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Music im Poland from the 16th to the 18th century

[I] Johannes de Lublin tablature
Corina Marti, harpsichord
rec: Sept 2017, Beinwil (Solothurn, CH), Benediktinerkloster
Brilliant Classics - 95556 (© 2018) (74'25")
Liner-notes: E
Cover & track-list
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[in order of appearance]
anon: [Preambulum in g] (161r); Surrexit dominus valete luctus (70v); [Passamezzo antico]/Proporcia Jeszcze Marczynye (118v/189r); [Deus qui sedes super thronum] (Johann Walter) (204r); Zaklolam sz˙a tharnem (215r)
: [Preambulum] in e (19v); Absolon (Antonio de Ribera) (253v); Corea (212r); Poznanie (112r); Francigenum (Claudin de Sermisy) (28r); [D'ung desplaisir] (Jacotin Le Bel) (28v); [Corea] (103v); [Corea] (111v); Preambulum in a per h (91v); N[icolaus] C[racoviensis]: Date siceram merentibusnir (Jhan Gero) (200v)
anon: Preambulum super d (19r); Bona (218v); Veschol (Claudin de Sermisy) (90v); Ad novem saltus (220r); Ha˙duczk˙ (220v); Vita in lingo moritur (Ludwig Senfl) (171r); Pressa (95v/165v); N[icolaus] C[racoviensis]: Preambulum in d (160v); anon: Schephczyk ˙dz˙e po ul˙cz˙ sch˙delka noschacz (222r); [Corea] (222v)
anon: Preambulum super f (98v); N[icolaus] C[racoviensis]: Ave jerarchia (108v); Severinus Konij: Colenda Severini (146v); anon: Anglicum (200r); Preambulum in d (233r); Dulce memorie (Pierre Sandrin) (197v); Plus mille regres (Josquin Desprez) (254v); Aliud preambulum (242); Rex (132r)
anon: Tribulatio [et angustia] (Josquin Desprez) (235v); [Corea] italica (221r); Conradus (37r); Preambulum in c (18v); Sicut lilium inter spinas (Antoine Brumel) (97v)

[II] "The Heart of Europe - Corona Regni Poloniae, 1500-1750"
Il Giardino d'Amore
Dir: Stefan Plewniak
rec: July 13 - 15, 2015, Cracow, [St Catherine Church]
Ëvoe Records - ËVOE 004 (© 2017) (56'58")
Liner-notes: E/F/PL; lyrics only in translations: E/F/PL
Cover & track-list
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anon: Piesn o posiedzieniu y o zniewoleniu zalosnym ziemie wegierskiey; Rex [1]; Heinrich Ignaz Franz VON BIBER (1644-1704): Battalia; Wojciech BOBOWSKI (Ali Ufki) (1610-1675): Uyan Ey Gözlerim Gafletten Uyan; Johann Joseph FUX: Turcaria, Partita a 3 in C (K 331) (arr Stefan Plewniak, Magdalena Tejchma); Grzegorz Gerwazy GORCZYCKI (1665/67-1734): In virtute tua; Laetatus sum; Caspar KLOSEMANN (1616-1657): 5 Dances [3]; Marcin MIELCZEWSKI (c1600 - 1651): Triumphalis dies; Mikolaj ZIELENSKI (1550-1616): Laetentur coeli [2]

Sources: [1] Johannes de Lublin Tablature, [n.d.]; [2] Mikolaj Zielenski, Offertoria totius anni, 1611; [3] Caspar Klosemann, Tabulatura amoenitatum musicalium hortulus, 1622

Whether Poland is at the heart of Europe, as the title of the second disc under review here suggests, is debatable. Fact is that its place in Europe "has been the reason for many political disagreement, but (...) also provided the right conditions for numerous and rich cultural exchanges", as the liner-notes to that disc state. Both aspects come up in the two discs reviewed here.

Corina Marti recorded a selection from the largest collection of keyboard music compiled in the 16th century, the Tabulatura Ioannis de Lyublin canonic: regularium de Crasnyc 1540, generally known as the 'Johannes de Lublin Tablature'. The Polish organist Jan of Lublin was the owner and probably the main compiler of this collection, although some parts are of an older date. It includes two treatises for organists. One of them is devoted to the principles of counterpoint, the other to the tuning of the organ. This indicates that the music included was first and foremost intended for organists. However, the versatility of the repertoire suggests that other keyboard instruments, such as the harpsichord, the virginals and the clavichord, can also be used for a performance of the pieces included in this collection. Some of them may be specifically intended for liturgical use, for instance the alternatim practice. Preludes may have been used for the preparation of vocal works, whereas intavolations of motets may have been played as substitutes for vocal music, as was quite common at the time.

However, the manuscript also contains intavolations of chansons. Some of these are not easily recognizable from the titles. Veschol is an arrangement of Claudin de Sermisy's chanson Dont vient cela and Francigenum refers to his chanson Le content est riche. The same goes, by the way, for some motets. Absolon is an intavolation of the motet Rex autem David by Antonio de Ribera.

These names indicate that this collection is not only important for purely musical reasons, but also because it sheds light on the character of Polish music life at the time. The music scene was truly international: many compositions disseminated across Euope, mainly through copies, and often in adaptations and arrangements, or, as in this case, as intavolations. At the same time, the collection includes pieces with Polish titles, which makes it an important source for original Polish music of the renaissance.

Dances constitute an important genre in this tablature. They often come without a title (hence the brackets in the track-list) or are given the title of corea. In the liner-notes, Pawel Gancarczyk writes: "They are characterised by clear rhythms and repeatability of short sections and, in accordance with the old tradition, after a section in duple metre comes a section in triple metre (proportio)". Especially the dances open the possibility of a performance with an ensemble of melody instruments.

That is the way one of the items in Corina Marti's programme is performed by Il Giardino d'Amore at the start of their programme of music from between 1500 and 1750. Its tenor is expressed by the subtitle of the liner-notes: "East meets West". I already referred to conflicts in which Poland was involved. One of the main conflicts was that between the Catholic part of Europe and the Ottoman Empire, which culminated in and came to an end with the Battle of Vienna in 1683. The threat from the Turks is expressed here in the anonymous Cantio de Hungaria occupata. This piece dates from 1541 and is about the invasion of Sultan Sulejman II on Hungary in 1526. It is the Turcaria by Johann Joseph Fux, which was specifically written under the influence of the Battle of Vienna. Considering that the programme is about music in Poland, its inclusion is rather odd, as Fux had no connections to Poland whatsoever. Even more questionable is the performance of the Battalia by Biber. It is stated that this piece was inspired by Janissary music, but that seems hard to prove.

That said, it cannot be denied that the Ottoman culture also exerted a kind of fascination to representatives of European culture. Aversion and fascination are often two sides of the same coin. In the programme we find a piece by Wojciech Bobowski, also known under his Turkish name Ali Ufki. He was captured, presumably by raiding Tatars, and taken to Constantinople, where he became a court musician, performing on the santur. He converted to Islam and later in his life was active as an official interpreter. He compiled for his own purposes, among others, a collection of instrumental and vocal pieces (Mecmua-yi saz ü söz) which covers much of the music heard at court. The piece included here is probably taken from that collection. Whether it is from his own pen is not mentioned.

With Zielenski, Mielczewski and Gorczycki we meet three stages in the development of sacred music in Poland from the early 16th to the early 17th century. In all of them the influence of the Italian style manifests itself. Zielenski embraced the polychoral style in vogue in Venice in the late 16th century. Mielczewski wrote a number of works in which he adopts the concertante style which had emerged in Italy around 1600. And in the pieces by Gorczycki the influence of Neapolitan music of the early 18th century comes to the fore. It should be added that during the 17th century composers continued to write sacred music in the stile antico of the 16th century, but that aspect has been ignored here. It is documented in several discs reviewed on this site.

Polish music is not that well-known outside the country. In recent years a number of discs with music from the 16th to the 18th century have been released, and the two discs reviewed here are welcome additions to the growing discography. The Johannes de Lublin Tablature may be rather well-known, it is not often documented on disc, and pieces from it are mainly included in anthologies of renaissance music. Therefore Corina Marti's recording is of great importance. As she offers only a small selection, there is much room for further recordings, on a variety of instruments. Marti plays a copy of an anonymous Neapolitan harpsichord of around 1520, which turns out to be the ideal instrument for this repertoire. Marti shows a perfect understanding of the music in this collection. The dance rhythms come off perfectly, and there is a strong amount of clarity and transparency in the way she performs the intavolations of chansons and motets.

The singing and playing of Il Giardino d'Amore is very enjoyable. I definitely would like them to further explore the music of the 17th and 18th centuries, which is still little known. There is just one issue: although Biber's Battalia is very well played, I don't understand the inclusion of a recorder and percussion. It is scored for strings and basso continuo, and the challenge for performers is to realise the effects in this piece with the means the composer had in mind. It is nice that the booklet includes several translations of the lyrics, but it is rather odd that the original lyrics are omitted.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Corina Marti
Il Giardino d'Amore


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