Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Sandrine Dumont (Université Paris IV - Sorbonne, France)

About an ambiguous unpublished manuscript on ‘a capella’ Cambresian religious polyphony, 1606-1663

This proposal is in keeping with the transitional time between two extraordinary rich cultural periods, that is to say, on the one hand, the Post-Renaissance (quid of the European influence of the Northern masters in polyphony ?) and, on the other one, the approach of a new baroque aesthetics in music. I would like to draw attention on the period called the Counter Reformation, when hopes for a change in artistic expression led to a new style in which we can notice the early beginnings of the baroque way of writing music.

For doing so, I would like to show a very interesting Cambresian manuscript (C 16, BMC) which outlived that period successfully and is quite well kept today. This chorus book is composed of 105 folios (vellum binding; page format 44.6 cm high and 31.5 cm wide) and has never been transcribed and was even ignored by the musicologists. It contains completely unknown works, written by unrecognised choirmasters and meant for liturgical purposes still mysterious today !
It mainly contains unaccompanied masses, motets and hymns with several choruses (4 to 10 voices), written in a musical ambivalence : neither really ‘counterpointic’ – for the particular techniques of the Renaissance polyphony seem to have been ‘forgotten’ – nor truly harmonic (the composers keep wavering around a counterpoint which is often homophonic, thus foreshadowing the establishment of a developing tonal system), with melodic shapes which actually evoke baroque aesthetic.

This manuscript will allow me to state or to recall some major rules of the usual musical practices in this microcosm, representative of more general practices in France and in Northern Europe provinces.

Last updated on 25 May 2004