Gregorian Chant Mass for Christmas Day: Kyrie
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, Volume 1 CD 1 Track 4
Before hearing the first note of this piece my ear is prepared by two notions I have long held about Gregorian Chant. The first is that, unfairly, I think of Gregorian chant to be monotone. The second is that plainchant notation simply looks good on paper. This piece, which presents gentle cascades of notes that carry a petition for mercy, is a fine example of the aesthetic appeal this notation can have. However, it is also a rich piece to hear. Contradicting my monotone notion, the melody here is in constant motion.
Remarkably, in spite of lasting a mere one minute and forty-nine seconds, this Kyrie
expresses an emotional AABBAA form. In a piece so short, it is also surprising to have this much repetition. We hear the "Lord Have Mercy" twice, "Christ Have Mercy" twice, and then return to the repeated "Lord Have Mercy."
What I like about this Kyrie is that within such an elegant and economical range it accomplishes a climax at the most appropriate moment which is the repeat of "Christ Have Mercy." It is important that this phrase is repeated because with the second hearing the listener may understand the delicate petition this chant carries.