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Full Access Ashkenazi Pentateuchal Chant: A Sixteenth-Century German-Christian Interpretation

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Ashkenazi Pentateuchal Chant: A Sixteenth-Century German-Christian Interpretation

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Abstract Much attention has been given to the pioneering achievements of the Christian Hebraists of the sixteenth century in transcribing the essential elements of traditional Torah chant into Western musical notation. One of these transcriptions, however, is unique. Johannes Reuchlin’s De Accentibus et Orthographia Linguae Hebraicae of 1518 contains not only the ‘accents of biblical recitation’ themselves, but also a complete four-part harmonization of these tropes by one of Reuchlin’s students, Christoph Schilling, in the German choral style of the period. Although Schilling’s arrangement of the individual accents has been mentioned in passing by numerous scholars, it has never been published in a modern edition, nor applied to the actual practice of chanting biblical texts. In this article, I discuss some of the general background to cantillation, accentuation, and the role of the German Humanists in preserving this oral tradition in written form. Comparisons between sixteenth-century and twentieth-century biblical chant are made in relation to the melodic and harmonic characteristics of Schilling’s notation, and this leads to an assessment of some of the problems concerning the realization of these raw materials for ‘live’ performance. Three short extracts from the Pentateuch are then presented as working examples based upon Schilling’s arrangement. In conclusion, the possible motives and intentions behind this intercultural phenomenon will be considered, as will its significance in the long history of Judeo-Christian syncretism in music.

10.1163/187247112X637551
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Abstract Much attention has been given to the pioneering achievements of the Christian Hebraists of the sixteenth century in transcribing the essential elements of traditional Torah chant into Western musical notation. One of these transcriptions, however, is unique. Johannes Reuchlin’s De Accentibus et Orthographia Linguae Hebraicae of 1518 contains not only the ‘accents of biblical recitation’ themselves, but also a complete four-part harmonization of these tropes by one of Reuchlin’s students, Christoph Schilling, in the German choral style of the period. Although Schilling’s arrangement of the individual accents has been mentioned in passing by numerous scholars, it has never been published in a modern edition, nor applied to the actual practice of chanting biblical texts. In this article, I discuss some of the general background to cantillation, accentuation, and the role of the German Humanists in preserving this oral tradition in written form. Comparisons between sixteenth-century and twentieth-century biblical chant are made in relation to the melodic and harmonic characteristics of Schilling’s notation, and this leads to an assessment of some of the problems concerning the realization of these raw materials for ‘live’ performance. Three short extracts from the Pentateuch are then presented as working examples based upon Schilling’s arrangement. In conclusion, the possible motives and intentions behind this intercultural phenomenon will be considered, as will its significance in the long history of Judeo-Christian syncretism in music.

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2012-01-01
2016-12-11

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