A Renaissance Ball in Warsaw
Orkiestra Złotego Wieku


Kościół Najświętszej Maryi Panny w Warszawie

A Renaissance Ball in Warsaw

Dance music of the Golden Age constitutes one of the most extensive and attractive parts of the musical heritage of that period. Hundreds of Polish dances are included not only in Polish collections but also those originating in Germany, Sweden, Hungary and Slovakia.

Music, then as today, was an inseparable part of society balls and all kind of occasions and functions. Dance reflected the character of the people, their temperament, and social and national background. A colourful pageant in itself, it acted like a mirror to those directly participating in it and the onlookers. This CD aims to give a musical idea of the dances from the heyday of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Baroque. The oldest ones (which begin the disc) date from the Renaissance and are taken from the organ tablature of Jan of Lublin. They include a pavan (the most popular dance of the time), a galliard, a passamezzo, and a ballo, with charmingly Polonized names or without title. They are of supranational character and their ancestry may be traced to Italy, the homeland of the European Renaissance dance. It is most likely that such dances were popular at Wawel Castle in Kraków, during the reigns of Sigismund the Old (and his Italian wife Queen Bona Sforza) and Sigismund II Augustus as well as at the Warsaw court of the last Mazovian dukes.

Tablature of Jan of Lublin – compiled by the Regular Canon Jan – is among the most extensive 16th-century musical collections in the whole of Europe. It contains works by such well-known names as Josquin des Prés, Heinrich Finck, Clement Jannequin, as well as Polish composers, including Mikołaj of Chrzanów and Seweryn Koń. It also includes 36 dances of Polish, Italian, German and Spanish origin. The facsimile of the tablature has been published in the series Monumenta musicae in Polonia, series B, vol. I, Kraków 1964.

Further on, the CD gives a cross-section of Polish dance music seen from the perspective of foreign musicians.

Valentin Haussmann (1565-1614) was a German organist and composer active in Konigsberg, Magdeburg Hamburg and Poland. He composed and published many dance collections, including 'Rest and polnischen and anderen Tanzen' (Nuremberg, 1603).

The arrangement of Haussmann's three Polish dances demonstrates very vividly the distinct colouring of the three homogenous groups of instruments, known as consorts: 3 flutes, 3 trombones and 3 viols.

Next come the distinctly Polish dances by Wojciech Długoraj. The Orchestra of the Golden Age performs transcriptions of dances scored for lute, of which Długoraj was a famous virtuoso. The Polish character of his dances is demonstrated in their melodic line, which is imbued with warmth and intimacy (particularly Cantio Polonica).

Wojciech Długoraj (born c. 1550 in Gostyń, died after 1619) was a leading composer of the Polish Renaissance, a prominent lutenist and perhaps also a singer. He was in the service of the Polish nobleman Samuel Zborowski, and later appeared at the court of King Stefan Batory. The originals of his compositions are in the City Library of Leipzig (D-LEm, II. 6. 15.)

The seven dances from the 'Polotsk' Manuscript constitute a choreographic sequence, as indicated by some of the titles of consecutive dances: the opening 'Witany', 'Goniony' – procession dance, at a very fast pace, 'Czapkowy' – danced with covered heads, 'Mieniony' – involving a change of partners, 'Wychodzony' – to round off the pageant.

The Manuscript of the Jagiellonian Library (BJ 127/56), also known as the 'Polotsk' Manuscript, was discovered in 1962 by Jerzy Gołos, in the cover of a missal used in the Uniate Church. It was purchased by the Jagiellonian Library. It originated, most probably, in Polotsk in the 17th century, when Cyprian Zochowski, a great lover of music (d. 1693), served as Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev. An extensive collection of over 200 pieces of both church and secular music, it was clearly meant for day-to-day use by an unnamed professional musician, connected with the court and burghers circles of south-eastern Poland. It is the largest collection of Polish dances and songs from the 17th century.

The three dances from the Vietoris Codex are of a very special character. They exhibit influences of regional music from south-eastern Poland (particularly in the Vallachian dance) and of the popular European music of the time.

Vietoris Codex (its name derived from the owner's name) contains around 340 organ works, notated in Slovakia (close to Hungary) in the second half of the 17th century. Of the 61 dances in the collection, seven are of Polish provenance. The manuscript is in the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest.

The three pavans and Dutch galliards, which round off the disc, constitute an intricate crowning of the ball. They follow the style of monumental music of the court theatre, which existed at the Royal Court in Warsaw during the reign of the Vasa dynasty.

Cornelius Schuyt was born into a musical family in the Netherlands town of Leiden in 1557. After his father's death in 1601, he became first organist of the Pieterskerk. He was also a composer, looked after the bells of the city's churches, was active as a teacher of music and was in charge of music at various town functions.

Schuyt's pavans and galliards are suitable for dancing, even though their solidity suggests that they were performed during particularly festive ceremonies. They correspond to the prosperity of 17th-century Leiden and the developed skills of the Dutch artists of those times.

Jacek Urbaniak
(Translated by: Michał Kubicki)