A-Wn Cod 3917

[In the course of the cataloguing project Musikalische Quellen (9.-15. Jahrhundert) in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Musical Sources (9th-15th Century) in the Austrian National Library), conducted by Alexander Rausch and Robert Klugseder at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Klugseder has discovered a startling number of previously unknown fragments at the Austrian National library and made these “Vienna Fragments” available online in high-resolution images. All links to the source and the catalogue entries go to the homepage of this project. The image rights lie with Robert Klugseder who took the photos.]

Or sus vous dormez trop

When having a closer look at the bleed-through notation on the already mentioned fragment A-Wn Cod 3917 the typical sequences of “Or sus vous dormez trop” become obvious very quickly. Jason Stoessel had already pointed out this new find in his blog. Since the notation appears back-to-front when looking at the original, the Musical Sources project has helpfully provided a mirrored image to facilitate reading the notation.

By applying some contrasting techniques I was able to identify and transcribe almost the entire notation on the other side of this fragment, which is still glued to the inside of a binding at the back of codex 3917.

A-Wn Cod 3917 (back inside bleed through – “Or sus vous dormez trop”) – high contrast – (underlying photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

The codex itself comes from the Dombibliothek of Salzburg and contains sermons by Johannes Kortz, called “Hermannus contractus”, whose name was also written on the front side of the fragment. Should this paper leaf at some point be removed from the binding, the notation as well as the text will most likely be easily readable. As a bleed-through most of the notation can be identified, though the exact reading of the text remains unclear. The incipit, however, can be deciphered as “Or sus”, thus suggesting that the version on this fragment most likely is not a contrafact. Furthermore, the B-part of the composition features a double text underlay, which confirms the find and supports the virelai-form for this transmission.

A-Wn Cod 3917 (back inside bleed through – Or sus vous dormez trop) – reconstruction with comments – some of the readings remain educated guesses based on the knowledge of the piece from concordant sources – (underlying photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

The fragment contains the entire cantus line of “Or sus vous dormez trop” and the tenor for the entire A-part. While the cantus features a number of variations when compared with the PMFC edition (PMFC XXI, p. 112-116), the tenor is almost identical.

“Or sus vous dormez trop” – edition: unreadable notes coloured grey, missing notation in small print – the edition is still partly hypothetical, because the staff lines of the original are not visible and some of the notation is very difficult to discern.

The front side of the leaf also contains staves for musical notation, which, however, do not match the location of the stave lines on the back side. Even though the staves on the back cannot be seen in the bleed-through the location of the musical notation proves that the lines do not match with the layout on the front page. No rastrum was used on the front side: The differing length and varying distances of the lines show that they were drawn individually with a ruler. Furthermore, the front side features sketchy scribal notes and various samples of probatio pennae, which contain interesting clues about the provenance and dating of the fragment at hand.

A-Wn Cod 3917 - scribles top - klein

A-Wn Cod 3917 – scribbles at the top of the page, front side – (underlying photo ©Robert Klugseder, with kind permission of the ÖNB)

Some of the scribbles go beyond the edge of the fragment and extend onto the leather binding – a hint that they were added after the paper was (ab-)used for the binding. Others use little German phrases and the name of duke Albrecht of Austria (either Albrecht V, duke of Austria between 1404 and 1439 or Albrecht VI, duke of Austria between 1446 and 1463) suggesting that the original manuscript was already scrapped for re-use in Austria in the mid-15th century, clearly placing the music of the fragment into the Austrian region while it was still in fashion.

Since the fragment is so promising and rich in content, it would be highly advisable to detach it from the binding of the host codex, so that it can be properly studied and transcribed. It seems to offer a slightly new reading of the cantus line and may provide further valuable information via its lyrics. We therefore have chosen to suggest this course of action to the Austrian National Library.

Marc Lewon

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PS: Since the publication of this post we were able to obtain a new UV-photograph of the fragment resulting in a new transcription and discussion of this source.