The Stralsund Motet Manuscript from 1585
Eucharius Hoffmann's XXIIII Cantiones


The Stralsund Motet Manuscript from 1585 

The Stralsund Motet Manuscript from 1585 is a collection of sacred motets stored at the Stadtarchiv  in Stralsund, a German Hanseatic city on the Baltic sea. Of the presumably six original part-books, only four have survived. These bear the following labels: Altus, Tenoris, Sexta Vox and Basis. On the inside cover of one of these part-books is a dated  inscription from 1585 (see illustration). This could either be the signature from the scribe who compiled the collection, or that of the original owner of the manuscript, or else a dedication. To this day, no further details about this person have been discovered.

The Stralsund Motet Manuscript contains 105 works, composed mainly for five and six parts. It spans several generations of composers, from the close of the 15th century to the end of the 16th, and therefore comprises works composed both before and after the Reformation. The variety of styles is impressive, from earlier Franco-Flemish polyphony to Italian madrigal and middle-German works.

The manuscript contains motets written by the most celebrated composers of the time, such as Josquin Desprez, Heinrich Isaac, Jacobus Clemens non Papa, Ludwig Senfl, Johann Walter and Leonard Lechner. Lesser known musicians with links with the Stralsund region, such as  Eucharius Hoffmann and Francisco de Rivulo, are also represented, along with many others: Giovanni Animuccio, Jacobus Arcaldet, Johannes Continus,  Ghisilin Danckert, Arnoldus Feijs, Cristóbal de Morales, Leonhard Paminger, Dominicus Phinot, Antonio Scandello, Paul Schelle, Leonhart Schröter, Thomas Stoltzer,  Philippe Verdelot, Giaches de Wert and several anonymous composers.

The four extant part-books have come down to us in very good condition, with only minimal signs of wear. This would tend to indicate that the manuscript was used as a work of reference, rather than as performance material. On the other hand, practical indications, which would have been needed for performance, appear every now and again in the manuscript, such as numbers above long stretches of rests, indicating to the singer the number of beats to count (see illustration: Tenor part-book, p.18, an extract from the cantus firmus of Ludwig Senfl's Ave Maria).
The music in the manuscript was written down in an unambiguous and legible manner. The words, on the other hand, were set in an often confusing and unreliable way, as if the scribe had placed the text according to the space available below the notes, rather than following the musical phrases. This makes it plausible that an additional scribe was employed to set the text, once the music had been written out. Entire motets have been supplied with text in this manner, in all four remaining part-books.

The vast majority of the motets contained in the manuscript were written in Latin. sexta vox
Only ten works are in German, and two compositions appear in a mixture of Latin and German, such as Leonhard Paminger's Exiit editum, a humorous and songlike setting of the Gospel of Luke. In addition to common psalm settings, many works refer to the different Christian feast-days: Advent Sundays, Christmas, Epiphany, Candlemas, Passiontide, Easter, Ascension Day, Whitsun, Assumption of Mary, as well as several Saints' feast-days. However, the motets in the manuscript are not ordered according to liturgical chronology. Nor is there any consequent attempt to order them by composer.
In order to bring the many famous and lesser-known gems of the Stralsund Motet Manuscript back to life, the founder of the schola stralsundensis, Antonie Schlegel, with the help of its musical director, Maurice van Lieshout, has been tirelessly researching and comparing scores of 16th century manuscripts and prints across Europe, in order to reconstruct the missing parts of the Stralsund Manuscript. It has been the aim of the schola stralsundensis to present the contents of the manuscript through refined and historically-informed interpretations. 



Eucharius Hoffmann's XXIIII Cantiones

Eucharius Hoffmann was born in 1540 in Heldburg and died 48 years later on 10th May 1588 in Stralsund. Heldburg, Hoffmann's home town, is situated in the South of Thuringia – in the centre of modern Germany – in an area that extends into Frankish territory. This explains the epithet “Francus Heltburgensis”, or more simply “Franco” which is often found following his name in contemporary sources. The details of Eucharius Hoffmann's life are scarce. We know that he came to Stralsund in the 1560s, at a time when the city was still one of the important Hanseatic centres of northern Germany. In the preface of his treatise Musicae Practicae praecepta, published in 1571, Hoffmann mentions that he had been holding the position of Cantor at the  Schola Stralsundensis for the past eight years. This school was founded at the beginning of the 16th century as part of the Dominican monastery. In 1582, Hoffmann was appointed Vice-Chancellor. A few years later, he solicited a position as Preacher at the church of St. Marien and on 28th April 1588 he held there his entrance-sermon. However, the following month, on 10th May 1588, he passed away.

Hardly any details of Hoffmann's musical up-bringing and of his artistic career before his time in Stralsund have come down to us. Updated information will soon be supplied by Mrs. Beate Bugenhagen in her upcoming dissertation on the history of Stralsund music-life during the Hanseatic period.

The style of composition found in the XXIIII Cantiones seems to indicate that he was influenced by  Italian musical trends. But more than his musical compositions, it was Hoffmann's music theory treatises that proved the most influential. These are:

– Musicae Practicae praecepta, Wittenberg 1572

– Doctrina de tonis seu modis musicis, Greifswald 1582

– Brevis synopsis de modis seu tonis musicis, ex libello E. Hofmanni desumpta, Rostock 1605 (An abstract from his Doctrina de tonis).

In Doctrina de tonis, Hoffmann refers to H. Glarean's theory of the twelve modes. He applies this theory in a practical way in his XXIIII Cantiones, whereby
each of the twelve modes is illustrated twice by a musical example. Each motet or Cantione is systematically written in one of the modes, either in Scala dura, or in Scala molli. The texts, of sacred origin, are either in Latin or in German.

A new edition of the XXIIII Cantiones was prepared in 2008 by Antonie Schlegel, with the help of Maurice van Lieshout, and is now available in score and part-book format, with a choice of early or modern clefs. For further details, please contact Ms. Schlegel directly (see e-mail and telephone below).