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Chants for the Saints Cyril and Methodius in Neumatic Sources from the 12th-20th Centuries.

In this reviewer's opinion Bozidar Karastojanov is the best connoisseur of the neumatic notation in the early- and late-medieval Russian musical manuscripts. His numerous studies are published mostly in Bulgarian musicological periodicals. This volume presents a special project of assembling all known neumated chants in honor of the two "Slavic Apostles," Cyril and Methodius, in all known manuscripts. This is, therefore, a most useful anthology, containing facsimiles and hand-copied notation of hymns in addition to a record of sources with texts but without musical notation.

For the benefit of readers unfamiliar with these saints it will suffice to point out that these two brothers from Thessaloniki were sent in 863 C.E. by the Byzantine Emperor to the Moravians, in the eastern part of the present day Czech Republic, to convert them to Christianity. They also "created" the Slavic alphabet named "cyrillic," still in use in Russia, Bulgaria, and Serbia, and are viewed as founders of literacy among the Slavs not only for having translated liturgical books but also for being the authors of the earliest examples of hymns in the so-called "Old Church Slavonic language."

All titles and comments are printed first in Bulgarian then in Russian and English. The hymnody is presented in its original setting with neumes above the texts. The Bulgarian original and its Russian translation requires no comment. The English translation is literal and follows word for word the original, which makes for unidiomatic English, anglicizing words for which there is no known equivalent in English. It is regrettable that the English translator appears to have been unfamiliar with accepted terminology in Western musicological literature and thus, when encountering such terms in their original language, creating a new translation that is unsatisfactory. To be specific, in the rather short general introduction (pp. 17-21), the word "biblioteka" (i.e., library) is given as "Book-Stock"; "printing house" is recognizable for the original "tipografiya." But when it comes to notation, the already accepted term "znamennaya notatsiya" (literally "sign notation") for "neumatic notation" becomes "banner notation," translating "znamya" (i.e., "sign") as "flag" or "banner," which is another possible meaning of the term yet one never used as a designation for neumes. It gets even worse when the term "dvoznamennik" is used to designate a musical manuscript (from the seventeenth or eighteenth century) with two notations: neumatic and staff notation beneath the neumes, that is listed as "bibanner notation!?" The author's idiosyncratic use of the term "kontrapozita" is anglicized as "contrapositum" - the closest meaning that may be inferred seems to be "version!" What we would call a "call-number" for a book or manuscript is given as "press-mark."

To sum up then: for its topic and discussion this volume is of primary interest to students of Byzantine and Slavic chants; the reader is expected to be not only a musicologist but also a scholar in Slavic studies. Thus, it seems advisable to use the Bulgarian original and its Russian translation rather than the English counterpart text, which is a pity, since the scholarly world should take notice of this truly wonderful project and its high achievement. The presentation of sources brings together the data from some of the earliest examples of Slavic musical manuscripts. While these sources are not unknown to specialists, it is a pleasure to see them assembled in one place even if only for a few examples of the rich repertory of hymns. If there is a missing aspect left untouched by the author, it is the possible relationship of some of the Slavic texts and notations to some Byzantine models. The relationship of some of the "stichera" for these saints to those for the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, was discussed by me in 1966 at the Byzantine Congress in Oxford. While it is entirely possible that some of these hymns may have been "original" creations of Slavic authors, the usual pattern of creative activity in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries was to utilize an existing model and emulate its textual rhythm and melodic turns, just as an icon painter brought a few personal traits into an existing iconographical tradition. The very availability of these examples will stimulate scholars to search for Byzantine counterparts and to determine the degrees of original creativity in these hymns which, in their more recent incarnations, are still chanted on feast days honoring these saints. Karastojanov's book will serve as a useful springboard for additional investigations providing further enrichment of the field of Byzantino-Slavic contacts in the area of hymnody and chants.

MILOS VELIMIROVIC University of Virginia (Emeritus)
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Author:Velimirovic, Milos
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1995
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