Music and musical culture in the Czech lands during the reign of Emperor Rudolf II: Part 2.
Music in the Kingdom of Bohemia's cities in the Rudolfine era
If we are to survey the music sources from the Rudolfine era preserved in what is now the Czech Republic, the majority of them hail from cities, or more specifically, from urban churches. The bulk of them are thus the sacred music that was sung during divine services. At the time, in non-Catholic churches sacred songs were jointly sung by all those who wished to sing and who could make use of the numerous printed hymn-books available. The present article, however, is primarily focused on the singing in the choir lofts, which were allocated for trained vocalists.
What actually was the position of the townsfolk, and what were their musical preferences? The Hussite movement in the early 15th century can be deemed part of the early Reformation, which resulted in changes in the power division in the Kingdom of Bohemia. The previously wealthy and influential Catholic Church lost its possessions and political power, and duly became a poverty-stricken organisation, one dependent on the will of the ruling class. On the other hand, during the Hussite Wars representatives of the royal cities gained significant power and had to be counted with as the Third Estate. In the era of the weak kings of the House Of Jagiellon (1471-1526), cities competed with the gentry for a share in power in the Kingdom.
In the wake of the Habsburgs' accession to the Bohemian throne in 1526, the position of the cities weakened, and following his victory in the war against the Protestant princes and imperial cities in Germany in 1547, Emperor Ferdinand I sidetracked them altogether. The cities had to reconcile themselves with the loss of influence, as well as the extensive confiscations of their properties. Even though in the more peaceful second half of the 16th century prosperity did return, high politics continued to be the preserve of other social classes. And when it comes to the conflicts at the beginning of the 17th century (the Letter of Majesty in 1609; the Bohemian Revolt in 1618, the Estates' uprising against the Habsburgs), the urban population rather passively looked on.
Yet let us return to the choir lofts. The penurious Church was not capable of fulfilling all the duties to society it was supposed to perform. Regular divine services could not make do without song. Hymns and polyphonic music were gradually taken care of by laymen instead of the clergy, while a major role in this transformation was played by the schools. Ever since the Middle Ages, parish churches had run schools and priests had selected boys suitable for further education from among the children of the parishioners. This training also entailed singing, with the boys helping their teachers (cantors) in church performances, thus also learning the repertoire for their later possible clerical career, as this indeed was the main aim of their schooling. Vocally talented children from poor families could thus acquire an education, for which they actually earned money by singing at churches. Pupils hailing from more affluent families were taught how to sing too; yet they rather attended the parish schools because literacy was becoming increasingly important in the crafts and trades.
This brief elucidation of the historical background is vital for understanding the functioning of the two types of choral institutions that participated in singing at churches. In terms of the standard operation, of greater significance were the school choirs led by cantors (some of them by schoolmasters), who carried out regular duties (at masses, vespers, funerals, requiems), yet more spectacular, as documented by the preserved sources, were the literary brotherhoods, entirely lay choirs made up of educated adult citizens, which began to be established circa 1490. The members of the literary brotherhoods considered singing at churches a certain privilege, so they had special galleries built and did not hesitate to lay out considerable sums on marvellous, frequently illuminated, hymn-books. Yet, in the main, they merely committed themselves to singing at morning masses on Sundays and feast days. Some of the preserved hymn-books make it possible to determine with certainty whether they were used by members of literary brotherhoods (those comprising compositions for male voices only, the mass repertoire) or schoolboys (music for high children's voices, vespers and other liturgy of the hours hymns), whereas with other hymn-books it is not so easy to tell, and thus we can assume that they were available for both choir types at the same church.
The core of the repertoire was constituted by Gregorian chant, which was sung during masses from the gradual and vespers from antiphon-books. The Hussites came up with the idea of translating chants from Latin into Czech, with the earliest attempts known being made in the case of the Jistebnice hymn-book in the first half of the 15th century. Although singing in Czech was not afterwards banned in the non-Catholic milieu, the hymn-books that were in the possession of scholars around 1500 bear witness to their users having given preference to Latin. Circa 1540, a new wave of translations of hymns occurred, in the wake of which Czech became a regular liturgical language at non-Catholic churches and Czech chants were even included in printed psalters.
The hymn-books dating from circa 1500 not only contained chants. They also encompassed Latin songs created before the Hussite era, which were inserted in some passages of the divine service. Later on, they were translated into Czech and became the basic repertoire of the Czech church vocal performances, remaining so up until modern times. Furthermore, the hymn-books included old polyphonic songs, which were immensely popular among the traditionalist literary brotherhoods. This somewhat self-contained culture was only slowly penetrated by new music from without--the Dutch polyphony composed by, for instance, Josquin Desprez and Heinrich Isaac. And precious few hymn-books had the two musical worlds side by side, with the best-known example being the "Codex Specialnik" (Special Song-book), which also includes successful Czech attempts at compositions in the new style. Serving as an example is the version for three voices of the Saint Wenceslas chorale (Our Dear Saint Wenceslas).
The majority of the old music pieces were still performed live in the Rudolfine era. Virtually all of them were written by anonymous composers, with those we actually know something about only appearing in the second half of the 16th century. An interesting figure in the Catholic milieu was Krystof Hecyrus (1520-1593), who was born in Cesky Krumlov and mainly worked as a teacher, municipal scribe and, after becoming a widower and ordained, dean in Ceske Budejovice. In 1561, his collection Veteres ac piae cantiones, containing 63 songs, hymns and odes for four voices to Latin and German texts, was published in Nuremberg, the one and only known Catholic music print of polyphonic songs which was intended for schoolboy choirs. Some of the collection's pieces became extremely popular, including, for instance, the song Fit porta Christi pervia, which can be found in sources throughout Central Europe up until the end of the 17th century. The Utraquist milieu of the Czech-speaking cities experienced a Golden Age circa 1570, when a whole group of Czech composers were active, most of them writing music for the needs of the Utraquist literary brotherhoods. A period of great artistic flowering commenced. Encompassing two generations of composers, it would last throughout the reign of Rudolf II and come to an end circa 1620, amidst the turbulent events following the Battle of White Mountain.
Most noteworthy from among the first, post-1570, generation of Czech composers are several creators known to us owing to their relatively large volume of works: Ondrej Chrysoponus Jevicsky (active between 1570 and 1590, 130 works), Jiri Rychnovsky (circa 1550-1616, about 40 works), Jan Trojan Turnovsky (circa 1550-1606, 40 works), Jan Simonides Montanus (died in 1587, 24 works), Jan Stephanides Pelhrimovsky (29 works), Jakub Marsalek (5 works). The major composer of the second, post-1585, generation was Pavel Spongopaeus Jistebnicky (circa 1560-1619, about 100 works).
Regrettably, the majority of their compositions have not been preserved in their entirety, owing in part to the period custom of scoring polyphonic pieces into individual voices in a special part-book (Stimmbuch). And the adversity of the centuries that followed wrought destruction. Some of the pieces were certainly lost during the Thirty Years' War, yet Renaissance polyphony continued to be commonly sung throughout the 17th century. The greatest losses came in the wake of Emperor Josef II's secularisation edicts. The 1784 edict abolished the literary brotherhoods, whose properties were auctioned off and whose sheet music was sold off at a fraction of its value as waste and wrapping paper. Only that which the former brotherhood members themselves bought, so as to preserve at least something for posterity, has managed to survive. And, naturally, splendid illuminated graduals were given preference to as against incomprehensible polyphonic pieces cursorily scored into unsightly part-books. A single complete source of the former type--a five-part gradual of the literary brotherhood of the Saint Michael Church in Opatovice, in Prague's New Town, dating from 1573-1578 (ms. National Library in Prague XI B 1, Strahov D.A.II.3), has been preserved, as have a very small number of complete pieces by the aforementioned composers: Jevicsky--101 (of which 100 two-part works, from the collection Bicinia nova, published in Prague in 1579, otherwise just a single motet), Rychnovsky--8, Turnovsky--15, Montanus--1, Marsalek--o, Pelhrimovsky--o, and Spongopaeus--1.
There are also sources in which all the parts are written in one book. These song-books contain complete songs, yet most of them are merely short movements, whose composers, with a few exceptions, are anonymous. They can be divided into two groups: literary (Benesovsky, from 1576-1602; Chlumecky, circa 1580) and school (Prachaticky, 1610; Miletinsky --probably after 1610; Priborsky--circa 1610) hymnbooks, and comprise a total of 700 pieces. The songs from the school hymn-books were still sung throughout the 17th century.
We know nothing as to how the mentioned composers actually got to writing music. Many a thing can be assumed. None of them made an extraordinary career. Turnovsky was a priest, while the majority of the others worked as music teachers and were perhaps also in charge of a literary brotherhood choir. University education was not required for the job of a teacher (unlike in the case of "rectors"--schoolmasters, who often advanced to the better-paid post of municipal scribe), it was sufficient to have practical experience as a member of the school choir, which had to be passed through by all gifted boys from a humble background. First, they sang chants and descant parts in polyphony, then, after their voices had broken, deeper voices. Some of the youths remained at the schools for a number of years, assisting the cantor and, most significantly, singing at the church. And it is highly likely that these polyphonists had passed through this practice of serving as "assistants". The composers of the generation of Jevicsky and Rychnovsky, who were apprentices between 1560 and 1570, must have been very familiar indeed with the music of the fourth generation of Dutch composers (Clemens non Papa), which at the time was disseminated through prints and copying, as their compositional style is commensurate in this respect. Yet not all of them could be said to have entirely mastered the art of counterpoint, which would indicate that they were autodidacts, but at least some of the pieces by Rychnovsky, Turnovsky and Jevicsky can be considered to be accomplished and respectable works. What, and for whom, did the said composers write? They primarily wrote utility sacred music for the needs of the literary brotherhoods: mass ordinaries and propers, songs and motets. Evidently resulting from the brotherhoods' limited possibilities were some traits these pieces had in common--their scope reduced to include male voices only, with the highest voices lacking in agility, being static even. As regards the music written for school choirs, these limitations were not present, with preference actually being given to high boys' voices. Yet this particular layer of the Czech repertoire has yet to be sufficiently explored and, what is more, it is absolutely anonymous.
The reader may well raise the question of why there has been no mention of the perhaps most renowned Czech Renaissance composer, Krystof Harant of Polzice and Bezdruzice (1564-1621), who, with regard to his age, would have belonged to the same generation as Pavel Spongopaeus. Owing to its exclusive and courtly nature, Harant's oeuvre totally surpasses the urban musical culture, to which the present article is dedicated, and falls instead within the context of the group of composers centred around Rudolf II's court ensemble, whose pieces would have been familiar in the cities too, either through their scores that were published in Prague and other centres, or within the absolutely cosmopolitan repertoire, which through various channels had spread across Europe and which, alongside such celebrities as Orlando di Lasso, only exceptionally included music created by the Czech urban composers.
Jiri Rychnovsky / Georgius Richnovinus, Musicus celeber, Civis Chrudimensis * 1540/45, Rychnov nad Kneznou [dagger] 1016, Cnrudim
"Richnovius, auch Richnowinus, Georg, wird Musicus celeber genannt, und nach dem Zcugnijle Bienenbergs, im 2ten Theile der Geschichte der Stadt Koniggratz in Msspt. ist sein Portrait am Tittelblatte der Literatenbiicha in Koniggratz. Sein Sohn Richnovius, Wenzel, geboren in Chrudim, war ijgg an der Pfarrkirche zu St. Heinrich in der Neustadt Prag als Organist angestellt, welche Stelle er mit vielem Ruhme bekleidet hat. Imjahre 1606, den 17. September ward er nach Bohmischbrod geladen, liejl sich in der Kirche horen, und starb den Tag darauf. Die damaligen Dichta Johann Kampanus, Gabriel Svechinus, Paul Stransky besangen seinen Tod. Jonas Pelargus sagt unta andem: 'atqve aliqvis saeva venena dedit'." ["Richnovius, also Richnowinus, Georg, was named Musicus celeber, and according to the testimony of Bienenberg, his portrait is featured in the 2nd part of the manuscript History of the Town of Koniggratz, on the title page of the book in the possession of the literary brotherhood in Koniggratz. His son Richnovius, Wenzel, born in Chrudim, was in 1599 appointed organist at the Parish Church of St. Henry in the New Town of Prague, a post he served with great glory. In 1606, on the 17th of September, he was invited to Bohmischbrod, played at the church and died the next day. The poets of the time Johann Campanus, Gabriel Svechinus and Pavel Stransky extolled the deceased. Jonas Pelargus said, among other things, 'atqve aliqvis saceva venena dedit' (according to some, he was poisoned with a savage venom)."]
This is the brief, yet compendious dictionary information about Jiri (Georg) and Vaclav (Wenzel) Rychnovsky summed up in 1815 by Bohumir Jan Dlabacz, the Strahov Monastery librarian and author of a book on the history of art in Bohemia.
Povaziti slusi clovece mily / Consider carefully, kind man
Jiri Rychnovsky is a representative of the generation of Czech composers who were born around the middle of the 16th century and from the 1580s on created a singular urban musical culture in Bohemia. Compared to their colleagues in Western Europe, they were not professionals in the true sense of the word. These composers received the rudiments of their musical training at particular schools, in which practicing music and the basics of theory formed a significant part of the curriculum. From their early childhood, these pupils of municipal schools performed as choristers at parish churches, singing morning masses and afternoon vespers, yet they were also engaged in other ceremonies, including requiem masses and funerals, as well as in local social events. After their voices had broken, when reaching maturity, they joined literary brotherhoods, guild-type societies associating citizens possessing literary and musical education, who sang together at Sunday and Rorate masses. For their needs, these men purchased from Prague copying workshops expensive graduals, in whose illuminations we can often find portraits of the brotherhood members and scenes from the life of contemporary society, or more ordinary hymn-books, and manuscripts of polyphonic music, which they largely itemised according to voices into part-books (Stimmbuch). From the 1570s on, these music sources included compositions of Czech origin, many of them set to Czech texts, whose creators--increasingly often named--were musically skilled members of the literary brotherhoods. Thus we have available the names of late-Renaissance Czech composers about whose lives we have very little information. Some names occur solitarily or sporadically, while others--among them Pavel Spongopaeus Jistebnicky, Ondrej Chiysoponus Jevicsky, Jan Simonides Montanus and Jan Trojan Turnovsky--often appear in sources throughout Bohemia and even emerge in foreign manuscripts. An exceptional position, primarily owing to the number of compositions, is occupied by Jiri Rychnovsky.
Kdyz jsi v stesti pohlidej k konci / Think of the end while you are happy
Writing about Jiri Rychnovsky is a rather difficult task. Notwithstanding his being mentioned on numerous occasions in Czech musicological and historical literature, we have very limited information as to his life. Rychnovsky was born circa 1540 in the town of Rychnov nad Kneznou, where today he is commemorated by a memorial plaque created by the sculptor and medal-maker Jiri Kolaisky and placed in 1990 on the front wall of the 1602 Renaissance bell tower by the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. We know nothing about his childhood. In all likelihood, Rychnovsky studied at Charles University in Prague. From 1570 (or 1572) until his death, he lived and worked in Chrudim, initially serving as an organist and cantor, then as the choir master at the deanery church and ultimately also as a reeve. Naturally, he was a member of the local literary brotherhood, and for many years sat on the municipal council. Although he spent a long time in Chrudim, not a single music source documenting his life and work in the town has been preserved, or at least none has been discovered. Rychnovsky was an Utraquist by religion, and his two sons--Jan and the aforementioned Vaclav--were brought up to follow the same doctrine. His signature is preserved in the Chrudim Ultraquist hymn-book dating from 1582.
Znamenej krestan verny / Remember, faithful Christian
Jiri Rychnovsky's preserved oeuvre amounts to eight complete compositions. Seven of them are included in a single autograph of Czech origin, which contains all the parts and hails from the St. Michael Church in Prague's New Town. It concerns four parody masses for five voices, written to the motifs of motets by various composers (Missa super Mariae Magdalenae, super Dum complerentur, super Et valde mane and super Quern vidistis pastores), two cycles of propria missae for five voices (in Dominica Pentecostes, in Dedicatione Ecclesiae) and the motet for five voices Znamenej kfestan verny (Remember, Faithful Christian). A full-page illustration in a hymn-book hailing from the city of Hradec Kralove (Koniggratz), which will be dealt with at a later juncture, contains another complete Rychnovsky piece, the psalm paraphrase Decantabat populus for four voices. His other preserved compositions are not complete. With a single exception, the said motet, none of his works to Czech texts has been preserved in a form that includes all the voices.
Prorokovali proroci co se stalo o pulnoci/ The prophets had foretold that which happened at midnight
In his compositional technique, Jiri Rychnovsky brought to bear his knowledge of the creations of representatives of the fourth generation of Dutch composers, particularly Jacob Clemens non Papa (his motet Mariae Magdalena served as a model for Rychnovsky's masses) and Nicolas Gombert. The music of the two spread to Bohemia through prints, anthologies of motets and mass ordinaries, most of them produced in Nuremberg. Rychnovsky drew upon their conception of melody, their ideal of contrapuntal leading of voices and the method of working with the text, especially as regards the inner division of the composition and the representation of the contents of the set words (rhetoricalfigures'). Judging by his pieces preserved in a number of Czech manuscripts, in which he is stated under the initials G. R., his most prolific period was between 1570 and 1590. We know all his compositions owing to period copies. The incipits of the texts of several of his Czech pieces are used as the titles dividing the sections of the present article. None of his pieces was printed.
Temnosti staly jsou se po vselike zemi / Darkness fell upon the whole land
As mentioned above, Jiri Rychnovsky had two sons--Vaclav and Jan. Vaclav became a renowned organist and served at the St. Henry Church in Prague's New Town. His performance artistry gave rise to a legend related to the cause of his sudden death. As stated in Dlabacz's dictionary characteristics quoted in the introduction to this text, he was invited to play as a guest in the town of Oesky Brod (Bohmischbrod), yet he died shortly after the performance. The mention of savage venom, "atqvealiqvis saeua venena dedit", in the memorial poem penned by his friend Jonas Pelarg resulted in dramatic explanations in the literature: "His life untimely ended before he had reached thirty years of age: he gave an organ concert in Cesky Brod, and the next day he suddenly dropped dead. His friends arrived at the conclusion that he had been poisoned by his vile rivals who could not match his artistry." (Jan Blahoslav Capek). Yet the reality was probably more prosaic, as Vaclav Rychnovsky had already fallen ill en route to Cesky Brod and passed away as a consequence of his ailment three days following his organ performance (on 20 September 1606). Jiri Rychnovsky's second son, Jan, was a citizen of Chrudim, and was a member of the municipal council shortly before the fateful Battle of White Mountain in 1620. Afterwards, he left Bohemia, evidently in connection with the forced re-Catholicisation of the country, which culminated in the Renewed Land Ordinances, published in 1627 and 1628.
Nastal nam den vesely/ Our merry day arrived
One of the best-known and most frequently published illustrations in connection with the history of Czech musical culture is a group portrait (see the pictorial supplement) that is placed on the 4b folio of the first volume of the gradual in the possession of the literary brotherhood in Hradec Kralove (East Bohemia Museum, Hradec Kralove, shelf-mark: II A 13). It depicts three men amidst a peculiarly conceived milieu. The central figure is a scrivener rewriting a notation of a music composition, while sitting at a table with simple scribal tools. In the background, almost hidden in the shadow, two men observe him. One of them, standing close by a column, holds a colour wheel with hues and brushes. The other, suspiciously ruddy, holds in his left hand a scroll and with the right hand points beyond the illumination's main scene to a humbly dressed male singer, who holds a part-book with music notation. The three men are consistently referred to in the literature as the scrivener Matej (Matous) Litomericky, the illustrator Matous Radous and the composer Jiri Rychnovsky. The full-page illumination is interesting in numerous respects. The composition of the central scene itself is extraordinary, revealing its being inspired "from without". In a way, it resembles some mannerist representations of the bathing Susanna. The architecture in the background, as well as the landscape, is basically fantastic, ranking alongside the scenes depicted by the artists at the court of Emperor Rudolf II. Particularly interesting in terms of musical iconography are the scenes at the edge of the illumination, featuring angels, putti, men audaciously clad in "Antique" attire and women in Renaissance dresses in various, partially stylised, yet, for the most part, very realistic situations, corresponding to the contemporary performance of, above all instrumental, music.
The instruments (from the left upper edge clockwise: the lute, zink, viola da gamba, quintern, bass pommer, positive organ, alto pommer, tenor trombone, and, probably, another zink) and the singer with a part-book are also represented in an entirely realistic manner, including airlocks, strings, holes and the manner of playing. By and large, the painter knew how, and on what, music was performed, or he must have painted according to an informed model. What is more, the painter added to the picture that which bears testimony to the period music performance, depicting, for instance, "holding" by other persons of the sheet for the musicians whose hands were busy (see the bottom corner of the illumination).
The identity of the men painted in the illumination can only be determined by looking into the actual manuscript. The backrest of the chair on which the scrivener sits bears an inscription in golden colour, Math. Litom. Other names are similarly written on the plinth of the column by which the two figures stand: Math: Radau . Boh. P(ictor) and Gear: Richnovinus Composi(tor). The illustration also includes an inscription above the top of the wall that divides the interior from the landscape. A frame contains the following words: Omnis spiritus laudet Dominu(m), the final verse of Psalm 150. We can thus assume that this motto inspired the landscape's composition: the rising smoke as a symbol of prayer, and the praying man on his knees in the foreground.
Jezu Kriste vykupiteli / Jesus Christ, our redeemer
Jiri Rychnovsky's pieces spread by means of copies through Czech towns. They gained popularity owing to their vocal casting, scope and conception, including the melodic invention, satisfying the needs of the literary brotherhoods of the time. Since only men and boys sang in literary brotherhoods, the vocal range of these compositions, performed by similar or "equal" (ad aequles) voices, was not large. Jiri Rychnovsky's works have been preserved in autographs that were the property of the literary brotherhoods in Hradec Kralove, Jaromer, Prague, Rokycany, Rakovnik, Klatovy, Sedlcany and Ledec nad Sazavou. Remarkably, his works have also been found in Slovak manuscripts, in Bardejov, for instance. The overwhelming majority of his compositions have been preserved in fragments, which makes it difficult to assess their quality. Yet his contemporaries recognised Jiri Rychnovsky as a distinguished, skilful and celebrated composer (Musicus celeber).
Music at the court of Karl of Liechtenstein, during the Rudolfine era
After the fashion of court ensembles of trumpeters, aristocrats in the Renaissance era employed consorts that mainly performed music for entertainment purposes. During the course of the 16th century, similar ensembles were formed in all the bigger towns and they also performed in churches. Within the Renaissance context, the term "Kapelle" (chapel) exclusively refers to a music ensemble belonging to a court chapel, thus serving for liturgical purposes. A unique and major institution in this respect in the Czech lands was the music ensemble at the court of Rudolf II, with the only other formation of this type being the ensemble of the chapel of Duke Albrecht von Wallenstein, made up of seven singers and an organist, as listed in his court's 1630 inventory. The cultural impact of the Imperial Court in Prague on the Margraviate of Moravia can, for the time being, be best manifested using the example of the wealthiest local magnate, Karl von Liechtenstein (1569-1627). In all likelihood, his music ensemble was only established upon his being appointed the provincial governor (Landeshauptmann) in 1604 and went on to serve in its original form for merely six to eight years, although it is evident that some musicians were still serving at the Liechtenstein court in the second and third decades of the 17th century. So as to get a better picture of the situation, however, we should return back to the end of the 16th century.
By marrying the daughters of the last member of the prominent Boskovice family, Karl and his brother Maximilian duly joined the ranks of the most affluent Moravian noblemen at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries. Another significant step in Karl's career was his (and his brother's) conversion to Catholicism, which he proclaimed in public at the Jesuit Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Brno. The ceremony, which took place on All Saints' Day in 1599, was also attended by Francis, Cardinal of Dietrichstein, Bishop of Olomouc and papal legate.
In the said year, a gentleman, one Karl von Liechtenstein, the proprietor of Valtice, who had taken the daughter of Jan Sembera for his wife, betrayed his ancestors and, for the sake of secular glory, repudiated his evangelic religion and converted to the Roman Catholic Church, bringing his wife and brother to the same religion, then pursued great religions tyranny over the people, particularly his subjects, not even sparing his own mother, who, not allowed by him to freely profess her faith, was forced to flee from him to another land. And so, for these reasons, he was granted a blessing from the Jesuits and the Pope, who in reward for his services recommended that Rudolf, Holy Roman Emperor, appoint him his privy councillor; whereupon he served the Emperor as the head of the province of Moravia, doing great harm to the inhabitants of that land.
In addition to this elucidating characterisation provided by a contemporary Brno observer, worthy of mention too is a collection of Latin and Italian poems (songs) celebrating the Liechtenstein brothers' conversion to Catholicism, published in Verona (!) in 1601. A copy has been preserved and maintained at the Moravian Library in Brno. Even though the circumstances of the book's origination are still unknown, we can consider it one of the numerous documents serving to prove the interconnection between Moravia and Italy at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries.
His conversion to Catholicism indeed primarily resulted in Liechtenstein's being appointed to the top offices at the Imperial Court in Prague. The account of episodes from Karl's life alone is reminiscent of reading the tabloid press (the temporary closure of the Minorite Monastery in Brno in 1597, feuds over huge properties of some other monastery, his love affair with Maria Manrique de Lara in Prague at the beginning of the 17th century).
In May 1600, Karl von Lichtenstein was named a member of the Imperial Privy Council and in September of that year he was provisionally appointed to the post of Rudolf II's Chief Hofmeister, by right of which he became a representative of a group of courtiers, including several musicians, who did not directly fall within the court chapel (Hans Leo Hassler, Carlo Ardesi, Nicolaus Zangius). In October 1602, Karl von Liechtenstein left the court for first time, yet soon returned, in December of that year. In August 1603, he surprisingly left the court in Prague again, for Moravia, so as to supervise his manors there. There are numerous indicia bearing witness to Karl von Liechtenstein's contacts with the Imperial Court musicians in Prague. The Kapellmeister Philippe de Monte dedicated to him his ninth book of madrigals for six voices, which was published in Venice in 1603. The 1608 inventory of musical instruments and compositions compiled at the Prostejov Chateau, one of Karl von Liechtenstein's multiple residences, lists a virginal, a keyboard instrument from the Imperial organist Charles Luython (most likely an instrument built by him), as well as printed and, primarily, manuscript scores of court musicians, headed by Philippe de Monte and Charles Luython.
In January 1604, Karl von Liechtenstein was appointed to the post of provincial governor (Landeshauptmann) of Moravia. His decision to set up his own ensemble may have reflected his having been influenced by the Imperial Court in Prague and the necessity to represent himself appropriately as the top Moravian officer. No later than in the autumn of 1604, Karl von Liechtenstein hired the German composer Nicolaus Zangius (1570-1617) as his Kapellmeister, at the annual wage of 200 gulden. At the time, Zangius was not only a member of Rudolf II's court, he also served as Kapellmeister of the Lutheran Marienkirche in the Hanseatic town of Danzig (Gdansk).
The evidence suggests that in the autumn of 1604 the Prince of Liechtenstein sent Zangius to Vienna to purchase sheet music, which he probably did in person from the merchant Martin Keyl for the total amount of 124 gulden. Given the immensity of the sum, and with regard to the mentioned 1608 inventory, it would seem that Zangius bought all the music prints available on the market at the time. Yet this huge volume of sheet music, encompassing the majority of the contemporary genres, may be more related to Karl von Liechtenstein's endeavour to put together an exquisite collection than to his ensemble's versatility. A number of the materials were expensive, folio-format prints, which were furnished by the Mikulov bookbinder with leather covers bearing the Liechtenstein family emblem (supralibros). Through another Viennese merchant, the Prince ordered in Venice musical instruments from one Bernardo Rossi for 54 gulden. Soon afterwards, another almost 10 gulden were outlaid on instruments that may have been bought by Zangius in person. In parallel with these acquisitions, an ensemble was being formed. The best evidence of its size can be found in indirect records, pertaining to purchases of shoes, clothes, laundry costs, etc. On 27 November 1604, a locksmith was paid for the delivery of 12 new keys to the musicians' room (Music Jungen Comma) at the Lednice Chateau, which served as the dwelling for 10 to 12 apprentices, trumpeters who could also play other instruments. The Liechtenstein account book dating from 1605 includes at least nine names of these young musicians, and in May of that year it mentions the purchase from a Prostejov cobbler of 12 pairs of shoes for the trainees. Moreover, the Liechtenstein court employed the organist Daniel Hoffman, at the annual salary of 35 gulden; the trumpeter Hans Rottel, with the high annual wage of 100 gulden; the aforementioned Kapellmeister, Nicolaus Zangius; and his subordinate, Ludwig Raidl (Reidl), who was also a musician. The 1606 accounts for the first time include the lutenist Petr Kapoun, allegedly an Imperial Court musician, and a cornetto player, only filed under the name of Jeronym.
The representative ensemble, made up of approximately 14 to 15 musicians, was amply sufficient to give performances of secular instrumental pieces, numerous intradas and other compositions, which are listed in the 1608 inventory. This book also bears witness to the ensemble's representative nature and the versatility of its members. The ensemble had available three keyboard instruments (a regal and two virginals), a host of wind instruments, including three sackbuts, a dulcian and 23 types of cornetto, as well as 13 string instruments. Mainly used for plenum performances were woodwind instruments with a piercing sound the shawm, crumhorns, the pommer and the rackett. Striking too is the quantity of trumpets, particularly serving for performances of intradas. The 1608 Liechtenstein inventory lists a total of 24 trumpets, as well as the necessary pair of timpani and taffeta draperies for instruments with an embroidered princely coat-of-arms.
The currently known sources support the assumption that Karl von Liechtenstein sustained his music ensemble above all for the sake of representation, which may also be suggested by what appears to be the short time of its existence, primarily bound to the period of his holding the office of provincial governor; the Liechtenstein documents from the second and third decades of the 17th century only mention individual musicians, with just the organist receiving a regular wage. Nor does the relatively extensive preserved correspondence attest to the Prince's being personally interested in music and musicians.
As the Landeshauptmann of Moravia, Liechtenstein at least prided himself in his ensemble at the time of the provincial parliament's session in Ungarisch Hradisch (Uherske Hradiste) in the summer of 1606, and we can assume that the musicians performed during the congresses in Brno. Consequently, Zangius soon took his bearings in the hierarchy of the Moravian nobility, and hence dedicated his sheet music collections dating from between 1609 and 1612, when he was no longer unambiguously connected with the Liechtenstein court, to the members of Karl's wider family from Zerotin. Yet no other permanent ensemble than that of Liechtenstein's has been documented to have existed in Moravia. A letter to Zangius from Jan Divis of Zerotin bears witness to the fact that he himself had neither musicians nor musical instruments available, while when it comes to Ladislav Velen of Zerotin and Jan Jetrich, Jr., of Zerotin and Straznice, their interest in music is indicated by the preserved sheets.
In 1612, Zangius's set of motets for six voices, under the then common title Cantiones Sacrae, was published in Vienna. He dedicated his one and only collection of this type to Hynek Junior Bruntalsky of Vrbno, on the occasion of whose marriage to Bohunka of Zerotin three years previously Zangius had written a motet for eight voices, which was printed in Breslau (Wroclaw). In the mentioned year, 1612, Zangius entered the services of the Elector of Brandenburg as his Kapellmeister, allegedly with the generous annual salary of 1,000 gulden. Upon assuming his new post, Zangius made use of his old contacts. He brought to Berlin four trumpeters from Prague and in the next year he hired another 24 musicians. Period sources reveal that between 1614 and 1616 the Liechtenstein trumpeter Mikulas Rasek too appeared as a guest at the Brandenburg court. For obscure reasons, in the summer of 1617 Zangius, employed as Kapellmeister at several prominent Central European courts, returned to Moravia (the new Kapellmeister in Berlin only assumed his post in February 1619). The book of probate assets of Olomouc citizens contains an entry dated 15 June 1617, referring to the scanty personal effects of the "musicus" Nicolaus Zangius, with the most noteworthy of them being four gulden in cash and a chest containing letters.
The most significant evidence of the musical culture in Moravia during the Rudolfine era thus remains the 1608 Prostejov list of sheet music and musical instruments, and the preserved Zangius compositions. To date, the quest for an extensive set of music materials has been fruitless, while the absence of any mentions in later sources may suggest that the collection perished during the fire at the Prostejov Chateau upon the invasion of the Swedish forces in 1643. Zangius's motets, documented back in 1608 in the Prostejov inventory and primarily preserved through the mentioned publication in Vienna, may take the listener back to the beginning of the 17th century, the time prior to the great commotion. Some of Zangius's motets are of a distinctly instrumental character, evoking the interplay of cornettos and sanckbuts in particular. The psalm-based motet Deus misereatur nostril for two choirs, published in Bautzen in 1602 to mark the wedding of the Elector of Saxony, is striking not only owing to its great range (C2-G5), but also the musical eruption at the words "then shall the earth yield her increase", as though Zangius had a bitter foreboding of the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War, which he himself did not live to experience.
Dance in the Rudolfine era
A different time, a different dance
The specific form of late-Renaissance dances was totally different to that of today's ballroom dancing. They did not feature the partners' close embracing, which would have been something totally unacceptable in the then noble society and, with regard to the contemporary elaborate and voluminous clothing, rather uncomfortable as well. The most popular forms were stately dances for couples, for instance, the pavane, passamezzo and allemande, during which the man led the woman on his right side, holding her hand, and gallantly attending to the lady's comfort. In other dances, the partners did not hold on to each other at all, dancing face to face, drawing near and then apart, circling around each other, or in sophisticated variations taking turns in performing solo creations of refined steps and courteous movements and gestures.
In general, we can say that Renaissance dance was dominated by diversity. In addition to ceremonious dances, which formed a dignified framework of festive events, and complex choreographic creations, conceived by dance masters, there were energetic and leaping types of dances, in which proficient individuals could show off their skills learned at dance lessons, as well as very simple group dances, in which the participants formed a circle or moved in a chain, which were mainly pursued by the common people and townsfolk. Yet they were also popular among the aristocracy, who wanted to have fun.
Dance evidently thrived during the reign of Emperor Rudolf II, with various types enjoying general popularity. The scale of the dances people engaged in was wide indeed. The individual countries of Europe had their own typical dances, which were introduced elsewhere by itinerant musicians and numerous travellers, who had got to know foreign regions and their customs and manners. A record of the Merry Brotherhood of St. Margaret in Louny (1600) contains a testimony of one of its members, claiming that he dances "... all kinds of capas, Czech, German, English, Jewish, Tartar ... as they were customary at the time."
Dancing in the Italian style
The most valued was the Italian dance art, which was viewed with great admiration. The Italian style was known throughout Europe, including the lands of the Kingdom of Bohemia, and was among the skills required of those who were eager to demonstrate their culture and refinement. This extremely accomplished and exquisite style developed from the first half of the 16th century and continued to remain in favour until the 17th century. The specific dances were rather tricky and complicated, placing high demands on both the performance and memory of the dancers, who had to know and master as many as several dozen types of steps, their variations and elegant movements, some of which only differed in minor details. So as to encompass these dances, those who wished to execute them faultlessly had to spend hour upon hour at lessons given by dance masters, which, however, not everyone could afford to pay for. Accordingly, proficiency in the Italian dance style represented a notable form of social prestige.
When participants in an event gave evidence that the dancers devoted to "Italian dance", it indicated a highly respectable occasion. During the wedding celebrations in 1555 in Plzen, the gentlemen dancing "Italian style" were even joined by the Viceroy, Archduke of Austria Ferdinand, son of Ferdinand I, the Holy Roman Emperor. It is not documented that the "Italian dances" were also practised by Czech ladies, although they too were familiar with the style, as they were performed at social events for their pleasure. To all appearances, they only watched, while the female positions in the dances were taken by men clad in women's clothes. Such was also the case of the famous performance on 5 February 1617 in Prague which entered the history of dance and theatre under the title Phasma Dionysiacum Pragense, held at Prague Castle in honour of Emperor Matthias and his wife Anna by the Czech nobleman Vilem Slavata, the future Chamberlain of the Kingdom of Bohemia, who himself danced, in woman's attire, in the show together with other aristocrats.
A gentleman's matter
Active interest on the part of gentlemen and cavaliers in dance was another significant difference as against the present time. There were several reasons for their penchant, with one of the main being the opportunity to be more often in the presence of women and gain their favour. Thoinot Arbeau, the author of the treatise Orchesographie (1589), arrived at the conclusion that dance in orderly society played an indispensable role and, when participating in this type of activity, those considering marriage could acquire relevant information about their companions: not only about their behaviour but also their physical dispositions--physique, health, whether their limbs were in good order, and even whether they found their smell agreeable.
What is more, dance was also an excellent form of physical exercise in which men could apply their skill and strength. In some dances, cavaliers were assigned complicated steps and difficult variations, particularly in the galliard, which was an extremely popular, and perhaps the most widely practised, dance during the Renaissance period. The title itself indicates that it was primarily intended for men, as the Italian word "gagliardo" means "vigorous, strong, stalwart, dashing, burly, bold, courageous". The galliard was danced in many countries in Europe and it enchanted even the most powerful and highest echelons of society. As documented, it was also favoured by England's Queen Elizabeth, while the French kings used to enjoy watching galliard performances and would generously reward the finest dancers. It has also been documented that one of the most feted 16th-century commanders, Don Juan d'Austria, the brother of Philip II of Spain, amused himself by dancing the galliard on board his ship during the military campaign against the fleet of the Ottoman Empire, which he decisively defeated at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.
The Habsburgs and dance
The members of the House of Habsburg too deemed the art of dance important. Owing to their close links with Italy, also strengthened through marriages, they were well acquainted with Italian culture and well aware of the significance of court parties, in which dance played an irreplaceable role. That is why the Habsburg courts employed Italian dance masters, and the Italian dance style and respective social manners were an integral part of the education and upbringing of courtiers and pages, as well as archduchesses and princes, the future empresses and emperors.
Rudolf II himself was a dexterous dancer and was thoroughly familiar with the Italian style. When in 1563, at the age of n, he and his younger brother, Ernest, were sent to the Spanish royal court to complete their education, they stopped en route in Milan. During their sojourn in Italy the boys attended dance lessons with the most celebrated local master, Cesare Negri. We can presume that the two princes continued to learn dance at the Spanish court, where at the time several Italian dance masters worked. Rudolf and Ernest subsequently presented their dance skills at the celebrations marking the wedding of their uncle, Archduke Charles of Styria, and Maria of Bavaria in Vienna. On the evening of 26 August 1571, they performed in the Dance of Stars, to music composed by the court Kapellmeister, Philippe de Monte.
Teachers of dukes and kings
The Italian dance masters called the subject of their profession virtu del ballare, which can be translated as "virtue of dance". The use of the word "virtue" clearly bears witness to the esteem and respect they attached to their craft, of which they duly convinced even the most powerful people of their time.
In the 16th century, the profession of dance master not only provided one with a decent standard of living, it also entailed the possibility of getting into contact with prominent and high-born persons, winning their favour and thus also gaining considerable prestige and fortune. Italian dance masters were engaged at European courts and the careers of some of them was truly staggering, alluring others to follow suit. Pompeo Diobono, who was assigned at the French court with the position of tutor of the Duke of Orleans, the future King Charles IX, not only was paid a generous wage by the monarch but he also received from other aristocrats . within a short time so many presents that it is not even possible to count them." Ambrosio Bontempo, who served as a dance master from the late 1580s at the court of the Duke of Styria and taught his children dance and social manners, was in 1608 ennobled.
Other Italian dance masters led acclaimed and sought-after schools. The most famous of them was the aforementioned Cesare Negri, who founded and directed for decades a dance academy in Milan and was in close contact with the local rulers, for whose pleasure and for representation purposes he created dance performances in honour of prominent visitors to the city, including, for instance, Margaret of Austria, Queen of Spain (1598), and the Infanta Isabella of Spain, her husband Albrecht von Habsburg, and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church Franz Seraph von Dietrichstein (1599).
In terms of dance history, the Rudolfine era has bequeathed us a relatively large number of high-quality dance literature collections, the majority of them hailing from Italy. The most noteworthy among them include printed treatises penned by the celebrated masters Fabritio Caroso and Cesare Negri, describing in detail the dance steps and variations, specific dances, as well as the modes of behaviour expected to be observed by ladies and gentlemen at social events. Caroso wrote two collections: II Ballarino (The Dancer, 1581) and Nobilta di Dame (The Nobility of Ladies, 1600); Negri penned one work, which was published twice under different titles: Le Grade d'Amore (The Graces of Love, 1602) and Nuove Inventioni di Balli (New Inventions of Dance, 1604). A copy of Negri's second manual is maintained at the National Library in Prague, as part of a convolute dating from the early 17th century (today under shelf-mark 11 B 41), which was in the possession of the Imperial Councillor Franciscus Godefridus Troilus a Lessoth.
Virtually all Italian dance collections hailed from Italy. One of the exceptions is a manuscript treatise written in the 1570s by Evangelista Papazzone, a dance master who served at the court of Rudolf II in Prague. Until recently unknown to Czech researchers, this manuscript provides an invaluable testimony to the Italian dance culture in relation to Bohemia, and is currently being thoroughly scrutinised.
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|Author:||Horyna, Martin; Danek, Petr; Manas, Vladimir; Tillmanova, Hana|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2015|
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