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Saturday morning quotes 4.38: Truth or adverts?

January 31, 2015

MariaZartAfter last week’s frank revelations, which were either inspired by maximum physical discomfort or by a justifiable utter disgust over our culture’s epidemic of narcissism, we offer an antidote in the form of true and honest music to hear and appreciate.

Of course, the primary solution is to pack up all narcissists, politicos, franchise-oriented hype-merchants and PR types, and make them a generous offer to colonize the moon.  We are simply sick and tired of being deceived at every step by people we should be able to trust selling things that are not as described.

We are tired of concerts being characterized with a professionally compiled litany of buzz words that cannot possibly in all honesty deliver the goods.

“Each has his appointed day; short and irretrievable is the span of life for all; but to prolong fame by deeds—that is the task of virtue.”

Virgil, The Aeneid, Book X (Translation by Rob C. Wegman)

As our deed, we choose to offer an honest alternative in the form of a live recording for solo voice and lute of a simple devotional song published by Arnolt Schlick (c.1455–1521) in Tabulatur etlicher Lobgesang und lidlein (Mainz, 1512).  This book is mainly known as an early published source of organ music, with ten instrumental pieces devoted to keyboard with pedal.  But our interest lies in the devotional songs in vernacular German, specifically “Maria zart von edler art”. A keyboard variant of the piece also appears in the 1512 book, with elaborate right-hand melodic lines supported by organ tablature for one left hand and two left feet.  Though published later, this keyboard version and material from the Tyrolian devotional song were apparently concordant with the source for Jacob Obrecht’s (1458 – 1505) lavishly long setting, Missa Maria Zart.

Just to add a little spice to the discussion, controversy over competence mattered 500 years ago as well.  When Schlick published his book in 1512, it was in response to a hackneyed version of tablatures published in 1511 by Sebastian Virdung (c. 1435  1530), Virdung’s Musica getutscht und ausgezogen (Basel, 1511). While Virdung’s book was meant to have a slightly more comprehensive focus, Schlick did not hesitate to level bitter criticisms at the number of misprints and outright errors in the earlier book. Virdung, apparently less a musician than a wordy anthologist, advised how to intabulate music for lute while completely missing the concept that certain simultaneous combinations of notes on the same string were simply unplayable.  We’ll skip the 500-year old spilling of bile but add this quote on the subject from Hans H. Lenneberg, “The Critic Criticized: Sebastian Virdung and His Controversy with Arnold Schlick,” Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring, 1957), pp. 1-6.

We have seen that Virdung was undoubtedly not a lutenist and probably not much of a keyboard performer. He may not even have had too much theoretical knowledge. It is an obvious conclusion that one should not read Musica getutscht without having a saltcellar handy.

Nevertheless, please enjoy our performance of “Maria zart”, and remember to support real early music as performed by dedicated artists who do not have a public relations consultant tossing about the latest buzz words. Just honest scholarship and dedicated artistry.


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