St. Clare, devoted follower of Francis of Assisi, was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1255, gaining permission from the Vatican to live a convent life in perpetual poverty, as Francis had done. There were a number of Polish convents of the Order of St. Clare in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This rare program offers a glimpse into the musical (and hence spiritual life) of those communities based on some surviving copies of the “Magnus liber” that belonged to Kinga of Hungary (1224-1292) and is now located at the Stary Sacz monastery in southern Poland. Agnieszka Budzinska, one of the members of Ensemble Peregrina (seven voices), has reconstructed much of this music from the fragments found in the collection, finishing some of them herself. The Magnus libera, you might recall, is the great music book of the School of Notre Dame in Paris, a treasure trove of medieval practices and performance.
This is not your common “Gregorian” chant album, but full of unique and interesting chants that are performed with love and devotion. It is not often we get to peek into the lives of a particular religious tradition that existed in a specific locale, and Divox has done us a great favor by letting this one out of the gate. Even those not normally attracted to such music just might find some things here to warm them up to it. After all, even beer is an acquired taste, right?
The sound is bright and resonant, so you might want to turn down the volume a little. Nevertheless, the recording is clear and crisp, just right for a chant album.
— Steven Ritter