Piae Cantiones - Latin Song in Mediaeval Finland
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Latin Song inMediaeval Finland
One early but ill fated attempt to create a Greater Northern Union ofstates in Scandinavia was made in 1397, when all Nordic countries were to bebrought under Danish rule. The Union of Kalmar finally fell apart in 1523 afterrepeated Swedish rebellions. This ultimate dissolution was preceded by thefamous Stockholm massacre in which 82 noblemen and clergy who suppol1ed Swedishindependence were executed by the Danes.
The leader of the successful Swedish uprising was Gustavus Vasa who thenbecame king of Sweden and its eastern duchy, Finland. It was not, however,solely bravery and national patriotism that secured victory. Mercenaries wereexpensive and warfare in the sixteenth century typically included a provider ofcapital with commercial interests, in this case the Hanseatic merchants ofL??beck. In consequence the war left Gustavus Vasa seriously in debt. This hasoften been considered one reason why Sweden and Finland so quickly adopted thenew Protestant religious doctrines. According to these, the head of the statewas also head of the national church. This, in torn, translated into the rightof the crown to confiscate church property.
In Sweden the whole Reformation was accomplished without much conflictor bloodshed and this was even more the case in Finland, which with its owndiocese in Turko (Latin Aboa) had enjoyed a large measure of religiousindependence since the fourteenth century. The first Finnish hymnal, publishedin 1583 by Jaakko Finno, headmaster of Turku Cathedral School, notably lacksthe militant combat songs so typical of many other contemporary hymnals.
Together with Theodoricus Petri, a Finnish student at the University ofRostock, Jaakko Finno was also the principal editor of a curious collection ofLatin devotional songs for the schola Aboensi in Finlandia, published inGreifswald in 1582. This book, under the title Piae Cantiones ecclesiasticaeet scholasticae veterum episcoporum, contains music of extensivechronological and geographical scope. Stylistically the content is clearlyolder than the publishing date might suggest and some compositions can betraced back to the turn of the millennium. The main body of compositions,however, can be placed within the fifteenth-century Germanic-Bohemian Cantiotradition.
The question arises as to why a book such as Piae Cantiones shouldhave been produced in Protestant Finland by a clergyman who on another occasionhad called the use of Latin in the liturgy a Devil's invention and whyit should have been published in continental Europe and not, for instance inStockholm, the capital. It seems that the impulse for this book came directlyfrom King Johan III of Sweden, who had strong Catholic sympathies and, as aformer governor and Duke of Finland, was well acquainted with its culturalheritage. As the title of the book suggests, it seems that Piae Cantiones, ratherthan being a coherent musical entity, is an attempt to salvage a centuries oldlocal musical tradition doomed to obsolescence. This character of thecollection is apparent from the lack of any contemporary musical material andthe manner of presentation of the compositions, suggesting a strong oralelement in their transmission. The place of publication can probably beexplained by the continuing presence of Finnish students at the Catholicuniversities of Central Europe and the stronger anti-Catholic sentiments ofSweden itself.
Piae Cantiones did not completely escape theological controversy.
Some of its texts were 'corrected' by Jaakko Finno, a task carried out rathersuperficially, generally simply by replacing words such as Maria and Virgoby words such as Christus and Puer, and so on. Naturally,this often resulted in a violation of the poetic structure and, in a couple ofcases, in complete nonsense, as, for instance, when Christus was assigned thevirginal attribute porta clausa nec pervia.
The second edition of Piae Cantiones was published in 1625 inRostock and is connected in many ways with the other main mediaeval centre ofFinland, Viborg. This time a well known German church musician Daniel Fridericiserved as an artistic director of the enterprise. Sensing the historical andcultural value of the collection, he preserved all the monophonic songs of thefirst edition. Many of the three-part polyphonic compositions, however, hereplaced by music reflecting contemporary taste. In this respect, the secondedition has more the character of a practical song-book. Few sixteenth-centurymusical collections anywhere in Europe enjoy such an established position intoday's musical life as Piae Cantiones in Finland. In the wake of earlytwentieth-century national romanticism a whole mixed choir tradition hasevolved around these melodies, some of which are also represented in the churchhymnal. As a result, one concept hardly ever applied to this repertory inFinland is that of so-called historical performance practice. Similarly, theemphasis on elements of national origin, of which there are many, has largelyhindered the public from seeing this collection in its proper context as alarge and coherent body of strophic Latin non-liturgical song, ranging inprovenance from the Mediterranean to the Baltic.
In the present recording our intention has been to explore these linksthat connect Finland with the common musical heritage of Europe. Somecompositions, therefore, are taken from sources other than the PiaeCantiones collection itself. A remarkable number of the Piae Cantiones songs,however, are not found in other sources and their origins are subject tospeculation. Many of them are likely to be Finnish, such as Ramus virensolivarum, a hymn to St Henry, an English bishop who was axed down by anuncooperative native on the ice of Lake Koylio in 1155, a fate for which, ascompensation, he later became the patron saint of Finland. Another curiouscomposition is Aetas carmen melodiae, which in the 1625 edition isreplaced by a song of Daniel Friderici himself. In spite of its archaic beauty,the counterpoint of the original three-voice version is downright bizarre andcould well be the local product of a less than pedantic composer. Of thecompositions which have known Central European connections, most are of Germanor Bohemian origin, or at least transmitted through that area. A good exampleof this is Dies est laetitiae, which appears in fifteenth and sixteenthcentury sources in countless variations and later as a Lutheran chorale withthe text Der Tag der ist so freudenreich. The melody of Parvulusnobis nascitur is of German popular origin and preserved, for instance, inthe Glogauer Liederbuch with a vernacular text. The present polyphonicversion is thought to be by the Flemish master Jacob Obrecht and is taken fromthe first printed volume of polyphonic music, Ottaviano Petrucci's Odhecaton(Venice 1501). Many of the older Piae Cantiones songs have theirorigins further south. For instance, the earliest known provenance for Verbumcaro factum est is in a French manuscript dating from before the year 1100.
This song, which might have travelled to Finland with Finnish students fromParis University, can also be found in some Italian and Spanish sources. In thesame twelfth-century Spanish manuscript there is also a version of Omnismundus jucundetur. In this recording this composition will appear twice,first in the monophonic Piae Cantiones version and then as a double-textmotet from the Czech Specialnik manuscript. Puer natus in Bet