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Medieval music theory


 

  • In 1934, there appeared a classic monograph by Dénes Bartha on the school notes on music theory taken in 1490 by László Szalkai, later Archbishop of Esztergom.
  • The book, which includes Szalkai’s text, remains the only major work in the country to deal with the theory of music.
  • An international research group, Corpus Hollandrinum, was formed in 2002 to look into the 14th‒16th-century Bohemian, Polish, German and Hungarian texts on music theory and reconstruct from them the late medieval teaching-material and music theory traditions.
  • The findings brought a fundamental change in the outlook of Hungarian research on music history. Although Szalkai’s notes were unprecedented in this country, they were not an isolated occurrence, but part of a late medieval, Central European tradition of tracts.
  • It speaks for the Hungarian members of the research group that they managed to turn what had been seen only as a written tradition of music theory approachable by philological means into a subject of research in terms of music history, and reconstruct the liturgical plainchant practice in its background. This made it possible to discern the manifold, differentiated system of relations that lies behind the thinking on music theory and the late medieval practice of Gregorian chant. to deal with the theory of music.

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Further details

Medieval music theory is a field of medieval music studies in Hungary that has undergone radical changes of methodology and approach in recent decades. This reflects interest on the part of the research generation appearing in the 1990s, and promotion of the field in the light of international developments in plainchant research.

Earlier relative disregard of it in Hungary is understandable to a degree: apart from the musical notes of László Szalkai which Dénes Bartha published in 1934, hardly any notes or tracts on the musica plana or mensurabilis theory had survived. However, recent international research has unveiled a specifically Central European group of sources embodying a tradition of music theory. This includes a small number of Hungarian remains, on which these researches have shed new light. These 15th-century Central European tracts on music theory form a well-defined group with specific features of form and content. Behind the group lies as instigator and main authority the figure of Johannes Hollandrinus, whose teachings are quoted and discussed to various extents in other tracts. Although little is known of Hollandrinus, and his presumed works of music theory have not survived, elements of them have been preserved by almost 30 South German, Bohemian, Polish and Hungarian treatises. This system embodies a distinct late medieval tradition of music theory, a kind of virtual Traditio Johannis Hollandrini, whose practicality provides a first-hand glimpse of elementary and secondary music education in that period. The international group set up in 2001 under Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba and Michael Bernhard aims to explore the complete textual tradition and publish the sources of it. The fifteen researchers from seven countries include two active contributors from the Early Music Department: Zsuzsa Czagány and Ágnes Papp.

The group’s work has revealed several aspects that point beyond the confines of music theory towards a broader frame of music history. These include the musical examples in the tracts and tonaries, which provide an express link between the seemingly remote realm of music theory and plainchant practice in the period. The Early Music Department’s research covers this relation not only in music-theory terms, but in those of liturgical and musical practice at that time.

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Publications on the subject by Department staff

Papp, Ágnes. „Zeneelméleti jegyzetek és tonárius Cserei János énekeskönyvében” (The music-theory notes and tonarius in the songbook of János Cserei), Magyar Zene 38 (2000): 253‒306.

Idem: „Eine späte Abschrift der Lehre der musica plana in einem Gesangbuch aus Ungarn“. In: Quellen und Studien zur Musiktheorie des Mittelalters, III, ed. Michael Bernhard. München: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Veröffentlichungen der Musikhistorischen Kommission, Band 15, 2001, 481‒510. http://www.chmtl.indiana.edu/tml/17th/CZEDMP_TEXT.html

Idem: „Scipio álma és a zsoltárdifferenciák rangsora” (Scipio’s dream and the order of psalter differences). In: Zenetudományi Dolgozatok 2008, Falvy Zoltán 80. születésnapja tiszteletére (In honour of Zoltán Falvy’s 80th birthday), ed. Gábor Kiss. Budapest: MTA Zenetudományi Intézete, 2008, 93‒113.

Idem: „A középkori ‚magyar’ zsoltártónus. A częstochowai pálos kantuále tonáriusának zsoltározási mintapéldái” (The medieval “Hungarian” psalm tone. Psalming examples from the tonary in the Pauline cantuale of Częstochowa). In: Zenetudományi Dolgozatok 2010, Budapest: MTA Zenetudományi Intézete, 2011, 23‒55.

Idem: “Traditio Iohannis Hollandrini – Tonare”. In: Papers read at the 16th Meeting of the International Musicological Society Study Group Cantus Planus, Vienna, 2011, ed. Robert Klugseder. Wien: Verlag Brüder Hollinek, 2012, 301‒08.

Idem: „Psalmtöne im Tonar des Pauliner Cantuale aus Częstochowa“. In: Liturgy in Pauline Monasteries in Poland. The Sources and Origins, Musica Claromontana – Studia 1, ed. Remigiusz Pośpiech. Opole: Wydawnictvo i Drukarna Świętego Krzyża, 2012, 311−42.

Papp, Ágnes and Christian Berktold. “Tractatus ex Traditione Hollandrini Cod. Cracoviensis 1859 (Trad.Holl. IX)”. In: Bernhard, Michael, and Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba, eds, Traditio Iohannis Hollandrini, Band IV, Die Traktate IXXIV. München: Verlag der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (hereafter VBAW), 2013 (= Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Veröffentlichungen der Musikhistorischen Kommission, Band 22), 1−110.

Papp Ágnes. „»Toni chorales«: Rövid tonáriusok Magyarországon a középkor után” (Short tonaries in Hungary after the Middle Ages). Magyar Egyházzene XX (2012/2013): 299−313.

Idem: „Eine liturgische Handschrift mit Tonar der Zagreber Diözese aus dem 17. Jahrhundert“. In: De musica disserenda IX/1–2, ed. Katarina Ster. Ljubljana: Institute of Musicology at the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 2013, 99–121.

Papp, Ágnes, and Christian Meyer. “Tractatus ex traditione Hollandrini cod. Guelferbitani 696 Helmstadiensis una cum cod. monasterii S. Petri Salisburgiensis a.VI.44 (Trad. Holl. XVII)”. In: Bernhard, Michael, and Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba, eds, Traditio Iohannis Hollandrini, Band V, Die Traktate XVXXI. München: VBAW, 2014, 155–246.

Idem: “Tractatus ex traditione Hollandrini cod. Londoniensis, Arundel 299 (Trad. Holl. XIX)”. In: Bernhard, Michael and Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba, eds, Traditio Iohannis Hollandrini, Band V, Die Traktate XVXXI. München: VBAW, 2014, 303–64.

Papp, Ágnes. „Syllabisch versus melodisch. Archaisierung und Reduzierung in der Theorie und Praxis der Differentiae?“ In: Ars musica and its contexts in medieval and early modern culture, ed. Paweł Gancarczyk. Warszawa: Liber Pro Arte, 2016, 205‒21.

Idem: „Tonar und Differentia: Geschichte, Funktion, Deutungen“. Studia Musicologica 56 (2015): 133‒45.

Czagány, Zsuzsa, and Ágnes Papp. „Spätmittelalterliche Musiktheorie und Choralpraxis. Der musikalische Hintergrund der Traditio Hollandrini“. In: Bernhard, Michael, and Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba, eds, Traditio Iohannis Hollandrini, Band VII, Studien. München: VBAW, 2016 (= Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Veröffentlichungen der Musikhistorischen Kommission, Band 25), 189‒206.

Czagány, Zsuzsa. “Anonymi Leutsoviensis Tractatus de musica”. Musica Disciplina XLVI (1992): 223‒42.

Idem: „Ein Diffinitorium Musicum aus dem späten 15. Jahrhundert“. In: Papers read at 4th Meeting of the International Musicological Society Study Group Cantus Planus. Pécs, Hungary, 1990, ed. László Dobszay, Ágnes Papp and Ferenc Sebő. Budapest: Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Musicology Budapest, 1992, 127‒39.

Idem: „Der Tractatus de cantu perfecto et imperfecto des Henricus de Zeelandia“. In: Quellen und Studien zur Musiktheorie des Mittelalters II. München: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Veröffentlichungen der Musikhistorischen Kommission, Band 13, 1997, 109‒17.

Idem: “Fragmentum tractatus ex traditione Hollandrini cod. Bibliothecae Batthyaneae in Alba Iulia”. In: Bernhard, Michael, and Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba, eds, Traditio Iohannis Hollandrini, Band III, Die Traktate IVVIII. München: VBAW, 2011 (= Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Veröffentlichungen der Musikhistorischen Kommission, Band 21), 1−5.

Idem: “Die coniunctae des Corpus Hollandrinum in den mitteleuropäischen Choralhandschriften”. In: Papers read at 16th Meeting of the International Musicological Society Study Group Cantus Planus Vienna, 2011, ed. Robert Klugseder. Wien: Verlag Brüder Hollinek, 2012, 102‒12.

Idem: “Tractatus ex traditione Hollandrini cod. Pragensis I.G.1. (Trad. Holl. XI)”. In: Bernhard, Michael, and Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba, eds, Traditio Iohannis Hollandrini, Band III, Die Traktate  IXXIV. München: VBAW, 2013 (= Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Veröffentlichungen der Musikhistorischen Kommission, Band 22), 145−225.

Czagány, Zsuzsa, David Hiley and Jakub Kubieniec. “The coniunctae in medieval sources of liturgical chant”. In: Bernhard, Michael, and Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba, eds, Traditio Iohannis Hollandrini, Band VII, Studien. München: VBAW, 2016 (= Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Veröffentlichungen der Musikhistorischen Kommission, Band 25), 143−188.