicymbalum (a psaltery cum proto-harpsichord) to some of the vocal works.
These are competent performances, full of spiritual fervour, and the singers don’t shy away from using subtle expressive nuances to help the music speak to modern ears. The lush church acoustic adds a bloom to the sound.