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2018 | 9 | 51-69

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Bernard Clairvaux’s Poetry as the Inspiration for the Composers of the 17th Century


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In searching for a way to deepen and intensify its spiritual life, the post-trident community found considerable inspiration in medieval philosophical-theological leanings and artistic expressions. The personality and work of Bernard of Clairvaux (ca. 1090–1153) represent one of the best examples of the diverse forms and levels of this impact. Several typical themes of Baroque mysticism had their archetype in Bernard’s mysticism and their symbols were applied to visual art as well as music through texts set in music. However, it was the hymn to the name of Jesus (Jesu dulcis memoria) that became the most popular inspirational source for poets and musicians of the 17th century. Originally only some stanzas of the hymn, which were sung in a simple, monodic, syllabic form with a rhythm based on Latin prosody, became a relatively popular source of musical adaptation in the polyphonic setting from the last two decades of the 16th century. The initiative came from Rome, where the first musical anthologies with Bernard’s rhytmis were published in the 1580s. It is probable that the Roman anthologies stirred up greater interest in setting Bernard’s poetry to music in polyphonic style, even in the Trans-Alpine region, but there were also other incentives which led Lutheran musicians to begin composing works on text of the hymn attributed to Bernard. The tradition of setting several stanzas to music in a musical cycle caught on among Lutheran composers of the 17th century. Thomas Schattenberg, Andreas Hakenberger, Samuel Capricornus as well as Daniel Speer followed it. Jubilus Bernhardi, Capricornus’s cycle of 24 concertato motets, is unique because it was the only one in which all 48 stanzas of the hymn were set to music. It was composed during the period in which he served as director musicae in the Lutheran church in Bratislava in the 1650s. At the time when Capricornus was the Kapellmeister at the court in Stuttgart he published this work (1660) with modified instrumentation. This new adaptation was most probably a reaction to the local tradition in response to Bernard’s work and instrumentation practice.






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