In 2017 Brill launched Brill’s companions to the musical culture of medieval and early modern Europe, a peer-reviewed series of volumes providing high-level and up-to-date surveys of research into all aspects of medieval and early modern musical culture in Europe—composers, schools, genres, instruments, education, dance, musical manuscripts and printing, and the musical cultures of given cities, chapels, religious orders, and courts.
Written by the foremost specialists, the books offer balanced accounts along with overviews of the state of scholarship and debates, pointing the way for future research. The books are normally multi-author volumes, thoroughly planned out at an editorial level to ensure comprehensiveness and cohesion and maximizing their value to the student and scholar.
The inaugural volume, Companion to music in the age of the Catholic monarchs, offers a major new study that deepens and enriches understanding of the forms and functions of music that flourished in late medieval Spanish society. The fifteen essays present a synthesis based on recently discovered material that throws new light on different aspects of musical life during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabel (1474–1516): sacred and secular music-making in royal and aristocratic circles; the cathedral music environment; liturgy and power; musical connections with Rome, Portugal, and the New World; theoretical and unwritten musical practices; women as patrons and performers; and the legacy of Jewish musical traditions.
Below, a work by Francisco de Peñalosa, one of the composers discussed in the book.
The Hren choirbooks comprise six large, well-preserved codices from the early seventeenth century; they are now held at the Narodna in Univerzitetna Knjižnica in Ljubljana (SI-Lnr MSS 339–44).
In 2017 the Slovenska Akademija Znanosti in Umetnosti inaugurated the series Izabrana dela iz Hrenovih kornih knjig/Selected works from the Hren choirbooks with an edition of Annibale Perini’s Missa “Benedicite omnia opera Domini” and Pietro Antonio Bianco’s Missa “Percussit Saul mille”, two works whose sole source is the Hren Choirbooks.
Both works are parody Masses: the model for Perini’s Mass is Ruggiero Giovannelli’s motet Benedicite omnia opera Domini, while that for Bianco’s Mass is the motet Percussit Saul mille by Giovanni Croce.
Above, the statue of Tomaž Hren at the Stolnica Svetega Nikolaja, where the books originated; below, Croce’s Percussit Saul mille, the basis of the Bianco work.
The symmetries of Jacob Obrecht’s Missa “Maria zart” can be deconstructed into constituent elements, like a puzzle, to re-create certain stages of the composer’s working methods.
Described by Rob Wegman as “the sphinx among Obrecht’s Masses”, the work ideally lends itself to this approach because of the simplicity of the melodic and rhythmic layout of its cantus firmus. These characteristics may have inspired the composer to write even more geometrically than is usual in his oeuvre.
This according to “Looking at the sphinx: Obrecht’s Missa “Maria zart” by János Bali (Journal of the Alamire Foundation II/2 [fall 2010] pp. 208–30).
According to some sources, today is Obrecht’s 560th birthday! Below, an excerpt from the work, conducted by Prof. Bali.
A lively musical culture existed in the second half of the 14th century at the court of Brabant during the reign of Wenceslas I, Duke of Luxembourg (above, right). This abundant musical activity makes it likely that a member of the court chapel, Nicolas de Picquigny, was Pykini, the composer of the much-admired four-voice virelai Plasanche or tost.
The text of Plasanche or tost mentions that the audience will listen with pleasure to the parrot (le papegay). Although parrots are often mentioned in such texts to evoke springtime, and some scholars have guessed that here it is a punning reference to a Pope, archival sources show that Wenceslas had chosen the parrot as his symbol, having had its image embroidered on numerous furnishings with the coats of arms of Brabant and Luxembourg.
The bird was a very appropriate mascot for this duke and poet, who welcomed poets from so many different linguistic regions to his court and was himself fluent in multiple languages. The virelai’s listeners would have had no doubt about the identity of this particular parrot.
This according to “Pykini’s parrot: Music at the court of Brabant” by Remco Sleiderink, an essay included in Musicology and archival research/Musicologie et recherches en archives/Musicologie en archiefonderzoek (Bruxelles/Brussel: Bibliotheca Regia Belgica, 1994, pp. 358–91).
Below, Plasanche or tost performed by The Early Music Consort of London.
The Vatican has recommended ten pop and rock albums as perfect listening for being marooned on a desert island. The recordings serve as an alternative to the mediocre songs featured at Italian pop festivals and on the radio.
The Top 10 list includes the Beatles’ Revolver, David Crosby’s If I could only remember my name, Pink Floyd’s The dark side of the moon, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Donald Fagan’s The nightfly, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Paul Simon’s Graceland, U2’s Achtung baby, Oasis’s (What’s the story) Morning glory?, and Carlos Santana’s Supernatural. Bob Dylan is excluded from the list because he spawned generations of singer-songwriters who have harshly tested the ears and the patience of listeners with their tormented stories.
This according to “Dieci dischi per sopravvivere ai festival: Prontuario semiserio di resistenza musicale” by Guiseppe Fiorentino and Gaetano Vallini (L’Osservatore Romano CXLVIII/37 [14 February 2010]).
Below, the concluding track from David Crosby’s album.
Claudio Monteverdi’s seconda pratica was a return to basic verbal expression (listening, recognition, and revelation from emotional vocal accentuation).
Monteverdi’s art agrees with poetic expression as defined in Plato’s three forms expounded in the third book of Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics. For Monteverdi, musical language is music and the synthesis of text, harmony, and rhythm; the phonetic exposition of continuous thought becomes poetry.
This according to Preparazione alla interpretazione della poiesis Monteverdiana by Nella Anfuso and Annibale Gianuario (Firenze: Centro Studi e Rinascimento Musicale, 1971).
Today is the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s baptism! Above, a portrait from ca. 1630 by Bernardo Strozzi; below, the madrigal Cruda Amarilli, an especially clear example of Monteverdi’s seconda pratica.
In 2016 the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance issued Missa Sancta Trinitas (4 vv). (B-Tc A58), a critical edition of the anonymous Missa Sancta Trinitas—which survives only in the manuscript B-Tc A58, housed at the Archives et Bibliothèque de la Cathédrale de Tournai—together with a critical edition of the four-part motet Sancta Trinitas.
The edition, part of CESR’s Le corpus des messes anonymes series, was prepared by Anne-Emmanuelle Ceulemans.
Above (click to enlarge) and below, the Sanctus from the Mass.
Charles Butler’s The feminine monarchy, or, The history of bees first appeared as a small duodecimo in 1609; it was reprinted, with considerable additions and alterations, as a quarto in 1627, and again in 1634. Though it was intended merely as a bee-keeper’s manual, its beauty and insight render it worthy of a place among the renowned works of nineteenth-century poetry.
While in most matters the work is extraordinarily accurate, it becomes questionable when Butler turns to music. His account of a certain point in the hive’s life cycle might be thought to credit bees with the powers of a masterful composer. Butler’s depiction of this event—which he refers to as “the bees’ madrigal”—appears to present a carefully constructed four-part chorus.
This according to “Charles Butler and the music of the bees” by Gerald R. Hayes (The musical times LXVI/988 [1 June 1925] pp. 512–515). This issue of The musical times, along with many others, is covered in our new RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text collection.
Above, some of Butler’s notations from the later, enlarged edition (note that verso and recto considerations result in part of the notation appearing upside-down). Below, a performance of the work.
In 2015 Reichenberger launched the series Iberian early music studies with New perspectives on early music in Spain, edited by Tess Knighton and Emilio Ros-Fábregas.
The volume brings together research by scholars—both well established and of younger generations, both Spanish and from all over the world—that offers new perspectives on many aspects of early musical culture on the Peninsula, whether regarding the Ars Nova or the Counter-Reformation, music historiography or analysis, early improvisation techniques or imitatio in Renaissance polyphony, or questions of performance practice or ambassadorial musical networks, making an important contribution to establishing and sustaining a valuable discourse with the broader European context.
Below, a selection from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, the subject of one of the articles in the inaugural issue.