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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 7 (2001) No. 1

Vingt et une suites pour le clavecin de Johann Jacob Froberger et d’autres auteurs; Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek, Ms. 1-T-595 (Strasbourg, 1675). Edited by Rudolf Rasch. Convivium Musicum 5. Stuttgart: Carus-Verlag, 2000. [CV 90.009. LCCN 2001-380684. xxxiv, 109 pp. 128 DM ($78).]

Reviewed by Bruce Gustafson*

1. Volume V of Convivium Musicum

2. The Bulyowsky Manuscript and Froberger Sources

3. The Other Composers

4. The Usefulness of the Edition


1. Volume V of Convivium Musicum

1.1 This is an edition in modern notation of a harpsichord manuscript begun in 1675. Manuscripts of seventeenth-century keyboard music continue to turn up, and the one at hand is an especially significant apparition because it transmits works by one of the most important keyboard composers of the century, Johann Jacob Froberger. The manuscript had remained in private collections, completely unknown to scholars, until it was recently acquired by the Dresden State and University Library. While it brings us only three new movements by Froberger, its readings of the other pieces are of interest, and some have considerable authority. Further, there are pieces, some of them previously unknown and some obviously transcribed from lute music, by four other composers. The edition presents the contents of the manuscript quite faithfully.

1.2 This fifth number in the series pleasantly dubbed “Convivium Musicum” joins volumes that began to appear in 1992, dedicated to “music from the Renaissance and Baroque from Germanic areas.” Thus far there is a sharper focus in that all of the music selected for publication was originally associated in some way with Strasbourg: the first four volumes were of music, both vocal and instrumental, published there in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the edition under discussion is based on an a manuscript that was written there.1 The general editors are Marc Honegger and Christian Meyer, both associated with the University of Strasbourg. The volumes are essentially bilingual (French and German), but the prefaces are also translated into English. The volumes are handsomely printed and reflect high editorial standards.

1.3 This edition consists of pieces grouped into twenty-one units that are (mostly) numbered in the manuscript, but not given generic headings, just as in Froberger’s autograph manuscripts; but this edition designates them as “suites,” a term not usual in German until the eighteenth century. First come thirteen known suites by Froberger and then another unattributed one that was already known from another source but had never been published in a modern edition—and which is quite likely to be by Froberger. The rest of the pieces were entered from the other end of the manuscript with a new and incomplete numbering sequence: four suites by Valentin Strobel, two of which are only provisionally attributed, one by Jean Mercure that includes a Gavotte that is actually by Johann Gumprecht; a suite by Alessandro Poglietti; and finally one by Michael Bulyowsky, the principal scribe of the manuscript. Added much later by another hand is “La Favorite” by Dandrieu, and it is included in the edition for completeness—although it is not listed in the Table of Contents, presumably in the interest of chronological tidiness.

2. The Bulyowsky Manuscript and Froberger Sources

2.1 Rudolf Rasch is convincing in his argument that this manuscript is primarily in the hand of Michael Bulyowsky, who is known to have matriculated at the University of Strasbourg in 1674. He was an organist there in 1676, and in 1680 he published his first musical treatise there (advocating the division of the octave into nineteen steps). He had left Strasbourg the year before, however, for a teaching post in Durlach. Rasch has compared the handwriting in the manuscript to a signed document by Bulyowsky and declares it to match, although he is very careful to point out variants and uncertainties in making his case.2 Thus, the legends on the first page of this manuscript make perfect sense “Anno 1675 | 15 Martii | Argentorati [=Strasbourg] | MB.” The date presumably reflects the outset of the copying, eight years after the death of Froberger, but more than twenty years before ten of his suites were published for the first time, hitherto providing what was the earliest source for some suites. It is clear that Bulyowsky was copying from various manuscripts, and that the compilation was made gradually, as the handwriting changes. However, it is very significant that two of the suites by Froberger have the notation at the end, “ex autographo.” They are not from the surviving autographs, which are called “Libro 2” and “Libro 4,”3 evoking the tantalizing suspicion that Bulyowsky held in his hands the first or third books, now lost. It is more likely, however, that he had access to one or more autographs that Froberger had kept with him personally, as opposed to the presentation copies that would have remained in Vienna; if this hypothesis is correct, the readings here would reflect the composer’s last revisions of the pieces in question.4 Strasbourg is situated in reasonably close cultural proximity to some of the places where Froberger was active: Stuttgart, where he was born; Mainz, where Constantijn Huygens met him in 1665; Héricourt near Montbéliard, where he lived the last eighteen months of his life. Even though there is no record of his actually being active in Strasbourg, more than one vestige of his music survives there, including the “Stoos” manuscript.5 Thus, the Bulyowsky manuscript can be considered to be within the mainstream of Froberger sources.

2.2 Rasch is careful not to claim too much for the manuscript. He disparages the new movements (a courante and two doubles) as not the best of Froberger’s work, although they complete a previously courante-less suite. But the manuscript also provides new descriptive titles for six movements, and a duple version of a gigue known previously only as triple. 6 The many variants in the readings of the known pieces are well worth having readily available, even though, as Rasch points out, they run the gamut from being musically preferable, through being simply alternates, to being musically inferior to the known readings. The manuscript is also interesting for the question of the ordering of the classic four dances (allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue). In nine of the thirteen suites unquestionably by Froberger, the gigue is placed after the allemande, as documentary evidence indicates the composer preferred. But that still leaves four suites (five if one includes the tentatively attributed one) in which the gigue comes at the end; it is worth noting that four of these five have doubles or two versions of a movement, and the anomalous suite is the one of uncertain attribution.

3. The Other Composers

3.1 The back end of the manuscript gives us seven suites by composers other than Froberger. The manuscript is useful in transmitting formerly unknown pieces by Strobel, Poglietti, and Bulyowsky himself. Rasch states unequivocally, and I completely agree, that three of the four suites attributable to Strobel are transcribed from lute tablature; the same is true for the suite by Mercure, which was in any case known in lute sources but not in these transcriptions. Their tessitura and texture make this quite clear. But one suite by Strobel is either an original harpsichord work or was truly arranged idiomatically by a harpsichordist, a possibility not considered by Rasch; alas, it is incomplete because of missing folios. The suite by Poglietti is known in a south German harpsichord manuscript,7 but it has never been treated to a modern edition, and the Bulyowsky harpsichord suite (in B-flat minor!) was completely unknown. While the latter is not of compelling musical interest, it does shed some light on a little-known figure.

4. The Usefulness of the Edition

4.1 Rasch makes a case, which I applaud, that the readings of manuscripts like this should be made available because they were valid in their own time, that pieces in this repertory didn’t have definitive versions: “They aren’t fixed or frozen, always appearing the same way, but are dynamic objects, artifacts that change again and again with each new copy, whether by the composer or by other scribes.”8 There are already three editions of the complete works of Froberger that either conflate sources or present only selected variant readings,9 and it is certainly instructive to have an easily readable edition of a particular source, one which has very good credentials. However, to be useful for this purpose, the page must reflect as closely as possible the readings of the source, and here editorial policies become more than arcane principles necessary for consistency of appearance. The invisibility of the editorial hand is not necessarily a good thing.

4.2 Rasch’s initial statement in the discussion of editorial principles is alarming, declaring the aim of the edition to be an “optimal” text for the performance of each suite. That is in direct conflict with the sentence just quoted from the preface, and fortunately it is not—for the most part—what Rasch has done. He has been admirably faithful to the manuscript’s text, albeit modernizing many more things than I would prefer, including time signatures and barring. Obvious errors are corrected and reported in the critical apparatus, but occasionally Rasch makes changes that impose musical consistency where it doesn’t exist in the manuscript, such as changing a cadential arpeggiation figure at the end of one strain to match that of the other strain when both formulas are equally idiomatic. There is also an inherently inconsistent policy about which rhythmic values at ends of strains have been regularized. Absolutely none of this is visible on the page, and a tidy page must be what the editors mean by “optimal text.” Hiding the editorial process has one especially troubling aspect here, the refusal to indicate on the page which ties are not in the manuscript supposedly being presented. The changes are reported at the back of the volume, to be sure, but even there no indication is given whether the added tie is the editor’s idea or found in a concordant source. And these editorial ties are everywhere! As anyone who has worked with sources for this sort of repertory knows, copyists were frequently careless about ties; the style brisé texture of the music involves a plethora of them, which one per force adds after drawing the notes, and it is easy to forget them or carelessly add them on the wrong notes if they happen to be adjacent. But this is also one of the things that a harpsichordist wants to know without digging around in the critical apparatus: did this copyist mitigate a dissonance with a tie, or might one re-strike the note, making a very strong effect? Rasch obviously thinks dissonances should be suspensions whenever possible, and he’s probably right, but it misrepresents the situation to declare such ties to be “lacking” in the source. This manuscript, in fact, demonstrates that—at least in Bulyowsky’s opinion—there are ties “lacking” in Froberger’s autograph versions. The whole point of an edition of a single source is to show what is in that source. Especially from the standpoint of ties, this edition’s policies are unsatisfactory.

4.3 In a related way, the basic attitude towards the critical apparatus is slightly askew. Unlike the preface, both the apparatus, and worse yet its explanation, are given only in German, and this is not in a tabular form that is easy to understand in an a-lingual way. And, as noted above, it adheres to a concept that I find intellectually backwards, though it is certainly following an established tradition: the apparatus logs how the manuscript differs from “the” text (the editor’s text), rather than the other way around. The primary authority should be the manuscript, not the editor’s rendition of it.

4.4 Perhaps we should be grateful, however, to have been spared more translation, as therein lies the only real outrage of the edition. Rasch wrote his preface in German. It was translated into idiomatic French by Christian Meyer, albeit introducing some changes in meaning in the process. 10 David Burn’s English text seems to be a translation of Meyer’s French—not the original German—and it suffers from a good many stylistic lapses.

4.5 In spite of my disagreement with the editorial policies discussed above, this is a beautifully printed edition that is very helpful to students and performers of Froberger’s music. Rasch appears to be both a careful and musicianly editor. The musical text is very readable at the harpsichord, wisely compressed to avoid page turns (six systems per page in many cases). One can only hope that this volume reflects a trend toward modern editions presenting specific versions of pieces, displacing the notion of “definitive” texts that don’t let the performer or student know what kinds of options existed for seventeenth-century harpsichordists. Facsimiles are a short-cut because they demand an enormous effort—that of an editor—on the part of the user; and in the end they rarely substitute for the original when one is questioning a detail, because they too have been subjected to an invisible editorial hand, one that doesn’t compile a critical apparatus about the “blemishes” removed.


*Bruce Gustafson (Bruce.Gustafson@fandm.edu) has written extensively on French harpsichord music and is publishing editions of it with The Broude Trust and A-R Editions. He is Charles A. Dana Professor of Music at Franklin & Marshall College. Return to beginning


1. The four previous volumes in Convivium Musicum are as follows:

1. Sixtus Dietrich: Magnificat octo tonorum (Strasbourg, 1535). Edited by Marc Honegger and Christian Meyer (1992). A capella magnificats. 2. Johann Ernst Rieck: Neue Allemanden, Giques [sic] , Balletten (Strasbourg, 1658). Edited by Jean-Luc Gester (1992). Dances by Rieck, Johann Gumprecht, Valentin Strobel, and Jean Mercure set as suites for two or three violins and continuo. 3. Christoph Thomas Walliser: Ecclesiodiae (Strasbourg, 1614). Edited by Danielle Guerrier Koegler (1997). Fifty a capella motets. 4. Christoph Thomas Walliser: Ecclesiodiae novae (Strasbourg, 1625). Edited by Danielle Guerrier Koegler (2000). Fifty-nine a capella motets.

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2. A full discussion of the manuscript is promised in Pieter Dirksen and Rudolf Rasch, “Eine neu-entdeckte Quelle für die Klaviersuiten von Johann Jacob Froberger,” Musik in Baden-Württemberg, Jahrbuch (2001); it was not yet available at the time of this writing. One assumes that there will be further information on the paper and ink(s), which are unmentioned in this edition. A facsimile edition is also in preparation by the library holding the manuscript in Schriftenreihe der Sächsischen Landesbibliothek — Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden, 4 (Dresden: S.L.U.B. Dresden). Return to text

3. A-Wn Mus. Hs. 18706 (dated 1649), and 18707 (dated 1656). A third, later, autograph (A-Wn Mus Hs. 16560) is unrelated in contents to the Bulyowsky manuscript. Return to text

4. Alexander Silbiger makes this distinction in discussing the lost first and third books, although at that time the Bulyowsky manuscript was also “lost”: “Tracing the Contents of Froberger's Lost Autographs,” Current Musicology 54 (1993): 5–23. Return to text

5. F-Pn Rés. Vm7 1818 (from after 1684). Return to text

6. The new works and titles are as follows:

Title (spellings regularized), key Adler edition Rasch edition
Double [to Allemande] (a) VI.2
Courante (a) VI.3
Double (a) VI.4
Allemande nommée Wasserfall (e) XXVII.1 III.1
Allemande faite à l’honneur de Madame Sibylle, Duchesse de Wirtemberg (g) XVIII.1 V.1
Gigue nommée La Philotte(g) XVIII.4 V.2
Allemande repraesentans monticidium Froberger (G) XVI.1 XIII.1
Gigue praecedens in proportione [i.e., duple version] nommée la rusée Mazarinique (d) [m. 34:] Lentement et à discretion, comme le retour de Mons. le Cardinal Mazarin à Paris XIII.— II.5

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7. The “Ottobeuren” manuscript, D-OB MO 1037 (dated 1695). Return to text

8. ”Sie sind keine fixierte, gefrorene Wesen, die immer dieselbe Erscheinungsform aufweisen, sondern dynamische Objekte, Artefakte die sich mit jeder neuen Abschrift, sowohl durch den Komponisten als durch einen anderen Kopisten, wieder ändern” (p. xxi). Rasch goes further, however, and claims that all this comes to an end when a composer publishes a piece, at which point the composer has no more interest in it. I think it would be hard to defend this generalization, especially since so little harpsichord music in this style was published during the period in question. Return to text

9. The standard edition was made by Guido Adler a century ago and still is very useful. It appeared in three separated volumes of Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich: Jahrgang IV/1, Band 13; Jahrgang VI/2, Band 13; and Jahrgang X/2, Band 21. Howard Schott made a new edition in two “tomes” (1980, 1990), sold as four volumes, for the Pupitre series now sold by Leduc in Paris. It has not found wide acceptance; it has no critical apparatus, but editorial accidentals and ties are indicated as such on the page. Currently, Siegfried Rampe is bringing out the complete works with Bärenreiter in Kassel; only the first two volumes, of the autograph collections cited above, have appeared to date (1993, 1995) He places selected variants on the page and indicates editorial additions as such. Return to text

10. For example, the notion of studying the music disappears when “ Bisher war die Suite wegen ihrer Unvollständigkeit eine wenig attractive Suite zum Einstudieren und Ausführen ” becomes “En raison de son caractère incomplet, la Suite 28 n’avait guère retenu jusqu’à présent l’attention des clavecinistes” (italics mine). The English follows the French. Return to text

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