The Klagenfurt Manuscript, day by day

Posted on June 7th, 2018 by

Klagenfurt Handskrift

The wonderful Klagenfurt Handskrift. Designed to fit into a coat pocket-tied up with a ribbon-see remains on the right

Peter Sheppard Skaerved – Violin (Antonio Stradivari 1685). Bow (Antonino Airenti 2011)

Day 4 11th June 2018

Anon-Page 71 B flat Major


I am fascinated by our sonic environments, how they are changed over time, and from place to place. City dwellers today are often surprised when they visit the countryside, and they seem to hear less bird song. It’s not entirely an illusion: birds have had to learn to sing louder in cities, to stake their claim more vociferously. The Blackbird that sings in the Blackthorn outside my window in Wapping each evening, has to deal with conversation, the sound of ships on the river, telephones, televisions, music – so he turns it up to ’11’. By the same token, things are lost, generation to generation. The arrival of the industrial age resulted in an increasingly binary rhythmic landscape as pistons replaced hooves. And this is reflected in music, and dance; look back to the 17th and 18th century, and music is filled with trotting, canters, slow walks and gallops-all predominantly compound  or triple time rhythms- 1/4 note 1/8 note. Our streets are no longer filled with horses, and music has less gigues, forlanas, passepieds, minuets  and pastorales. This movement is pure equestrianism, albeit with a touch of dressage, of the Spanish Riding School -a 17th Century institution.

Inspiration from my 1630 copy of Boiardo’s ‘Orlando Innarmorato’


Day 3 9th June 2018

Anon-Page 120 G minor

This movement was one of the first which I tried out, when I first receieved this movement over a year ago. It’s in ‘cut time’/ 2/2,  and uses exquisite ‘mesa da voce’ gathering notes, leaping syncopations, and prelude-like gestures across the instrument, exploiting the various registers, open strings and interchanges between different voices and tessituruae. While I was playing it, I had  Georg Muffat (1653-1704) on my mind, who, in his Florilegium Secundum (First remarks, III Tempus) instructs the player to:

‘make haste slowly’

Good advice, for sure.

Day 2 8th June 2018

Anon-Page 134 F major [Sarabande]

The last movement in the collection leads me to think a little about melancholy, that emotion so important to the 17th Century. It is strange that the quality associated with the black humour would give rise to such a rich vein of art and thought, from Richard Burton, to Dowland’s ‘Soft flow my tears’, to Beethoven’s ‘La Malinconia’, to Keat’s nightingale…to Mozart’s last quartet, K590, like this, also in F Major, the most ambiguous of major keys. Note that this movement uses a ‘saltando’ (leaping) technique to set up a counterpoise of material across the instrument, thus accompanying itself, avoiding double-stopping.

Day 1 7th June 2018

Anon-Page 125 B minor [Minuetto]

This is as good place to start as any. The thing that fascinates me about personal music books is that they are in many ways, non-sequential. The page number referencing that I have given to the cycle refer only to the order of the works in the bound codex. The fact that there are no page numbers should not surprise us in a manuscript, and there are many reasons why the numbering of pages in a non-printed source is not a given. If you run notebooks or sketchbooks ( and I have, all of my life) the question of when and if to number pages is a suprisingly vexing one. I certainly can not bring myself to number the pages of a book before I write in it: firstly, there’s a very clear sense that the first thing which should be written or drawn on a page should be the material itself-reference numbers can feel like an intrusion. Secondly, going through a finished book and numbering after is time-consuming and with a pen, let alone a quill pen, surprisingly awkward-if you number the recti and versi, then there’s a smudging issue. But I think that, lurking behind all of this, is the historic resistance to page-numbering. In his 1990 ‘Zeit und Zahl in der Geschicte Europas’ Arno Borst noted that in the early Renaissance, writers and scholars resisted the appearance of arabic numbers in their latin texts. One of the earliest uses of the word ‘computus’ was by Salomon de Perigord, who, according to Borst:

‘argued that the pages of choirbooks out to be numbered regularly….[but] complained that many choirmasters were erasing these numbers because they wanted to avoid making the task too simple for their choir boys’ (Scientia artis musicae 1274)

It mustn’t be forgotten that things being too easy was an issue of sin, of the peril of the soul, the danger of idleness, luxury, decadence. Now I am not or a minute that a 17th Century Slovene priory was affected by 13th century mores, but simply that there is the slightest hint of this concern, which Salomon expressed to Gregory X.

So I will find my way  through the ‘Handskrift’ in a dis-orderly, the way I practise it, and chose this melancholy sarabandish minuet as  starting point. More tomorrow.