Chapter 10. Sacred Music in the Era of the Reformation

Chapter Outline



When the sixteenth century began, Christians from Poland to Spain and from Italy to Scotland shared allegiance to a single church centered in Rome and supported by political leaders. By midcentury, this unity of belief and practice, inherited from the early Middle Ages, was shattered. So was the peace. European society was disrupted by the Protestant Reformation, as central and western Europe entered a century of religious wars. 

Sacred music was profoundly affected. Leaders of the Reformation sought to involve worshipers more directly, through congregational singing and services presented in the vernacular rather than in Latin. These changes led to new types of religious music in each branch of Protestantism, including the chorale and chorale settings in the Lutheran Church, the metric psalm in Calvinist churches, and the anthem and Service in the Anglican Church. The Catholic Church also undertook reforms, but continued to use Gregorian chant and polyphonic masses and motets in styles that extended the tradition of Josquin뭩 generation. Jewish service music remained distinctive, yet absorbed some outside influences. In each tradition, the genres and styles of sacred music were determined by people뭩 religious beliefs and aims as much as by their musical tastes. 

Chapter Outline: 

  1. Protestant Reformation
    1. Rebellion against the authority of the Catholic Church
      1. Spread throughout most of northern Europe (see map, HWM Figure 10.1)
      2. Germany and Scandinavia: Lutheran movement
      3. Switzerland, Low Countries, Britain: Calvinist movement
      4. England: Church of England
    2. Martin Luther (1483-1546, see HWM Figure 10.2)
      1. Professor of biblical theology at the University of Wittenberg in Germany
      2. Concluded that salvation came through faith alone, not good works or penance, as preached by the Catholic Church.
      3. Rebelled against nonbiblical practices in the Catholic Church
      4. Ninety-five Theses (points or arguments)
        1. A list of complaints against the Catholic Church, posted on a church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517
        2. Widely printed and disseminated, making Martin Luther famous
        3. When he refused to recant the theses, he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church (1520).
      5. New church: New Evangelical, or Lutheran
        1. A list of complaints against the Catholic Church, posted on a church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517
        2. German princes adopted Lutheranism, freeing them from Roman control.
        3. The vernacular was used for the liturgy, but Luther considered some Latin essential for education.
      6. Music continued to be important because of Luther’s belief in its ethical power and his appreciation of composers such as Josquin.
  2. Music in the Lutheran Church in Germany
    1. Texts were in the vernacular, but much of the Catholic liturgy was retained.
    2. Churches were free to use music as they wished.
      1. Large churches with trained choirs kept much of the Latin liturgy and polyphony.
      2. Smaller churches used Luther’s Deutsche Messe (German Mass, 1526)
        1. Followed main outlines of the Roman Mass
        2. Replaced most musical elements with German hymns (chorales)
    3. Lutheran chorale
      1. Metric, rhymed, strophic poetry for unison, unaccompanied performance by the congregation
      2. Most important form of Lutheran church music
      3. Congregations sang several chorales at each service.
      4. Luther wrote many chorales himself.
      5. Four collections were published in 1524.
    4. Sources for chorale melodies
      1. Adaptation of existing Gregorian chant, as in NAWM 42a and 42b, and HWM Example 10.1
      2. Existing devotional songs in German, e.g., Christ is erstanden, which comes from Victimae paschali laude
      3. Secular songs given new words (contrafacta, sing. contrafactum), e.g. O Welt ich muss dich lassen, based on NAWM 38, Innsbruck ich muss das lassen
      4. Newly composed melodies, e.g., NAWM 42, Ein feste Burg
        1. Luther adapted Psalm 46 for the text.
        2. Ein feste Burg became an anthem of the Reformation.
        3. The original rhythm suits the text, but modern versions use a more regular rhythm.
  3. Polyphonic Chorale Settings
    1. Purposes
      1. Group singing in home settings
      2. Performance in church by choirs, alternating stanzas with the congregation in unison
      3. Luther wanted “wholesome” music for young people, to “rid them of their love ditties and wanton song.”
    2. Techniques
      1. Traditional Lied technique, e.g., NAWM 42d and HWM Example 10.3a
        1. Chorale in tenor
        2. Three or more free-flowing parts
        3. Johann Walter was Martin Luther’s chief musical collaborator.
      2. Chorale motets
        1. Franco-Flemish motet style
        2. Chorale appears as a cantus firmus in long notes in some motets.
        3. Some chorale motets use the source chorale imitatively in all voices, e.g., HWM Example 10.3, Ein feste Burg
      3. Homophony (cantional style, from the Latin cantionale, “songbook”)
        1. Popular in the last third of the century
        2. Tune in the highest voice
        3. Accompaniment in block chords
        4. After ca. 1600 the accompaniment was usually played on organ, with the choir singing the melody in unison.
  4. Music in Calvinist Churches
    1. Jean Calvin (1509-1564)
      1. Led the largest Protestant movement outside of Germany and Scandinavia
      2. Rejected papal authority
      3. Embraced the idea of justification through faith alone, but believed that predestination determined a person’s salvation or damnation
      4. Believed all aspects of life should fall under God’s law
      5. Required his followers to live lives of piety, uprightness, and work
    2. Regional churches
      1. France: Huguenots
      2. Dutch Reformed
      3. England: Presbyterian and Puritans
    3. Calvin and music
      1. Calvin stripped churches and services of possible distractions from worship, including decorations (see HWM Figure 10.3), ceremony, and polyphony.
      2. He believed congregational singing united worshipers in faith and praise.
      3. Only biblical texts were permitted (see HWM Source Reading, page 213).
    4. Psalms
      1. Psalms rewritten for congregational singing with meter, strophes, and rhymes are known as “metrical” psalms.
      2. Psalters: collections of metrical psalms
      3. Music and poetry were nearly synonymous.
        1. Calvin issued several in French in 1539.
        2. The first complete psalter in French was published in 1562.
      4. The French metrical psalms were adapted in other countries.
        1. In Germany, many psalm melodies were used as chorales.
        2. The Bay Psalm Book (1640), containing metrical psalms in English, was the first book published in North America.
      5. Catholics and Lutherans also published metrical psalters.
      6. Some tunes are still used today, e.g., NAWM 43, HWM Example 10.4
        1. Published as Psalm 134 in France
        2. In English psalters the melody was used for Psalm 100.
        3. The tune is now known as “Old Hundredth.”
    5. Polyphonic psalm settings
      1. Composed by well-known Dutch composers
      2. Four or five parts, for home or amateur singing
      3. Tune in the tenor or superius
      4. Texture ranges from homophonic to chorale-motet style
      5. Various combinations possible, including voice with lute or organ alone
  5. Church Music in England
    1. Background
      1. Henry VIII (r. 1505-47, see HWM Figure 10.4) wanted to annul his marriage in order to try to have a male heir with a new wife.
      2. In 1534 he persuaded Parliament to separate from Rome so he could get an annulment, creating the Anglican Church, or Church of England.
      3. Henry VIII’s new church retained Catholic doctrine.
      4. Under Edward VI (r. 1547-53) the Church adopted Protestant doctrines.
        1. English replaced Latin in the liturgy.
        2. Official prayers were published in the Book of Common Prayer in 1549.
      5. Catholicism was briefly the official religion during the reign of Mary (r. 1553-58)
      6. Under Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603) the Anglican Church blended elements of Catholic and Protestant theology.
      7. The Anglican Church’s doctrine has remained the same since.
      8. In the United States, the Anglican Church is known today as the Episcopal Church.
    2. Music for the Anglican Church
      1. Music in Latin
        1. Latin motets and masses continued to be composed under Henry VIII and Mary.
        2. Elizabeth I allowed Latin music in her royal chapel and in some churches.
      2. Service
        1. With the anthem, one of the two principal forms of Anglican music
        2. Combines elements of Matins, Mass, and Evensong (Vespers and Compline)
        3. Great Service: sets the text contrapuntally
        4. Short Service: sets the text syllabically and in homophonic texture
      3. Anthem
        1. English equivalent of motet
        2. Sung by the choir
        3. Texts come from the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer
        4. Full anthem: unaccompanied, contrapuntal
        5. Verse anthem: for solo voice(s) with organ or viol accompaniment, alternating with passages for full choir doubled by instruments
    3. John Taverner (ca. 1490-1545)
      1. Leading composer of sacred music in England in the first half of the sixteenth century
      2. Composed masses and motets
      3. English traits: long melismas, full textures, cantus-firmus structures
    4. Thomas Tallis (ca. 1505-1585)
      1. Leading composer of the generation following Taverner
      2. Composed Latin masses and hymns
      3. Also composed English service music
      4. His style weds the melody to the natural inflection of speech.
  6. William Byrd (ca. 1540-1623, see HWM biography, page 223, and HWM Figure 10.5)
    1. Biography
      1. The most important English composer of the Renaissance
      2. Probably studied with Thomas Tallis
      3. Catholic, yet served the Church of England as organist and choirmaster
      4. Worked in the royal chapel from 1572 to 1623
      5. Composed both Anglican service music and Latin music
      6. Also composed secular music (see HWM Chapters 11 and 12)
      7. His style shows the influence of continental imitative techniques.
    2. Anglican music
      1. Byrd composed in all the Anglican genres.
      2. NAWM 44, Sing joyfully unto God
        1. Anthem for six voices in Ionian mode (with a final on C, transposed to E-Flat in NAWM 44)
        2. Points of imitation open the work.
        3. Homophonic declamation used sparingly (e.g., at “Blow the trumpet”)
        4. Bass motion a fifth down or a fourth up for cadences
        5. Passages in imitation vary the intervals and rhythm.
    3. Latin-texted music
      1. His best-known compositions were for Catholic worship.
      2. By the 1590s he was composing for Catholics worshiping in secret.
      3. Three masses, one each for three, four, and five voices
      4. Gradualia (1605 and 1607)
        1. Two books
        2. Polyphonic settings of the complete Mass Proper for the church year.
        3. Similar in scale to Leonin’s Magnus Liber and Isaac’s Choralis Constantinus
  7. Catholic Church Music
    1. Composers from Flanders dominated the generation active ca. 1520-1550
      1. Adrian Willaert (ca. 1490-1562)
        1. Held positions in Italy
        2. Director of Music at St. Mark’s in Venice
        3. Trained many eminent musicians, including Zarlino
      2. Nicolas Gombert (ca. 1495-1560)
      3. Jacobus Clemens
    2. Style features
      1. Careful treatment of dissonance
      2. Equality of voices
      3. Five- or six-voice compositions, using contrasting combinations of voices
      4. Clearly defined mode
      5. Duple meter with brief contrasting passages in triple
      6. Imitative polyphony, but successive entrances vary the motives
      7. Imitation mass the most common type, but composers still use paraphrase and cantus-firmus techniques
    3. HWM Example 10.5, Gombert’s motet, Quem dicunt homines
      1. Six voices
      2. Only the middle portion of its seven lines of text survives.
      3. Point of imitation, with each slightly varied
      4. Each new phrase begins with point of imitation in a different order of entrances.
      5. Overlapping phrases, not like Josquin’s clarity of structure
    4. Mode in polyphony
      1. Composers attempted to apply Greek theory to achieve emotional effect.
      2. Cadences on the final or reciting tone
      3. Superius and tenor ranges define plagal or authentic mode.
    5. Willaert and humanism
      1. Willaert never allowed a rest to interrupt a word or thought.
      2. He insisted that syllables be printed under their notes.
    6. Catholic response to the Reformation (Counter-Reformation or Catholic Reformation)
      1. Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
        1. Founded by St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) in 1534
        2. Founded schools to teach proper Catholicism
        3. Proselytized, reconverting Poland, southern Germany, and much of France
      2. Council of Trent (1545-1563, see HWM Figure 10.6)
        1. Series of meetings held in Trent (northern Italy)
        2. Reaffirmed doctrines that Calvin and Luther had attacked
        3. Purged the Church of abuses and laxities
        4. Eliminated tropes and all but four sequences (one sequence that survived is NAWM 5, Victimae paschali laudes)
        5. Music was a subject for debate, especially the use of secular song in the composition of masses.
        6. The final statement was vague, leaving it to bishops to regulate music.
  8. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525/1526-1594)
    1. Biography (see HWM biography, page 228, and HWM Figure 10.7)
      1. Born in Palestrina, near Rome
      2. Educated in Rome, where he was a choirboy
      3. 1544-1551: Organist and choirmaster in Palestrina
      4. 1551-55 and 1571-1594: Choirmaster of Julian Chapel at St. Peter’s
      5. 1555: Sang in the pope’s official chapel (Capella Sistina) briefly but could not continue because he was married
      6. 1555-1560 and 1561-1566: Held two other important posts in Rome
      7. Spent his last forty years as choirmaster and teacher at influential churches in Rome
      8. Taught music at the new Jesuit seminary
      9. Works
        1. 104 masses, more than any other composer
        2. Madrigals, which he later regretted having composed
        3. Over three hundred motets
        4. Other liturgical compositions
        5. Participated in the reformation of chant books, which were published after his death
      10. Credited with saving polyphony from the Council of Trent
        1. According to legend, his Pope Marcellus Mass (NAWM 45), dedicated to the pope, demonstrated that sacred words could be intelligible in polyphonic music.
        2. Palestrina said the mass was composed “in a new manner,” and it does show attention to text-setting for clarity, but the legend exaggerates Palestrina’s role.
    2. Palestrina’s style
      1. Mass types
        1. Fifty-one imitation masses
        2. Thirty-four paraphrase masses, most based on chant, with paraphrasing occurring in all voices
        3. Eight cantus-firmus masses, including two on L’homme armé
        4. A few canonic masses
        5. Free masses, using the borrowed melodies or canon, including the Pope Marcellus Mass
      2. Melodies often move stepwise in an arched line, similar to Gregorian chant melodies.
      3. His harmonic style includes triadic harmony and very little chromaticism.
      4. Counterpoint follows Zarlino’s rules (Le istitutioni harmoniche) closely.
        1. Dissonances introduced in suspensions and resolved on strong beats
        2. Dissonances between beats are allowed if the moving voice is doing so in a stepwise fashion or as a suspension (see HWM Example 10.6).
        3. Downward leap of a third, from a dissonance to a consonance (later called cambiata), is also allowable.
        4. The resulting harmonic style comprises an alternation of consonance and dissonance.
      5. Palestrina achieves variety by using different combinations of chord voicings, e.g., HWM Example 10.7.
      6. Palestrina makes the text intelligible by using syllabic text-setting and homophony in movements with long texts, e.g., HWM Example 10.6 and 10.8.
      7. Texture within a six-voice context
        1. Each new phrase uses a different combination of voices.
        2. All six voices come together for important words, cadences, and musical climaxes.
        3. Voice combinations sometimes used for text-painting, e.g., three voices to symbolize the Trinity.
      8. Rhythm
        1. Each voice has its own natural rhythm, e.g., HWM Example 10.9, which rebars Example 10.6.
        2. Syncopation sustains momentum and links phrases.
    3. Palestrina’s style was a model for subsequent generations and is still the ideal in present-day textbooks on counterpoint.
  9. Spain and the New World
    1. Spain’s monarchy was strongly Catholic.
      1. The Spanish Inquisition of the 1480s sought to root out heresy.
      2. The monarchy’s links to the Low Countries and Italy brought the Franco-Flemish central musical style to Spain.
    2. Cristóbal de Morales (ca. 1500-1553)
      1. Sang in the papal chapel, 1535-45
      2. Famous in Italy and Spain
      3. Composed masses, quoting Josquin, Gombert, and Spanish songs.
      4. Teacher of Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), whose diatonic, singable music was widely performed in Spain and the New World.
    3. Tomás Lu�s de Victoria (1548-1611)
      1. Most famous Spanish composer of the sixteenth century.
      2. Influence of Palestrina
        1. Victoria spent two decades in Rome, where he probably knew Palestrina.
        2. He was the first Spanish composer to master Palestrina’s style, yet his music departs from that style in many ways.
      3. Style, e.g., NAWM 46a, O magnum mysterium (motet)
        1. Published in his first book of motets (1572)
        2. Shorter than a Palestrina motet
        3. Melodies are less florid
        4. More chromatic than Palestrina
        5. More contrast of texture
        6. Features similar to Josquin’s style include paired imitation and word-painting, e.g., large leaps on the word magnum (great or large)
      4. Victoria and the imitation mass, e.g., NAWM 46b, Missa O magnum mysterium
        1. Based his imitation masses on his own motets
        2. The Kyrie begins with an exact quotation of the motet’s imitation, then changes to a dialogue between two themes derived from the original.
        3. Each movement reworks the original in a new way.
    4. Spanish music in the New World
      1. After the Spanish conquest of Mexico (1519-21) and Peru (1527-33) missionaries arrived to convert original inhabitants to Christianity.
      2. Aztec and Incan music were often associated with dancing (see HWM Source Reading, page 234)
        1. Chieftains had chapels with singers/composers.
        2. Singers rehearsed for important festivals, which lasted all day.
        3. Singers were accompanied by drums.
      3. Catholic music
        1. Missionaries taught European styles to native musicians.
        2. Masses by Morales, Victoria, Palestrina, and Guerrero were performed.
        3. European composers came to the New World and created some works in native languages, including the first polyphonic work composed in the New World (1631), which was in the Quecha language of Peru.
  10. Germany and Eastern Europe
    1. Areas that remained Catholic included southern Germany, Poland, Austria, and Bohemia.
    2. Franco-Flemish music predominated, but there were some local composers.
      1. Wacaw of Szamotu (ca. 1520-ca. 1567) in Poland
      2. Jacob Handl (1550-1591) in Bohemia
      3. Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) in Germany
        1. Studied in Venice
        2. Composed settings of Lutheran chorales as well as Catholic polyphony and secular music
    3. Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594)
      1. Biography (see HWM biography, page 236, and HWM Figure 10.8)
        1. Born in Hainaut, the region where Du Fay, Ockeghem, and Josquin were trained
        2. His early career was spent in the service of Italian patrons.
        3. By age twenty-four he had published books of sacred and secular music.
        4. From 1556 to his death, he served the Dukes of Bavaria (Albrecht V and Wilhelm V).
        5. He traveled frequently, which gave him the opportunity to hear others’ works.
      2. He composed over two thousand pieces.
        1. Fifty-seven masses
        2. Over seven hundred motets
        3. Hundreds of other liturgical compositions
        4. Two hundred Italian madrigals
        5. 150 French chansons
        6. Ninety German Lieder
      3. Style, e.g., NAWM 47 and HWM Example 10.10, Tristis est anima mea (1565)
        1. He was an advocate of emotional expression and depiction of text through music, especially in motets.
        2. The text is based on Jesus’ words before his crucifixion (Matthew 26:38, Mark 14:34).
        3. Suspensions depict sadness (tristis) as marked with an “S” in HWM Example 10.10-a secular Italian trait (which will be discussed in Chapter 11).
        4. A running subject repeated eleven times depicts the words “you will take flight,” which refers to the eleven disciples.
      4. Lasso influenced later German composers.
  11. Jewish Music
    1. Jewish traditions in Europe were primarily oral, not written.
      1. Psalms were sung to recitational formulas.
      2. Cantillation was used for reading Hebrew Scripture.
      3. Cantillation was notated with the system to mark accents, division of text, and the melodies to be used for improvisation.
    2. Local influences on Jewish music
      1. The Ashkenazi of Germany were influenced by Gregorian chant and Minnesang.
      2. The Sephardic Jews of Spain were influenced by Arab sources.

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