Three Fragments of Rare Cantus Fractus from Two Graduals
Representative folios of Cantus Fractus chant with Large decorative initials. Italy, sixteenth century. Three folios on vellum from two manuscript Graduals: Folio 1, 705 mm x 535 mm (six five-line staves in red, 43 mm); 2. Folios 2-3, two leaves, each 555 mm x 413 mm (five five-line staves in red, 43.5 mm). Decoration: Folio 1, a very large blue initial H in the shape of a ribbon with orange and yellow highlights; blossoms in each corner, and grape clusters suspended from two upper folds and green leaves; alternating red and blue staff-high initials. Folios 2-3, a stylized initial E in shades of purple and green on blue grounds with orange, yellow, and blue highlights, and an staff-high initial A in blue with intricate penwork details. Texts: Folio 1, Kyrie; Fols. 2-3, Gloria and Sanctus. The notation is called “Cantus Fractus” (“broken chant”), also known as “Cantus simplex mensurabilis” (“simple measured song”). This is generally single-voiced music that substituted for chant. It was largely unknown until identified in the 1980s. Since the re-emergence of Cantus Fractus as a genre, it is widely held to be an important, yet still under-studied, aspect of music in the Renaissance and Baroque eras. The pair of folios is particularly interesting because the minim runs are much more common than usual, and the use of cut-C is especially distinctive. The slurs show which notes fit under one syllable. Condition: good; some fading on the recto of "Fol. 1."