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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 September 2011

Philippe Canguilhem*
Université de Toulouse


Towards the middle of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese composer and theorist Vicente Lusitano wrote a manuscript treatise on improvised counterpoint which constitutes the most thorough and detailed explanation that has survived on the subject. This manuscript has long been overlooked by music historians, despite being easily accessible at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris). The manuscript is described and its history traced. Lusitano's rules, techniques and stylistic advice are investigated and compared with contemporary theory. The extraordinary complexity of the contrapuntal lines singers were expected to invent extempore calls for a reappraisal of the relationship between improvisation and composition, also discussed by Lusitano. Historical evidence is adduced to provide a context for this document; far from being disconnected from the real life of sixteenth-century music, Lusitano's manuscript counterpoint treatise provides a key to understanding the oral tradition of Renaissance art music.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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1 Quoted in Stevenson, R., Spanish Cathedral Music in the Golden Age (Los Angeles, 1961), p. 29Google Scholar .

2 The document has previously been published by Preciado, D., Alonso de Tejeda (ca. 1556–1628), polifonista español, vol. 1 (Madrid, 1974), p. 78Google Scholar , and Reynaud, F., La polyphonie tolédane et son milieu: Des premiers témoignages aux environs de 1600 (Paris and Turnhout, 1996), pp. 135136Google Scholar . My transcription in the appendix, which Michael Noone was able to check against the original document, differs slightly from the two cited above.

3 Stevenson, Spanish Cathedral Music, pp. 28–9, quoting Rubio Piqueras, F., Música y músicos toledanos (Toledo, 1923), p. 94Google Scholar . No source or reference is given to support this statement, neither by Rubio Piqueras nor by Stevenson.

4 ‘El primer exercicio de darles puntos a todos sea esta tarde, para que compongan un motete y un villancico cada uno dentro de veyntes quatro horas, y los han de entregar mañana a la misma hora en poder del secretario, para que se vayan cantando cada motete y villancico el mismo dia del examen del maestro que los compuso, y la canturia sobre que se han de componer se les entrego a todos juntos y es una misma.’ Preciado, Alonso de Tejeda, p. 78, with emendations.

5 As for making counterpoint on pre-existent polyphony, Zarlino only considers the possibility of adding a third voice to a duo. See G. Zarlino, Le istitutioni harmoniche (Venice, 1558), Pt. 3, ch. 64. On this subject, see Schubert, P., ‘Counterpoint Pedagogy in the Renaissance’, in Christensen, T. (ed.), The Cambridge History of Western Music Theory (Cambridge, 2002), p. 519Google Scholar . Regarding canons, A. Brunelli, Regole et dichiarationi di alcuni contrappunti doppii utili alli studiosi della musica, & maggiormente à quelli, che vogliono far contrappunti all'improviso (Florence, 1610); P. Cerone, El Melopeo y maestro (Naples, 1613); and L. Zacconi, Prattica di musica, seconda parte (Venice, 1622) content themselves with explaining how to build them on a plainchant, which is always put in the bass part. Zarlino (Pt. 3, ch. 63) is the only theorist to consider the possibility of improvising a canon below the chant, but only at the unison.

6 This exercise appears six times (nos. 1–3 and 6–8). In the same vein, no. 13 asks the future choirmaster to sing a new part on a pre-existent mensural voice, while pronouncing the solmization syllables of another part which will be sung by another singer, in order to form a trio (!). None of the four applicants succeeded in obtaining the position. A fifth one, Alonso de Tejeda, was chosen by the chapter a few weeks later, after having passed the same exams. See Preciado, , Alonso de Tejeda, pp. 7879Google Scholar .

7 As far as Spain is concerned, the titles of the following treatises are eloquent: Fernando Esteban, Reglas de canto plano è de contrapunto, è de canto de organo (1410); Domingo Marcos Durán, Sumula de canto de órgano, contrapunto y composición vocal e instrumental práctica y especulativa (Salamanca, c. 1504); Gonzalo Martínez de Bizcargui, Arte de canto llano et de contrapunto et canto de órgano con proporciones et modos (Saragossa, 1508). Even at the end of the seventeenth century, Andrés Lorente organises the division of his musical practice in the same manner: El porqué de la música, en que se contiene los quatro artes de ella, canto llano, canto de órgano, contrapunto, y composición (Alcalá de Henares, 1672, 2nd edn 1699).

8 Ferand, E., ‘Improvised Vocal Counterpoint in the Late Renaissance and Early Baroque’, Annales Musicologiques, 4 (1956), pp. 129174Google Scholar . On this subject, see also Sachs, K.-J., ‘Arten improvisierter Mehrstimmigkeit nach Lehrtexten des 14. bis 16. Jahrhunderts’, Basler Jahrbuch für historische Musikpraxis, 7 (1983), pp. 166183Google Scholar .

9 Paris, BnF, MS n.a.f. 5402, p. 539.

10 de Conihout, I., ‘Du nouveau sur la bibliothèque de Philippe Desportes et sur sa dispersion’, in Balsamo, J. (ed.), Philippe Desportes (1546–1606): Un poète presque parfait entre Renaissance et Classicisme (Paris, 2000), pp. 121160Google Scholar . The manuscript appears on p. 157 (no. 267).

11 Ibid., pp. 133–6.

12 Asenjo Barbieri, F., ‘La música militar’, La Ilustración Artística, 1/42 and 1/44 (1882), repr. in F. Asenjo Barbieri, Escritos, ed. Casares Rodicio, E. (Madrid, 1994), pp. 409410Google Scholar : ‘y aun se establecían reglas para poder mezclar lo sagrado y lo profano en la música de los templos: ejemplo de esta verdad es una obra didáctica española del siglo XVI, que se conserva manuscrita en la Biblioteca Nacional de Paris, en cuya obra he leído un Exemplo de cómo se puede echar un cantarcito sobre el Kyrie, y luego esta la música a cuatro voces tres de las cuales cantan la plegaria ¡Kyrie eleison ! y la otra al mismo tiempo entona: ‘Si tantos monteros/la caza combaten/por Dios quela maten’. The passage quoted here occurs at fol. 51v, although Lusitano creates a two-part arrangement, not a four-part one, as claimed by Barbieri. The Kyrie is taken from Nicolas Gombert's Missa super Philomena (see below).

13 Pedrell's letter to Barbieri appears in Casares, E. (ed.), Documentos sobre música española y epistolario (Legado Barbieri), vol. 2 (Madrid, 1988), p. 857Google Scholar . On Henri Collet, see the short bio-bibliographical article in Grove Music Online, <> (accessed 15 Mar. 2011).

14 Henri Collet, Un tratado de canto de organo (siglo XVI): Manuscrito en la Biblioteca Nacional de Paris. Edición y comentarios (Madrid, 1913). Collet's transcription is inaccurate in a variety of ways, with numerous mistakes and omissions.

15 ‘Vicente Lusitano: New Light on his Career’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 15 (1962), pp. 7277CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

16 See fol. 15, but there are other similar places, e.g. fols. 16 and 49.

17 Stevenson, ‘Vicente Lusitano’, pp. 76–7.

18 Ibid., p. 77. Although Bonnie Blackburn draws attention to the manuscript in the New Grove article devoted to Lusitano, it is scarcely mentioned in the bibliography, and appears only in passing in the monograph of Alves Barbosa, M. A., Vincentius Lusitanus, ein portugiesischer Komponist und Musiktheoretiker des 16. Jahrhundert (Lisbon, 1977)Google Scholar or in G. Gialdroni's introduction to the 1561 facsimile edition of the Introduttione facilissima (Lucca, 1989). More recently, Haar, J., ‘Palestrina as Historicist: The Two “L‘homme armé” Masses’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 121 (1996), p. 191CrossRefGoogle Scholar , relies on the treatise to report a lost mass of Diego Ortiz; Schubert, ‘Counterpoint Pedagogy in the Renaissance’, p. 513, is to my knowledge the only author to have studied the manuscript through Collet's edition.

19 See Briquet, C. M., Les filigranes: Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier dès leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu'en 1600 (2nd edn, Leipzig, 1923)Google Scholar , vol. 1, no. 58 (paschal lamb with halo, Rome, 1531–5); vol. 2, nos. 6086–9 (six-pointed star, southern Italy, end of 16th c.); vol. 3, nos. 12235–6 (shield with bird surmounted by a star, Naples, 1513 and Rome, 1534–46); and vol. 3, no. 11937 (three mounts overlapped with a cross on a shield surmounted by a star, Italian origin).

20 In the same manner, a Spanish expression used in the manuscript finds its way in the printed Italian treatise through a word-to-word translation: after having recommended using dissonances sparingly, Lusitano concludes: ‘de la falsa la menos’ (fol. 24), which becomes ‘de la falsa la manco’ in the 1558 (fol. 12v) and 1561 (fol. 11v) editions.

21 This allowed him to draw his staves neatly without the help of a rastrum.

22 This interruption may have been combined with a change of quill.

23 The manuscript was most probably written after 1542, when the Gombert mass used by Lusitano was published for the first time (see below, n. 83).

24 Fols. 81–4 themselves have subsequent additions.

25 Stevenson, ‘Vicente Lusitano’, p. 73: ‘after publishing his Introduttione facilissima, he turned to the writing of a much more ambitious treatise that survives in Spanish’.

26 1553 edn, fol. 19v (1561 edn, fol. 20v). The second reference to the manuscript appears at the end of the printed treatise: ‘questo & quel più che si desiderarà sapere si trovarà nel nostro trattato maggiore di Musica pratica’ (1553, fol. 22; 1561, fol. 23).

27 See ‘Cerone’, Grove Music Online (accessed 15 Mar. 2011).

28 Besides Ortiz, they published Las Yglesias et Indulgentias de Roma en vulgar Castellano (1539) and Las yglesias, indulgencias y staciones de Roma (1561). A search through the catalogues of Italian libraries that today preserve Spanish books printed in Italy during the 16th c. reveals that Rome, with fifty-five editions, closely follows Venice (79 editions), but largely outdistances Naples (16 editions) (<>, accessed 15 Mar. 2011).

29 On Baena, see Knighton, T., ‘A Newly Discovered Keyboard Source (Gonzalo de Baena's Arte novamente inuentada pera aprender a tanger, Lisbon, 1540): A Preliminary Report’, Plainsong and Medieval Music, 5 (1996), pp. 81112CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

30 See Lavaud, J., Philippe Desportes (1546–1606): Un poète de cour au temps des derniers Valois (Paris, 1936), pp. 68Google Scholar .

31 The work is considered as reliable, and often paraphrases earlier Portuguese bio-bibliographical dictionaries, some of which go back to the 17th c. See Stevenson, R., ‘The First Black Published Composer’, Inter-American Music Review, 5/1 (1982), pp. 79103Google Scholar , and M. A. Alves Barbosa, Vincentius Lusitanus, pp. 1–14.

32 Since 1801 the city has been in the Spanish region of Extremadura.

33 Aranda was choirmaster at Évora from 1528 to 1544, and his Tractado de canto mensurable y contrapuncto was printed in Lisbon in 1535. See Rice, S., ‘Aspects of Counterpoint Theory in the Tractado de canto mensurable (1535) of Matheo de Aranda’, in Bloxam, M. J., Filocamo, G., and Holford-Strevens, L. (eds.), Uno gentile et subtile ingenio: Studies in Renaissance Music in Honour of Bonnie J. Blackburn (Turnhout, 2009), pp. 6373CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

34 Liber Primus Epigrammatum (Rome, 1551). Despite a manuscript correction of the date appearing on the title page of the unique copy (changed to 1555), the book of motets was actually published in 1551, as demonstrated by Cusick, S., Valerio Dorico: Music Printer in Sixteenth-Century Rome (Ann Arbor, 1981), pp. 53 and 173Google Scholar . On the debate with Vicentino, which occurred between May and June 1551, see the introduction of M. R. Maniates to her translation of Nicola Vicentino, Ancient Music Adapted to Modern Practice (New Haven and London, 1996), esp. pp. xvii–xxii.

35 Cimello, like Lusitano, was at the same time a theorist and a composer, and he also left a treatise on improvised counterpoint which has been partly preserved. See Haar, J., ‘Lessons in Theory from a Sixteenth-Century Composer’, in Charteris, R. (ed.), Altro Polo: Essays on Italian Music in the Cinquecento (Sydney, 1990), pp. 5181Google Scholar , quoting on p. 77 the following passage of a letter written by Cimello: ‘io c’ho fatto un libretto e poi di tutta l'arte de segni di proportioni de contraponti di componere d'infinite habilitadi d'improviso etc. e non hò a cui grande dedicarle che m'aiutasse'.

36 Cimello was in the service of Marc'Antonio Colonna, as indicated by his pupil Giovanni Battista Martelli in his dedication to Colonna of his La nuova, et armonica compositione a quattro voci (Rome, 1564): ‘Et si come non ho havuto altro maestro che Messer Gio. Tho. Cimelio, il quale gioisce sotto la servitù sua, cosi ho voluto ch’esse non habbino altro padrone, che vostra Eccellenza.' I am grateful to Marco Giuliani for having given me this reference.

37 On counterpoint in the 1553 treatise, see in particular Ferand, E., ‘Improvised Vocal Counterpoint’, pp. 147151Google Scholar ; Dahlhaus, C., ‘Formen improvisierter Mehrstimmigkeit im 16. Jahrhundert’, Musica, 13 (1959), pp. 163167Google Scholar ; and Schubert, ‘Counterpoint Pedagogy in the Renaissance’.

38 This hand is unique in the Guidonian tradition, although is was printed again a century later (in 1656) in a posthumous republication of Orazio Scaletta's Scala di musica: see Forscher Weiss, S., Disce manum tuam si vis bene discere cantum: Symbols of Learning Music in Early Modern Europe’, Music in Art, 30 (2005), pp. 5354Google Scholar .

39 1 Cor. 3: 10–11. Lusitano's dedication begins: ‘Pigliando per fondamento quello sopr’il quale ogni Fabrica edificata cresce che è Christo'; Brucioli's translation of St Paul gives: ‘Come sapiente architettore posi il fondamento: & uno altro vi edificò sopra. Ma ciascuno vegga come egli vi edifica sopra: perché nessuno può porre altro fondamento fuori di quello che è posto: il quale è Giesu Christo.’ La Biblia quale contiene i sacri libri del Vecchio Testamento, tradotti nuovamente da la hebraica verità in lingua toscana da Antonio Brucioli. Co' divini libri del nuovo testamento di Christo Giesu signore et salvatore nostro. Tradotti di greco in lingua toscana pel medesimo (Venice, 1532), fol. 54r–v. Many thanks to Giordano Mastrocola for having indicated the Brucioli reference to me.

40 It was at Viterbo that Cardinal Reginald Pole gathered around him from 1541 some of the major figures of the Italian reformation movement (M. A. Flaminio, Pietro Carnesecchi), constituting the so-called Ecclesia viterbensis. One of the key figures of this circle was none other than Vittoria Colonna, the aunt of Marc'Antonio Colonna, dedicatee of the Introduttione.

41 See Casali, S., Annali della tipografia veneziana di Francesco Marcolini da Forlì (Forlì, 1861). The third edition (Venice: Rampazetto, 1561)Google Scholar , closely reproduces the 1558 version, with layout modifications. There is still a point open to question about the original 1553 edition, since Casali claims (p. 291) that it included a portrait of Lusitano. A similar note appears in F.-J. Fétis, Biographie universelle des musiciens et bibliographie générale de la musique, vol. 5 (Paris, 1867), p. 379: ‘in-4o de 86 pages avec le portrait de l’auteur'. Subsequently, this remark was taken over exactly by J. de Vasconcellos, Os musicos portugueses, vol. 1 (Porto, 1870), p. 217. Apparently, Fétis did not rely on Casali's work, since the two authors do not agree on the number of pages (mistaken in both cases). It is a fact that Fétis is not famous for the reliability of his bibliographical information, but in this particular case, it is useful to recall that the copy of the 1553 edition now preserved at the Brussels Royal Library comes from his personal collection. No portrait of Lusitano is found in this copy, nor in that at Bologna, Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica (a third copy is at Macerata, Biblioteca comunale). According to Barbosa Machado, a now lost Portuguese translation of the Introdutione was made in 1603.

42 No Lusitano (nor any musician surnamed Vincenzo or Vicente) appears in any of the books dealing with musical life in Padua in the 16th c., either in Sartori, A., Documenti per la storia della musica al Santo e nel Veneto (Vicenza, 1977)Google Scholar or in Owens, J. A., ‘Il Cinquecento’, in Durante, S. and Petrobelli, P. (eds.), Storia della musica al Santo di Padova (Vicenza, 1990), pp. 2792Google Scholar .

43 Olivieri, A., Riforma ed eresia a Vicenza nel Cinquecento (Rome, 1992), p. 297Google Scholar . This Giulio Thiene should not be confused with the homonymous count of Scandiano, a Ferrarese courtier sometimes mentioned in the musicological literature since he married the singer Leonora Sanvitale. It seems that a third Giulio Thiene was a lieutenant in the French army during the war of Siena.

44 The treatise of Francisco de Montanos, Arte de Música teórica y práctica (Valladolid, 1592), is organised in five books: (1) plainchant and mensural music, (2) counterpoint, (3) composition, (4) proportions, and (5) commonplaces. On Bizcargui, see n. 7 above.

45 Plainchant and the Guidonian hand are therefore not considered in the manuscript, but they may have been treated separately, in another treatise. Be that as it may, the manuscript appears today as it was originally conceived, as indicated by the original mention ‘Libro primero 1’ on the recto of the first folio.

46 Rice, ‘Aspects of Counterpoint Theory’, pp. 68 and 72, transcribes two (or rather eight) examples from Aranda's treatise. If Aranda actually played a role in Lusitano's musical education, he could have prompted him to undertake the writing of his treatise: as a matter of fact, Aranda writes in his plainchant treatise of 1533 (sig. Aii): ‘que ninguno que sea em qualquier arte o sciencia puede mostrar ni enseñar enteramente si no escrive e haze muestra de aquello que en su facultad alcança’.

47 Fol. 18r–v: ‘Nota que quando quier que el canto fermo estuviere de color como el sobredicho, esta en tal parte un semibreve del contrapunto o conpostura se yguala a un breve. Esto mostro bien Francisco de Laiole en los oficios de la Misa y se halla en otros muchos que hizieron sobre canto fermo; y ponense las bozes sin circulo o semicirculo por la ygualdad entre ellas y el canto fermo.’ After a few pages, however, the black square notation is abandoned, and plainchant is notated in mensural breves, as in the Introdutione: ‘If the plainchant is not written in square black notation, then a breve of plainchant equals two semibreves’ (fol. 19v: ‘Sy el canto llano no estuviere de color, entonçes vale dos semibreves el breve del canto llano’).

48 It should be noted that for Lusitano, as for modern scholarship, the book should be ascribed to Francesco de Layolle, although his name appears only before the three last pieces, all the rest being anonymous. See The Lyons Contrapunctus (1528), ed. Sutherland, D. A. (Madison, 1976)Google Scholar .

49 Schubert, ‘Counterpoint Pedagogy in the Renaissance’, p. 509.

50 Giovanthomaso Cimello's Regole nove represent an exception. See Haar, ‘Lessons in Theory’, p. 72. Aranda goes directly from note-against-note counterpoint (llano) to florid counterpoint (diminuto).

51 Fol. 19: ‘en esta manera de conpasete algunos quisieren que la primera y 2ª cabeça pudiesen ser falsas, scilicet quartas o segundas’.

52 Fol. 19: ‘la rrazon esta es por que el tono i diatesaron fueron hallados en el no de las consonancias de Pithagoras de donde la musica tomo fundamento. Segun Boetio nel primer libro, cap. 10.’ At fol. 61, Lusitano also allows singing a minor seventh on a downbeat in two-part counterpoint.

53 Schubert, ‘Counterpoint Pedagogy in the Renaissance’, p. 503.

54 Fols. 20v–21: ‘y en tal manera se deve echar qualqier boz que lleve con sigo gracia, por que poco va echar solfa sin gracia y muchos lo pueden hazer facilmente. Lo que no tan façilmente si se busca el ayre, y en esto se deve esmerar el contrapuntante.’

55 Urquhart, D., ‘Francisco de Montaños's Arte de Musica Theorica y Pratica: A Translation and Commentary’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, 1969), ii, p. 90Google Scholar . Cerone, El melopeo, p. 593, takes up exactly the same expression: (‘buen ayre, diversidad de passos, y buena imitacion’).

56 Fol. 12v: ‘L’aria de cantar il contraponto, e pigliar un passage, & fatto una o due volte, subito si farà una tirata, over passo largo ascendente o descendente, secondo che à te parerà.' The English translation is taken from Schubert, ‘Counterpoint Pedagogy in the Renaissance’, p. 512.

57 Fol. 24: ‘sin ellas el artifiçioso contrapunto no se puede hazer’. Shortly later (fol. 24v), he insists on explaining that a more elaborate counterpoint can be made if more dissonances are introduced.

58 Schubert, ‘Counterpoint Pedagogy in the Renaissance’, pp. 510–14.

59 Fol. 26v: ‘Es de saber que la meior manera que se puede tener en echar el contrapunto es tomar un paso en principio y depues de aver cantado otros pasos tornar al primero como tema, y luego algun paso largo deçendiente o subiente, segun mas conforme fuere visto. Por que algunas vezes viene el paso rodando de tal modo que le conviene mas un paso que otro, lo qual es dexado al bivo yuez, que es la razon. Y no se deve olvidar que los principios sean pacificos, esto es entrando con algun mas reposo, por que pueda ir de grado en grado diminuiendo.’

60 Fol. 29: ‘Otra manera se puede hazer, la qual entonçes sera bien hecha quando fuere una mixtion de pasos fugados, largos, y proporçion, y pasos muy diminutos. Es de muy mas suficiencia que todas las otras maneras, por las muchas cosas que dentro se veen, scilicet la diferencia de los pasos fugados y largos y de la proporçion y mucho mas de la diminuçion.’

61 ‘Triple metre is also adapted to mixed counterpoint, that is, with imitative points, wide-ranging passages and change of proportion, with some diminutions. As I have said, this kind of counterpoint is very elegant, and belongs to competent men, so it will be much more elegant and accomplished when it will show more imitations and corresponding motifs, as will be shown below’ (fol. 36: ‘De proporcion puede aon ser el contrapunto mixto, scilicet de pasos ymitados y largos, y de otra proporçion, y de algunos pasos diminutos, la qual manera de contrapunto, como ya es dicho, es muy galana y de ombres suficientes, y entonçes sera muy mas galana y suficiente quando mas ymitaciones y pasos corespondentes tuviere, como abaxo se veera’).

62 Triple metre appears at the end of the chapter because it implies a specific treatment of dissonances. Aranda also speaks specifically of the ‘canto llano de breves ternarios’ at sigs. Ci and Ciiiv.

63 Rice, ‘Aspects of Counterpoint Theory’, p. 69: the term ‘is usually understood to describe counterpoint in which the same note-value must be used throughout an improvisation’; on the other hand, ‘Bermudo also indicates that a fixed, quasi-isorhythmic pattern of note values could also be considered contrapunto forçoso’.

64 M. de Fuenllana, Libro de musica para vihuela intitulado Orphenica lyra (Valladolid, 1554), no. 92: ‘Fantasia sobre un passo forçado ut re mi fa sol la’, and no. 169: ‘Fantasia sobre un passo forçado: ut sol sol la sol’. Before the second fantasia's tablature one can read: ‘Siguese una fantasia con un passo forçoso.’

65 Fol. 30r–v: ‘Llaman los musicos paso forçado quando sienpre se dize un paso, aonque sea diferente; el qual se puede hazer siendo mixtion de bequadro y bemol, con tal que siempre diga el paso sin interponer otro alguno, como abaxo se vera.’ A careful reading of Aranda's and Bermudo's treatises reveals that they had also this meaning in mind when using this expression, even though their definitions are less accurate than Lusitano's: for Aranda (sig. Eiiv), the passo forçado is ‘un passo hazelle muchas vezes’; for Bermudo, ‘contrapunto de passo forçoso usan los exercitados en este arte. Puede ser qhe digan unos mesmos puntos en diversos signos, pero no siempre de una qualidad. Si una vez hazen un punto breve, en otra parte lo ponen semibreve; y el que una vez es semibreve, en otra parte lo dizen minima. Si en passo forçoso el cantor dixesse siempre los puntos de una mesma qualidad, mayor abilidad seria. Si a uno le diessen un passo forçoso de seys puntos, seria forçoso en numero de puntos. Si le dixessen que los dos avian de ser breves y los quatro semibreves, o los dos semibreves y los quatro minimas, no tan solamente seria este passo forçoso en numero de puntos, sino tambien en qualidad.’ J. Bermudo, Declaración de instrumentos musicales (Osuna, 1555), fol. 129.

66 On this tradition in the 16th c., see Haar, J., ‘Some Remarks on the Missa La sol fa re mi’, in Lowinsky, E. E. and Blackburn, B. J. (eds.), Proceedings of the International Josquin Festival-Conference (London, 1976), pp. 564588Google Scholar , and Fabris, D., ‘The Tradition of the “La sol fa re mi” Theme from Josquin to the Neapolitans through an Anonymous 4-part Ricercar’, Journal of the Lute Society of America, 23 (1990), pp. 3748Google Scholar .

67 Cerone, El melopeo, p. 597: ‘puesto caso sean siempre con una mesma solfa pronunciados, varian empero en las consonancias, valores, y en las posiciones’.

68 The Biblioteca de Catalunya in Barcelona preserves the written tests of the three applicants for the exam organized in 1682 to fill the post of choirmaster of Girona cathedral. As in 1604 at Toledo, they had to compose a motet and a villancico. On the scores appears the following mention: ‘Se dio por passo forçado.’ See Pedrell, F., Catàlech de la Biblioteca musical de la Diputació de Barcelona, vol. 2 (Barcelona, 1909), p. 115Google Scholar . On improvised canons upon a ‘voz forçosa’, see Nassarre, Segunda parte de la escuela musica, p. 279. As early as 1555, Vicentino strongly criticized the habit of singing ‘contrappunti rinforzati con alcune ostinazioni di dire sempre un passaggio’. See Vicentino, N., L'antica musica ridotta alla moderna pratica (Rome, 1555)Google Scholar , fol. 83v.

69 See Aranda, sig. Cii (‘Quarta manera de contrapunto’).

70 Besides the five examples of Lusitano, the list is rather short: Tinctoris (1477) gives an example of three-voice cantus super librum, transcribed among other places by Blackburn, B. J., ‘On Compositional Process in the Fifteenth Century’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 40 (1987), p. 257CrossRefGoogle Scholar ; Aranda (1535) inserts three three-voice examples and one for four voices; and Montanos (1592) gives six three-voice examples in his treatise, one of these being ‘of equal voices’, below the plainchant. They are transcribed by D. Urquhart, ‘Francisco de Montaños’, ii, pp. 98–104 and 109–10. Finally, some authors do mention contrapunto concertado without giving any examples, from Durán, Sumula, sig. BIVv to Cerone, El melopeo, pp. 592–3.

71 On treatises dealing with canons on plainchant, see n. 5 above.

72 ‘es cantar tres o quatro vozes juntamente en terminos distintos acordadamente in consonancia, scilicet cantar tres vozes o quatro concertadamente distintas cada una por si en su termino distinto’ (sig. Eiii). Given that nearly all the sources that document this practice are Iberian (Aranda, Lusitano, Montanos, Cerone), Stevenson's judgement seems quite difficult to understand: ‘contrapunto concertado is so unusual a topic in the native Spanish treatises that only Bermudo (Declaración de instrumentos, Bk V, Ch. 26) goes into it’. Stevenson, ‘Vicente Lusitano’, p. 77.

73 Fols. 38v–39: ‘Pues, despues del contrapunto solo conviene saber como se puede cantar en conçierto dos y tres y quatro y mas contrapuntantes, para lo qual es de saber que lo primero que deven mirar es de que modo sea el canto sobre el qual quieren cantar, y esto para la orden de prosegir y para las clausulas. . . . Y lo segundo que deven mirar es que danbas las bozes que contrapuntan se esperen, para que se paresca la gracia del contrapunto y no sea confundida con la desorden. El qual esperar y concertar apenas se haze bien de inproviso, por abiles que sean, y conviene que se conoscan para saber el uno los terminos del otro, por que mas façilmente se conçierten. Lo tercero es de saber con que bozes an de cantar el conçertado, por que en una manera se an tiple y tenor sobre el canto llano en tono de contrabaxo, y en otra tiple y contralto, aonque alguna conformidad an entre si, otra el tiple con el baxo y el canto llano por tenor, y en otra contralto y contrabaxo y en otro tenor y baxo, y en otra tiple, alto y tenor sobre el canto llano en boz baxa.’ The other treatises dealing with concerted counterpoint are rather discreet on this subject. Aranda, for instance, merely gives the following advice: ‘y todo lo que en este tractado se contiene es necessario ser la vozes comunicadas, y por tal armonia que se entiendan, y sean siempre en consonancia’ (sig. Cvii).

74 Fol. 39v: ‘Note that the more concerted counterpoint is plain and imitated, so much better it will be because the imitations will emerge more smoothly’ (‘Nota que quanto el contrapunto concertado fuere mas llano y ymitado, tanto meior por que las ymitaciones entonçe avran mas suavidad’). Fol. 43: ‘concerted counterpoint does not require much diminution’ (‘el contrapunto conçertado no quiere ser muy diminuto’). The technique of parallel tenths, first explained by Guilielmus Monachus around 1480, reappears in Cerone's treatise (El Melopeo, p. 593), where it is not well considered: ‘por falta de cantores que sepan contrapuntar, se acostumbra de hazer un contrapunto a tres, en esta manera’. Vicentino (L'antica musica, fol. 83) is also critical in this matter.

75 The four-part example differs from the one given by Aranda since the three added voices are placed above the cantus firmus. Aranda combines a soprano, an alto and a bass around a cantus firmus in the tenor voice (sig. Cvi).

76 ‘Muchos Maestros quieren, que el Canto Llano en los conciertos sobre Tiple, estè figurado por la Clave de Cesolfaut en la primera linea, por que dizen, que assi va, por el termino de Tiple; pero yo digo, que los conciertos, assi sobre Baxo, como sobre Tiple, se deven echar de repente, y si quando se estudian, es por la Clave en que naturalmente deve estar el Canto Llano, no hallaran turbacion en echando sobre el Libro. V. si lo estudian por la clave de Tiple, corre riesgo de embarazarse al llegar à echarlo de repente.’ P. Nassarre, Segunda parte de la escuela musica (Saragossa, 1723), p. 237. The former chapter is devoted to contrapuntos à concierto sobre baxo, apparently still in use in Spain at that time.

77 See e.g. Bermudo, Declaración, fol. 129v, and n. 65 above. See also Nassarre, Segunda parte de la escuela musica, p. 487. This term has also been used in Italian, either in a Neapolitan context (see n. 35 above), or written by a Spaniard, Sebastian Raval. See Hill, J. W., Roman Monody, Cantata and Opera from the Circles around Cardinal Montalto (Oxford, 1997), i, p. 40Google Scholar .

78 On the role of canons in contrappunto alla mente theory at the beginning of the 17th c., see Froebe's, Folker recent article, ‘Satzmodelle des Contrapunto alla mente und ihre Bedeutung für den Stilwandel um 1600’, Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie, 4 (2007), pp. 1355Google Scholar (online at <>).

79 On this aspect of counterpoint pedagogy, see Busse Berger, A. M., Medieval Music and the Art of Memory (Berkeley, 2005), pp. 118146CrossRefGoogle Scholar . On diminution treatises, see Brown, H. M., Embellishing 16th-Century Music (Oxford, 1976), pp. 1721Google Scholar .

80 This feature may explain Tim Carter's recent (and rather negative) opinion: ‘Vicente Lusitano's Introduttione facilissima, et novissima, di canto fermo, figurato, contraponto semplice, et in concerto (Rome: Antonio Blado, 1553) both codified developments in the techniques of contrappunto alla mente and established patterns for late sixteenth-century practice. He laid down simple rules for several types of improvised counterpoint over a plainchant cantus firmus in semi-breves: one voice moving in simple canon with the cantus firmus; one voice moving freely above it; two voices moving freely above or below it; and two or three voices moving in canon above (but not necessarily with) it. But while Lusitano's canons are fairly primitive, later treatises by Gioseffo Zarlino and Lodovico Zacconi envision far more complex musical structures. They explain how to generate improvised canons at the unison, octave, and fifth usually at close time-intervals and often involving the repetition of standard motivic patterns over 5–3 harmonies.’ T. Carter, ‘‘Improvised’ Counterpoint in Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers’, in Bloxam, Filocamo, and Holford-Strevens (eds.), Uno gentile et subtile ingenio, p. 33.

81 Fol. 45: ‘las fugas se pueden hazer en muchas maneras, ca se pueden hazer en unisonus, en dyatesaron, en subdyatesaron, en dyapente, en subdyapente, en dyapason. Y estas fugas se pueden hazer ansi sobre el canto llano en boz baxa, como en boz alta. Otras fugas se pueden hazer, las quales son trabajosas y de poca suavidad, y por eso no se haze dellas mençion. Y nota que las fugas se pueden hazer esperando la segunda boz o pausa de breve o de semibreve o de mynima, excepto la fuga de unisonus y dyapason, que no se haze con pausa de breve por la grande tardança.’

82 ‘Note that sometimes a very subtle canon can emerge above the plainchant, and it is so subtle that we place it here at the end, so one can take it as an example, in the way we do with other chants’ (‘Nota que algunas vezes puede venir sobre canto llano una fuga muy sotil, y tanto que por lo ser ansi la ponemos aqui en fin, para que della se pueda tomar exemplo, en que modo se hara en los otros cantos llanos’; fol. 48v). It should be noticed that the resulting part has to sing a diminished fifth at the end of the canon! Canons at the second begin to appear in the compositions of Josquin and his contemporaries, but are not considered in counterpoint theory before the beginning of the 17th c.

83 Sex missae cum quinque vocibus (Venice, 1542) (RISM 15422), and Sex misse (Venice, 1547) (RISM 15473). Modern edition: Nicolai Gombert Opera omnia, ed. J. Schmidt-Görg, vol. 2 (Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae, 6; Rome, 1954).

84 Among a few others, Zarlino (Istitutioni, Pt. III, ch. 43) and Montanos (Urquhart, ‘Francisco de Montaños’, pp. 111–14) deal with this subject. See Schubert, ‘Counterpoint Pedagogy in the Renaissance’, p. 517. Cerone, El melopeo, pp. 593–4, is to my knowledge the only theorist to conceive abilidades on a mensural melody, albeit much less elaborate than those described by Lusitano.

85 Fol. 49v: ‘Despues destas se hazen otras muchas cosas, ansi como cantar una cançion; las sequencias de los modos; cantar el mismo canto al reves sobre la misma boz; volver el libro al reves; hazer las cosas sobre dichas cantando el canto al reves; hazer una fuga en unisonus con pausa de minima sobre el canto de organo. Y aon puede un abil hazer dos cantos llanos sobre el canto de organo, los quales a de señalar por las manos y echar una boz cantando, que sean por todas quatro. Y otras muchas cosas que los vivos ingenios de los ombres suelen ymaginar y hazer, de las quales se mostraran aquellas que se pudieren mostrar sin pena.’

86 Fol. 54: ‘Depues desto, puede un abil hazer una fuga sobre canto de organo a dos, scilicet en unisonus, o en dyapason o en diapente, las quales no se hazen sino con mucha continuacion. Y aonque las tales fugas no aprovechen para otro que para avivar el ingenio, es grande cosa aver pasado un musico por todas estas cosas, por que de la frequentaçion de semejantes cosas viene un hombre a ser muy esperto en su profesion de la musica.’

87 See my article ‘Main mémorielle et invention musicale à la Renaissance’, in Busse Berger, A.-M. and Rossi, M. (eds.), The Art of Memory between Archive and Invention, from the Middle Ages to the Late Renaissance: Literature, Music and Art (Florence, 2009), pp. 8198Google Scholar .

88 ‘Quiere el padre Nassarre que sobre un bajo ó tiple, escrito y cantado por un músico, componga el opositor de repente un concierto á tres voces. . . . Se pide que nuestro opositor, llevando el compas con la mano derecha, y levantando en alto la izquierda, vaya señalando con el dedo pulgar en los otros dedos el canto de una tercera voz, que con las dos que efectivamente cantan, completaria el concierto á tres. Me acuerdo de haber visto practicada esta prueba, siendo muchacho, en las oposiciones al magisterio de capilla en una iglesia de mi país.’ A. Eximeno, Don Lazarillo Vizcardi: Sus investigaciones músicas con ocasion del concurso á un magisterio de capilla vacante, vol. 1 (Madrid, 1873), p. 179. On the verisimilitude of the facts reported in the novel, Carmen Rodríguez Suso has the following opinion: ‘Although it is a work of fiction, the plot and the characters of this novel are taken from real life, and thus the book becomes an important source for sociological observations on Spanish musical taste during the decline of the Enlightenment.’ C. Rodríguez Suso, ‘Antonio Eximeno’, Grove Online (accessed 15 Mar. 2011).

89 Nassarre, Segunda parte de la escuela musica, p. 451.

90 Zacconi, Prattica di musica, p. 131; see Canguilhem, ‘Main mémorielle et invention musicale’, pp. 96–7.

91 Fol. 55v: ‘lo qual sobre dos bozes es dificultoso, y hazerlo bien es abilidad preçiada’.

92 Fol. 55v: ‘La segunda manera es echar un contrabaxo a bozes altas, la qual hecha sobre dos bozes es mucho y muy de loar. Mas si sobre tres se haze bien, es el fin de todas las abilidades, y no ay major en la musica pratica.’

93 Fols. 56v–57: ‘Mas, si la quarta parte se echa en baxo, aqui no ay otro aviso que dar, sino que la quarta parte deve ser avisado de guardar a todas las tres y aver grande oydo para los pasos que pueden responder y a las clausulas, por que son muy dificultosas las clausulas del baxo echado sobre tres partes conçertadas.’ Nassarre also admits that the bass part is much more difficult to realize than any other one (Segunda parte de la escuela musica, p. 451).

94 Fol. 53: ‘Algunas destas abilidades sobre el libro se muestran perfetamente, lo qual en escrito no se puede hazer, y por eso aquellas que sin el libro no se pueden mostrar dexaremos, y las que comodamente sin el se mostraran.’

95 See especially Bent, M., ‘Resfacta and Cantare super librum’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 36 (1983), pp. 371391CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Blackburn, ‘On Compositional Process in the Fifteenth Century’.

96 Fol. 47: ‘Mas quanto mas delicadas sean las tales fugas hechas con el canto llano en boz de tiple, ellas por si lo demostran por que no las pueden hazer bien los que no tuvieren grande curso de la conpostura. De donde claro pareçe que pues para ellas es menester conpostura que dellas se puede aprender, por cuia causa se pondra la orden de la conpostura brevemente, por que es el camino diverso, y tanto quanto son los juizios de los componedores.’

97 Lusitano, fol. 57v: ‘es cosa que depende de la mucha conpostura y su grande uso’. Ortiz, Trattado de glosas, fol. 35: ‘La quarta [manera] es una quinta boz, a la qual no obligamos a nadie porque presupone abilidad de compostura en el tañedor para hazerla.’

98 Bermudo, Declaración, fol. 134: ‘el cantor se aplique mucho a la composición de canto de organo, porque sepa muy bien de memoria los golpes que cada una de las bozes puede hazer’.

99 Fol. 26: ‘por que todo lo que se haze en conpostura se puede hazer en contrapunto a solas; por que la conpostura no es sino contrapunto’.

100 Fol. 38v: ‘Such a change of cadences cannot be executed while singing concerted counterpoint, because it cannot be improvised, yet it can be done in composition’ (Mas la tal mutaçion de clausulas no se hara cantando contrapunto conçertado, por que de ynproviso no açertarian a las tales clausulas, mas en la conpostura se puede hazer'); and fol. 39, about four-part counterpoint below the plainchant: ‘when in any of the aforementioned modes you make a cadence in another mode, it creates sweetness, unless you make a cadence of the fourth mode in the fifth or sixth, for it will create a dissonance. The addition of three voices below the same soprano chant is very difficult indeed; doing so belongs more properly to the realm of composition than it does to the realm of improvisation’ (‘quando en alguno de los sobredichos modos se hizieren clausulas de otro modo engendra suavidad, excepto si el quinto o sexto hiziere clausula de quarto, ca entonçes disonancia engendrara. Mas tres sobre el mismo canto en boz de tiple es mucho, lo qual mal se haze de inproviso, por que es como conpostura’).

101 Fol. 24: ‘This is very good for improvised as well as prepared counterpoint, and even better for composition’ (‘Lo qual vale mucho ansi para de inproviso como pensado, y mucho mas para la conpostura’). Bermudo also brings contrapunto pensado closer to composition when he claims: ‘Pues del exercicio de la composicion de canto de organo, que es composicion sobre pensado, se granjea el contrapunto concertado, que es composicion de improviso’ (Declaración, fol. 134).

102 For a discussion of this topic with different conclusions, see Wegman, R. C., ‘From Maker to Composer: Improvisation and Musical Authorship in the Low Countries, 1450–1500’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 49 (1996), pp. 409479CrossRefGoogle Scholar . See also my recent article, ‘Le projet FABRICA: Oralité et écriture dans les pratiques polyphoniques du chant ecclésiastique (xviexxe siècles)’, Journal of the Alamire Foundation, 2 (2010), pp. 272281CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

103 ‘les enseñe a cantar llano, canto de organo y contrapunto, ansi sobre canto llano come sobre canto de organo, y les enseñe a componer y las otras abilidades que para ser diextros músicos y auctores conviene que sepan los dichos niños cantorcicos.’ R. Stevenson, La música en las catedrales españolas (Madrid, 1993), p. 169. This was taught on a daily basis (p. 186).

104 See Nassarre, Segunda parte de la escuela musica, pp. 487–8. A few pages earlier he had stressed the importance of ‘working on the book’ for the choirmaster to conduct a choir: ‘Para conseguir facilidad el Maestro en semejante exercicio, conviene el que tenga mucho habito de trabajar sobre el Libro. Lo primero en tener bien exercitados los Contrapuntos sobre qualquiera parte, à lo menos sobre la de el Tiple, que es sobre la que mas comunmente se echan, y esto conviene que sea con variedad de especies de ellos, procurandola echar con la mayor velocidad possible; pues de echarlos muy veloces, se sigue el aver de acudir con la vista pronta à la voz sobre que los echa, con lo qual adquiere habito de llevar la vista adelantada, materia importante.’ Nassarre, Segunda parte de la escuela musica, p. 450.

105 Fol. 47: ‘Todas las cosas sobrescritas son para avivar el ingenio, y son muy provechosas para muchas neçesidades que vienen en la musica.’ Speaking about improvised canons, Pietro Cerone (El melopeo, p. 604) underlines their usefulness: ‘el qual modo no se deve despreciar, si no mas de los otros se deve recebir, por ser muy hermoso, y de mucho primor; y mas comodo para poderse servir del en el choro’. Nassarre, Segunda parte de la escuela musica, p. 153, still considers contrapunto in terms of necessity: you have to study counterpoint ‘de repente, por ser tan necessario’.

106 ‘y el dicho maestro de capilla por los animar tiene de hacerles algunas alleluyas de contrapunto concertado y enseñárselas muy bien para quellos las canten en el coro, que haciéndolo así se cebarán los muchachos a querer hacer otro tanto por sí, y desta suerte, con ayuda de Nuestro Señor, habrá gran ejercicio de música y saldrán muchos hábiles’. J. López-Calo, La música en la Catedral de Burgos, vol. 3 (Burgos, 1996), p. 112. At Toledo, the chapel of the cathedral was also accustomed to sing ‘Alleluia de concierto’ on certain feasts. See M. Noone, ‘An Early Seventeenth-Century Source for Performing Practices at Toledo Cathedral’, in Bloxam, Filocamo, and Holford-Strevens (eds.), Uno gentile et subtile ingenio, pp. 157, 165 and 166.

107 ‘13: Ytem, cuando el maestro de capilla, que tiene cargo del dicho staplo o facistorio, mandare cantar algún dúo o trío a los dichos que les fuere mandado, sean obligados de ponerse delante del libro y hacer lo que les fuere mandado, so pena de castigo y ser multados’; ‘14: Más: que el verso y allelluia se digan de aquí adelante cada día como se ha acostumbrado los días solemnes, y que el maestro de los niños haga decir a cada uno de los cantores a veces, y que se pongan en su orden como fueren sin mezclarse o entreponerse el uno con el otro, y que ninguno de ellos rehúse de cantar el dicho dúo o trío u otra cosa que conviniere al dicho oficio cuando le fuere mandado por el dicho maestro, si no tuvieren causa para ello legítima, so la pena sobredicha.’ L. Robledo Estaire (ed.), Aspectos de la cultura musical en la corte de Felipe II (Madrid, 2000), pp. 113–14.

108 Bernadette Nelson has already made a similar interpretation of this passage: ‘A clause in Charles V’s Estatutos suggests that the practice of singing the Alleluia in polyphony at every Mass, and not just on major feasts, was instigated during his reign, though this probably originated in slightly earlier practices in the Spanish royal chapel. This stipulation is preceded by the dictum that the singers are obliged to sing a duo or a trio, if ordered by the maestro de capilla; the way these clauses are expanded in the version of the Estatutos issued during Philip II's time is strongly indicative that the Alleluia and its verse were sung in improvised polyphony super librum, which could be interpreted as contrapunto, a practice which was common at the time.' ‘Ritual and Ceremony in the Spanish Royal Chapel, c. 1559–c. 1561’, Early Music History, 19 (2000), pp. 140141Google Scholar . The same assumption can be found in Luis Robledo, Aspectos de la cultura musical en la corte de Felipe II, p. 130.

109 Robledo, Aspectos de la cultura musical en la corte de Felipe II, pp. 163–8.

110 Declaración, fol. 128: ‘En la extremada capilla del reverendísimo arçobispo de Toledo, Fonseca de buena memoria vi tan diestros cantores hechar contrapunto, que si se puntara: se vendiera por buena composición. En la no menos religiosa que doctissima capilla real de Granada ay tan grandes abilidades en contrapunto: que otros oydos mas delicados que los mios eran menester para comprehenderlas y otra pluma para explicarlas. . . . De aquí es que algunos no quieran este arte se llame de contrapunto; sino de composición.’ For Vicentino, see above, nn. 68 and 74.

111 ‘Dico, che ritrovandomi nell’alma Città di Roma à tempo vivea la bona memoria della Santità di Papa Gregorio Terzodecimo nell'anno 1573 et anco nel 1601, à tempo della Santità di Papa Clemente Ottavo, nella sua Cappella sentì un Contraponto molto arteficioso, che se fosse stato scritto à penna non possea migliorare più di quello ch'era fatto all'inproviso.' S. Cerreto, Dialoghi armonici pel contrapunto e per la composizione (Naples, Biblioteca del Conservatorio San Pietro a Majella, MS 1626), fols. 34v–35; available online at <>.

112 On contrappunto alla mente in Rome, see my article ‘“Ad imitationem sortisationis”: Il contrappunto a mente e i madrigali di Marenzio’, in Piperno, F. (ed.), Luca Marenzio e il madrigale romano (Rome, 2007), pp. 143165Google Scholar . See also Morelli, A., ‘Una nuova fonte per la musica di Ghiselino Danckerts “musico e cantore cappellano della cappella del papa”’, Recercare, 21 (2009), pp. 99100Google Scholar .