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Preview: Early Music - current issue

Early Music Current Issue

Published: Fri, 27 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2017 06:44:17 GMT




Mary Beth Winn

Dufay’s cantus firmus Masses in discographical context


Is it too fanciful to compare the four securely ascribed cantus firmus Mass cycles of Guillaume Dufay to Brahms’s four essays in symphonic form? Well, perhaps; but beyond their number, the two sets date from their respective composers’ full maturity and beyond, and they are strikingly differentiated in design, scale and tone. However imprudent it may be to push the comparison further, it makes the point that the project to record Dufay’s four late Masses offers a similar combination of compactness and breadth; that they are comparably ambitious for the performer; and that they are as satisfying and challenging to the listener as the experience of a symphonic cycle of the Romantic era.

L’Ornement mystérieux


François Couperin is justly admired for the accuracy of his musical notation. This can be seen in the elegant engraving of the printed editions of his music, which are (almost) error free and reflect careful proofreading by the composer or one of his colleagues or students. Couperin’s desire for ‘exactitude’ is in fact the prime reason he gives in the preface to his Pièces de clavecin … premier livre (1713) for the delay in publishing the book, admitting that he was ‘mortified by the incompetence and actual errors of the copyists’.11 Couperin’s goal of achieving absolute precision in notation also explains the large number and variety of signs of articulation and expression, and the rich array of ornamental symbols, that he uses.

A celebration of Alejandro Enrique Planchart


Qui musicam in se habet: studies in honor of Alejandro Enrique Planchart, ed. ZayaruznayaAnna, BlackburnBonnie J.andBoormanStanley (Middleton, WI: The American Institute of Musicology, 2015), $130

Musical games in Cinquecento Italy


SchleusePaul, Singing games in early modern Italy. The music books of Orazio Vecchi (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2015), $50

Early English viols


FlemingMichaelandBryanJohn, Early English viols: instruments, makers and music (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2017), £95

Agostino Agazzari’s Eumelio at Cornell


On 19 March 2016 Cornell University mounted the American premiere of Eumelio, a pastoral drama in music written by Agostino Agazzari (b. c.1579–81; d. Siena, Dec. 1641–Jan. 1642) for the 1606 Carnival season in Rome. While any early opera premiere is a rare event in itself, perhaps even more notable was the fact that the project was organized entirely by graduate students of Cornell’s Department of Music.

Lost in transcription: the ‘basse continuée’ of Striggio’s Mass in 40 and 60 parts as evidence for continuo practice in early 17th-century France


The manuscript of Striggio’s Mass Ecco sì beato giorno for 40 and 60 voices is a fascinating bibliographical object, the dating of which has always been problematic. From the 18th century with Sébastien de Brossard, to the present day with Laurent Guillo and, more recently, Davitt Moroney, several hypotheses have been proposed for the date of this unicum, copied in France during the 17th century. This article presents new evidence based on the identification of three watermarks, whose concomitant presence allows dating the manuscript to the decade of 1610. The accurate dating of this manuscript is important not only for the reception of Striggio’s music in 17th-century France, but also because it may represent the first occurrence of the term ‘basse continue’—or rather ‘basse continuée’—in a French source. Furthermore, the manuscript bears strong evidence that it was the copyist who devised the ‘basse continuée’ part, and that he achieved this solely based on the vocal parts, and not from any pre-existent Italian basso seguente. Indeed, the analysis of the two organ parts reveals the challenging and laborious process the French copyist undertook to reach his goal.

Tristan’s harp in the Prose Tristan


The medieval French romance called the Prose Tristan is known from more than 80 manuscripts dating from the 13th to the 15th centuries. It develops the legend of Tristan and Iseut from the fragmentary poems of the 12th century into a vast composition in prose whose interlaced episodes extend for more than 600 pages in various versions, including seven early printed editions issued between 1489 and 1533. The hero is not only a skilled knight, whose prowess is unmatched except by Lancelot, but also a consummate musician, unrivalled as a composer, singer and harper of lais. Although only one manuscript contains music for all 17 lais contained in the romance, many are copiously illustrated with images of the harp, the sole instrument on which Tristan and other characters perform. Focusing on three lais, this study offers a selection of images of the medieval harp that document its appearance and use within one of the most popular prose romances of the Middle Ages.

Jacob Hobrecht and the May Fairs for John Nádas


On the evening of 3 May 1501, the canons of the Church of St Donatian in Bruges summarily expelled the chaplain Jacob Hobrecht (Obrecht) from the choir of their church. That day the city held the annual procession of the Holy Blood. It inaugurated the May Fairs that brought merchants and goods from around Western Europe, as well as peasants from the surrounding Flemish countryside. In a new document that records the punishments for five singers, the canons do not specify Hobrecht’s offences, but call him and a young virgifer chori ‘insolent’ and ‘good for nothing’. This astounding action against the acclaimed and prolific composer, recognized just months before for his service to the church, is couched in rhetoric that quotes Ovid. Essentially, the document exposes a dichotomy in which the singers were to celebrate the feast day with music, but not celebrate the Kermis. Soon after, the composer left Bruges in disgrace.The divergent punishments meted out may be explained in terms of social psychology. By seeking to exclude two members of the ‘community of the choir’, the chapter sought to preserve its own normative behaviours at a time when the Church acted before the gaze of powerful outsiders. Hobrecht’s high status meant he received the harshest punishment. The conflicting values of the singers, enacting the ‘immodest’ spirit of the May Fairs, versus the sober expectations of the chapter, reflected an imbalance of cultural power between the two groups.

Teaching in exile: Cesare Morelli’s transcriptions in Pepys Library Mss.2803–4


Through close examination of Mss.2803–4 in the Pepys Library of Magdalene College, Cambridge, this case study identifies some challenges that Samuel Pepys (1633–1703) seems to have faced as an amateur musician studying the stile rappresentativo under the tutelage of Cesare Morelli (fl.1670s–1686), specifically relating to vocal range and thoroughbass accompaniment. Morelli transcribed the music in both manuscripts during a period of exile from London and, as I argue, was almost certainly unable to teach Pepys in person at that time. His transcriptions thus preserve in writing many musical adjustments and suggestions that might not have been documented so thoroughly had he been able to communicate with Pepys face-to-face. Thanks to Pepys’s unusually well-curated library, his separation from Morelli, and the close relationship between Mss.2803 and 2804, as well as the precision with which we can infer the audience for, and use of, both manuscripts, Mss.2803–4 bear greatly on our understanding of Pepys’s musical performance style and, more broadly, the introduction of Italian musical practices into English homes after the Restoration. Additionally, an appendix reproduces two previously untranslated letters from Morelli to Pepys, revealing that the two shared a tumultuous professional and personal relationship.



By coincidence, this issue of Early Music brings together reviews of two important centenary publications: the 100th volumes both of A-R’s Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era (Sarah Clemens Waltz’s edition of German settings of Ossianic texts: 1770–1815), and of Musica Britannica (Thomas Arne’s Judith, edited by Simon McVeigh and Peter Lynan). The former series is of course one of several such themed offerings from A-R: the familiar Renaissance and Baroque series, founded a decade earlier in the mid-1960s, are now well on their way to their 200th volumes, and the stable has since been further augmented with important editions including ‘The Middle Ages and Early Renaissance’. Meanwhile, Musica Britannica has long since outgrown the modest ambitions of its founders, as Julian Rushton observes in his reflection on the history of the series (also published in the following pages). The wealth of music brought to light by these two remarkable enterprises would have been barely imaginable when the first volumes of Musica Britannica appeared in 1951: British music has been revealed as a rich and diverse repertory, and in A-R’s multiple series countless previously obscure or inaccessible works have been made easily available; both series are invaluable to performers and scholars alike.

Canons as orations: the case of Josquin’s multi-voice chansons


Josquin des Pres has long been accepted as the first composer to cultivate the multi-voice chanson. The majority of his songs in this genre are built around a pair of voices singing in canon. This study explores Josquin’s canonic melodies within the context of contemporaneous canonic multi-voice chansons, both attributed and anonymous. Josquin’s approach towards textual repetition, especially in the canonic melodies of chansons in the courtly register, differs markedly from that of his contemporaries, thus contributing fruitfully to questions of authenticity. Comparison with his canonic multi-voice motets further illuminates Josquin’s handling of textual repetition and reveals his quite different approach when dealing respectively with newly devised and pre-existing melodies. The study takes into account contemporaneous notions of text repetition in the writings of music theorists such as Lanfranco, Zarlino and Stoquerus, and interprets later theoretical views on fugal deployment as oratorical discourse through the prism of Josquin’s demonstrated manipulation of canonic technique for rhetorical effect.

Baroque sacred music


This crop of CDs of sacred music issued in the last five years or so covers music from the period c.1600–1780, nearly all composed by German-speaking composers, the exception being one disc of music by Polish composers. Apart from one recording of music by J. S. Bach, famous names such as Telemann, Handel or C. P. E. Bach are notably absent, and the assembly as a whole is a superb tribute to the high quality of sacred music composed by musicians who remain less familiar, especially Zieleński, Kerll, Graun and Hertel, whilst also revealing to us the sacred music of composers who are better known in other contexts, such as Muffat (instrumental music) and Fux (theory).

Musical peripheries


A collection of seven recently released recordings, whose repertory spans from the Highlands of Scotland to the Croatian coast, addresses and challenges the boundaries between orality and literacy, tradition and novelty, and memory and fantasy. Each recording approaches its music through a different lens, such as the biography of a historical figure, music archaeology or reflections on the concept of community. In many ways, the recordings are peripheral to the repertory, geographical boundaries and aesthetic decisions that early music specialists conventionally explore. Collectively, however, the recordings illustrate the rich potential of music as an avenue for exploring identities of both self and community in the past and present.

Mostly strings: 17th- and 18th-century solos and consorts


The discs reviewed here give us an excellent opportunity to hear the current trends in string repertory and performance practice and it is very welcome to see violinists taking on the challenge of scordatura solo writing. It is also pleasing to see performers making up programmes of music taken from specific manuscripts, and all the soloists here make light of the often considerable technical difficulties that face them.

Musique française classique


The Arts flourish among us. Good taste in painting, sculpture and architecture has been introduced. Our language has attained perfection. The Queen’s Entré and the King’s Carrousel have revived in our time the pomp and magnificence of ancient triumphs. People come to France from all parts to admire its wonders.

The performance of polyphony in early 16th-century Italian convents


This article explores evidence for polyphonic music in Italian convents during the first half of the 16th century. It presents a summary of documentary evidence relating to conventual music in the pre-Tridentine era, alongside practical evidence from contemporary treatises regarding methods by which convent choirs could develop a polyphonic repertory from existing music. It revisits claims for mandatory downwards transposition of music written in high clefs, and considers two manuscripts—Verona, Biblioteca Capitolare, Ms.761 and Brussels Bibliothèque du Conservatoire Royal de Musique, Ms.27766—in the light of this investigation. The article aims to open up a conversation regarding the status of convent polyphony in the early 16th century, shedding new light on its importance and advocating a fresh approach to the possibility of female performance for the Franco-Flemish repertory of the great papal and ducal chapels.

100 volumes of Musica Britannica


With the publication in 2016 of Thomas Arne’s oratorio Judith, the Musica Britannica edition celebrates its century. The objectives of the Musica Britannica Trust, defined for the benefit of the Charity Commissioners, are ‘to promote, support, and develop research into British music by the continuing research and publication of Musica Britannica’. Readers of Early Music are probably aware that the edition has a history of over 60 years, so its productivity is a little below two volumes a year, a publication rate that is, however, reached more often than not. The charitable objectives are supplemented by other means. Awards, named for an early benefactor, Louise Dyer, assist student researchers on British musical topics. Thanks to the generosity of Lady Lewis, the edition promotes the Anthony Lewis Memorial Prize for student performers; and MB collaborated with its parent charity, the Royal Musical Association, on an editing study day in Leeds in 2014.

From schoolroom to windy mountain peak


German settings of Ossianic texts: 1770–1815, ed. WaltzSarah Clemmens, Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era 100 (Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2016), $260

Musica Britannica 100


ArneThomas, Judith, ed. McVeighS. and LynanP., Musica Britannica 100 (London: Stainer & Bell, 2016), £130

Salve regina Barbara : the adaptation and reuse of Marian motets


One of the most popular saints of the late Middle Ages was St Barbara, a possibly apocryphal martyr whose intercession was invoked against the danger of sudden death. As St Barbara rose to greater prominence, new devotional texts were created for use in her cult, appearing in contemporary Books of Hours as well as being set to polyphonic music by composers such as Jean Mouton, Adrian Willaert and Palestrina. These new devotional motets were adapted from existing textual and musical themes associated with Marian devotion. The most elaborate of these adaptations is the text Salve regina Barbara, an extended parody of the Marian antiphon Salve regina that was set to music twice by Pierre Moulu. The larger of Moulu’s two settings, written in an opulent seven-part cantus firmus texture, was popular enough to be adapted a second time for Protestant use, expunging Barbara’s name from the motet and providing the new text, Veni sponsa Christi. This Protestantized motet is here identified as a contrafactum for the first time, having previously been incorrectly attributed to Benedictus Appenzeller. The connection between Salve Barbara and Veni sponsa Christi provides an unexpected link between pre- and post-Reformation religious practices, showing that both Catholics and Protestants created new devotional music by selectively adapting and transforming earlier repertories.

Paris chez l’autheur : self-publication and authoritative texts in the France of Louis XIV


The texts self-published by such late 17th-century French performer-composers as Chambonnières, Marais and Gaultier are, by definition, ‘authoritative’. Their authority, however, is quite different from that of authoritative sources in later repertories, repertories in which musical works are stable entities defined in detail by texts serving as instructions that performers are expected to follow literally. These self-publishing composers were first and foremost performers who composed largely for themselves and their intimates, and each composition married musical conception and personal performing style in ways that do not obtain when a composer composes for a wider public. Self-publication was the means by which these performer-composers sought to control the texts in which their compositions circulated. The detailed texts found in their publications were neither prescriptive (instructions to be followed literally), nor descriptive (transcriptions of particular performances), but exemplary, representations of sample performances in the composers’ personal styles that purchasers of their publications could emulate. This is the significance of their authority.