Faventina / Mala Punica
The liturgical music of Codex Faenza 117, 1380-1420


Ambroisie AM 105
julio de 2005

ordinarium missae
01 - Kyrie Cunctipotens genitor Deus, ff.79r-79v   [0:49]
02 - Kyrie Cunctipotens genitor Deus, ff.88r-90r   [5:48]
03 - Gloria, ff.90r-92v   [5:20]
04 - Kyrie Fons et origo, ff.2r-3r   [4:19]
05 - Alleluja. Ego sum pastor bonus, I-Gua, f.194v   [3:54]
06 - Kyrie Orbis factor, ff.62r-26r   [3:16]

cantasi come
07 - Nostra avocata sei, cantasi come Deduto sei, Vat266, f.32v, ff.46v-48r   [5:39]
08 - Per verita portare, cantasi come Non al suo amante, I-Ricc2871, f.59v   [3:58]
09 - Non al suo amante, ff.78r-79r   [2:14]

ad vesperas
10 - [Deus in adjutorium meum intende], ff.93r-94r   [4:12]
11 - Antiphona. Hec est regina, I-SM572, f.141r - psalmus. Laudate pueri Dominum   [1:09]
12 - Ave maris stella, ff.96v-97r   [1:19]
13 - Antiphona. Ave regina celorum, I-SM574, ff.109v-110r   [1:49]
14 - Magnificat, ff.95r-96v   [8:21]
15 - Sicut erat in principio, cantasi come [Soventt mes pas], f.94v   [4:22]
16 - Benedicamus Domino, Deo gratias, ff.79r-79v   [1:30]
17 - Benedicamus Domino, 79r-79v    [2:19]
18 - Benedicamus Domino, 57r-58r   [4:05]

Fa117: Faenza, Biblioteca Comunale Manfrediana, ms. 117
I-Gua: Guardiagrele, Chiesa di S. Maria Maggiore, cod. 1
Vat266: Roma, Biblioteca Vaticana, ms. Chig. 266
I-Ricc2871: Firenze, Biblioteca Riccardiana, ms. 2871
I-SM572: Firenze, Museo di San Marco, ms. 572
I-SM574: Firenze, Museo di San Marco, ms. 574

Pedro Memelsdorff

Tina Aagaard, Barbara Zanichelli  - sopranos
Alessandro Carmignani, countertenor
Gianluca Ferrarini, Raffaele Giordani, Juan Sancho - tenors

Pablo Kornfeld, organ, clavicymbalum
Guillermo Pérez, organetto
David Catalunya, organ, clavicymbalum
Helena Zemanová, fiddle
Angélique Mauillon, harp
Pedro Memelsdorff, recorder


Faventina, the liturgical music of Codex Faenza 117
by Pedro Memelsdorff

Musical glosses

The carvings on a gilt frame, much like the marginal decorations of a page - shapes, figures, stories - can explain and illustrate, or on the contrary contradict and discredit, even desecrate the very picture that they enclose - or the main text of the page on which they are found. And the same may occur with the various types of marginal writings or glosses: explanations or comments, elucidations or criticisms of a word or a passage, whose study stands at the crossroads between the history of manuscript transmission, textual critique, and intellectual history, and can reveal in an extraordinary way a text's impact, its reception upon coming into contact with various cultural contexts. What are musical glosses?

Two centuries before Ortiz or Mudarra used the term gloss in their anthologies, several musical cultures - among them Italian Ars nova - developed a tradition of substituting (or completing) simple melodies with ever richer and more complex variations: comments, illustrations, 'explanations', 'critiques' of a more or less recognisable - or memorised - original melody.

The repertoire presented here is made up exclusively of the musical glosses or Ars nova diminutions that are found in the manuscript 117 of the Biblioteca Comunale Manfrediana of Faenza, the renowned 'Codex Faenza'.

The manuscript

Few manuscripts of the Italian Ars nova have received more attention (and given rise to more controversies) than the Codex Faenza - controversies regarding style, but above all organology and performance. It is thus surprising that even today there is no complete, codicological, philological and historical study of the source. Nor has there yet been attempted a complete recording of it. Made up of 98 parchment folios organized in ten irregular fascicles, the Codex Faenza was prepared at one time in a single scriptorium, but subsequently manipulated by four scribes, before (or during) its compilation - which may perhaps be dated to central-northern Italy around 1400-1420. Then - between 1473 and 1474 - the old notation was partially erased and written over by a Carmelite musician and theorist, itinerant among the Carmels of Mantua, Reggio Emilia and perhaps Ferrara: Johannes Bonadies, to whom we owe the current 'title' of the manuscript, 'Bonadies, Regulae cantus'.

The repertoire copied by the four earlier scribes consists of fifty intabulated instrumental diminutions: directly below each stave of diminution lies the respective tenor, creating a kind of 'score' which allows - when so desired - a synchronic reading of the polyphony on behalf of one single individual. Indeed, clear signs of coeval wear and tear demonstrate the assiduous use of the diminutions directly from the manuscript: Codex Faenza was (also) a 'score' designed for practical use. The quantity of scribal corrections is therefore not surprising: slight - and sometimes large - erasures and over-writings were carried out by the scribes themselves to remedy errors of transcription (or lapses of memory), whose deconstruction leads to some striking conclusions. The first is the non-intabulated origin of the greater part of the material: Faenza was mostly copied from (now lost) non-intabulated exemplars, that is, exemplars intended for collective use. The second is the considerable cultural distance that separates the four copyists from the repertoire copied: the diminutions of Faenza must date back, at least in part, to the latter decades of the fourteenth century.

The sacred repertoire

Three of the four scribes were involved in the transcription of the liturgical repertoire, which consists of diminutions for three pairs of Kyrie-Gloria (Vat. IV and XI), a single versicle of Kyrie (Vat. IV), two Benedicamus domino and various sections of an extraordinary Marian Vespers, which is in fact the earliest polyphonic Vespers to have come down to us. Here we present, for the first time, a complete recording of all this material - including some newly restored segments of one of the Kyrie (on f. 3r), and one piece totally unknown until now: the Kyrie Orbis factor of the ff. 62r-v and 26r (palimpsest), completely erased and written over by Johannes Bonadies in 1474. Our digital restorations have allowed the recovery and virtually complete transcription of this piece, and suggested a new historical and cultural context for the Faenza diminutions in general. Unlike the mass Cunctipotens genitor deus (Vat. IV), intended for occasions of particular liturgical importance, Orbis factor (Vat. XI) was a mass of weekly use: the praxis of polyphony and diminutions such as the ones in Faenza must therefore have been a much more frequent phenomenon than has hitherto been suspected. Such a praxis conformed to the tradition of late medieval liturgical chant, which allowed for diverse performance possibilities, among them the cantus planus (or Gregorian), the cantus fractus (Gregorian in a rhythmic vest), the cantus binatim (Gregorian accompanied by simple polyphonies) and the cantus alternatim (alternation and/or combination between instruments, cantus planus and/or cantus binatim).

Little - or better yet, almost nothing - is known with precision as regards the practice of this cantus alternatim around the chronological period and possible geographical collocation of the Faenza codex; furthermore, the documents of succeeding centuries are of scarce - or no - use. These latter include descriptions and sometimes prohibitions of the synchronic and/or successive performance of instrumental and Gregorian versions - indicative, perhaps, of a rich and many-sided tradition.

It therefore becomes quite interesting to read the rare and eloquent description offered to us by the Florentine chronicler Filippo Villani, written in 1381:

"When in our greater church the Credo was sung in part with the organ and in part with the choir, [the organist] Bartolo performed it with such sweet sound and artistic mastery that, upon having abandoned the usual alternation of the organ, he sung it with the great support of the people who followed the natural harmony with living voices one after the other. So, before any other, he brought about the elimination of the antique practice of the male choir and the organ."

Our proposal

This extraordinary testimony of a wholly vocal performance - not incompatible, rather synchronous with the instrumental suaves dulcesque soni - has led us to implement each of the following hypotheses: alternatim between cantus planus and soloist diminutions (Kyrie Orbis factor); between cantus binatim and collective diminution (Kyrie Fons et origo); between cantus planus and diminutions that are synchronic with the cantus binatim (Kyrie-Gloria Cunctipotens, Vespers).

In the reconstruction of the Vespers, furthermore, several lines of research on the pieces now on the ff. 93r-94r and 94v. have been taken into consideration. The first of these, identified on our behalf, is without doubt the diminution of a sacred or celebrative isorhythmic motet, heavily influenced by Veneto and post-Ciconia styles. Its two original vocal lines, isomorphic and imitative, probably bore two different texts, now irreparably lost; but its position in the manuscript, immediately before the Magnificat, suggests a tenor based on a Marian antiphon, or - as we have hypothesised - on the Deus in adjutorium. The second piece is a diminution of the bassadanza also known under the title Soventt mes pas (included in the chronicle of the ms. London, BM Cotton Titus A XXVI, datable to the 1440s). What is more, its position in the tenth fascicle of Faenza 117 - symmetrical to that of the bassadanza Collinetto, placed before the Benedicamus of fascicle VI - only confirms the hypothesis recently aroused by iconographical studies on the late medieval lauda-ballate: the existence of forms of dance contrafacta intended for the conclusion of masses or offices. Therefore, given the striking resemblance between Soventt mes pas and the doxology of the fifth tone, our hypothesis is that of a contrafactum of the Gloria patri sung - or rather danced - to the tenor of the bassadanza.

We are well aware that our point of view - and of listening - could overturn some current interpretations (or prejudices) regarding both repertoires, Faenza and the late medieval Gregorian chant, generally held to be purely soloistic or purely monodic, respectively.

Nevertheless, no fourteenth- or fifteenth- century proof of such a presumed 'neo-medieval purity' is known to us. On the contrary, both polyphonic improvisation on the Gregorian chant and the collective use of instrumental diminutions have left many traces in the scribal praxis, which has encouraged us to pursue these and other forms of experimentation. Not least those on the laude: Faenza 117 contains a great number of diminutions on secular pieces (both French and Italian), of which other sources preserve the texts of sacred contrafacta - the well-known cantasi come ('to be sung like...'). Two of these diminutions have been included here: one on the madrigal by Jacopo da Bologna Non al suo amante - of whose text, by Petrarch, an admirable contrafactum is preserved in the Biblioteca Riccardiana of Florence - and one on the famous lascivious ballata Deduto sei by Antonio Zacara da Teramo. The contrafactum of its text, taken from a well-known manuscript now at the Vatican Library, seems to be the result of a real 'depuration' or almost - considering the symmetrical location of the terms and the senses to be 'depurated' - a genuine 'exorcism' of the original text. We have no knowledge of the liturgical or para-liturgical function of the (possible) laude settings of Faenza. But Non al suo amante - let us remember - is followed by the Kyrie of f. 79.

The group of instruments that we propose includes - beyond the extremely sporadic use of two melodic instruments, the fiddle and the recorder - three families of late medieval keyboards: organs, organetti e clavicymbala. The first two have been reconstructed on the basis of the corpus of figurative iconography, while the third has been recreated on the basis of Arnold van Zwolle's exceptionally precise drawings - preserved in the Ms. Lat. 7295 of the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris - datable to the 1440s. The temperament is Pythagorean and the pitch is that of the oldest central-northern Italian documents: A = 520.

These words cannot suffice - our hope is that the sounds will recompense - to express our deepest gratitude towards the Biblioteca Comunale Manfrediana of Faenza, which has been of such precious aid during our many years of research on the manuscript.



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