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Corina Marti, harpsichord
Agudas Achim Synagogue,
401 Oakdale Blvd., Coralville
Sunday, February 10, 2019
3:00 PM

authorship of the vocal model/intabulation unknown unless otherwise indicated

[Preambulum in g] (161r)
Surrexit Dominus valete luctus (70v)
[Passamezzo antico] / Proporcia Jeszcze Marczynye (188v/189r)
[Deus qui sedes super thronum] (after Johann Walter) (204r)
Zaklolam szÿa tharnem (215r)

[Preambulum] in e (19v)
Absolon [= Rex autem David] (after Antonio de Ribera) (253v)
Poznanie (112r)
Francigenum [= Le content est riche] (after Claudin de Sermisy) (28r)
[D’ung desplaisir] (after Jacotin Le Bel) (28v)
[Corea] (111v)
Preambulum in a per h (91v)
Date siceram merentibus [= Je ne puis me tenir] (N[icolaus] C[racoviensis], after Jhan Gero) (200v)

Preambulum super d  (19r)
Bona [corea?] (218v)
Veschol [= Dont vient cela] (after Claudin de Sermisy) (90v)
Ad novem saltus (220r)
Haÿduczkÿ (220v)
Vita in lingo moritur (after Ludwig Senfl) (171r)
Preambulum in d (N[icolaus] C[racoviensis]) (160v)
Schephczyk ÿdzÿe po ulÿczÿ schÿdelka noschacz (222r)


Preambulum super f (98v)
Anglicum (200r)
Preambulum in d (233r)
Plus mille regres [= Plus nulz regretz] (after Josquin des Prez) (254v)
Aliud preambulum (242)
Rex (132r)

Tribulatio [et angustia] (after Josquin des Prez?) (235v)
[Corea] italica (221r)
Preambulum in c (18v)
Sicut lilium inter spinas (after Antoine Brumel) (97v)


TABVLATVRA IOANNIS DE LYVBLYN CANONIC. REGLARIV. DE CRASNYK 1540 – these are the words embossed on the cover of the manuscript preserved in Kraków and regarded as the largest collection of keyboard music from sixteenth-century Europe. This inscription gave this collection its common name, the ‘tablature of Jan of Lublin’. The words on the cover tell us that the book belonged to the monastery of Canons Regular in Kraśnik near Lublin (‘canonic[orum] reg[u]lariu[m] de Crasnyk’), as well as informing us that it was bound in 1540. Within the covers made of boards covered in brown leather, by now somewhat worn, we find 260 paper folios with the dimensions 320 × 205 mm. The manuscript contains more than 230 compositions, two theoretical treatises, and over 250 music examples with a didactic purpose. The musical content is notated in the so-called German tablature notation, a combination of music notes and letters. Changes in the handwriting indicate that a number of people were involved in the book’s creation, and the dates which appear next to some compositions suggest that its compilation took longer than a decade (1537‒1548). There is no doubt that the main scribe and owner of the book was Jan of Lublin, whose name stands out on the cover.


Who was it, then, who created this impressive collection? It is difficult to establish the facts of his biography, since we cannot always be sure that all the references to ‘Joannes de Lublin’ concern the person of interest to us (it was quite a common name). We assume that the owner of the tablature was educated at the university in Kraków, where in 1508 he was awarded his baccalaureate. From 1528 he was probably an altarist at the Marian church in Kraków, where he was also a member of the mansionary brotherhood. He probably worked as an organist there until at least 1535, when his name appears in documents for the last time. By 1540 – at the time when the tablature was being bound – he must have already been in Kraśnik, but we know nothing about his life at the monastery. We only know that Jan of Lublin died on 14 November 1552, a fact diligently noted in the monastic obituaries. This is a life reduced to a few facts, with the manuscript bearing his name occupying the central place among them.


On the first pages of Jan of Lublin’s tablature we find a theoretical treatise which discusses the instrumental counterpoint for organists. It contains a set of rules concerning the principles of composing a four-part work based on a melody taken from plainchant (cantus firmus). The text is illustrated with many musical examples, and also refers to the Fundamentum – a set of counterpoint patterns useful in composing. These are scattered at various points of the manuscript. On the last two pages of the book we find tuning instructions for the organ, i.e., the manner of achieving the most satisfactory sound of various intervals. The two treatises are an invaluable source of knowledge about organ music in the first half of the sixteenth century, allowing us to learn its governing principles, in many details so very different from the principles of vocal music. We assume that the author of these texts is Jan of Lublin.


The tablature was thus a compendium of theoretical knowledge, useful for teaching organists, although for the most part its contents deal with matters that are very practical. We find there an extensive choice of repertory to be played during the liturgy. These are largely arrangements for the organ of various vocal works, both polyphonic (e.g., mass sections and motets) and monophonic (plainchant melodies and religious songs). However, the set of compositions entered here is much richer: there are also intabulations (i.e., instrumental versions) of secular polyphonic songs, as well as pieces originally composed for a keyboard instrument, above all preambula and dances. The richness of this repertory is truly impressive, both in terms of the musical genres and composers represented, and the instrumental techniques employed. We find here works of Polish, German, Italian and French origin, including older ones from as far back as the end of the fifteenth century, as well as new ones.


Studying the contents of the tablature is like a journey into the unknown without a guide or a compass, since the compilers entered compositions without any apparent plan or order. Liturgical pieces are intertwined with secular ones, short and simple pieces with more complex ones. Some compositions break off, only to be continued many pages later. We find the same melodies arranged in many different ways, and different pieces with the same titles. A detailed analysis leads us to the conclusion that the oldest part of the manuscript was written prior to 1540, perhaps in Kraków, and in this part some of the compositions are grouped thematically. However, most of the pages were filled in after the book had been bound, undoubtedly at Kraśnik. It was not necessary to introduce a systematic order into this enormous anthology of organ music: its scribes were also its users, and for them navigating through the thicket of various compositions probably did not pose major problems.


This diversity of somewhat chaotically juxtaposed compositions offers modern performers a myriad of possible interpretations. The tablature of Jan of Lublin may be viewed from different perspectives, both as a document of organ practice at a specific musical centre, and as a source of music for keyboard instruments to be used in different contexts and on different occasions. One might be tempted to use these compositions to reconstruct a mass sung alternately with organ playing (the alternatim technique), but one could also use it to highlight the virtuosity of a musician demonstrating the full range of his talent outside the church. Multifunctionality was a feature of many music collections at that time, as was the freedom of choice of instrument on which the compositions included in them were to be performed. In the case of the tablature of Jan of Lublin we should consider not only the organ, but also the cembalo, the clavichord, the claviorganum or the harpsichord, chosen as appropriate for the specific kind of repertory.


Compositions which could be performed outside the church included primarily those without a clear connection to the liturgy. The tablature includes more than twenty preambula, in different keys, which could serve as short introductions to larger compositions. Their character is semi-improvisatory, with extensive use of typically instrumental figurations. Longer dance-like pieces carry specific titles or just the name ‘corea’. They are characterised by clear rhythms and repeatability of short sections and, in accordance with the old tradition, after a section in duple metre comes a section in triple metre (proportio). The melodic line for the right hand comes with chordal accompaniment in the left hand. The other pieces are intabulations of vocal compositions: we find among them chansons by such composers as Josquin des Prez, Claudin de Sermisy or Pierre Sandrin, as well as numerous motets. In contrast to homophonic instrumental compositions, they belong to polyphonic repertory, where most frequently we have four simultaneous voices. Polyphonic artistry at its highest, with extensive use of imitation, can be heard in the motets Deus qui sedes super thronum by Johann Walter, Sicut lilium inter spinas by Antoine Brumel, and Tribulatio et angustia attributed to Josquin. It is difficult to assign some pieces to a particular genre, and it is also not known whether they were originally composed for an instrument or whether they derive from a vocal original; for example, Pressa is one of the pieces which present such problems.


The tablature of Jan of Lublin contains compositions from various parts of Europe. However, what makes it largely unique are its associations with the Polish culture. A number of dances are given Polish titles which point to songs as their possible source: Jeszcze Marczynye [Martin again], Zaklolam szÿa tharnem [I pricked myself with a thorn] and Schephczyk ÿdzÿe po ulÿczÿ schÿdelka noschacz [A cobbler walks along the street carrying a crochet]. There are names or monograms of Polish musicians: many of the intabulations were the work of Mikołaj of Kraków (Nicolaus Cracoviensis), who may also have been the author of some of the pieces, while two compositions are attributed to Seweryn Koń (Colenda Severini). At the time of writing of Jan’s tablature, musical culture in Poland was living through a period of true blossoming. King Sigismund Augustus employed the outstanding Hungarian lutenist Valentin Greff Bakfark at his international court, which was soon to see the appearance of a number of talented composers: Wacław of Szamotuły, Marcin Leopolita and Mikołaj Gomółka.


The tablature of Jan of Lublin is not an isolated document relating to organ music in sixteenth-century Poland. Much evidence points to the conclusion that keyboard music was there the subject of particular nurture. A tablature of the monastery of the Holy Spirit in Kraków, less voluminous but with a similar repertory, was written during the same period (1548), but unfortunately it was lost during the Second World War. This makes the pages filled with music that are held within the covers inscribed TABVLATVRA IOANNIS DE LYVBLYN even more precious.


Paweł Gancarczyk

Translated by Zofia Weaver



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