Visitatio Sepulchri · Missa in Domenica Resurrectionis
Choral-Ensemble und Mittlealter Ensemble der Schola Cantorum Basiliensis
LP, 1982: EMI Deutsche Harmonia mundi 1C 165 99 925/26
CD, 1999: BMG Deutsche Harmonia mundi 05472 77 814 2

This recording is based on a concert of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis which was performed under the auspices of the association „Freunde alter Musik in Basel”.

[Side 1][CD 1]

Drame Liturgique de Pâques
Easter Play from Fleury | Osterspiel aus Fleury

1. Ad faciendam  [28:30]  Orléans, Bibliothèque de la Ville, 201

• singers:
Michael Collver, Richard Levitt, Henk van Benthem
Josep Cabré, Robert Greenlee, Harlan Hokin

• Instrumentalists:
Randall Cook, shawn
Jason Paras, rebec
Xenia Schindler, harp
Kenneth Zuckerman, lute
direction: Thomas Binkley

Messe de Pâques de Notre Dame de Paris
Easter Mass from Notre Dame de Paris | Ostermesse aus Nostre Dame de Paris

2. Rex omnipotentiae  [1:36]  Conductus — Pluteus 29.1

[Side 2]

3. Alleluia! Ad sepulchrum  [0:54]  Paris, BN fl 1112
4. Resurrexi et adhuc tecum sum  [4:19]  Introitus — Paris, BN fl 1112
5. Cunctipotens genitor  [3:49]  Kyrie — Wolfenbüttel, Helmstedt 628
6. Gloria in excelsis Deo  [2:40]  Gloria — Paris, BN fl 1112
7. Dominus vobiscum - Oremus. Deus qui hodierna  [1:08]  Oratio — Paris, B. Mazarine 411
8. Haec est dies triumphalis  [4:50]  Conductus — Pluteus 29.1
9. Regi perennis gloriae  [3:19]  Epistel (1. Cor. 5, 7-8) — Madrid, BN, MS 289
10. Benedicite. Benedictus tu et sermonis tui  [0:25]  Benedictio — Madrid, BN, MS 289
11. Haec dies  [9:24]  Graduale Organaliter — Pluteus 29.1

[Side 3][CD 2]

12. Alleluia  [12:47]  Alleluia Organaliter — Pluteus 29.1
13. Victimae paschali  [1:25]  Sequentia — Paris, BN fl 1112
14. Resurgente Domino  [3:18]  Conductus — Pluteus 29.1
15. Jube Domine benedicere  [0:29]  Benedictio — Pluteus 29.1
16. Sequentia sancti Evangeli secundum Marcum  [2:09]  (Marc. 16, 1-7) — Paris, B. Mazarine 411
17. Credo in unum Deum  [7:48]  Credo — London, BL, Egerton 2615
18. Dominus vobiscum  [0:15]   — London, BL, Egerton 2615

[Side 4]

19. Terra tremuit er quievit  [1:53]  Offertorium (Ps. 75, 9-10) — Paris, BN fl 1112
20. Vere dignum et iustum est  [1:19]  Praefatio — Paris, B. Mazarine 411
21. Sanctus, Christe ierarchia  [7:00]  Sanctus — Paris, BN fl 1112 | Wolfenbüttel, Helmstedt 628
22. Oremus. Praeceptis salutaribus moniti  [1:59]  Pater Noster — Paris, B. Mazarine 411
23. Agnus dei qui tollis peccata mundi  [4:01]  Agnus dei — Paris, BN fl 1112 | Wolfenbüttel, Helmstedt 628
24. Pascha nostrum immolatus  [1:11]  Communio — Paris, BN fl 1112
25. Oremus. Spiritum nobis  [1:12]  Postcommunio — Paris, B. Mazarine 411
26. Ite, Missa est  [0:55]  Paris, BN fl 1112

• soloists:
Michael Collver, Robert Greenlee, Harlan Hokin
Thomas Binkley, dir.

• Choral-Schola:
André Baltensperger, Andreas Besteck, Josep Cabré, Timothy Doughty,
Jorge Espinach, Christoph Hungeburth, Pedro Memelsdorff, Heinz Meyer, Pere Ros, Henk van Benthem, Stephan Wolf
direction: Christopher Schmidt

Complete direction | Gesamtleitung: Thomas Binkley


#1 Orléans, Bibliothèque de la Ville, 201

#2, 8, 11, 14-15 — Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Pluteus 29.1
#3, 4, 6, 13, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26 — Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds latin 1112
#5, 21, 23 - Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-August Bibliothek, Helmstedt 628
#7, 16, 20, 22, 25 — Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine 411
#9, 10 — Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 289
#17, 18 —London, British Library, Egerton 2615

Ⓟ 1982 BMG Entertainment
&#copy; 1999 BMG Entertainment
Recording: Pere Casulleras, Kurt Deggeller
Recorded: 27-30. May 1981 Kirche Seewen (Kanton Solothurn, CH)
Front cover: Christus, Kirche Königsfelden
All rights reserved

BMG Classics
DHM deutsche harmonia mundi



The liturgy as celebrated in the appropriate institutions during the Middle Ages included the Canonical Hours (the “Offices”) and the Mass. The Hours began with Matins at night and Lauds at dawn, through Prime, Tierce, Sext and None leading to Vespers at sundown and Compline before retiring. These Offices, designed originally as occasions for private or communal prayer, became organized monastic services which included lessons, songs and prayers prescribed for each day and each Hour. Matins, for example, important for our Easter play (see below), opened with Psalm 94, Venite exultemus (so-called “invitatory psalm” because it invites the populace to “rejoyce unto the Lord”); the service also contained 12 psalms with antiphons, hymns, canticles, 12 lessons with responds, and the Te Deum. Whereas the Offices, having a devotional purpose, were composed chiefly of psalms, antiphons, hymns, prayers, and lessons, the Mass was quite another thing. It consisted of two sections, called the Mass of the Catechumens (learners) and the Mass of the Faithful. The point of separation was the Gospel according to Jungmann's Missarum Solemnia. Osborne B. Hardison (The Mass of the Roman Rite) sees the first part of the Mass as reflecting the “rising excitement” of the service, a quality of gaining momentum towards a climatic event, the representation of the Passion, Entombment and Resurrection all contained in the second part of the Mass.

We are fortunate to have a 12th century interpretation of the Mass from Honorius Augustodunensis which equates the celebration of the Mass to a theatrical performance (translation by Hardison): “It is known that those who recited tragedies in the theaters presented the actions of opponents by gestures before the people. In the same way our tragic author (celebrant) represents by his gestures in the theater of the church before the Christian people the struggle of Christ and teaches the victory of His redemption. Thus when the presbyter says the Oratio he expresses Christ placed for us in agony, when He commanded His apostles to pray. By the silence of the Secreta he expresses Christ as a lamb without voice, being led to sacrifice. By the extension of his hands he represents the extension of Christ on the cross. By the Prefacio he expresses the cry of Christ hanging on the cross; for He sang ten psalms, that is from the Deus meus respice to In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum and then died. Through the Secret Prayers of the Canon he suggests the silence of Holy Saturday. By the Pax and its communication (Kiss of Peace) he represents the peace given after the resurrection and the sharing of Joy. When the sacrifice has been completed, peace and Communion are given by the celebrant to the people.” Whereas the Offices provide an opportunity for prayer and praise, the Mass brings before one a representation of the sacrifice of Christ replete with the symbols and commentary. It is the Mass rather than the Offices that is embellished with a great variety of elaborations, for the eye, for the mind, and, as described below, for the ear. Easter, being the most magnificent feast, requires the greatest ornaments.


The Visitatio sepulchri within the Medieval cloister

The Visitatio sepulchri, the play about the three Marys at Christ's grave, is found in a 13th century manuscript (Orléans, Bibl. de la Ville, Ms. 201) which comes from the library of the Benedictine cloister, St. Benoît-sur-Loire. The play is part of a long tradition; there are more than 400 works of this sort from the period between the 10th century and the late Middle Ages. The Fleury Easter play already had its place in 13th century Benedictine cloisters (St. Benoît-sur-Loire or St. Lomer in Blois). It was performed for the faithful on Easter Sunday in the morning following the Matins in accordance with the quotation from the Bible: “And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they [the Marys] came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.” (St Mark, 16,2).

What is the significance of this morning presentation of the Easter events within or in front of the Medieval cloister walls? First of all, the Easter message was supposed to be visually brought home to the faithful, the majority of whom, of course, could neither read nor write, by means of a scenic representation of the Bible text. Secondly, the Easter play, performed under the auspices of the cloister, established the link to “God's Kingdom on earth” as well as to the idea of the imitation of Christ. Originally the monk's cloister community was understood to be God's Kingdom; according to the prophets and the Apocalypse of St. John this was really located in the heavenly Jerusalem, the city, with its encirclement of city gates and walls, in whose center the heavenly throne room with God and His angels singing his praise are found. The monk in his life within the cloister strives for the close proximity of the angels to God, seen here. His goal is the vita angelica, “life like that of the angels”. He breaks off his ties with the world and, by fasting, vowing chastity, and denying himself sleep, emulates the angels with their lack of physical needs and their complete concentration on praising God day and night. In addition, the monk also perceives himself to be imitating Christ's life, in which poverty, suffering, and death lead to God. By mortifying his ego through asceticism and obedience he attempts to understand the essence of Jesus and to base his life upon his.

In imitating Christ and the angels, the monk strives for a spiritual rather than carnal life. He organizes his environment accordingly. In the Middle Ages the cloister church was perceived not only as the place of worship, but also as a representation of the heavenly Jerusalem. The Western part of a Romanesque church, such as the one at St. Benoît-sur-Loire, is not only seen as an entrance, but also as the city gate to the heavenly Jerusalem, the transept as the heavenly throne room, and the point where the nave and, the transept intersect as the place where God's throne is located. The pillars symbolize the Apostles, the buttresses of the heavenly Jerusalem. The devils and monsters on the capitals represent Lucifer, the fallen angel, and hell and thus the dark world opposed to the heavenly Jerusalem. The Hours refer to Christ's suffering and death; the liturgical songs which determine the structure of the divine service are understood as an earthly version of the angel's songs of praise which fill the heavenly throne room.

Because the monks in the cloister community make life like that of the angels and in imitation of that of Christ the center of their existence, they, as well as the world around them, perceive themselves to be the representatives on earth of God's Kingdom. With the vita angelica they strive for a spiritual anticipation of God's nearness and set an example to all of their fellow people (and serve simultaneously as their representatives) in their aspiration of this common goal. In a way understandable to all, they anchor the notion of life in Paradise in earthly reality. Based upon this, the question about the significance of the Easter play within a monastic framework may be answered in the following manner. For all participants, performers as well as the congregation, the scenic and musical presentation of the Resurrection of Christ within the cloister, God's Kingdom on earth, by the monks, who took on the forms of Christ and the angels for this purpose, the forms of those upon whom they based their lives, was more than just a portrayal of the Bible text. It is a solidification and representation of the process of salvation, by which everyone is able to once again experience certainty about their own resurrection and God's close proximity. The Visitatio sepulchri is therefore not only a ludus, something that is “played”, but also a movement towards the process of salvation, one brought about by the place and time of day, by the performers and the songs.

An apparent contradiction to this is the fact that neither the text nor the music of the Easter plays is taken from the liturgical repertory (this is also true for the Visitatio sepulchri from Fleury). Instead the texts, in verse or in prose, are based on those of the four Evangelists; the music is adapted from chant as well as from the hymn and sequence repertories. The Bible and chant, authentic sources, as it were, for God's word and the angel's songs of praise, serve as a basis for more or less free creative work. In spite of this, these new works have a liturgical nucleus, one which makes reference to the concept of the imitation of Christ. The question the angel asks the Marys, “Quem quaeritis in sepulchro, o christicolae?”, and their answer, “Jesum Nazarenum crucifixum, o caelicolae” was originally part of a trope which was sung before the introit in the Easter Sunday liturgy. This short dialogue was the basis for the Medieval Easter play and was developed and expanded through the centuries. A part of the Easter liturgy was thus its nucleus. This quotation is present in the earliest 10th century forms of the Easter play to the complex and elaborate stage of development represented by the Visitatio sepulchri from Fleury. It is evidence, in literature and music, of Medieval man's aspiration to the vita angelica.

The Visitatio Sepulchri of Fleury and its Performance

The dramatic action of our performance is not unlike that found in the Regularis Concordia, a 10th century English tract, which appears below. According to the preface, it is based on the customs in Fleury (the following description can be compared with the directions contained in the Easter play): “While the third lesson is being read, four of the brethren shall vest, one of whom, wearing an alb as though for some different purpose, shall enter and go stealthily to the place of the sepulchre and sit there quietly, holding a palm in his hand. Then, while the third respond is being sung, the other three brethren, vested in copes and holding thuribles in their hands, shall enter in their turn and go to the place of the sepulchre, step by step as though searching for something. Now these things are done in imitation of the angel seated on the tomb and of the women coming with perfumes to anoint the body of Jesus. When, therefore he that is seated shall see these three draw near, wandering about as it were and seeking something, he shall begin to sing softly ‘Quem queritis’. As soon as this has been sung right trough the three shall answer together, ‘Jesum Nazarenum’. Then he that is seated shall say, ‘Non est hic. Surrexit sicut praedixerat. Ite, nuntiate quia surrexit a mortuis’. At this command the three shall turn to the choir saying ‘Alleluia. Resurrexit Dominus’. When this has been sung he that is seated as though calling them back shall say the antiphon, ‘Venite et videte locum’, and then, rising and lifting up the veil, he shall show them the place void of the Crucified and with only the linen in which the Crucified had been wrapped. Seeing this the three shall lay down their thuribles in that same ‘sepulchre’ and, taking the linen, shall hold it up before the clergy; and, as though showing that the Lord was risen and was no longer wrapped in it, they shall sing this antiphon, ‘Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro’. They shall then lay the linen on the altar.”

The instruments employed in this performance, harp, lute, rebec and soft shawn, are pervayers of mood and carriers of symbol. They are not required from the standpoint of completing an otherwise incomplete sound picture - indeed the play in no way requires their participation. They introduce action and they fill time taken up with actions that have no song, such as the discovery of the lintea in the tomb.

The notation of the music in the original manuscript does not suggest rhythm, (certainly not modal rhythm). We have placed the initial lament in rhythms we consider appropriate to conform to the idea that it is the secular world that is lamenting (i.e. secular rhythms); the organization of the melody as a strophic song supports this. Thereafter, the rhythms are free as in chant. Word rhythm is the major determining factor in the rhythm. If this performance were at Matins, it would conclude with the Te Deum, as mentioned in the rubrics, which would lead to Lauds and then to Mass. We have responded to the exigency of the Long Playing Record in by-passing this point, abbreviating what would have been certainly a more lengthy and spectacular procession leading to the preparations for Mass.