Andrea Meščanová: Renaissance historical sacred music works in Slovak territory

In the territory of Slovakia the works of distinguished vocal polyphony authors had been spread in the 16th century period in the cultural environment of modern towns carrying signs of music centres. Church musical production was closely connected with the performing of town schools pupils, who under cantor’s supervision sang regularly choral and polyphonic chants at the church services. Because the printed music were quite expensive then, they were often gained by borrowing and further rewriting into a form of great collection in the manner of a score, which could be read by the whole choir. Rarely were bought suitable music prints, issued in editions of Italian or German printers. The musical prints occurrence is despite the expansion of this convenience in our circumstances rather rare also at the end of the 16th century.

Among the so far preserved sources from Bratislava, the manuscript collection known as the Codex of Anna Hansen–Schuman, which was donated to Bratislava Chapter in 1571 by a widow after Bratislava townsman Hans Schuman, stands out. Basics of this manuscript consists of 239 chants of the vesper repertory, which contains antiphons (120), responsories (47), hymns (39), Magnificats (21) and other 3–6 voices chants. Among the identified authors are mostly composers of Dutch, possibly German or Italian area: J. Mouton, C. Morales, H. Finck, C. Festa, A. Reneri, H. Isaac, J. Walther and others. The historical work is deposited in the Slovak National Archive in Bratislava.

In Košice area can be found several manuscript works from the last third of the 16th century. They are named as The Košice Polyphonic Collections; they were designated for vespers and also for mass.

The Košice Polyphonic Collection I is dated by years 1588 and 1591; it is deposited in the Košice Town Archive in original leather binding and it is written in white mensural notation. Its content consists of 36 polyphonically treated Magnificats and three hymns. A cast is a capella in number of 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 voices, while 4-voices compositions prevail. These are copies of the period music production and identified are the three composers from the Italian circle (F. Rovigo, A. Scandello, S. Gatto), two Franco–Flemish authors (O. di Lasso and A. Utendal) and German L. Lechner. Two magnificats are anonymous yet and unknown is also authorship of the three hymns. The greatest space is dedicated to production of Orlando di Lasso; his cycle of 4-voices and 5-voices Magnificats in all 8 tones occurs here; it was issued as the incunabulum during Lasso’s life in 1567 and later as the collected works, which after the Lasso’s death prepared his son Rudolph (1619).

The Košice Polyphonic Collection II from 1595 with its repertory follows KPC I and creates its addition
in the polychoric presentation in the simplest form. Authors of the two great cyclic Magnificats are Italian masters of the second part of the 16th century – M. Varotti and V. Ruff o, whose works had been issued by Venetian printers; also a motet of Horatio Faa occurs here. The collection is after the restoration intervention deposited in the Košice Town Archive.

The Košice Polyphonic Collection III, referred to as the mass collection, was created during 1598– 1599, today is in the original state preserved in the Eastern Slovakia Museum in Košice (Rukopisy a písomnosti; H 67.054). It is written in a system of white mensural notation of angular note shapes. Its content consist of the compositions in parody and contrafacture mass style, mostly of the first two mass ordinary parts (Kyrie, Gloria), where the basics are many well-known tunes of those times. Popular Missa Nasce la pena mia of Philip de Monte or Missa Domine Dominus noster of L. Lechner, which as the only one is nearly in the complete ordinary extent (without Credo), can be found here for instance. Besides these authors there are also A. Utendal and C. Antegnati. All seven masses in the collection are in 6-voices cast.

In times of high renaissance, towns of the Spiš–Eastern Slovakia region—Levoča, Košice, Bardejov, Prešov and Sabinov—united in the so-called Pentapolitana, belonged to developing cultural centres. In the 16th century in Bardejov started to be built the repertory base of the so-called Bardejov  Sheet Music Collection, quality and quantity of which culminated mainly in the 17th century. The sheet music is today deposited in Budapest, but its content, part of which are also music prints from the 16th century is sufficiently known. To its oldest items belongs for example German copy of Georg Rhau from Wittenberg, issued in 1540 – Vesperarum precum officia, which in content resembles the repertory of the Codex of Anna Hansen Schuman, comprising mostly 4-voices chants.

On the basis of the preserved manuscripts and also printed musical sources of the church music from the territory of Slovakia we can perceive the repertory structure of the church services then, which shows, that at the end of the 16th century mainly during the feasts in catholic and protestant parish churches could be heard difficult art production of European composing personalities of the vocal polyphony.

Andrea Meščanová
Translation: Lucia Hrkútová

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