Cipriano de Rore belongs to the rare (or perhaps not so rare) group of sixteenth-century composers whose extraordinary fame, both contemporary and posthumous, is matched by an equally outstanding neglect by researchers. For want of an authoritative biography, a catalogue raisoné and even a critical edition of his music (no critical apparatus is provided in Bernhard Meier’s edition in Corpus mensurabilis musicae), Rore scholarship has long been doomed to be the sole domain of a few individuals. This publication marks a decisive step towards overcoming these impediments. Assembling the cream of current Rore experts and prompting others to explore his life and works, Jessie Ann Owens (a household name in Rore scholarship) and Katelijne Schiltz have put together a pioneering volume that is equally informative and inspiring. As the title promises, the volume offers ‘new perspectives’ on Rore’s biography, his sources and repertory, analytical approaches to his music, and his place in early twentieth-century scholarship. Bonnie Blackburn once more lives up to her reputation as the supreme sleuth of early modern music history. She not only skilfully extracts new information from well-known primary sources, but also digs out significant new material from Italian archives. She sheds fascinating new light on Rore’s early Italian career prior to his employment as maestro di cappella at Ferrara (1546), which had long been shrouded in mystery. With all due caution, Blackburn employs circumstantial evidence to draw the contours of a network of patrons and fellow musicians within which Rore moved as an enterprising freelancer in Brescia. They include Count Fortunato Martinengo Cesaresco, famous through his portrait in the National Gallery, and the fine composers Palazzo da Fano and Nolet (exemplified with one composition each in the appendix). Laurie Stras elucidates Rore’s musical relationships with two ladies from the Este household. Right at the outset of his tenure in Ferrara, Rore became involved in the complex wedding negotiations for the daughters of Duke Ercole II: his motet Hesperiae cum laeta (in praise of Anna d’Este’s portrait as Venus) may have been sent with the latter to the intended spouse, the last Jagiellonian King Sigismund Augustus of Poland. Rore also contributed music to the tragedy Selene, performed during the festivities of Anna’s eventual betrothal with the Duc d’ Aumale. Other works, such as his settings of Ariosto, may well have been written to showcase the singing abilities of the Duke’s daughters, Anna and Lucrezia. As Stras suggests, some madrigals in Rore’s second book for four voices demonstrate that the composer took sides with Ercole’s estranged wife Renée. While Stras offers a sneak preview of her forthcoming monograph on Women and Music in Sixteenth-Century Ferrara, Franco Piperno develops further ideas from his 2001 book on Guidubaldo II della Rovere. Rore maintained links with the Duke of Urbino throughout his professional career, as is demonstrated in many works written for his patron. As Piperno argues, Rore also played an influential role in shaping the musical life at the ducal court. The triad of illuminating biographical chapters is followed by studies of sources and repertory. Kate van Orden addresses a tantalizing anomaly of Rore’s early printed works: his collection of ‘madrigali chromatici’ of 1544 is an outlier both with respect to Rore’s own oeuvre and—as five-part settings of predominantly Petrarchan sonnets—to the style of contemporary black-note madrigals. Whereas works such as Per mezz’ i boschi are traditionally seen to anticipate much later developments in madrigal composition, van Orden reveals instead their indebtedness to Janequin’s chansons. Inspired by his earlier work on the organization of Monteverdi’s fifth book of madrigals, Massimo Ossi eludicates the neat programmatic arrangement in Rore’s first book of five-part madrigals (1542) according to poetic and literary parameters. While substantial changes in later reprints may seem to obscure Rore’s masterplan, Ossi appreciates the individual publishers’ approaches to (re-)organizing the contents. From Rore’s corpus of motets, which are notoriously difficult to categorize, Katelijne Schiltz isolates a subgroup of twenty-three works a voci pari. Scored for equal voices, they dominate Rore’s production of four-part motets and represent a small, but significant minority among his five-part motets. Schiltz’s compellingly rich taxonomy of this subgenre incorporates aspects as diverse as text choice, subject matter, tessitura, dissemination, and compositional style alongside contextual factors. In one of the highlights of this volume, Schiltz manages to transform what might have been an anaemic bean-counting exercise into an exciting adventure that starts from analytical detail and ends with a placement of these motets as a link between older French traditions and Willaert’s Musica nova motets. Some of the voci pari motets discussed by Schiltz also featured in a luxury choirbook from the Munich court, through which Duke Albrecht V paid tribute to Rore. Heavily illuminated by Hans Mielich around 1559, the codex has traditionally been given short shrift by art historians, who regarded it as somewhat anachronistic, if not outright atavistic. Andrea Gottdang makes a spirited revisionist plea for the timeliness of Mielich’s work, which sought to achieve no less than an infusion of fresh blood into the age-old tradition of book illumination. With a keen eye for detail, Gottdang analyses Mielich’s visual strategies: her observations create the vivid picture of an immensely talented artist who was destined to find creative solutions to new challenges and who kept refining his technique through a trial-and-error approach. Bernhold Schmid introduces a curious German adaptation of Rore’s chanson Susanne un jour that is documented in manuscript partbooks from the Gymnasium of the Silesian city of Brieg/Brzeg. From this vantage point, Schmid unfolds a panorama of early modern compositional responses to Susanne un jour. Thanks to its lasting popularity, Europe-wide reception (including adaptations into a range of vernacular languages as well as Latin), and multiple parallel settings, this song runs like a red thread through sixteenth-century music at large. This forms a valuable backdrop, against which the contours of Rore’s own take on Susanne and its Silesian adaptation emerge all the more clearly. With its many quirks and bold features, Rore’s music does not respond well to conventional analytical approaches. Four chapters seek to address this challenge through close readings of individual works and more systematic investigation of individual compositional parameters. John Milsom’s magisterial exposition of Rore’s ‘flexed fuga’ falls into the latter category. Digging deep into the fabric of Rore’s works, Milsom uncovers some key features of his contrapuntal strategy. His characteristically incisive essay is admirable for being at once a painstakingly accurate tour de force of analytical minutiae and a lucid—even thrilling—exposition with real flair that is bound to inspire readers itching to explore further works by Rore (and others) along similar lines. Hartmut Schick raises the question why the Florentine Camerata might have upheld Rore as an influence and model, even though their aesthetic outlooks appear to be different. Giovanni Bardi, figurehead of the loose Florentine grouping, specifically praised Rore’s late madrigals (with their chordal texture and contrapuntal licences) as groundbreaking achievements that paved the way for monody. Schick substantiates this claim through exemplary analyses of Se ben il duol (also evoked by Giulio Cesare Monteverdi as a forebear of his brother’s madrigals) and O sonno; he points out similarities not only with the madrigals of Bardi and Vincenzo Galilei, but also with those of Giaches de Wert. One might add that Rore’s Calami sonum ferentes could have had a similar inspirational effect on Lasso, who included it in his ‘Opus 1’. Rore’s anticipation of later developments such as Monteverdi’s seconda pratica is also demonstrated by Jessie Ann Owens, albeit from a more exegetical angle. Her persuasive close reading of Rore’s Dissimulare etiam sperasti, a (selective) setting of Dido’s lament from the Aeneid, establishes Rore’s compositional and rhetorical strategies in representing a text, and in particular the utterance of a woman. As a sensitive reader of Virgil’s poetry, Rore divides the text into meaningful units (with deliberate repetition of phrases or segments thereof), from which he construes a complex formal structure. The more architectonic aspect is married with a rhetorical-gestural emphasis on representing characteristic affects. Anthony Newcomb draws attention to a group of madrigals that appeared under Rore’s name in posthumous anthologies only, ranging from Le vive fiamme (1565) to the Musica di XIII. autori illustri (1576) dedicated to Rore’s erstwhile Patron, Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria. Newcomb challenges the prevailing classification of Che dova dunque and Alme gentili as spurious, and adds Se com’il biondo crin from the 1565 collection to the canon of Rore’s authentic works. Thus he effectively rescues from obscurity three pieces that may well be key examples of Rore’s late style. The concluding chapter leaves Rore as a historical figure behind and examines his position in Alfred Einstein’s history of the Italian madrigal (first published in three volumes in 1949), which defined the master narrative of the genre for future generations. Sebastian Bolz navigates securely through Einstein’s writings (including his other publications, but excluding his activity as a music critic) and uncovers the deeper layers of the discourse formation that inspired Einstein’s ideas, covering both his indebtedness to contemporary historiographical tropes (cultural biologism and ‘Darwinism’, Wölfflin, Burckhardt, Spengler) and his academic socialization at the University of Munich, where Theodor Kroyer, albeit not his official supervisor, became a formative influence. One might also think of the typology of creative personae put forward by Einstein’s fellow student Kurt Huber, but that may have taken the chapter a step too far. As Bolz is firmly entrenched in his meta-historiographical approach, he shows surprisingly little interest in checking Einstein’s ideas against the musical evidence or indeed against current (re-)evaluations of Rore as plentifully offered by the preceeding chapters. As a result, the concluding chapter remains strangely disintegrated from the rest of the book. Printed on glossy paper, the heft of this tome (in paperback!) serves as the fitting incarnation for its polished and weighty contents, generously furnished with music examples and plates (in greyscale and colour). Its outward appearance, boasting Epitome musical’s characteristically elegant design, is equally appropriate for a composer who lavished so much care on the design of his works. Mégnier’s praise of Rore as ‘inventif’ (meaning both original and inventive), which the editors invoke at the outset of this volume (p. 21), applies equally to the contributions of this collection. Not many edited books can claim to showcase as much original scholarship and open up as many perspectives as the essays gathered by Jessie Ann Owens and Katelijne Schiltz. Already when they were first presented at the symposium ‘Cipriano de Rore at the Crossroads’ (Munich, 2014), the overall quality of the papers was exceptional. All the credit goes to the editors for helping the contributors to raise them onto an even higher level, based on thoughtful editing and the exploration of synergies between individual chapters. Even so, the book does not do justice to all genres within Rore’s oeuvre. One looks in vain for studies of his masses, magnificat, and other liturgical compositions, or indeed the assimilation of Rore’s works in later imitation masses and magnificats by Palestrina, Lasso, and others. The latter omission is particularly surprising considering that Jessie Ann Owens and David Crook had explored it in a diptych of papers at another Rore conference, organized by Owens in 2016 at the University of California, Davis. Not incorporating these studies (alongside others by Planchart, Reynolds, and Gerbino) was perhaps a missed opportunity. Yet, any such petty grievance pales into insignificance when confronted with this milestone volume that will be the steady companion for future students of Rore and a game changer in research on his life and music. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Music and Letters – Oxford University Press
Published: May 15, 2018
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