Petrus de GRUDZIĄDZ (Vers 1400-1470)
Chansons et motets
Bornus Consort · Ars Nova


Accord 201412

luty 1990
Pałac Prymasowski, Warszawa


1 - Preconia etroclita (chanson)   [2:44]
2 - Problemata enigmatum (chanson)   [3:44]
3 - Predulcis eurus (chanson)   [3:14]
4 - Prelustri elucencia (chanson)   [2:25]
5 - Jacob ... Pax eterna... Terribilis (motet)   [3:24]
6 - Veni... Pneuma... Paraclito... Dator (motet)   [3:34]
7 - Probitate... Ploditando (motet)   [6:34]
8 - Phebus ecclipsi (chanson)   [2:40]
9 - Pomi... Hominem... Sed... Paraneuma (motet)   [2:47]
10 - Preformosa elegantis (chanson)   [1:31]
11 - Phonicorum ethicorum (chanson)   [2:48]
12 - Kyrie fons bonitatis... Kyrie sacerdos (chanson)   [5:49]
13 - Panis... Panis... Pange... Patribus... Tantum (motet)   [0:33]
14 - Presulem ephebeatum (chanson)   [2:44]
15 - Presidorum erogatrix (chanson)   [2:45]
16 - Presulis eminenciam (chanson)   [1:57]
17 - Plasmatori estuanter (chanson)   [2:46]
18 - Promitat eterno (chanson)   [2:17]

Bornus Consort
Marcin Bornus-Szczyciński

Marcin Bornus-Szczyciński • kontratenor
Ryszard Minkiewicz • tenor
Cezary Szyfman • baryton
Włodzimierz Sołtysik • tenor
Stanisław Szczyciński • bas
Jan Sobolewski • baryton

Ars Nova
Jacek Urbaniak

Michał Straszewski • baryton, flety
Agata Sapiecha • fidel, rebec, mazanki
Marcin Zalewski • lutnia, fidel, tambur
Tadeusz Czechak • psałterium, lutnia
Lesław Szyszko • flety, krzywuła
Robert Krajewski • puzon tenorowy
Piotr Wawreniuk • puzon altowy
Grzegorz Paszko • puzon tenorowy
Urszula Jankowska • sopran

Petrus Wilhelmi of Grudziądz
(c. 1400-c. 1470)

The name of Petrus Wilhelmi of Grudziądz, whose works are found in German, Polish and Czech manuscripts scattered throughout Europe, was completely unknown until very recently. Most of his compositions appeared anonymously, as was common in the Middle Ages. In the 1970s, however, Jaromír Černý, who was studying 15th-century Czech manuscripts, was struck by both the words and music of certain part-songs and motets. All these texts were acrostics, with the initial letters of consecutive words invariably forming the name Petrus. In one of the four-part motets, Pneuma eucaristiarum, Veni were illustrator, Paraclito tripudis, Dator, Cerny has deciphered the mysterious composer's full name – Petrus Wilhelmi of Grudencz. Further important evidence is provided by the fact that two compositions by Petrus are found in a manuscript which has survived in Cracow, proving that he had contacts with Poland. According to the records of Alma Mater Cracoviensis, Petrus Wilhelmi was admitted to that university in 1418, which means that he must have been born in about 1400–1402. Petrus was born in Grudziądz (spelt Grudencz at the time), an old market town in Pomerania which belonged to the Teutonic Knights and came under Polish rule after 1454, together with other towns in the region. His family was probably of the wealthy middle class. He studied at Cracow University for about twelve years, graduating "ad gradum baccalariatus in artibus" in 1425 and "ad gradum magisterii in artibus" in the autumn of 1430.

His presence in Cracow is confirmed by the manuscript containing two of his works, which is now in the Jagiellonian library under the reference BJ 2464. Among other pieces in this manuscript, dating from about 1430 and written in Cracow, are some fairly simple two- and three-part settings of Latin texts which, from the many corrections, mistakes and teacher's comments, appear to be students' exercises. It is not known what Petrus Wilhelmi did on leaving the university, but shortly afterwards he was present in Basle during the Council (1431–49). The Council of Basle, which was marked by disputes with the pope, discussed three main points – reform on the church, the Hussite heresy, and union with the Greek church. Petrus was clearly on the Council's side, on the evidence of his Latin poem addressed to the Emperor Frederick III of Styria, Pontifices ecclesiarum (the music has not survived). The Kyrie fons bonitatis, which appears in the Regensburg Emmeram manuscript with the name "mgr Petrus Wilhelmi", dates from the same period.

We have little reliable information about Petrus Wilhelmi in the following years, but from the considerable number of his works preserved in Czech manuscripts, including the Trebon manuscript, it can be assumed that he lived in the region. In the 1460s he was in Silesia, in particular in Zielona Gora and, later, in Glogow (Glogau), where he appears to have spent the final years of his life. This would explain the presence of works by him in the Glogauer Liederbuch, a substantial manuscript written in Glogow in about 1460-70, and one of the most important sources for 15th-century music in this part of Europe. It contains nearly three hundred compositions – German Lieder, French songs, hymns, Sequences, anthems and several instrumental pieces by German, Burgundian and Franco-Flemish musicians, including Dufay, Busnois, Ghizeghem and Ockeghem. Jaromír Černý suggests that the Glogauer Liederbuch was written under the direct influence of Petrus Wilhelmi, and the poet and composer may even have copied it himself.

When he was a student in Cracow, Petrus Wilhelmi discovered polyphony from Burgundian and Italian music. Evidence of this is found in two manuscripts of the time (MS Kras 52 and B Nat 378) which include pieces by Polish composers and also liturgical compositions by Ciconia, Antonio da Teramo, Nicola Zacharias and Antonius da Civitate.

These were the young Petrus's models – the elaborate counterpoint of northern Europe, and the softer, more sweetly melodious Italian influence. Later he enriched his language with ideas borrowed from the younger Burgundian generation, such as Guillaume Dufay.

Petrus was the author of the texts of practically all his works. They are all in Latin, and all but one – the liturgical Kyrie fons bonitatis – are in the form of acrostics. The subjects are generally religious, and the tone sometimes didactic or edifying. Some are panegyrics, for example two compositions, Presulis eminenciam and Presulem ephebeatum, addressed to two successive popes (who were no longer in Avignon), Martin V and Eugenius IV. The second in particular, in praise of Pope Eugenius, is not lacking in diplomatic eloquence, and it is a further indication that Petrus was present at the Council of Basle. Of the purely secular texts, some express delight at the flowering of nature in spring (Predulcis Eurus), while others hide a satirical intention behind a mask of seriousness (Probitate eminentem). The latter tells us something about the composer's life. Andreas Ritter, whom he knew well and whose virtues he praises with a hint of irony, was the son of the headmaster of the school in Zielona Gora and, later, an Augustinian friar in Zagan (spelt Sagan at the time).

As a writer, Petrus Wilhelmi was fond of elaborate language and of metaphors which are sometimes obscure. His poetry is elegant, polished and artificial, and his vocabulary so arcane that it verges on neologism. This was the fashion at the time in religious Latin poetry, which had not yet been given new life by the breath of humanism. It was obviously addressed to the intellectual elite; in one of his texts, Petrus expressly asks that "the joyful song of the clerics be not disturbed by the prayers of the common people" (sed non dicrepet vulgarim precamen).

Petrus Wihelmi's works are of two genres, songs and motets, differing in the way the words are set and in contrapuntal technique. The songs, usually in two parts, occasionally in three, are often very concise, with a tendency to symmetry and repetition of rhythmic patterns, sometimes dance-like. They are extremely varied in form, and rhythm is the dominant feature, giving the music a light, lively tone. Petrus followed the example of the Burgundian composers, who simplified the involved rhythms inherited from the 14th century. He did not however neglect the possibilities offered by the complex system of proportion, which allowed bars in duple and triple time to be combined, and there are constant alternations of 2/4 and 3/4, or 6/8 and 9/8. Petrus Wilhelmi sometimes used a three-beat rhythm which was unusual in the 15th century (*). It is repeated in the song Prelustri elucencia and is a typically Polish mazurka rhythm, very appropriate in a piece composed when he was still living in Cracow. The polyphony of three-part songs is more advanced than in those for two voices. Some of them (Presulis eminenciam) are in the style of the French ballade, with an elegant ornamental descant. In others, the composer uses the same themes for two or three voices and, probably following Dufay's example, introduces imitation, even including canonic imitation (Problemata enigmatum).

Two pieces, Presulem ephebeatum and Promitat eterno, are a specific type of canon, similar to the mediaeval rondeau, with each voice repeating, after a longer passage, what the previous voice has sung. The form of the motets, for three, four and five voices, follows the French model. They are polytextual, with subtle counterpoint between the words in the different parts. The internal structure is variable, sometimes free and sometimes with a refrain. In some, there are similarities to the German Barform, as there are in the songs. The five-part motet Panis ecce angelorum has an isorhythmic structure. The same rhythmic pattern is repeated four times in the bass, the upper voice (superius), the alto and the first tenor. This highly intellectual, speculative form is very characteristic of mediaeval thought.

One of the most interesting motets is a two-part secular piece, Probitate eminentem, light-heartedly praising the virtues of Andreas Ritter. The arrangement of the voices and the fine, elegant, skilfully ornamented melodic line recall Burgundian secular songs. The composition is built round the isorhythmic tenor. This is one of the finest of Petrus's mature works, composed towards the end of his life, and its lyricism, enhanced by the sweet harmonies, is enchanting.

Petrus's only liturgical work, Kyrie fons bonitatis, for important festivals, is in the style of the Burgundian ballade, with a vocal alto and two instrumental parts. Like the Burgundian song, it is lyrical, but it is more complex in structure. There are repeated isorhythmic groups in the tenor part, of which long passages are taken up in the higher parts, following a different pattern.

The music of Petrus Wilhelmi presents an interesting contrast between structured forms with complex rhythms on the one hand, and a graceful, singing melodic line and lively dancing rhythms on the other, combining to form a rich, animated whole.

Ewa Obniska