I am very much a fan of Marcel Peres's musicological interpretation of the ancient chants, as found in his group Ensemble Organum. Given what I know of mediaeval history -- an age of saga, beards, open spits, pilgrimages on foot across Europe and to the Holy Land, and, of course, the Crusade ! -- this seems to be more consistent with what I believe I have understood of the mediaeval general spirit and mentality. In contrast, it seems to me that the high-pitched airiness of Solesmes is a bit too buttoned-up and soft; I am not sure it would fit in in the Middle Ages. I am sure we are all familiar with Solesmes, but here are two samples :
It kind of sounds like a choir of young men, no ? In itself, I cannot object, since it certainly makes me think of the Mass and lifts my mind to prayer.
And then there are the common chants one experiences at most Traditional liturgies these days. This one, composed in the 1740s and sung here according to Solesmes chant, would be foreign to the robust lords and peasants of the Age of Faith with their calloused hands and feet (or so it seems to me) :
But we must also consider these chants in their historical context and determine whether or not they are in any way a departure from the ancient spirit of chant maintained during the healthiest times in the history of the Church. Thus, here is Ensemble Organum in all of its raw power :
I invite you to compare and contrast the chants and share your thoughts on their relative merits and demerits.
I will start : Frankly, I think Ensemble Organum is great. They are somewhat controversial, and it seems that most ecclesiastics have very little time for them. Perhaps this is just inertia. The monks at Solesmes started studying the ancient chants and their performance under Dom Gueranger. Unfortunately, this was during one of the absolute worst times conceivable for such a project -- the late XIXth century, when the studies of the Middles Ages were very shoddy (at best) if not absolutely ridiculous, and the manners were very emphatic about "civilisation" and metropolitan urbanity, not to mention misplaced severity that often manifested itself as prudishness. In the Anglo world, this was the height of the Victorian era. Therefore, I cannot help but think of the product put out by Solesmes, at least in comparison to the interpretation of Ensemble Organum, as being very much of its time -- not Gothic but neo-Gothic, not mediaeval but a sanitised, almost Platonic version of the concept of mediaevalness as understood in the late-XIXth century.
Ensemble Organum, on the other hand, relies on Corsican singers that were specifically recruited by Marcel Peres from the towns on that island due to their folk singing, which is still intact from the Middle Ages. It was conceived in the late 1970s, during the modern revival of Mediaeval Studies which began shortly before then and still maintain today, as seen, for instance, in the books of Regine Pernoud and other historians, such as Jean Richard. (Indeed, that has been one of the incidentally good effects of post-modernism -- in History, it has distanced people from neo-Marxism and blatant Freudianism, as well as from any attempt to mythologise or ideologise history rather than just investigate and give summaries of it.) Anyway, it is my opinion that Marcel Peres's interpretation is more accurate than the Solesmes method; it seems to give sense to the whole ethos of the famous ages of St Bernard, St Francis, and St Louis. Perhaps I am relying too much on intuition, being no musicologist (I can't even read music !), so I would like to hear from anybody else if they think there are flaws in my analysis.
By the way, this doesn't quite fit into either "school," being German, but this is quite good too, I think :
(I play that last one all the time; it's amazing.)
P.S. To broaden the discussion, it is my hope that the method of Ensemble Organum (perhaps with some modifications if it is found appropriate) spreads to more Traditional congregations than the current number of zero. I know that the local priest and me are already working on it.