Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/280

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


Spain. So completely are the Spaniards identi- fied with the Romans, that the former are neces- sarily described as disciples of the School of Festa, or that of Palestrina, as the case may be. To the former class belong Bartolomeo Escobedo, Francesco Salinas, Juan Scribano, Cristofano Morales, Francesco Guerrero, and Didaco Ortiz : the greatest genius of the latter was Ludovico da Vittoria, who approached more nearly to Pa- lestrina himself than any other Composer, of any age or country. Many of these great writers including Vittoria ended their days in Spain, after long service in the Churches of Rome : and thus it came to pass that the Roman style of Composition was cultivated, in both countries, with equal zeal, and almost equal success. 1

XVI. Uur rapid sketch of the progress of Polyphony on the Continent will serve materially to simplify a similar account of its development In England, in which country it was practised, as we have already promised to show, at an earlier period than even in the Netherlands.

A hundred years ago, when few attempts had been made to arrange the general Historyof Music in a systematic form, attention was drawn to the curious ' Rota' or, as we should now call it, Canon ' Sumer is icumen in,' contained in vol. 978 of the Harleian MSS. Burney estimated the date of this, in rough terms, as probably not much later than the I3th or I4th cen- tury. His opinion, however, was a mere guess ; while that of Hawkins was so vague that it may safely be dismissed as valueless. Ritson, whose authority cannot be lightly set aside, believed the document now known as ' The Reading MS. ' to be at least as old as the middle of the 1 3th century; and accused both Burney, and Hawkins, of having intentionally left the question in doubt, from want of the courage necessary for the expression of a positive opinion. Ohappell gives the same date ; and complains bitterly of Burney's tergiversation. The late Sir Frederick Madden was of opinion that that portion of the MS. which contains the ' Rota ' was written about the year 1240, and has left some notes, to that effect, on the fly-leaf of the volume. 2 Ambros, in the second volume of his 'Geschichte der Musik,' published in 1862, re- ferred the MS. to the middle of the i^tla. century, thus making it exactly synchronous with the Second Flemish School. Meanwhile, Coussemaker, 3 aided by new light thrown upon the subject from other sources, arrived at the conclusion that the disputed page could not have been written later than the year 1226 ; and that the 'Rota ' was certainly composed, by a Monk of Reading, some time before that date : and this position he defended so valiantly, that

1 A large collection of the Music of the Spanish School will be found in Eslava's ' Liro sacro-hispana.' [See vol. i. 494.]

2 We think it desirable, in so hotly-disputed a case, to give Sir Frederick Madden's remarks, verbatim. He first says' The whole is of the thirteenth century, except some writing on ff. 15-17. F. M.' And, again ' In all probability, the earlier portion of this volume was written in the Abbey of Beading about the year 1240. Compare the Oliis in the Calendars with those in the Calendar of the Cartulary of Beading in the MS. Cott. Vesp. E. V.-F. M. April 1862.'

s 'L'Art Harmonique aux xii et xiii siecles.' Paris. 1865, pp. 144. 150.


Ambros, most cautious of critics, accepted the new view, without hesitation, in his third volume, printed in 1868.

Assuming this view to be correct, THE EARLY ENGLISH SCHOOL was founded a full century and a half before the admission of Dufay to the Pontifical Chapel. But, while giving this discovery its full weight, we must not value it at more than it is worth. It does not absolutely prove that the Art of Composition originated in England. We have already said that the in- vention of Counterpoint has hitherto eluded all enquiry. It was, in fact, invented nowhere if we are to use the word ' invention ' in the sense in which we should apply it to gunpowder, or the telescope. It was evolved, by slow degrees, from Diaphouia, Discant, and Organum. All we can say about it as yet is, that the oldest known example or, at least, the oldest example to which a date can be assigned with any approach to probability is English. 4 An earlier record may be discovered, some day ; though, thanks to the two-fold spoliation our Ecclesiastical Libraries have suffered within the last 350 years, it is scarcely likely that it will be found in England. Meanwhile, we must content ourselves with the reflection that, so far as our present knowledge goes, the Early English School is the oldest in the world ; though the completeness of the Composi- tion upon which this statement is based, proves that Art must have made immense advances before it was written. For, the ' Reading Rota ' is no rude attempt at Vocal Harmony. It is a regular Composition, for six Voices ; four of which sing a Canon in the Unison, while the remaining two sing another Canon called ' Pes ' which forms a kind of Ground Bass to the whole. Both Hawkins and Burney have printed the solution in Score. We think it better to present our readers with an accurate foe-simile of the original MS. ; leaving them to score it for themselves, in accordance with the directions given in the margin, and to form their own opinion of the evidence afforded by the style of its Caligraphy. In the original copy, the Clefs, Notes, and English words, are written in black ; as are also the directions for per- formance, beginning 'Hanc rotam,' etc. The six Lines of the Stave, the Cross placed to show where the second Voice is to begin, the Latin words, the second initial S, the word Pes, and the directions beginning 'Hoc repetit,' and ' Hoc dicit,' are red. The first initial S is blue, as is also the third. Ambros believes the Latin words, and the directions beginning 'Hanc rotam,' to have been added} at a later period, by another hand. Many years have elapsed since our own attention was first directed to the MS., which we have since subjected to many searching examinations. At one period, we ourselves were very much inclined to believe in

< The lately-discovered 'Montpellier MS.' is referred, by Cousse- maker, to the last third of the 13th century. To the very antient copy of the ' Prose de 1'ane ' now in the possession of Sig. 1'acchi- arotti, of Padua, and sometimes quoted as the oldest specimen of J'art-Music in existence, it is absolutely impossible to assign a fixed date with any probability. [See vol. ii. p. 4G2.J

�� �