Date of this Version
Plainsong and Medieval Music, 12, 2, 213–222; DOI:10.1017/S0961137103213103
The volume under review is the latest entry in a slowly unfolding series, entitled Fifteenth-Century Liturgical Music, within the larger Early English Church Music (EECM) enterprise. It follows three previous volumes, namely I: Antiphons and Music for Holy Week and Easter (EECM 8, 1969, ed. Andrew Hughes), II: Four Anonymous Masses (EECM 22, 1979, ed. Margaret Bent) and III: The Brussels Masses (EECM 34, 1989, ed. Gareth Curtis). However, in his Foreword to the present volume, John Caldwell, General Editor of the Early English Church Music Committee of the British Academy, announces that this book heralds a new initiative, inaugurating ‘a project to complete the publication in modern editions of the surviving English liturgical music of the fifteenth century’ (p. v). So EECM 42 is at the same time both a continuation and a new beginning. ...
This volume is, for all my small quibbles, an auspicious start to a very desirable project. It is, after all, the leading historiographical paradigm for music in fifteenth-century northern Europe that there was a rebirth of music in the 1430s and 1440s, centred in mass and motet, taking place under English leadership, and moving towards a stylistic fusion of continental elements with a novel English language in new English genres (antiphon-motet and cyclic tenor mass). Rebirth or no, English music swept through Europe, and because very few sources of music survive from England, France and the Low Countries from this era, many hundreds of English compositions are known primarily or exclusively on account of their survival in clusters of English works in manuscript collections assembled in Central Europe and Italy. Most of this enormous body of material has never been published, and we have long needed a boost of many orders of magnitude in accessibility to it. In the late 1980s and 1990s, a particularly apt model for what is needed was provided by Garland Publishing in their sets of full scores of sixteenth-century Italian madrigals, French chansons and Latin motets, each appearing in a projected thirty-volume series. Early English Church Music, known over the decades as a primary venue for editions of sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century polyphony, is a natural home for a project of earlier focus that will be of a size comparable to one of the Garland sets.21 When this project reaches fruition, scholars and performers will finally be in a position to reliably assay the repertory and take the full measure of English accomplishments in sacred polyphony in the 1400s.