Magazine article Czech Music

Facsimile Edition of the First Czech Theoretical Treatise on Music

Magazine article Czech Music

Facsimile Edition of the First Czech Theoretical Treatise on Music

Article excerpt

Jan Blahoslav: Musica. A Facsimile of the 1569 Edition (Ivancice: Jednota bratrska / Unity of the Brethren), according to a copy maintained at the library of the National Museum in Prague (mark 27 F 23). Prepared for publishing by Petr Danek and Jiri K. Kroupa, KLP--Koniasch Latin Press, 2016, 99 folios + 56 pp, ISBN 978-80-87773-37-6

The 70th anniversary of the Prague Spring international music festival was commemorated by its organisers in the best possible way in collaboration with the Association for Central European Cultural Studies and the National Museum in Prague, they embraced the initiative suggested by the distinguished Czech musicologist Petr Danek and supported the facsimile edition of the first Czech compendium on the theory of music. The Prague Spring thus endorsed the deep roots of musical culture and made accessible a work that is yet to be afforded the position in musicology and general history of culture it so richly deserves.

Jan Blahoslav (1523-1571) was one of the major figures of 16th-century Czech culture. His life was connected with the Unity of the Brethren, a Bohemian religious denomination who linked up to the teachings of the Christian reformist Jan Hus. After completing his studies at the brotherhood's schools in Moravia, Jan Blahoslav went abroad so as further his education in Goldberg, Wittenberg and Basel, where he became acquainted with the ideas of humanism and the Reformation movement. A man of letters and a scholar, throughout his life he wrote texts in Czech with the aim to extend the knowledge of the Unity of the Brethren members. His legacy ranges from brief essays, discourses, religiously educational and moralising articles and commentaries, to several significant works, and was rounded off with a translation of the New Testament into Czech (1564). Blahoslav also had a keen interest in music. Moreover, he edited two Czech hymn-books: the Samotuly (1561) and the Ivancice (1564), in connection with the preparation of which he penned the very first theoretical treatise on music in Czech, titled Musica. The first edition, published in Olomouc in 1558, has not been preserved in its entirety. The second, completed and extended, edition dates from 1569 and was issued by the Unity of Brethren's printing office in Ivancice, and has been preserved in two copies (Prague, Wroclaw). This year, the Prague copy was published as a facsimile, supplemented by a study in Czech and English.

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When, half a century ago, in 1966, Josef Janacek issued his biography of Jan Blahoslav (1523-1574), he included among the extracts from his works the conclusion, in which the Czech humanist emphasises the necessity of rudimentary theoretical knowledge for spontaneous composition of songs and music in general. The short, yet characteristic, text revealed that Blahoslav did not only stress the importance of being musically proficient, he also bore in mind that music and its availability were of significance for a broad humanist education, a principle peculiar to the mature Unity of Brethren, which would be given an ingenious programme form by Blahoslav's successor Jan Amos Komensky. In addition to the religious and ethical aspects, in his text Blahoslav accentuated the communicative function and psychological role of music and, in the wider sense, language itself. …

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