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8.554180 - Piae Cantiones: Latin Song in Medieval Finland
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Piae Cantiones
Latin Song in Mediaeval Finland

One early but ill fated attempt to create a Greater Northern Union of states in Scandinavia was made in 1397, when all Nordic countries were to be brought under Danish rule. The Union of Kalmar finally fell apart in 1523 after repeated Swedish rebellions. This ultimate dissolution was preceded by the famous Stockholm massacre in which 82 noblemen and clergy who suppol1ed Swedish independence were executed by the Danes.

The leader of the successful Swedish uprising was Gustavus Vasa who then became king of Sweden and its eastern duchy, Finland. It was not, however, solely bravery and national patriotism that secured victory. Mercenaries were expensive and warfare in the sixteenth century typically included a provider of capital with commercial interests, in this case the Hanseatic merchants of Lübeck. In consequence the war left Gustavus Vasa seriously in debt. This has often been considered one reason why Sweden and Finland so quickly adopted the new Protestant religious doctrines. According to these, the head of the state was also head of the national church. This, in torn, translated into the right of the crown to confiscate church property.

In Sweden the whole Reformation was accomplished without much conflict or bloodshed and this was even more the case in Finland, which with its own diocese in Turko (Latin Aboa) had enjoyed a large measure of religious independence since the fourteenth century. The first Finnish hymnal, published in 1583 by Jaakko Finno, headmaster of Turku Cathedral School, notably lacks the militant combat songs so typical of many other contemporary hymnals.

Together with Theodoricus Petri, a Finnish student at the University of Rostock, Jaakko Finno was also the principal editor of a curious collection of Latin devotional songs for the schola Aboensi in Finlandia, published in Greifswald in 1582. This book, under the title Piae Cantiones ecclesiasticae et scholasticae veterum episcoporum, contains music of extensive chronological and geographical scope. Stylistically the content is clearly older than the publishing date might suggest and some compositions can be traced back to the turn of the millennium. The main body of compositions, however, can be placed within the fifteenth-century Germanic-Bohemian Cantio tradition.

The question arises as to why a book such as Piae Cantiones should have been produced in Protestant Finland by a clergyman who on another occasion had called the use of Latin in the liturgy a Devil's invention and why it should have been published in continental Europe and not, for instance in Stockholm, the capital. It seems that the impulse for this book came directly from King Johan III of Sweden, who had strong Catholic sympathies and, as a former governor and Duke of Finland, was well acquainted with its cultural heritage. As the title of the book suggests, it seems that Piae Cantiones, rather than being a coherent musical entity, is an attempt to salvage a centuries old local musical tradition doomed to obsolescence. This character of the collection is apparent from the lack of any contemporary musical material and the manner of presentation of the compositions, suggesting a strong oral element in their transmission. The place of publication can probably be explained by the continuing presence of Finnish students at the Catholic universities of Central Europe and the stronger anti-Catholic sentiments of Sweden itself.

Piae Cantiones did not completely escape theological controversy. Some of its texts were 'corrected' by Jaakko Finno, a task carried out rather superficially, generally simply by replacing words such as Maria and Virgo by words such as Christus and Puer, and so on. Naturally, this often resulted in a violation of the poetic structure and, in a couple of cases, in complete nonsense, as, for instance, when Christus was assigned the virginal attribute porta clausa nec pervia.

The second edition of Piae Cantiones was published in 1625 in Rostock and is connected in many ways with the other main mediaeval centre of Finland, Viborg. This time a well known German church musician Daniel Friderici served as an artistic director of the enterprise. Sensing the historical and cultural value of the collection, he preserved all the monophonic songs of the first edition. Many of the three-part polyphonic compositions, however, he replaced by music reflecting contemporary taste. In this respect, the second edition has more the character of a practical song-book. Few sixteenth-century musical collections anywhere in Europe enjoy such an established position in today's musical life as Piae Cantiones in Finland. In the wake of early twentieth-century national romanticism a whole mixed choir tradition has evolved around these melodies, some of which are also represented in the church hymnal. As a result, one concept hardly ever applied to this repertory in Finland is that of so-called historical performance practice. Similarly, the emphasis on elements of national origin, of which there are many, has largely hindered the public from seeing this collection in its proper context as a large and coherent body of strophic Latin non-liturgical song, ranging in provenance from the Mediterranean to the Baltic.

In the present recording our intention has been to explore these links that connect Finland with the common musical heritage of Europe. Some compositions, therefore, are taken from sources other than the Piae Cantiones collection itself. A remarkable number of the Piae Cantiones songs, however, are not found in other sources and their origins are subject to speculation. Many of them are likely to be Finnish, such as Ramus virens olivarum, a hymn to St Henry, an English bishop who was axed down by an uncooperative native on the ice of Lake Köyliö in 1155, a fate for which, as compensation, he later became the patron saint of Finland. Another curious composition is Aetas carmen melodiae, which in the 1625 edition is replaced by a song of Daniel Friderici himself. In spite of its archaic beauty, the counterpoint of the original three-voice version is downright bizarre and could well be the local product of a less than pedantic composer. Of the compositions which have known Central European connections, most are of German or Bohemian origin, or at least transmitted through that area. A good example of this is Dies est laetitiae, which appears in fifteenth and sixteenth century sources in countless variations and later as a Lutheran chorale with the text Der Tag der ist so freudenreich. The melody of Parvulus nobis nascitur is of German popular origin and preserved, for instance, in the Glogauer Liederbuch with a vernacular text. The present polyphonic version is thought to be by the Flemish master Jacob Obrecht and is taken from the first printed volume of polyphonic music, Ottaviano Petrucci's Odhecaton (Venice 1501). Many of the older Piae Cantiones songs have their origins further south. For instance, the earliest known provenance for Verbum caro factum est is in a French manuscript dating from before the year 1100. This song, which might have travelled to Finland with Finnish students from Paris University, can also be found in some Italian and Spanish sources. In the same twelfth-century Spanish manuscript there is also a version of Omnis mundus jucundetur. In this recording this composition will appear twice, first in the monophonic Piae Cantiones version and then as a double-text motet from the Czech Speciálník manuscript. Puer natus in Bethlehem, well known in the Germanic part of Europe, has its earliest known source from the monastery of Bobbio in Italy.

Our knowledge of musical performance practice in mediaeval Finland is virtually non-existent. Since the main cultural exchange between Finland and other countries took place through active trade with other Baltic states and the Hanseatic League, we have looked to German instrumental practice of the fifteenth century for inspiration. The use of the kantele, the traditional Finnish psaltery, in some compositions allows us to explore hypothetical links between the scholarly musical world and folk-tradition.

Markus Tapio

Retrover Ensemble
The Retrover Ensemble was established in 1986 as an ensemble specialising in late mediaeval and renaissance repertoire. From the beginning, its primary aspiration has been performance combining living musical expression and high artistic ambitions with thorough musicological research. Most of the members of the ensemble have studied at the internationally renowned institute for early music, the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. Retrover has given concerts in Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Italy and Germany, and has recorded for several European broadcasting companies.

Markus Tapio, viola da gamba/vielle
Markus Tapio was born in Helsinki and originally trained as a cellist. In 1986 he moved to the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in order to specialise in early music. There he attended the viola da gamba master-­class of Jordi Savall and studied fifteenth-century repertoire. In 1991 Markus Tapio completed his studies with a soloist diploma. In addition to his work as the director of Retrover, Markus Tapio has performed and recorded in most European countries with other leading early music ensembles such as Hesperion XX, Sequentia and Daedalus. He teaches Renaissance and Late Mediaeval repertoire at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki.

María Cristina Kiehr, soprano
María Cristina Kiehr studied voice and violin in her native Argentina and in 1983 moved to Europe to study Renaissance and Baroque repertoire with René Jacobs at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. Her career as a soloist has taken her to countries throughout Europe, Japan and Australia with leading ensembles and conductors, including Hesperion XX, Cantus Köln, Jordi Savall, Philippe Herreweghe, Franz Brüggen and Gustav Leonhard. She is a founder member of the vocal quartet La Colombina and the ensemble Concerto Soave.

Eric Mentzel, tenor
Eric Mentzel was born in Philadelphia and studied voice and organ at Temple University before taking a master's degree in early music at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Besides his work as an oratorio soloist and as a member of such ensembles as Sequentia, the Huelgas Ensemble, Ferrara Ensemble and Retrover, Eric Mentzel has in recent years been increasingly involved with new music. He has been featured at the Wuppertal Opera and at Hamburg's Opera Stabile.

Eitan Sorek, tenor
Eitan Sorek, born in Tel-Aviv, studied at the Rubin Academy of Tel-Aviv University and at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. With repertoire ranging from mediaeval to contemporary music, he regularly performs as a soloist with various orchestras and ensembles, including La Chapelle Royale, the Amsterdam Baroque Choir, Netherlands Chamber Choir and New Israeli Opera. Eitan Sorek has participated in numerous compact disc and radio recordings.

Stephen Grant, bass
Stephen Grant was born in Montreal and studied the organ and voice there, before moving to Germany in 1987. His expertise in the field of early music has led to many invitations to perform as an oratorio soloist as well as engagements with several well-known ensembles throughout Europe. These include recordings with Sequentia, L'Ensemble Organum de Paris, Ensemble Gilles Binchois and the Clemencic Consort. In the field of contemporary music, he has had a number of works written for him.

Jankees Braaksma, organetto/recorder
Jankees Braaksma studied recorder in Groningen and Amsterdam as well as mediaeval music at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. After intensive research in repertoire and playing technique, he has reintroduced the organetto as one of the main musical instruments of the late Middle Ages. With his ensemble Super Librum and as a soloist Jankees Braaksma has appeared at most major early music festivals in Europe and is also regularly invited to teach techniques of polyphonic improvisation in music of the fifteenth century.

Agileu Motta, lute
Born in Brazil, Agileu Motta studied guitar at the Music Academy of São Paolo, moving in 1985 to Holland in order to specialise in early plucked instruments with Toyohiko Satoh at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. After completing these studies with a diploma, he attended the master-class of Hopkinson Smith at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. Besides his engagements as a soloist, Agileu Motta performs regularly with different European early music ensembles and orchestras.

Leena Joutsenlahti, kantele/recorder
Leena Joutsenlahti studied in the folk-music department of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, where she also received her master's degree. She is a founding member of the ensemble Niekku that specialises in new Finnish folk-music. Leena Joutsenlahti has performed in several European countries and the United States and has taken part in numerous compact disc and radio recordings. She also is a member of the teaching staff of the Sibelius Academy.


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