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Memento Salutis Auctor
May 22, 2012 4:07 AM   Subscribe

Just imagine: a few musicologists know that there are 320 18th century sonatas lying somewhere in a Dutch archive. Half of them are by great masters such as Vivaldi and Telemann. The other half consists of works written by lesser-known but nonetheless interesting composers. Yet no one performs them or even shows any interest in them. Three hundred and twenty sonatas! Unthinkable, improbable.

The Leiden Choirbooks are a collection, not of 18th century sonatas but of 16th century polyphonic motets and masses. The six books were compiled between 1549 and 1565 for the College of the Seven Canonical Hours in the St. Peter's Church and feature pieces by composers such as Josquin des Prez, Clemens non Papa, Nicolas Gombert, and Jean Richafort.

Three years ago, the Dutch Egidius Quartet started a project to rescue them from oblivion. Every year, the Egidius takes one of the books, records the most interesting pieces (sometimes with a larger ensemble) and performs them in the same church where some of them were last heard more than 400 years ago.

Here they are performing a piece from the first book on Dutch television.
posted by mahershalal (23 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Never heard about this. Great post.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:21 AM on May 22, 2012


How can we blame this on piracy?
posted by Mezentian at 4:51 AM on May 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, for weeks, I have been searching for some event in Amsterdam, nice enough to ask my girlfriend to join me. I couldn't find anything suitable and now I end up booking tickets, thanks to an American website. If this is thanks to piracy, than piracy rules!
posted by stthspl at 5:44 AM on May 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Unthinkable, improbable

and not true, right? The whole business about 18th century sonatas, Vivaldi and Telemann was just a rhetorical device? There really aren't any sonatas and no music by anyone we've heard of?

That's an odd way to introduce music that really is beautiful.

That said, are there are more images of the codexes anywhere? The snippets they show are stunning, but there are far too few.
posted by alms at 5:48 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


America: Providing the world with entertainment since the 15th century.
posted by nowhere man at 5:50 AM on May 22, 2012


The point was that this music is just as beautiful and important as Vivaldi, just less famous -- and partly because so much of it has been lost entirely or forgotten in archives.

wasn't Vivaldi's work lost for a time?
posted by jb at 5:54 AM on May 22, 2012


Vivaldi is in my freezer.
Waiting to arise.

It's an Opus Dei thing.

But I have said too much.
posted by Mezentian at 5:56 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Analogous situations occur in other fields as well. For instance, we're missing most of the works of Aristotle.
posted by deathpanels at 6:04 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


But the thing is, these books weren't lost. They were just lying around in the local archives. It was known which composers were in there, it was even known that some of the pieces were unique to this collection. The music just wasn't considered important or interesting enough.

Luckily, some of that is changing now, not in the least thanks to this project.
posted by mahershalal at 6:13 AM on May 22, 2012


The whole business about 18th century sonatas, Vivaldi and Telemann was just a rhetorical device? There really aren't any sonatas and no music by anyone we've heard of?

Well, it depends of what you mean by "anyone we've heard of". These appear to be very relevant composers for their period, but not nearly as well-known today as Vivaldi and Telemann.

But it's an odd (and unnecessary as well as quite irritating) bait-and-switch indeed.
posted by Skeptic at 6:29 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


America: Providing the world with entertainment since the 15th century.

Granted, most of that time they've been laughing at us.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:41 AM on May 22, 2012


I'd like to hear them how they really sounded in the original, that's why I was disappointed that they used women as opposed to castrated choirboys to perform the peices.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:43 AM on May 22, 2012


But it's an odd (and unnecessary as well as quite irritating) bait-and-switch indeed.

Could it be a translation mistake?

They said "Half of them are by great masters such as Vivaldi and Telemann." and perhaps what they really meant was "Half of them are by masters as great as as Vivaldi and Telemann."

Maybe someone can check out the original Dutch (if there is any).
posted by sour cream at 6:45 AM on May 22, 2012


It's not even good bait. There are, for example, a few thousand "known" Telemann pieces. Listen to half of them and report back how enthusiastic you are for finishing up and adding a couple of hundred more.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:47 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a similar story about the original Peterhouse partbooks having been rescued from oblivion and republished after they were discovered, crumpled up as pipe stops in an organ. The Blue Heron Renaissance Choir is attempting to perform all these never recorded works in a series of recordings, the second of which was just dropped. You can find more detail on their website.
posted by newdaddy at 6:53 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


My early-music loving heart started beating a little faster when I saw this post. Definitely going to have to listen and possibly order some CDs.
posted by immlass at 6:57 AM on May 22, 2012


And, oh, wow, the first two CDs are available on iTunes in the US. I love living in the future.
posted by immlass at 6:57 AM on May 22, 2012


Maybe someone can check out the original Dutch (if there is any).

Your wish is my command. It says:

De helft daarvan is door grote meesters als Vivaldi en Telemann gecomponeerd.

Which means exactly the same as in English: a bait-and-switch.
posted by Skeptic at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2012


I'm more interested on rediscovered old music by people I've never heard of. Both Vivaldi and (especially) Telemann are guilty of more that their share of wallpaper music. Also, this thing called a "sonata" -- before Haydn and Mozart gave it a major makeover it wasn't the world's most interesting musical form (though individual pieces of any form may be gorgeous.)
posted by jfuller at 8:56 AM on May 22, 2012


the Dutch Egidius Quartet started a project to rescue them from oblivion

Please do not confuse "in an archive" with "oblivion".

Hi, Oblivion, how's the wife and kids?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2012


Oh this is wonderful stuff! Thank you!
posted by bardophile at 10:45 AM on May 22, 2012


And here is another performance on Vimeo.
posted by bardophile at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2012


It's not even good bait. There are, for example, a few thousand "known" Telemann pieces. Listen to half of them and report back how enthusiastic you are for finishing up and adding a couple of hundred more.

I would still want them, but I have a pretty endless appetite for late 17th/early 18th century music. I find it the best thing to listen to when trying to write late 17th/early 18th century history.

/has 5 CDs worth of Vivaldi, wants more; only on CD of Telemann, should get more
posted by jb at 8:00 AM on May 28, 2012


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