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 Biblioteca Digitale of the Conservatorio di Milano was founded in 2007 through the efforts of then-President Francesco Saverio Borrelli, who envisioned the creation of a digital repository of images of the conservatory’s historical documents, searchable and viewable via the online catalog of Servizio Bibliotecario Nazionale, Lombardy.
As of 10 November 2011 the Biblioteca Digitale occupies an area of about 5.1 terabytes for a total of 832 papers and 110,419 images
Launched in 2010 by the Fondation Royaumont following its acquisition of the library of the pianist François Lang (1908–1944), the Brepols series Collectionner la musique/Collecting music is devoted to exploring the history of music collecting.
The first volume, Collectionner la musique: Histoires d’une passion seeks to define music collecting in all its forms through profiles of some of the great European collectors and analyses of outstanding collections dating from the 16th century to the present—including those of João IV of Portugal, Padre Martini, and Henry Prunières. Further volumes will be devoted to the musician as collector and the learned collector.
Developed by Jennifer Thomas of the University of Florida’s School of Music, Motet database catalog online indexes manuscripts and printed anthologies of motets produced between 1475 and 1600 and contains about 33,000 motet and Mass Proper appearances. Each part of each motet is indexed as a separate record; the total number of records stands at 50,040.
The database allows scholars the flexibility to investigate the motet and its many contexts from multiple vantage points simultaneously by enabling sorting on various fields separately and in combination, a type of inquiry that is not possible on a large scale with printed books. Users can also search for specific words or groups of words, for particular names, or for many items in combination. Scholars with specific questions can isolate the data that will best serve their needs.
The magrepha of ancient Hebrew ritual has been variously described as a percussion machine, signal gong, bell, tympanum, kettle drum, or hand drum—but also as a pneumatic organ, water organ, steam organ, composite woodwind instrument, pipework, or controllable siren. For centuries, scholars were unable to reach a solution that squared with ancient texts.
In “The magrepha of the Herodian temple: A five-fold hypothesis”, Joseph Yasser settled the matter by showing that the earliest sources mention the magrepha as a shovel for removing ashes and describe the thunderous sound caused when it was thrown to the floor at a particular point in the service; this sound apparently symbolized the vengeful actions of an angry God, aligning the ritual act with passages in Ezekiel. Later sources unmistakably characterize the magrepha as a type of wind instrument with multiple openings, each producing multiple sounds; Yasser’s proposed reconstruction is shown above.
The article appeared in A musicological offering to Otto Kinkeldey upon the occasion of his 80th anniversary, a special issue of the Journal of the American Musicological Society (vol. 13, no. 1–3 , pp. 24–42; the issue is covered in our recently-published Liber amicorum: Festschriften for music scholars and nonmusicians, 1840–1966.
Bach’s use of a musical motive based on his name, B–A–C–H, is well known, and several other composers have used it in tributes to the Baroque master. As connoisseurs of French chamber music also know, Ravel made similar use of the technique of deriving musical material from a composer’s name in his Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Faure and Menuet sur le nom d’Haydn.
Far less known is the further use of this technique by both Debussy and Ravel in more enigmatically titled pieces. For example, several of their works bearing the words hommage or tombeau include musical material derived from the honoree’s name. Such formerly puzzling titles, which have led the curious on wild-goose chases in their attempts to understand what on earth the music had to do with the named composer, may now be understood as sly references to uses of this technique.
This according to “Widmungsstücke mit Buchstaben-Motto bei Debussy und Ravel” by Paul Mies, an essay included in Festschrift für Erich Schenk (Studien zur Musikwissenschaft: Beihefte der Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich, vol. 25 , pp. 363–368); this journal issue dedicated to the Austrian musicologist Erich Schenk (1902–74) on the occasion of his 60th birthday is covered in our recently published Liber Amicorum: Festschriften for music scholars and nonmusicians, 1840–1966.
Below, Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, one of the works discussed in the article.
Mozart’s Entführung aus dem Serail was first performed in London at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 24 November 1827. Stephanie’s libretto was translated into English and quite freely adapted, and one C. Kramer made numerous and inexplicable changes to the score, editing Mozart’s music, substituting his own numbers for some of the original ones, and adding entirely new numbers. None the wiser, audiences and critics received the mangled work with great enthusiasm.
This according to “The first performance of Mozart’s Entführung in London” by Alfred Einstein (1880–1952) in Essays on music (New York: W.W. Norton, 1956), a collection of his writings issued as a memorial volume; the book is covered in our recently published Liber Amicorum: Festschriften for music scholars and nonmusicians, 1840–1966.
Above, a nineteenth-century engraving depicting a production of the opera in London—perhaps the one that Einstein described. Below, Twyla Tharp and Milos Forman imagine the opera’s premiere in Amadeus.
In 2008 the technology and publishing executive Joel Bresler created the multimedia website Follow the drinking gourd to share his research into the origins and history of the U.S. song, which was popularized by The Weavers and has been recorded some 200 times and reprinted in over 75 songbooks.
While providing ample documentation of the song’s reception history, this unusual resource probes persistent questions regarding the song’s provenance—not least, whether there is any basis for the idea that it was sung by African Americans during the Underground Railroad era. The site presents discussions by authoritative folklorists exploring such questions, and concludes with an invitation to collaborate by supplying further documentation.
Above, the first known publication of the song (Austin: Texas Folklore Society, 1928).
Franz Niemetschek’s legendary report that La clemenza di Tito was composed in 18 days was not seriously challenged until 1960, when Tomislav Volek published important archival materials relating to the chronology of the opera’s composition. Physical evidence from the autograph manuscript, including the remains of a fly squashed on the paper (probably by the composer in the heat of August), contributes to discrediting the hypothesis that Mozart’s work had begun before he signed his July 1791 contract for the opera.
This according to “The chronology of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito reconsidered” by Sergio Durante (Music & letters, 80, no. 4 (Nov 1999): 560–594), where the evidence is described thus:
“On folio 114 of the autograph . . . a thick black spot in the shape of a cross is found. . . . On direct and close examination, the centre of the spot proves to host the remains of a fly (a kind of evidence not often found in music sources!). After a long reflection, my best guess is that the fly was smashed under the loose bifolium at the very time of composition, after it had unduly annoyed Mozart at work; he also provided a witty ‘service’ to the insect by marking a cross over it (‘requiescat’!); in any case, such was the force and determination of the action, combined with the gluing action of the ink, that the corpse is still stuck on the page after two hundred years of musicological investigations.” (p. 574)
Facsimile editions may present reproductions of illuminated manuscripts; they also may document creative processes, like the famously scrawled and blotted manuscripts of Beethoven.
In rare cases facsimile editions provide evidence of collaborative processes; an example is the recent edition by Leo S. Olschki Editore of the working copy of the libretto for Puccini’s Tosca, part of which is pictured above.
With notes in the hands of Puccini, the publisher Giulio Ricordi, and the librettists Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa—and the inclusion of pasted-in pages fathfully reproduced as separate, attatched sheets—the edition documents the collaborative process that resulted in one of the landmarks of verismo opera.
Below, Renée Fleming sings Tosca’s signature aria Vissi d’arte.