Here's a sampling of recent recordings of Gregorian chant and music by present-day "musical mystics":

- "Chant." Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain (Angel CDC 5 55138 23).This is the disc that ignited the new chant craze. It's hardly the last word in present-day chant scholarship, and these aren't professional singers, but the churchly ambiance is authentic.

- "Chant Noel: Chant for the Holiday Season." Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos (Angel CDC 5 55206 23).

More of the same. But note that mixed in with Christmas selections are chants associated with the very different liturgies of Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday.

- "Eternal Chant: An Anthology of Classic Gregorian Chants." Various French monastic and cathedral choirs (Atlantic 82703-2, three discs).

Even the pop label Atlantic has jumped on the chant bandwagon. Recorded between 1960 and 1992, these French choirs follow the editions and performance practices evolved from the later 19th century by the Benedictines at Solesmes. But sounds and standards are quite variable, from the elegant liquescence of the Fontenay Ambrosians to some raw, twangy singing elsewhere. Mixed in are some harmonized and organ-accompanied treatments of chant. The best thing about this release is the enclosed booklet, with notes by musicologist Richard Taruskin.

- "Gregorian Chant." Niederaltaicher Scholaren, conducted by Konrad Ruhland (Sony Classical SK 53 899).

- "Ave Maris Stella: Life of the Virgin Mary in Plainsong." Niederaltaicher Scholaren, conducted by Konrad Ruhland (Sony Classical SK 45861).

The Solesmes editions promoted the idea of Gregorian chant as music in free rhythm. But scholars increasingly have concluded that certain rhythmic regularities were practiced in the early centuries, and these beautifully sung accounts reflect some current guesses as to what those long-lost performances might have sounded like.

- "Henryk Gorecki: Symphony No. 3 (`Symphony of Sorrowful Songs')." Dawn Upshaw, soprano; London Sinfonietta, conducted by David Zinman (Elektra Nonesuch 79282-2).

- "Gorecki: Symphony No. 3; Three Olden Style Pieces." Zofia Kilanowicz, soprano; Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (Katowice), conducted by Antoni Witt (Naxos 8.550822).

Groaning upward from the depths, swaying and ultimately glowing, Gorecki's Third Symphony is mesmerizing, if a bit lacking in "event." The Upshaw/Zinman recording is more ethereal, the bargain-priced Kilanowicz/Witt - with the bonus of three attractive "Olden Style Pieces" - earthier.

- "Gorecki: Miserere; Amen; Euntes ibant et flebant; My Vistula, Grey Vistula; Broad Waters." Chicago Symphony Chorus, Chicago Lyric Opera Chorus, conducted by John Nelson; Lira Chamber Chorus, conducted by Lucy Ding (Elektra Nonesuch 79348-2).

- "Gorecki: Beatus Vir; Totus Tuus; Old Polish Music." Nikita Storojev, bass; Prague Philharmonic Choir, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by John Nelson (Argo 436 835-2).

Usually slow and hypnotic, Gorecki's choral music tends to require a long attention span - or at least a willing suspension of temporal concerns. To these ears, spending 32 minutes on a mere five words, as Gorecki does in his "Miserere," is just beyond the pale, and the glacial harmonic rhythms strain charity. But, on both these discs, John Nelson conducts - and his singers sing - as if convinced of the music's greatness.

- "Arvo Paert: Te Deum; Silouans Song; Magnificat; Berliner Messe." Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Toenu Kaljuste (ECM New Series 1505).

Mingling chantlike melodies with fragrant harmonies, Paert's "Te Deum" is spellbindingly gorgeous. This is the New Mysticism at its considerable finest, and both performance and sonics are first-class.

- "Paert: Fratres; Summa. John Tavener: The Last Sleep of the Virgin; The Hidden Treasure." Chilingirian Quartet (Virgin Classics CDC 5 45023 2).

Paert's fondness for bell-like effects - tintinabulation, as he says - is very much evident in "Fratres." Tavener's "Last Sleep of the Virgin," a study in hushed trills, tinklings and slow-moving harmonies, suggests a 20th-century counterpart to the "Holy Song of Thanksgiving" in Beethoven's Op. 132 String Quartet.

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- "Tavener: Akathist of Thanksgiving." James Bowman, Timothy Wilson, countertenors; Martin Baker, organ; Westminster Abbey Choir, BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Martin Neary (Sony Classical SK 64446).

Tavener's music often has a consciously exotic, "Eastern" sound to it. In this 10-movement sequence he mingles solemn chants, glowing drones and florid duets. The "Amens" are tiny gems.

- "Tavener: Ikons (Thunder Entered Her; The Lamb; The Tiger; Two Hymns to the Mother of God; Responsorium in memoriam Annon Lee Silver; Song for Athene; Eonia; God is with us)." BBC Singers, conducted by Simon Joly; Christopher Bowers-Broadbent, organ (United 88023 CD).

This is a superb anthology of Tavener's shorter choral works, from the tender setting of Blake's "The Lamb" to the opulent "Hymn to the Mother of God." For all the exotica, though, the eccentric word setting and coloristic use of the organ in "Thunder Entered Her" suggests the influence of Britten.

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