Saturday, December 3, 2011

Piano and Chant

You might have noted that the new CD from Stift Heiligenkreuz, a promotional of which I posted a few days ago, includes a piano accompaniment to Te Deum. Shocking? If you listen, I think you will agree that it is very compelling actually.

Here is a more detailed explanation from the composer David Ianni:

About a month ago the album “Chant - Amor et Passio” by the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz was released. It’s the long awaited successor to “Chant - Music for Paradise” (“Music for the Soul” in the US) which sold over 1.1 million copies worldwide since its release in 2008.

I’ve known the monks since 2005 and have had the great grace to make several lasting friendships at the beautiful monastery in the Vienna Woods. Their liturgy and their singing of Gregorian Chant make me feel at home. In 2006 I played my first piano recital at the Stift. Fr. Simeon Wester, the Music Director for the Abbey (and now also the Prior of Stift Heiligenkreuz), asked me if I would like the schola to join me for one piece, and accompany the Litany of Loreto on the piano. The idea was appealing. I had never heard of this unusual combination, but I was willing to try. We had one rehearsal. The concert went well and the audience was very touched by our musical experiment. The idea of chant and piano was born (you can listen to this improvised performance here).

A couple of years later the monks and their sublime singing were discovered by Universal Music. Their album “Chant - Music for Paradise” became a huge, unexpected success. This was a great opportunity to share the gospel and the treasure of Gregorian Chant with thousands, even millions of people. On the other hand such success meant invasions of journalists and visitors to the monastery to an extent that would become quite distressing for the monks at times.

They waited over 3 years to go back into the studio, this time recording for their own record company in order to be more independent. You can imagine how humbled and honored I felt when Fr. Karl Wallner asked me in September if I’d like to record a couple of “bonus tracks” with the monks. Fr. Simeon gave me four chants for which I should provide a piano accompaniment.