Mirabilia Musica  /  La Morra

Echoes from late medieval Cracow

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Ramée  RAM 2008


1. Breve regnum erigitur  [4:02]

2. Ave maris stella  [3:37]

3. [Kyrie]  [1:48]

4. Gloria  [3:55]  Mikołaj RADOMSKI (fl. c.1425)

5. Postaris in presepio / Maria amplioribus  [3:12]

6. Maria en mitissima  [2:13]

7. Salve thronus trinitatis  [1:19]

8. Sancta Maria succurre / Magnificat  [10:11]  plainchant / Mikołaj RADOMSKI

9. Credo  [4:21]  Johannes CICONIA (c.1370–1412)

10. [Balatum]  [2:00]  Mikołaj RADOMSKI

11. Cracovia civitas  [4:44]

12. Sanctus: Gustati necis pocula  [3:41]  Jacobus de CLIBANO ? (fl .1430–50)

13. Agnus Dei  [1:41]  plainchant

14. Nitor inclite claredinis  [3:38]  NICOLAUS (reconstructed by Michał Gondko)

15. Virginem mire pulchritudinis  [3:38]

16. Presulis eminenciam  [1:39]  Petrus Wilhelmi de GRUDENCZ (1392–after 1452)

17. Gloria (Ad ongni vento)  [5:17]  Antonio ZACARA da TERAMO (c.1350–1413)

La Morra
direction: Corina Marti & Michał Gondko

Doron Schleifer | Daniel Mentes | Ivo Haun de Oliveira | Matthieu Romanens — voices

Corina Marti — clavicymbalum, organetto, recorder
Michał Gondko — plectrum lute
Corinne Raymond-Jarczyk — fiddle

Recorded 1–6 December 2020 at St. Leodegar, Möhlin, Switzerland
Artistic direction & audio engineering: Rainer Arndt
Editing: Michał Gondko
Layout & German translation: Rainer Arndt
French translation: Catherine Meeùs
Executive production: Rainer Arndt / Outhere

Cover: A parchment document issued in 1425 by the city of Cracow
confirming its oath of allegiance to King Władysław Jagiełło and his newborn son, Prince Władysław (III Warneńczyk).
© The Central Archives of Historical Records (AGAD), Warsaw (cover),
© La Morra (p. 4)

℗ & © 2021 Outhere Music
RAM 2008


La Morra is indebted to Prof. Paweł Gancarczyk (Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw),
Prof. Jakub Kubieniec (Jagiellonian University, Cracow) and Dr. Leofranc Holford-Strevens (Oxford)
for the knowledge and advice they kindly shared during the preparation of this recording,
as well as Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych (The Central Archives of Historical Records, Warsaw) for providing the cover photographs.
The ensemble owns a special debt of gratitude to Łukasz Strusiński (Warsaw) for his commitment to this project.

This recording was kindly supported by Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

The Adam Mickiewicz Institute is a national cultural institution whose mission is to develop and communicate the cultural aspect of Poland by initiating international cooperation and cultural exchange. The Institute has implemented cultural projects on 6 continents, in 70 countries, including Italy, Russia, the USA, China and Brazil. The Institute has implemented 38 strategic programmes and held events for 60 million participants. The Culture.pl website provides fresh information on the most exciting Polish cultural events around the globe and is the biggest and most comprehensive source of knowledge about Polish culture. The Adam Mickiewicz Institute is governed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

Co-financed by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.

Mirabilia Musica – Musical Wonders

Sometime in the 1470s the expatriate Tuscan humanist Filippo Buonaccorsi (also known as Callimachus) penned a biography of his protector and patron Grzegorz of Sanok, the Archbishop of Lwów, in which he stated that Grzegorz, born around 1407, left home for good at the age of twelve to seek a better life and an education — a courageous first step on the path to a very successful ecclesiastical career. He earned his living as a tutor, scribe and singer, “for he had a natural attraction to music”, “a talent extremely prompt to assimilate the rules of that art” and “the most refined voice, solid and sonorous, with no less sweetness than splendour”. “It was on his return to Cracow” [from Germany, before 1428] “that the splendour of his voice and his manner of performance proved to his advantage. For at that time, that city, above all given to theology, virtually abandoning all the other liberal arts, placed a particularly high value on music, so that with its help above all to achieve the greatest possible solemnity for divine services. Therefore, at the very start of his return Grzegorz was held in the greatest esteem by all, since he excelled in that art for which the city was gripped by the greatest enthusiasm.”1 Assuming that Grzegorz had taken an active musical part in the above-mentioned divine services, what kind of  music would he have sung? Plainchant was the daily fare for singers employed in ecclesiastical establishments, followed by simple polyphonic settings that were either plainchant-based, such as the two-voice organum-like setting of the hymn Ave maris stella [track 2] or were freely composed, such as the conductus-like Salve thronus trinitatis [track 7]. Such musical competence would be considered more than sufficient in many Central European churches — but perhaps not in Cracow, a city that rose to prominence in the course of the 14th and 15th centuries under the rule of the Jagiellonian dynasty and became the political, commercial and cultural capital of the Crown of Poland; it remained as such until 1596, when the capital was moved to Warsaw.

There are two musical manuscripts from the first half of the 15th century which are of special importance for the history of music in Poland; Polish musicologists have been trying to contextualise these manuscripts since the beginning of the 20th century. These sources not only contain repertoire composed in Italy and France around 1400, but also have preserved local works that reveal evidence of an intense study of the Italian and French pieces. The first manuscript, datable to around 1440 and hereafter called “Kras 52”2, is a set of three gatherings with musical notation added to a collection of theological writings. The second, hereafter called “Wn 378”, was probably of similar dating and survives only in the form of pre-World War II photographs: the source itself was most likely destroyed by fire along with many thousands of other items held in the Krasiński Library in October 1944, after the collapse of the Warsaw Uprising.

Mistakes in the musical notation and in the Latin texts are more common in Kras 52 than in Wn 378. The latter stands out for the scribe’s inserted remarks in Polish, sometimes amorous in nature, sometimes — and more importantly — commenting on the music and the details of its performance. In Johannes Ciconia’s Credo [track 9] the tenor voice is to be “[repeated several times] until they (= the other voices) have fi nished [singing the remainder of the piece]” (asz dokoncza wyschyczko). The piece itself is deemed “the most magnificent [one] that could possibly be conceived” (barszo wspanylie yako ktore mosze postacz). In the Amen section of Antonio Zacara da Teramo’s Gloria [track 17] the singers are instructed to “hold (= support?) well” (trzymay dobrze), while the piece itself is rated “very beautiful” (kraszne barszo). It is clear that many of the works collected here were regarded as awe-inspiring masterpieces, an impression further strengthened by the use of words clearly intended to mean “work of art”: the Latin opus in Kras 52 and the Old Polish slowye in Wn 378 — the former being among the earliest documented cases of usage of this word in relation to a musical work (i.e. O[pus] Ciconie, “The work of Ciconia”), while for the latter the same meaning is clear from the context (i.e. slowye szacharie, “The work of Zacara”). Given their highly informal character, both manuscripts appear to have been personal collections of works that most likely belonged to music teachers and/or students who were also performers. This, together with the many references to Cracow, suggests that both manuscripts originated from the confluence of ecclesiastical, courtly and educational institutions in that city in the first half of the 15th century.

Both manuscripts are the sole sources of works by Nicolaus de Radom, a composer whose Polish name — Mikołaj Radomski (Mykolay Radomsky) — is given by the scribe of Wn 378, but whose identity remains unclear. Papal documents of 1390 that mention Nicolaus Geraldi de Radom, a priest from the diocese of Cracow, do not explicitly identify this person as the composer. Nicolaus, the clavicymbalum player to the Lady Queen of Poland (clavicymbalista domine regine Polonie) mentioned in a legal document issued in Cracow in 1422, would make a far better, although not the only plausible candidate, as keyboard players were usually fluent in mensural notation and were often music scribes and collectors; Wolfgang Chranekker and Johannes Lupi, respectively involved in the copying of the St. Emmeram Codex and some of the Trent Codices, here come to mind.

Kras 52 contains three celebratory compositions with references to historical events and persons. Hystorigraphi aciem, identified by the scribe as a work by Radomski (Opus N[icolai] de Radom), praises the Polish royal couple and their newborn second son, Prince Kazimierz; as it has already been recorded elsewhere by La Morra3, the remaining two are recorded here. Only the discantus voice of Nitor inclite claredinis [track 14] was notated, whilst space intended for the other voices was left blank. This recording offers a reconstruction of what originally must have been a three-voice composition. According to the source, the piece can be sung with two Latin texts: either with a conventional Christmas poem, or with a version of it modified into another panegyric for the Polish royal couple; in this case, however, the occasion is the birth of their first son, Władysław. The last of the three celebratory compositions, Cracovia civitas [track 11], survives also in Wn 378. It is a lengthy laudation of the city of Cracow and — again — of the royal family who dwelt there.4

Nowadays referred to as contrafactum, the procedure of applying new texts to pre-existing music was widespread in Central Europe. Musical models were mostly drawn from the widely circulating repertoire of late 14th-century French songs, with their original secular French texts being replaced by new and generally devotional Latin texts. Postaris in presepio / Maria amplioribus [track 5] and Maria en mitissima [track 6] appear to be contrafacta of a French rondeau and ballade respectively. In their treatises, early 15th-century Central European writers on music completely ignored the repetitive formal schemes imposed on the music by the original texts, and so did the authors of the musical contrafacta. The knowledge of how to repurpose music in this way, as well as of how to compose such pieces in the first place, must have been part of the skills required from composers such as Radomski. His own textless balatum [track 10] survives solely in Kras 52.

Radomski’s presence in Cracow in the mid-1420s seems certain, with at least one celebratory composition securely attributed to him and datable to 1426. He may still have been living in that city as late as 1440, possibly working as a music tutor: it does not seem too far-fetched to consider Kras 52 and Wn 378 as products of his teaching, as we may easily imagine him singing his own music alongside Italian and French works with his students in the city’s churches. Radomski’s surviving output consists predominantly of liturgical music for both the Mass and the Office. These works show that he was a keen observer of compositional techniques as used not only by such composers as Antonio Zacara da Teramo and Johannes Ciconia but also by younger composers of the generation of Guillaume Du Fay. Radomski’s works seem somewhat exotic and rough around the edges when compared to the above, but this is precisely the source of their charm. They are certainly rewarding to perform and attractive to listen to, as can be heard here not only in the radiant Gloria [track 4], where the composer used the divisi techique of splitting the discantus into two equal voices and thus at times created a four-voice texture within a three-voice piece, but also in the monumental Magnificat [track 8], where, in some verses, he employed the fauxbourdon technique to create a type of harmonisation of the plainchant. In this recording, Radomski’s Magnificat is sung in the context of a Marian antiphon from a book of plainchant used in the diocese of Cracow at that time.

Stylistically speaking, the youngest composition in Kras 52 — and consequently on this recording — is the English-sounding two-voice Sanctus: Gustati necis pocula with a three-voice Benedictus section [track 12]. It is also found in Austrian sources with attributions to Jacobus de Clibano, a singer active in Bruges, and to a certain Sweikl; like other “foreign” repertoire in Kras 52 and Wn 378, it may have reached Cracow from Vienna, imported by travellers such as the six German and Silesian “singers of the most revered Father, Lord Zbigniew [Oleśnicki], the Bishop of Cracow” (cantores reverendissimi patris domini Sbignei Cracoviensis Episcopi). Two of them had immatriculated at the University of Vienna a decade earlier, whilst all six of them enrolled as a group at the University of Cracow in 1440. For this recording we have paired the Sanctus with a beautiful monodic Agnus Dei melody [track 13] taken from a Graduale copied in Cracow in the later 15th century that was possibly intended for use in the cathedral.

Whether identical with Radomski or not, the clavicymbalista Nicolaus is symbolic of the many keyboard players documented as being in and around Cracow at various times during the 15th century. It is with them in mind that we have incorporated an intabulation of the French ballade En discort into this programme. A contrafactum of this ballade can be found in Central European sources (including Kras 52) with the text Virginem mire pulchritudinis [track 15]. The intabulation was preserved in the Buxheim Organ Book (c.1460) and is performed here on an early form of harpsichord described by Henri Arnaut de Zwolle and Paulus Paulirinus of Prague that was widely known in Central Europe. Th is may well be the kind of music that Zofia Holszańska, having become Władysław Jagiełło’s fourth wife and Queen of Poland in 1421, heard played by her clavicymbalista in her chambers.

Overlooked until now by music historians, Buonaccorsi’s account of the significance of music in early 15th-century Cracow in general and in the early life of Grzegorz of Sanok in particular provides a much-needed historical context for at least some of the music contained in Kras 52 and Wn 378. It is hard to imagine that Grzegorz was not acquainted, if briefly, with Radomski and with other men who had a similar interest in music and learning, such as the poet-composer Petrus Wilhelmi de Grudencz. Discovered in 1975, Wilhelmi is now widely recognised as Central Europe’s most idiomatic composer of the period. He enrolled in the University of Cracow in 1418 and was awarded his degrees in 1425 and 1430. Some of his earliest compositions, including Presulis eminenciam [track 16] with its imitation of the sound of bowed instruments (gigas), survive in yet another Cracow source of polyphonic music — a student notebook written around 1420, currently preserved in the Jagiellonian Library under call number 2464. Wilhelmi’s Presulis eminenciam is among the finest works in the collection, which mainly consists of simple Latin cantiones. Judging from the sometimes merciless corrective remarks, some of the pieces may have been supervised attempts at composition. No music by Zacara, Ciconia or indeed Radomski is present here — perhaps because the source predates the surge of interest in their works.

We should also devote a few words to Breve regnum erigitur [track 1], the anonymous Latin cantio that opens this recording. Its sole source is Kras 52 and it depicts the yearly student carnival. A reversal of hierarchy in educational institutions was a characteristic of the carnival, with the election of a student-king who had to be “a son of Cracow”. The destruction of his kingdom, however, loomed on the horizon right from the moment it was established: punishment by his superiors and the restoration of order were inevitable. This recording — a glimpse of the sound world of late medieval Cracow as captured in early 15th-century musical sources — would be incomplete without this entertaining song.

Michał Gondko

1 Translation: Leofranc Holford-Strevens, after Philippi Callimachi Vita et Mores Gregorii Sanocei, I. Lichońska (ed.), Warsaw 1963, pp. 16 and 18.
2 For an explanation of the abbreviations, readers are referred to the list of sources.
3 Petrus Wilhelmi de Grudencz: Fifteenth-century music from Central Europe, La Morra, Corina Marti & Michał Gondko (Glossa, GCD 922515).
4 For more information regarding Nitor inclite claredinis and Cracovia civitas readers are referred to the respective commentaries in the translations of the sung texts section

PL-Wn III.8054: Warszawa, Biblioteka Narodowa, Ms. III.8054 (olim Kras 52); c.1440
PL-Wn Lat. F.I.378: olim Warszawa, Biblioteka Narodowa, Lat. F.I.378 (Wn 378; lost; photographs
are kept in Poznań, University Library, Music Collection Division); fi rst half of the 15th century
PL-Kj 320: Krakó w, Biblioteka Jagielloń ska, Ms. 320 (olim Fasseau 46; AA I 18); 14th/15th century
PL-Kj 2464: Krakó w, Biblioteka Jagielloń ska, Ms. 2464 (olim DD X 12); c.1420
D-Mbs Cim 352b: München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cim. 352b (“Buxheimer Orgelbuch”); c.1460
PL-Kj 1267: Kraków, Biblioteka Jagielloń ska, Ms. 1267; third quarter of the 15th century
PL-KIk 1: Kielce, Biblioteka Kapituły Katedralnej, Ms. 1; 1372
PL-Kk 45: Kraków, Archiwum i Biblioteka Krakowskiej Kapituły Katedralnej, Ms. 45 (olim 77);
before 1423
PL-Kd 1 L: Kraków, Archiwum Polskiej Prowincji oo. Dominikanów, Ms. 1 L; c.1300
MC: Missale Cracoviense, [Straßburg], Johann Knobloch; 1510

Per Track
1. PL-Wn III.8054, 181v
2. PL-Kj 320, IIIv
3. PL-Wn III.8054, 175v
4. PL-Kk 45, 40r / PL-Wn Lat. F.I.378, 22v-23r
5. PL-Wn III.8054, 185r
6. PL-Wn III.8054, 176r
7. PL-Wn III.8054, 180r
8. PL-KIk 1, 218r / PL-Wn III.8054, 182r-183v
9. MC / PL-Wn Lat. F.I.378, 9v-11r (with PL-Wn III.8054, 202v-204r)
10. PL-Wn III.8054, 185v
11. PL-Wn Lat. F.I.378, 27v-29r (with PL-Wn III.8054, 173r-174r, 195v)
12. PL-Wn III.8054, 199v-200r
13. PL-Kj 1267, 12v-13r
14. PL-Wn III.8054, 180v-181r (tenor and contratenor reconstructed by M. Gondko)
15. D-Mbs Cim 352b, 43v-44r
16. PL-Kj 2464, 13r (and 12v)
17. PL-Kd 1 L, 193r / PL-Wn Lat. F.I.378, 12v-14r (with PL-Wn III.8054, 196r, 198r-200r)