A-Wn Cod 13713: La-mi-la-sol

[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.]

Recently, Robert Klugseder had made us aware of a new, tiny fragment with musical notation from Purkersdorf, near Vienna. This “Purkersdorf Fragment” (A-Wn cod13713) features mensural music from c.1500: 4 fragmentary lines on its “front” and 5 fragmentary lines on its “back”. While the majority of the music on the back consists of fragments from a yet unidentified bassus voice (with the word “bassus” clearly written under the incipit) and a tabula compositoria (a scala decemlinealis with 4 clefs f-c’-g’-d”), the top two lines of music on the front shows fragments of cantus and tenor lines as well as a cantus firmus:

The two top lines of the Purkersdorf Fragment—end of A-part of "La-mi-la-sol" by Heinrich Isaac on A-Wn cod13713-1 (photo ©Robert Klugseder).

The two top lines of the Purkersdorf Fragment—part of the prima pars of “La-mi-la-sol” by Heinrich Isaac on A-Wn cod13713-1 (photo ©Robert Klugseder).

La-mi-la-sol (Heinrich Isaac)

The maxima notes of the cantus firmus can easily be identified as the second half (“la-sol-la-mi”) of the motif from the famous (“instrumental”) motet “la-mi-la-sol” by Heinrich Isaac. It is here followed by a rest, the longa “la” and a custos “mi” which would place the surviving c.f.-fragment in the middle of the tenor line of the motet’s prima pars. The end of the line directly above turns out to be the end of the cantus line of the same part. Since the tenor voice of the prima pars takes up only little space it would have ended in the middle of the next line, which is now lost. The cantus voice would have taken up about three more lines of music above the surviving line, which would make the surviving fragment the lower half of a page. Since the normal layout would call for the two missing contratenors to be placed on the facing page of an opening, the current “front” of the fragment would most likely have been the original verso side of a folio. This would also nicely fit with the placement of contratenor bassus voices on the “back”, which would have been placed on an original recto side.

The following transcription of the prima pars of Isaac’s “La-mi-la-sol” gives the surviving music of A-Wn cod13713-1 in red notation with the missing parts taken from the songbook of Fridolin Sicher (CH-SGs cod.sang.461, pp. 42-43).

A-part of Heinrich Isaac's "La-mi-la-sol" with surviving notation from A-Wn cod13713-1 (Purkersdorf Fragment) in red notation—remaining music taken from CH-SGs cod.sang.461, pp. 42-43 (Songbook of Fridolin Sicher).

Prima pars of Heinrich Isaac’s “La-mi-la-sol” with surviving notation from A-Wn cod13713-1 (Purkersdorf Fragment) in red notation—remaining music taken from CH-SGs cod.sang.461, pp. 42-43 (Songbook of Fridolin Sicher).

Marc Lewon

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