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Recent Researches in the Music of the Renaissance

David Crook, general editor

David Crook, general editor

Since its inception in 1964, Recent Researches in the Music of the Renaissance has brought to press many volumes devoted to the music of the “long” sixteenth century. These volumes trace the rise, in the last decades of the fifteenth century, of a new style of polyphony characterized especially by complexes of fully texted, non-hierarchical voice parts. They document, moreover, the maintenance of this “sixteenth-century” style as a viable compositional alternative even as the basso continuo and other baroque idioms asserted themselves in the first decades of the seventeenth century. Each volume in the series provides a historical introduction, critical report, and English translations of foreign texts. Together they represent all of the principal genres of the period.

The many volumes devoted to the venerable categories of mass and motet are complemented by those dedicated to new forms of music spawned by the Protestant Reformations, such as the three volumes of music composed for the reformed English liturgy during the reign of Edward VI. The generous representation of French chansons and Italian madrigals reflects their dominant position in sixteenth-century musical culture, yet the series also includes settings of the other European vernaculars: for example, German lieder by Johannes Eccard, Spanish villancicos by Juan Vasquez, and Dutch songs from Tielman Susato’s Musyck Boexken.

This “vocal” music was not, however, only for vocalists: texted polyphony also constituted one of the principal forms of instrumental music in the Renaissance. Indeed, title pages sometimes explicitly characterize the contents of collections as being “apt for voices or instruments.” For modern instrumentalists, the volumes of motets, madrigals, and chansons in the series offer a vast trove of ensemble music that is both exquisitely crafted and relatively undemanding technically. In addition, music conceived expressly for instruments can be found in volumes such as those devoted to keyboard intabulations of music by Josquin des Prez, ricercars from the Bourdeney Codex, and canzonas by Claudio Merulo.

Nothing had a more profound effect on the distribution and consumption of Renaissance music than the advent of music printing at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Accordingly, the series seeks to highlight the ways in which the original publications reflect priorities and habits of both producers and consumers. Many volumes in the series are in fact editions of single publications—both those dedicated to the work of a single composer, such as the important 1559 Milanese Motetta by Hermann Matthias Werrecore, and those that gather together the work of many, such as the 1563 Musica spirituale, an early and eclectic anthology of spiritual madrigals by Adrian Willaert, Vincenzo Ruffo, and others.

Another type of edition presents the music of neither a single composer nor a single print, but instead a body of music unified by a common theme. Examples of this sort include two collections of compositions with si placet parts (R106 and R146), as well as a volume of music related to the fiery Florentine preacher Girolamo Savonarola.

A final distinctive feature of the Renaissance series is its inclusion of multivolume subseries devoted to the collected works of a composer within a chosen genre. Notable here are the complete madrigals of Andrea Gabrieli, the complete chansons of André Pevernage, and the complete motets of Orlando di Lasso.

This last subseries, though not the first modern edition of this important corpus, nonetheless presents for the first time all of the composer’s motets in the chronological order in which they were first published and with all voice parts set in modern clefs. It thus reflects another goal of the series: the presentation of Renaissance music in ways that respond not only to the recent researches of scholars but also the needs and interests of today’s performers.


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