“Fingergull – Schola Sanctae Sunnivae/ Anne Kleivset – 2L

by | Jan 12, 2016 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

A unique office adorned with some outstanding chant in fabulous sound.

“Fingergull – In festo susceptionis sanguinis Domini” – Schola Sanctae Sunnivae/ Anne Kleivset – 2L multichannel SACD 2L 114, 78:17 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

Don’t be put off by the strange name of this disc—“Fingergull” is not some kind of weird bird, but instead the name of a golden ring, finger-gold, that contained a drop of Christ’s blood.

You heard right—there are indeed extent relics in European Christendom, what’s left of it anyway, especially in Bruges, Belgium, of drops of Christ’s blood. There is some historical basis for this, as Joseph of Arimathea was said to have preserved the Precious Blood after he had washed the dead body of Christ. But with the heavy traffic of relics during the middle ages and during the time of the Crusades, it has become almost impossible to verify any of this. Bruges, as mentioned, continues to have an active yearly celebration in the Basilica of the Holy Blood, so despite some suggestions in the notes to this release to the contrary, this is still an active and very much living tradition.

So what is this release about? Simple—the city of Nidaros, now Trondheim in Norway, once had a drop of the Precious Blood as well, which arrived in 1165, and there was a very robust and complete set of liturgical chants that adorned an equally extravagant liturgical office. The blood disappeared at some point, and things certainly changed religious-wise in Norway, now Lutheran, and very much in opposition to the idea of relics in general. But there happens to be an excellent choral group called the Schola Sanctae Sunnivae that decided to study the music from the feast of Susceptionis sanguinis, or Acceptance of the blood. There are more than 30 chants that make up the divine office for the day, that includes two vespers, vigils, lauds, and four minor hours.

The music is not original, but taken from other offices, modelled mostly on the Christmas and Holy Cross festal cycles. There is nothing unusual in this, as it was common practice at the time, so we have melodies set with entirely new texts. There is not as much about the “event” of the blood being in a specific locale as about the idea of the blood of Jesus in general and how it figures into Christian life and devotional theology.

There is a beautiful stone church in the city of Ringsaker connected to the christening of Norway by St. Olaf, dated from about the mid-twelfth century. This is where 2L decided to record the Schola in these 36 tracks on this well-filled disc. It is a woman’s choir, which is certainly not historical per se in terms of performance at a cathedral, though it would have been in a convent at the time. No matter—Anonymous 4 went through this sort of criticism also, and survived. These ladies perform beautifully, radiant tone, exquisite ensemble, and in an acoustic that genuinely puts you right in the church thanks to the incredible surround sound. I know that for many chant is an acquired taste. But this disc is one of the best in recent years captured in sound that has to be heard to be believed, and is well worth your time if interest dictates. [A most appropriate disc for a Greek Orthodox priest to review. Thank, you, Father Ritter…Ed.]

—Steven Ritter

Related Reviews