Breaking the rules, keeping the balance
Wolfgang Muthspiel composed a readaption of middle-age chants for the
"Zwettl is sensational”, says Dr. Charlotte Ziegler, expert for old
manuscripts in the library of the Cistercian monastery, Waldviertel, "since the twelfth century monks have been singing here according to the same rules.” Wolfgang Muthspiel smiles. "I’m going to break the rules”, he says.
The renowned jazz guitarist and composer, who moved back from New York to Vienna, wrote a readaption of old chants on behalf of the Austrian National Radio. They were premiered in the Minorite Church in Krems on April27 2002. An ensemble of nine singers, two violins, acoustic bass and guitar has interpreted the piece and additionally, Muthspiel uses electronic tools. It is not, however, a "jazzed” version of chants, but a composed piece.
The basis – hymns, sung prayers, responsoria – are stored in large, handwritten folios in the cool baroque library of Zwettl monastery. The music goes back to the time around 1268. The pieces are all unison chants with Latin lyrics, which were written down in an old notation (the original manuscript will be exhibited in the concerts). After having chosen the pieces together with Pater Petrus Gratzl, Wolfgang Muthspiel had to transfer the music into our notation.
"I looked at the melodies and lyrics and tried to oppose something that would absorb the mood, simplicity, clarity and stillness of this music, but still something that would connect it with contemporary language”, explains Muthspiel.
"On the one hand I’m trying to add new sounds to the melodies and on the other hand to reinterpret them harmonically and give them a new tonal centre. The strong aura of these chants made it very tempting to work with them.”