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1619 __ « Syntagma Musicum »
Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)
Comment : Praetorius in “Syntagma musicum” (1619) advocated the singing of individual chorale verses by different forces placed around the church.The "Syntagma musicum" is not a piece of music but a scholarly historico-theoretical masterpiece. Its full title is: "Syntagma musicum; ex veterum et recentiorum, ecclesiasticorum autorum lectione, polyhistorûm consignatione, vanarum linguarum notatione, hodierni seculi usurpatione, ipsius denique musicae antis observatione: in cantorum, organistarum, organopoeorum, caeterorum'que musicam scientiam amantium & tractantium gratiam collectum; et secundùm generalem indicem toti open praefixum, in quatuor tomos distnibutum, à Michaële Praetorio". Although four volumes are distinctly mentioned here, only three volumes and a supplement to the second volume appeared in print. The first book, published in Wittenberg by Johann Richter in 1615, is written in Latin and generously sprinkled with quotations from Greek and Hebrew sources. It is also interspersed with German notations and occasional pithy phrases, such as "Wer unnötigen Sachen nachgehet, der ist ein Narr" (He who pursues unnecessary matters is a fool). The dedicatory letter, twenty-one pages in length, is addressed to churchmen as follows: "Reverendissimi, illustrissimi, reverendi, nobilissimi, excellentissimi, clarissimi, doctissimiqve D. D. Episcopi, Abbates, Patres, Praepositi, Canonici, Doctores, & Ecclesiarum Inspectores, Domini Patroni & fautores colendi". This volume is divided into two well-balanced sections in parallel structure. The first part is an historical account of ecclesiastical music, starting with the practices of the ancient world (Jewish, Greek, and Roman), continuing with the development of Christian music (settings of the Mass and other parts of the liturgy), and ending with a description of the instruments (e.g., psaltery, cithara, buccina) mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. The second part is an historical account of secular music: musica profana, liberalis, ingenua, humana. Beginning with the art of the Greeks, the author studies the relationship of music to ethics and to the physical sciences, as well as to the arts of poetry and the drama. He quotes from such classical authors as Homer, Plato, Sophocles, and Horace, to clarify his statements and to authenticate his points of view. There follows a section on the classification, description, and history of the instruments (e.g., magadis, cornet, tuba) used in secular music. The second volume of the "Syntagma" is written in German and is dedicated to the Burgomaster and the City Council of Leipzig, as well as to all lovers of "German and other national instrumental music." It bears the subtitle, "De organographia", and was printed in 1619 in Wolfenbüttel by Elias Holwein, official printer of Braunschweig. Official printer or not, Holwein made reading of this book difficult, for the lines of print are uneven and the words often crowded together. Nevertheless, the material contained is of utmost interest. Praetorius classifies all the music instruments known to him. Then, taking the classifications in turn, he describes each instrument in minute detail, including the variations of its name, its history, its tuning and range, and its tone quality. In one large section (Theil 3) which is devoted to early organs, Praetorius gives an account of the small and crude mechanisms of the ancients and tells of subsequent improvements in the keyboard and bellows, shape of the keys and arrangement of the keyboards, and the development of wind chests and their function. Some famous old pipe organs are described: for example, the Halberstadt organ, built by the priest Nikolaus Faber and finished on February 23, 1361, is reported to have twenty-two keys, with wind power supplied by twenty bellows operated by ten men. Praetorius also says that small primitive organs capable of emitting only twelve or thirteen tones were sometimes hung up against a column in the church like so many swallows' nests. Theil 4, entitled "newen Orgein," is as complete an account of the German baroque organ as can be found anywhere. Finally, in the last portion of the volume, the author gives the specifications for a number of German organs which he considers to be either musically or structurally interesting, including the St. Thomas organ in Leipzig. Published in Wolfenbüttel in 1620, after the appearance of volume III but supplementing volume II is the "Theatrum instrumentorum". The book does not contain a dedication. It consists entirely of forty-two woodcuts, executed to scale, of the instruments discussed in the text of "De organographia". Among the several plates devoted to the organ is one (Plate I) showing an old "positive" organ with its short keyboard - its double bellows clearly visible behind its rank of pipes. In another (Plate XXVIII) one can see the arrangement and shape of keys for diatonic and chromatic tones, equivalent to the white and black keys of the present-day keyboard. Plate XXVI is most curious. Two men are shown working a double row of giant bellows behind a large organ. Each bellows is equipped with shoes, and the men, holding onto a traverse rod for support, run up and down the rows, sticking their feet into the proper pair of bellows-shoes and pumping with their entire weight. While one is impressed with the amount of physical labor involved, he cannot help wondering whether the wind supply was really adequate. What fluctuations of pitch and volume must have occurred when the men became tired and slowed down their pumping! And what if one tripped, or accidentically stepped on the wrong bellows? Besides organs a great many other instruments are pictured, some singly and others in groups. One of the finest of the woodcuts is of a single-manual harpsichord (Plate III). Volume III of the "Syntagma" printed in Wolfenbüttel by Holwein in 1619, is dedicated to the Burgomaster and the City Council of Nuremburg. Written in German, it is divided into three parts. The first part contains a description of all the vocal forms used in the early baroque period and late Renaissance in Italy, France, England, and Germany. Beginning with the Italian madrigal, Praetorius defines each form, and whenever possible, gives examples of the types of texts used in the setting. In the case of the madrigal he uses Petrarch's poems as illustrations. So lucid are the descriptions that today this section of the book serves as a valuable source of information concerning styles which, though no longer in use, are of historical importance. The second part is a veritable treatise on theory, dealing with problems of notation, solmization, rhythm, transposition, and distribution of voice parts. The third part consists of a dictionary of Italian musical terms, a series of essays on such matters as the arrangement of the chapel choir and rules of thorough bass or basso continuo, and a dissertation on how to train boys' choirs according to the Italian manner. While on casual examination the organization of this volume might appear haphazard, in reality the material follows a logical plan. Taken as a whole the text is a clear exposition of music, both in theory and in practice. (Ruth Watanabe)If most composers were content to leave questions concerning performance practice to the discretion of the "maestro di cappella" or "Kapellsmeister", Michael Praetorius was reluctant to do so without providing them with copious instructions setting out the limits within which their freedom lay. So prolific was he in instructions, not only in his famous treatise "Syntagma Musicum" (1619) but also in the prefatory material to his musical publications, that he has appeared to posterity to be more important as a writer than as a composer, a view which this study would hope to modify, at least from the standpoint of his polychoral output, for dry theorist he was not, and few have more to tell us about the day-to-day music-making of his time. "Syntagma Musicum III", "Termini musici", contains recommendations concerning polychoral music, principally its scoring. Though Praetorius was obviously familiar with much Italian, and particularly Venetian, music, there is no evidence that he ever went to Italy, and his remarks probably apply more to German practice, which favoured a heavier instrumental involvement. [...] 1) The numbering of choirs : In Part 2: Chapter 11, thee methods are described; A) numbering from the lowest choir upwards; b) in order of entry; c) from the ighest choir downwards. Andrea Gabrieli is said ti use method b), Giovanni sometimes method b) but usually method c). 2) Unison and octave doubling : Part2 : Chapter 12. Praetorius defends the use of unison doubling in his "Urania", especially between cantus and bass parts of the choirs, but also between the inner parts. If the choirs are spaced, the harmony will thereby 'resound more fully and ... be more clearly heard throughout the entire church' (Lampl 1957 : 157). Reducing the number of real parts removes the necessity for lines to be broken up with rests. [...] (Anthony F. Carver, pp. 216-217)
French comment : En Allemagne, les effets stéréophoniques [issus des techniques de cori spezzati] ont été adoptés très tôt avec enthousiasme; dans sa "Syntagma musicum" (1619), Michael Praetorius préconisait d'exécuter les chorals en faisant chanter chaque vers par différents effectifs placés en plusieurs endroits de l'église.Le "Syntagma musicum" est un important ouvrage musicologique de Michael Praetorius paru au XVIIe siècle. Il comprend trois volumes : 1) Volume 1 : De Musica Sacra (Wittemberg 1614/1615) : Discursus de Musica Choreali et veterum Psalmodia; Comentarii de Missodia vel Leturgia summa; Explicatio Matutinae et vespertinae Leturgiae: cum aliis annexis; Contemplatio Musicae Instrumentalis Ecclesiasticae, cum in Veteris, tum Novi Testamenti Ecclesia usitatae. 2) Volume 2 : De Organographia (Wolfenbüttel 1619): Nomenclature de tous les instruments anciens et modernes; Description des orgues anciens et modernes; Ce volume contient des illustrations d'instruments, qui sont des sources précieuses pour la fabrication d'instruments historiques. 3) Volume 3 : Termini musici (Wolfenbüttel 1619) - traite de la musique vocale : 1. Asmatologia (Sur la musique vocale), 2. Technologia (Termes techniques), 3. Cheiragogia (Instructions). Avec ses 1244 motets et chorals, Michael Praetorius détient probablement le record du nombre d'oeuvres composées dans la catégorie "avant 1750" ! Dernier fils d'un pasteur luthérien, Michael Schultheis, plus connu sous son nom latinisé de Praetorius, fit ses études à l'université de Francfort-sur-Oder. Après avoir débuté comme Kapellmeister à Lunebourg, il devint organiste, Kapellmeister et secrétaire du duc de Brunswick. Praetorius est l'un des grands compositeurs luthériens, et sa production est monumentale. On y décèle l'influence italienne dans l'emploi fréquent de la polychoralité (oeuvres à double, voire triple choeur). Praetorius est également célèbre pour son Syntagma musicum, encyclopédie en trois volumes. Le premier, en latin, traite des genres musicaux pratiqués depuis l'Antiquité, le deuxième, en allemand, des instruments de musique (avec de nombreuses illustrations), le troisième, en latin, des formes et de la pratique musicale au début du XVIIè s. Un quatrième est resté inachevé. (Compiled from various sources)
Source : Watanabe, Ruth (1955). “Michael Praetorius and his Syntagma Musicum”. UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER LIBRARY BULLETIN, Volume X · Spring 1955 · Number 3.
Source : Carver, Anthony F. (2009), “Cori Spezzati: Volume 2: An Anthology of Sacred Polychoral Music”, Columbia University Press.
Urls : http://www.lib.rochester.edu/index.cfm?page=2470 (last visited ) http://www.musicologie.org/derm/praetorius.html (last visited )

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