Louis Lambillotte (born Lahamaide, (Hainaut, Belgium), 27 March 1796; died Paris, 27 February 1855) was a Belgian Jesuit, composer and palaeographer of Church music, associated with the restoration of Gregorian music, which he inaugurated and promoted by his scientific researches and publications.
Work on Gregorian chant
Corrupt versions of Gregorian chant had been in use for several centuries. As a practical guide towards a radical restoration the Abbot of Solesmes Dom Guéranger, in his Institutions Liturgiques, had laid down the principle that "when a large number of manuscripts of various epochs and from different countries agree in the version of a chant, it may be affirmed that those MSS. undoubtedly give us the phrase of St. Gregory.' Acting upon this principle, Lambillotte for many years gathered and compared all the documents that were to be found in the Jesuit houses. He next undertook to visit and re-visit almost every country of Europe, exploring libraries, secular as well as monastic, in search of the most ancient MSS. and all treatises bearing on the history or the theory of the chant.
In the library of the former Benedictine Abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland, he found himself in presence of what seems to be the most authentic Gregorian manuscript in existence, i.e. a transcription from the original Antiphonarium of St. Gregory, thought to have been brought from Rome to St. Gall by the monk Romanus in the closing years of the eighth century. This volume of 131 pages of old parchment, the ivory binding of which depicts ancient Etruscan sculptures, contains all the Graduals, the Alleluias, and the Tracts of the whole year, in the ancient neumatic notation (a sort of musical stenography), together with the so-called Romanian signs, i.e. the special marks of time and expression added by Romanus.
Lambillotte succeeded, not without serious difficulty, in obtaining permission to have a facsimile of this manuscript made by an expert copyist. This he published (Brussels, 1851), adding to it his own key to the neumatic notation, and a brief historical and critical account of the document. The appearance of the Antiphonaire de St. Grégoire made a strong impression on the scholarly world, and obtained for its author a Brief of congratulation and encouragement from Pope Pius IX, 1 May 1852, and a 'very honourable mention' from the French Institute, 12 November of the same year. Lambillotte now undertook to embody the results of his investigations in a new and complete edition of the liturgical chant books. He lived to finish this extensive work, but not to see its publication. The Gradual and the Vesperal appeared 1855?1856 in both Gregorian and modern notations, under the editorship of Father Dufour, who had for years shared the work of Lambillotte. He also published the 'Esthétique', a volume of 418 pages, 8, setting forth Lambillotte's views on the theory and the practice of Gregorian music.
Dom Pothier, the Benedictine, who has gone over the same ground, and who has just succeeded in completing the Gregorian restoration, says of the 'Esthétique' that it is 'filled with precious information'. At the same time he calls attention to some serious errors in translation and even in reading, on the subject of rhythm, which, he holds, have been conclusively refuted by Chanoine Gontier, in his Méthode de Plain Chant, pp. 96 etc. De Monter also speaks of grave errors and numerous assertions contrary to its own method, that have crept into the treatise. He attributes the introduction of the sharp into the Gregorian scales to the editors of this posthumous work (p. 207).
Lambillottes 'Gradual' and 'Vesperal' were adopted by only a small number of French dioceses. Some argue that his work was ahead of its time. Lambillotte made cuts and alterations which had been the chief criticism of former editions. Twenty-five years were still to elapse before the classical work in Gregorian music, the Mélodies Grégoriennes by Dom Pothier, could make its appearance (Tournay, 1880), and another twenty-five before the teaching of Dom Pothier was to receive official sanction and practical application through the Vatican edition. Lambillotte's contemporaries placed the following inscription on his tomb at Vaugirard:
Qui cecinit Jesum et Mariam, eripuitque tenebris Gregorium, hunc superis insere, Christe, choris. (Receive, O Christ, into Thy choirs above him who sang the praises of Jesus and Mary, and rescued the music of Gregory from the darkness of ages.)
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