11 June 2014

The (other) Tournai Mass

[This is a draft “Working Paper” of research in progress; comments are welcome, but it should not be considered published work and may be removed before this is submitted for publication and replaced with a link to the published version.] 


The Tournai Mass is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, complete polyphonic Masses. It has been dated to around 1330 (though I'm inclined to find it a bit younger, perhaps 1350? but just on a hunch). It is contained in a magnificently interesting manuscript of chant from the fourteenth century now in the Belgium city of Tournai (Bibliothèque capitulaire, MS 476).

Like some other early Masses, such as the Machaut Mass, this is a six-section Mass with a concluding Ite Missa Est set as a motet.  There are two other polyphonic works in the manuscript, placed within the Mass, a largely monophonic Sanctus with three-part "In excelsis" settings (PMFC 23, no. 72), directly after the first Sanctus, and a second Kyrie, placed after the Agnus Dei. The image from the bottom of folio 33r is below: 


(image reproduced under the assumption of limited copyright of works over 100 years old and under the Fair Use principle of a small excerpt. I will happily remove this and the following excerpt under a request from the Tournai BC)

In Reaney's notes for RISM B/IV-2, he states that this work (#7) is, like the Sanctus (#5), an independent, polyphonic Mass section and transcribes the incipit as such:


Cattin and Facchin in their monumental edition of French (& Spanish, Polish, Dutch, ... everything but Italian and English) Mass movements transcribed it as monophonic and noted that:
The well known melody...occurs in the T[enor] range in the Tournai MS; the question therefore remains whether one or more voices would have accompanied it. For this reason we decided to include this purely monodic piece in the present edition.
The opening of their transcription is shown below:

There are a few errors in this section of the transcription: the second Kyrie has three missing notes, and an incorrectly transcribed C instead of D. Together these errors account for the different lengths and incompatible harmony of the first Kyrie if the work were to be transcribed polyphonically, as I will propose below.  There are a few length errors in the third Kyrie which also could have made a polyphonic transcription difficult. However it is the Christe section that I am sure made great editors who had 130+ mass movements give up on making a polyphonic 3-fold Kyrie and instead make a monophonic 9-fold Kyrie.  The three Christe sections seem to begin on the notes A, G, and A and end on A, E, B; even if the first part is started after a breve rest (which may be interpreted as a sectional divider instead), the lengths and sonorities of this section just do not add up.

The solution comes from believing that the scribe himself did not realize where the different voices began and chose to ligate the final note of the first voice with the first note of the second voice. 

Beginning the second part on the second note of the ligature and ending the first voice on the first part gives a fully satisfying polyphonic version of the whole Kyrie:


A mediocre, generated .mp3 giving some sense of the piece is given below.



With these adjustments, the piece is almost entirely consonant, with the following breakdown of sonorities (discounting triplets in the middle of a semibreve):

36%  Perfect fifth
18   Major triad
12   Major third
12   Minor triad
 9   Minor third
 8   Minor triad as 6-3
 3   Major sixth
 2   Minor sixth
 0.5 Perfect fourth

(Numbers do not add up to 100% because of rounding)

Cattin and Facchin note that piece seems to be on the chant cantus firmus of no. 58 of Margaretha Landwehr-Melnicki's catalogue. The first Kyrie is indeed similar to this chant, but as a look at Paris, BNF lat. 14819, f. 34v. or Paris, BNF lat. 17309, f. 27v will show, the rest of the work is unrelated to this chant.

Otherwise the style of the work is similar to many French works from around 1350 (and also Spanish and Italian works from this time or slightly later). Facchin's description of these pieces, largely homophonic but with decorations, as part of a Wandering Style, or Stile Vaganti! seems quite appropriate for this work that wandered around the foot of a more famous Mass, waiting to be rediscovered.

More about the Sanctus and a fuller realization of it to come soon, thanks to an idea from Jan Janovčik. Here's a preview of his great recording with his Cantores Sancti Gregorii


Thanks to Jan Janovčik, Rob C. Wegman, and Dominique Gatté for aid and suggesting the Tournai manuscript as a source worth returning to. And to Anna Grau and Jeremy Jennings for their work on the EMMSAP project that made this work quickly possible.

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