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date: 28 January 2020

Ambrosian chant [Milanese chant].locked

  • Terence Bailey

Extract

[Milanese chant].

A chant repertory associated with Milan and one of only two musical repertories of the Latin Church to have been transmitted integrally in pitch-accurate notation. All the others were supplanted by ‘Gregorian’ chant before being adequately recorded. The survival of the Ambrosian music is due to the enduring importance of Milan, which the Byzantine historian Procopius described as ‘the first city in the West, after Rome’.

For some centuries Ambrosian chant has been confined to Milan, its suburbs, and to certain dependent parishes mainly between the city and Lakes Como and Maggiore to the north. The rite attributed to St Ambrose was centred on Milan, but it was formerly very widely disseminated: according to an Irish monk writing in France in 767, its domain was ‘Italia’, a region that in Ambrose’s day included all 17 Roman provinces of the northern Italian peninsula. There is evidence that the chant was even sung in southern Italy, in regions conquered in the 6th century by the Ostragoths and the Lombards (whose heartland was northern Italy, in Ambrosian territory). Because of the wide distribution of the rite and its associated chant, the term ‘Ambrosian’ is perhaps preferable to ‘Milanese’, even though the role of St Ambrose in the formation of the liturgy bearing his name is no better documented than the part played by St Gregory in ‘Gregorian’ chant....

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