Renaissance Music in Croatia. Some Introductionary Remarks

By Stipcevic, Ennio | Studia Musicologica, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Renaissance Music in Croatia. Some Introductionary Remarks


Stipcevic, Ennio, Studia Musicologica


(Received: June 2004; accepted: May 2005)

Abstract: Renaissance Music in Croatia is still little recognized in wider international context. In the study some general remarks on the topic are given, namely on theoreticians and academies, on folk music and early music print. More attention is given on sources of Renaissance polyphonic music and composers, such as motets and madrigals by J. Skjavetiæ (Schievetto) and L. Courtoys.

Keywords: Renaissance music, Croatia, theoreticians, composers, polyphonic music, madrigal

Even in the most recent books on renaissance music in Europe the musical culture of "Eastern Europe" is rather seldom taken into consideration.1 Is seems that some researchers could hardly accustom themselves to the perception that more recent political distinctions have not much in common with political, cultural and everyday life few centuries ago. During the 15th and 16th centuries, while the territory of Croatian lands was directly menaced by Turkish and Venetian power, Renaissance music had some specific local aspects, which are still not widely recognized. Perhaps few generally remarks on the subject could help to incorporate some of these local features into more general overview of the Renaissance music in Europe.2

From Humanism to Renaissance: theoreticians

The centers of humanistic activity were first established in the old cities of the southern Adriatic coasts such as Zadar, Sibenik, Trogir, Hvar, Split and Dubrovnik. Although in a smaller measure, new ideas also reached the north of Croatia and the town of Zagreb owing to its closeness to the court of King Matthias Corvinus where several Croats held high positions. The closeness of Corvinus' court in the north and that of the Italian cultural centers across the Adriatic led to a constant flow of information and a quick and durable reception of humanist ideas in Croatia. Thus the entire musical life of Croatia developed in the sign of the double nature of Humanism and the Renaissance: Latin internationalism based on classical sources and the awakening of learned literacy in vernacular language. 3

Humanism found support in the schools of the Zagreb Chapter, as well as the monastery and city schools following a curriculum based on the "seven liberal arts" (septem artes liberales). The new generation of Humanists inherited the medieval music theory based mostly on the writings of Boetius and Isidore of Seville. At the very beginning of the 15th century the problems of music education in the framework of the humanist education were discussed by Petar Pavao Vergerije (Vergerius) (1370-1444) from Koper. In his work De ingenuis moribus et liberalibus studiis adulescentiae which was very popular in the subsequent two centuries (first published 1472/73 with more than forty editions by 1600), Vergerius discusses the relation of music and education in ancient Greece, proposing that music should be an obligatory subject in a humanist school curriculum aiming at a comprehensive education.4 Echoes of Vergerius' book which had a decisive influence on the notion of humanistic education can be found even in books such as Il libro del Cortegiano (Venice 1528) by Baldassare Castiglione, an European bestseller also popular in Croatia.

The new humanist interest in music was also shared by the Ragusan Latinist poet Ilija Crijeviæ (Aelius Lampridius Cerva 1463-1520) who in the poem De musica ad Marianum extols the power of musical composition.5 Crijeviæ was a follower of the Roman Humanist Circle and so was Franjo Niger (Pescenius Franciscus Niger Venetus Liburnus), the author of very popular textbooks on epistolography and Latin grammar. It was in this grammar, Grammatica brevis (Venice 1480 and nine subsequently edition till 1514) that Niger very energetically stressed the importance of music for the humanists. Writing about meter, along with verses by classical writers (Lucan, Virgil, Horace) Niger also included notations of several plainsong melodies known in the history of printing as the earliest examples of white mensural notation Niger's notations had a significant influence on the humanistic ode in German countries.

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