When we think of printed editions of 16th century lute compositions we imagine these to be the products of lute players trusting their own inventions to paper. Perhaps they are just the mere schematics of what a famous performer improvised upon or, on the other end of the scale, the results of a lifetime of editing and improving on carefully wrought compositions. Of course, copyright did not exist and quoting a well-known composition or even printing it in its totality was an accepted practice. Publishers like Pierre Phalèse even made a living out of this. What we don’t expect, however, are careless pastiches of compositions of other composers. But this is what we actually find in some prints. Here are two examples involving Morlaye, Paladin and Phalèse.
Quand’io penso al martir’
Arcadelt’s madrigal Quand’io penso al martir’ was intabulated by many lute players (see my article for a detailed comparison of these intabulations) and has found its way to no less than 20 printed and reprinted editions of lute music in the 16th century. The version in Phalèse’s Theatrum Musicum (P. Phalèse, Louvain, 1563) merits our special attention, as it is a pastiche of two earlier intabulations. These can be found in Guillaume Morlaye’s Premier livre de tabulatura de leut (M. Fezandat, Paris, 1552) and Jean Paul Paladin’s Premier livre de tablature de luth (S. Gorlier, Lyon, 1560). Morlaye’s version is not original either, as it is copied from Francesco Vindella’s Intavolatura di Liuto … libro primo (A. Gardano, Venice, 1546). Paladin’s book is supposed to be a reprint of an edition published by J. P. de Trin in Lyon in 1553, now lost. What Phalèse did with these two versions was more than mere copying, just compare the following few extracts:
In measure 5 Phalèse is identical to Morlaye, measure 6 is like Paladin and 7 starts like Morlaye but ends like Paladin.
Measure 15 in Phalèse is like Paladin, measure 16 starts like Morlaye and ends like Paladin. Measure 17 starts like Paladin but ends like Morlaye and measure 18 is like Paladin again.
Measure 39 in Phalèse is almost identical to Paladin but measure 40 is like Morlaye again.
These are just three examples, but when we examine all the measures of Phalèse’s version of Quand’io penso al martir’ and compare it with all the other printed versions that were published before it, it is clear he used the versions of Morlaye and Paladin to make his own pastiche. A simple cut-and-paste job we’re all familiar with in the age of the word processor. But in the 16th century this was a bit more complicated. Paladin, for example, missed half a measure when intabulating Arcadelt’s madrigal. Phalèse was attentive enough to use the missing part from Morlaye’s version:
The prints of Morlaye yield another pastiche that involves music by Paladin. The first nine measures of the second fantasia in Morlaye’s Troisiesme Livre de Tablature (Fezandat, Paris, 1558) are identical to those of Paladin’s second fantasia in his 1560 edition. In measure 10 is a minor difference, in measure 11 the music takes another turn and from then on the two pieces are no longer the same …
… until measures 40 to 60 in Morlaye, which are identical to measures 80 to 100 in Paladin:
So, who copied whom in this case? There are a few indications that Paladin might have written the original fantasia. Firstly, Paladin’s 1560 edition is a reprint of an earlier edition, now lost, of 1553. That would mean Paladin’s fantasia was published four years before Morlaye’s version. Secondly, in his Premiere livre de tablature de leut (Fezandat, Paris, 1552) Morlaye already copied fantasias by Da Modena, Narváez and Da Milano. And although some of the music in Paladin’s 1549 print is copied from an earlier publication by other lutenists (footnote 1), Paladin seems to have composed at least all his fantasias himself. Lastly, in Morlaye’s fantasia we can find a quote of yet another fantasia. The theme developed from measure 15 onwards, when the quotation of Paladin has just stopped, is identical to the one on folio 41 of the Sienna ms (footnote 2), indicating that perhaps the whole fantasia is a pastiche.
Whatever the details in the history of these two examples, they do show that publications with lute music in the 16th century did not always contain original compositions. Material was freely borrowed from existing publications, creating pastiches that are far removed from the later ideal of well-balanced, carefully composed and, above all, original works of art.
David van Ooijen 8/2006
Footnote 1: See the introduction by Martin Shepherd to the facsimile edition of G. P. Paladin’s Tablature De Lutz (TREE Edition, 1997).
Footnote 2: I am grateful to Arthur Ness for pointing out the similarity between these two fantasias. In his preface to the facsimile edition of the Sienna ms. (Éditions Minkoff, Genève, 1988) Arthur Ness called this a ‘widely disseminated, but elusive fantasia’. Phalèse ascribed it to Sixt Kärgel in 1571, but Kärgel is known to have copied fantasias from others, too.
This article has appeared in 2006 in the Quarterly, the news letter of the Lute Society of America.