Historical Musicology: Sources, Methods, Interpretations

By Lowe, Melanie | Notes, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Historical Musicology: Sources, Methods, Interpretations


Lowe, Melanie, Notes


Historical Musicology: Sources, Methods, Interpretations. Edited by Stephen A. Grist and Roberta Montemorra Marvin. (Eastman Studies in Music.) University of Rochester Press, 2004. [viii, 429 p. ISBN 1-58046-111-5. $95.] Music examples, index.

With such names as Lewis Lockwood, Ellen T. Harris, Maynard Solomon, Jeffrey Kallberg, Jessie Ann Owens, Lawrence Bernstein, Jann Pasler, Michael Marissen, and Richard Kramer in the same lineup, one should expect some heavy hitting. Indeed, the seventeen contributors to Historical Musicology: Sources, Methods, Interpretations offer a passionate, multifaceted, and deeply compelling argument for reinstating primary source study as a cornerstone of musical scholarship. The dedicatee of this collection of essays is preeminent J. S. Bach scholar Robert Marshall, whose scholarship, teaching, and collegiality inspired this honorary volume. Wide though the scope of subjects may be-from Renaissance composers in northern Italy to a twentieth-century musicologist at the University of Chicago, from biblical commentary and hymnology to Franz Schubert's sexual proclivities-Marshall's commitment to the "enduring methods" (p. 7) of musicology resonates in each and every paper.

"Sources have stories to tell us, if only we can get them to give up their secrets" (p. 9). So begins the first essay of this collection, a study of a sheaf of six leaves that reads like a five-minute mystery (well, thirty minutes if you want to digest all of the details). Upon each leaf of the manuscript, now housed in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich (Mus Ms 1503f), is one of the six voices of Fiamm 'amorosa, a madrigal attributed to Venetian composer Baldassare Donato (b. 1603). Jessie Ann Owens's detective work includes analysis of handwriting to establish identification, scrutiny of ink color to distinguish editorial changes from corrections of copying errors, comparison of sources for Fiamm 'amorosa to delineate a stemma and ascertain the sheafs geographical origin, and verbal evidence from a letter to support a process of revision and editing, all of which combine to present a compelling case for a collaboration between Donato and Cipriano de Rore, either as teacher-student or as colleagues. But even more than revealing a fascinating distribution of compositional efforts, the fact that six single sheets of manuscript could give up such secrets proves there is still much to gain from this most enduring of musicological methods.

In his essay on Schubert's Quartettsatz, D. 703, Lewis Lockwood likewise engages one of historical musicology's most traditional modes of inquiry, the study of revisions to reveal compositional process and motivation. But where Owens seeks to discover a new story, Lockwood aims to challenge a long-established one, specifically Schubert's struggle to articulate large formal structures. The evidence comes from a detailed examination of the musical contents of an excised twenty-six measure passage from Schubert's autograph and a comparison of the formal structures of the movement with and without the cancelled passage. Lockwood postulates several reasons for Schubert's revision, the most important being Schubert's dissatisfaction with the "wholly different expressive light" (p. 214) in which the excerpt casts the exposition. The cancellation of the excerpt leaves the two agitato segments introductory and transitional so that the "expansive and noble doles melody" (p. 206) can become the centerpiece of the work. Rather than revealing problems with the management of large formal structures, this autographstage revision demonstrates not just Schubert's sense of inner proportion, his wide expressive range, his care to "maintain the cogency of thematic and motivic content," and rigorous correlation of "harmonic structure and form with basic opening ideas" (p. 217) but, most importantly, his originality. Beyond lending support for a new paradigm in Schubert studies, Lockwood's essay makes good on his stated intention: to furnish an example of "an oldfashioned truism"-"the value of source studies for the analysis of content" (p. …

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