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Briefly Noted: The Story of St. Emmeram of Regensburg

available at Amazon
Historia Sancti Emmerani, Schola Hungarica, Janka Szendrei, László Dobszay

(re-released on December 1, 2023)
Profil PH21477 | 66'25"
St. Emmeram, born into a noble family in Poitiers, set out from his homeland in France to spread the Gospel in Bavaria in the mid-7th century. The Duke of Bavaria welcomed Emmeram to his court, where he began his missionary activities, including founding a Benedictine monastery at Regensburg that later bore his name and preserves his relics. According to a highly suspect Vita by Arbeo of Freising, written long after Emmeram's death, he was attacked, beaten, and tortured (while tied to a ladder) by the duke's son, over a misunderstanding involving the pregnancy of the duke's daughter. His feast day is celebrated on September 22, and he is often shown with the iconographic symbol of a ladder as the means of his martyrdom.

In addition to Vitae, those often highly fanciful biographies of saints, churchmen and women came to know the lives of local saints through special chant offices sung in monasteries and cathedrals on their feast days. This was the inspiration for a series of publications called Historiae, co-founded by my mentor in graduate school, the late Ruth Steiner, and David Hiley, who taught for many years at the University of Regensburg. Hiley contributed the edition of Arnold von Vohburg's Office in honor of St. Emmeram to the series (edited from manuscript sources in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, clm 14870 and 14872), and the Hungarian scholars Janka Szendrei and László Dobszay made a recording of it with their excellent choir, Schola Hungarica, originally released in 1996. No longer available in its original form, on the Calig label, this valuable disc was re-released last month by Profil Edition Günter Hänssler.

Recorded in St. Anne's Church, a former Franciscan monastery in Esztergom, Hungary, the ensemble sang with their accustomed rhythmic clarity and pure intonation, even the group of well-trained children. The recording includes almost all of the music and text notated in clm 14872 (photographed charmingly with an archivist's thumb in frame). Psalms and canticles introduced by antiphons are not chanted (with the exception of the Invitatory psalm), not being specific to St. Emmeram, nor are doxologies in responsories for the same reason. The words of the written-out prayers are intoned, however, and all verses of hymns, with text relating to the saint, are sung in their entirety. In the fast-moving style favored by the Hungarians, where long neumes are often performed faster than single notes, like rhythmic divisions (quite striking in the long melismas that adorn the complex Matins responsories), the whole Office takes about an hour to sing, covering the services from the Vespers before the feast to the Vespers on the day.

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