Thursday, July 29, 2010

Discovery of Thirteenth-Century Dominican Chant of Stabat Mater

It has been called to my attention that an important article has been published, announcing the discovery of the famous Stabat Mater used as a sequence in the Gradual produced by a convent of Dominican nuns in Bologna in the later thirteenth century. This is by far the earliest known example of this hymn used as a sequence rather than as a devotional hymn. It has been commonly believed that the hymn only became used as a sequence in the late middle ages. It is also interesting that the melody provided matches neither the received Roman one nor that found in the printed Dominican books. This text is found in Bologna: Museo Civico Medievale MS 518, fo. 200v-204r.

The news was published in Cesarino Ruini, "Un antico versione dello Stabat Mater in un graduale delle Domenicane bolognesi," Deo è lo scrivano ch’el canto à ensegnato: Segni e simboli nella musica al tempo di Iacopone, Atti del Convegno internazionale, Collazzone, 7-8 luglio 2006, ed. Ernesto Sergio Mainoldi and Stefania Vitale, Philomusica On-line, 9, no. 3 (2010). Those who would like the full text of the chant may find it at the end of this article.

For those who do not wish to read the article in Italian, here is the English summary:

The discovery of a Stabat Mater version set to music as a sequence in a late 13th-century Gradual from a Bolognese Dominican nunnery, makes it possible to advance new hypotheses about the origins and history of this renowned text. Untilnow there was no evidence that it was used as a sequence before the mid 15th century. The analysis of the piece highlights previously unidentified peculiarities regarding the historical and the liturgico-musical context in which it was used, whilst the comparison with the wealth of textual variants offered by its complex tradition points to concordances with later sources, mainly originating in Veneto and Emilia. As one of the earliest witnesses of this popular composition (there is only one other contemporary version, also from Bologna, but it is unnotated) there can be no doubt about its importance for textual criticism, and, inter alia, it does not favour the disputable paternity of Iacopone da Todi.

Here is the image of the manuscript with the beginning of the chant.

Careful readers will not that there are textual variants in this version as well. The Dominican Rite used by the friars added the Stabat Mater as a sequence on the feast of our Lady of Sorrows only in the 15th Century, conforming the rite to the Roman, which had already added it. But the melody is not that of the thirteenth-century version. Here it is for comparison:

And here for additional comparison is the first verse with the melody as found in the 1961 Roman Gradual:

I would hope that some attempt will be made to use this chant.

I thank Bro. Innocent Smith, O.P., for calling this article to my attention.

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