The Psalterium Foundation

The Psalterium Foundation (Stichting Psalterium) was initially established to support the recording of the entire Latin Psalter in Gregorian chant (all 150 psalms with 183 antiphons – many recorded for the first time) and achieved and completed in May 2018! See: for a complete overview of this ambitious undertaking.

Below are three sample recordings from this project. Scroll down further for a review in the US Fanfare Magazine and (further) a documentary on the project and some images of Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativité de Malay – a lovely Romanesque church (ca. 1100 AD) where the Project was recorded during nine week-long recording sessions over a period of six years (2012-2017). This whole project was privately funded.

The Foundation also serves to encourage research and support of bringing unknown chant repertoire alive by manuscript study, recording and performance. See this link to our next project.

Psalm 65
Psalm 142
Psalm 94 (Invitatorium)

Review in the US Fanfare Magazine (Nov/Dec 2018) of the Psalterium Project

PSALTERIUM CURRENS Eugeen Liven d’Abelardo, dir; Hartkeriana HARTKERIANA 1-12 (12 CDs + 1 DVD: 816:23 + 28:51 Text and Translation)

The complete Book of Psalms, 150 in number, has been sung in prayer for 3,000 years. It is remarkable that the complete set has been recorded at all. The English translation by Miles Coverdale (the Great Bible of 1539) was adopted for the Book of Common Prayer (rather than the King James Version). Set to music by innumerable composers, it has been recorded by Priory (10 English cathedral choirs on 10 CDs, but programmed in random order; not submitted for review), by Hyperion (St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir on 12 CDs, Fanfare from 17:5 to 24:4), and by Priory again (another eight different cathedral choirs on 10 CDs, 40:4). The German translation of Ambrosius Lobwasser (the Geneva Psalter), set by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck for Calvinist services, was recorded by Harry van der Kamp on 12 CDs in 2012 (not submitted for review). The German translation of Cornelius Becker, set by Heinrich Schütz for Lutheran services (the Becker Psalter), had one CD recorded by Hans-Christoph Rademann for Carus (41:1), but it ends there in an otherwise comprehensive production of the composer’s works.

Now we go back to the earliest days of Christian monasticism. After the monks of the desert began the continuous recitation of the psalms in order, St. Benedict laid out a weekly cycle of 150 psalms in the Vulgate Latin for monastic prayer, a modified continuity with Psalms 1 to 108 assigned to the night Office and Psalms 109 to 150 to Vespers. The other hours of the day were filled in later. Assignments were modified slightly in 1911, then changed to a monthly cycle in 1970 (the night Office now being greatly abbreviated), comparable to the monthly cycle adopted for the Book of Common Prayer. After 15 centuries, the Vulgate Latin (in St. Jerome’s earlier translation from the Greek Septuagint, bypassing his later version of the psalms from the Hebrew) was abandoned for the neo-Vulgate Latin of 1969 (translated from the Hebrew Masoretic text), which is now used translated into the vernacular languages.

The decision to use the neo-Vulgate Latin conforms to the official text for liturgical purposes, but this is not a liturgical rendering of either antiphons or psalms. But in a nod to liturgical practice, the first disc begins with the invitatory and Psalm 94, which then recurs in numerical order using a different antiphon. Note that the psalms are numbered according to the Vulgate, not the numbering of the Masoretic text (and the King James Version) that the neo-Vulgate adopted.

This new recording, made from May 2012 to April 2017, presents the neo-Vulgate psalms in order, each preceded by an antiphon transcribed from the Hartker Antiphonal by Kees Pouderoijen, a Benedictine monk of Vaals who has worked at Solesmes and is currently teaching in Vienna. Hartker, a monk of St. Gall (in present-day Switzerland), is credited as the scribe of the first complete manuscript of antiphons for the Office, dated about the year 1000. Identified as SG 390-391, the manuscript has been available in facsimile in Paleographie Musicale (second series, volume 1, 1900) and Monumenta Paleographica Gregoriana (no date [1988]).

Following the ancient continuous recitation as a model, it might have been better to use the Vulgate that Hartker sang. Altogether, 14 psalm tones are used, just as in the latest edition of the Antiphonale Monasticum and the Antiphonale Romanum II. In addition to the standard eight tones and the tonus peregrinus for Psalm 113, the primitive tones of C, D, and E of Dom Jean Claire’s research avant l’Octoechos and the tones II* and IV* are also used. There are 183 antiphons in all, since 11 psalms are divided into two and Psalm 118 into 22 (Psalm 50 is sung without an antiphon). Since each antiphon uses a text drawn from its psalm, some antiphons had to be taken from medieval sources other than Hartker. So this is not a celebration of the Office Hours, nor is it sung according to modern editions of chant. The psalms are sung to tones chosen by the group and the antiphons are unrelated to any of the antiphons assigned to these psalms in the liturgical books. It most closely resembles the earliest practice of continuous recitation of the psalter.

There is also a bonus. Of all the canticles in the Old and New Testaments that are used in the Office, the Canticum Trium Puerorum alone is added at the end. According to the Book of Daniel (Dan. 3:56-88), it was chanted by the three young men in the fiery furnace. It has a place in the Office on Sundays and feast days at Lauds. In recent years Geert Maessen has done considerable research on this canticle, especially on the Hispanic tradition. At 21 minutes (as heard here), it is one of the longest chants in the repertoire. The recordings were made over a period of five years in a Romanesque church in the little village of Malay in Burgundy, halfway between Dijon and Lyon. The CDs are supplemented by a DVD that illustrates the work of recording the psalms during nine separate weeks of sessions. The 12 CDs and the DVD are sleeved and enclosed in a sturdy box. The brief note and the texts of the psalms with their notated antiphons are in an elegant bound volume of 272 pages. Indexes include the antiphons both alphabetically and in the order as sung, then the contents of the CDs. The contents are also printed on the back of each sleeve. An elegant production, this is valuable not just as a complete Latin psalter but as a unique collection of medieval antiphons. It is available from J. F. Weber

The above article originally appeared in Issue 42:2 (Nov/Dec 2018) of Fanfare Magazine.