Pérotin: The Scottish Source
Using all–new editions created directly from the sources, Iuchair perform both
the most well–known and some of the most seldom–performed pieces of the
thirteenth–century Notre Dame school of polyphony, all supposedly composed by
two men: Léonin and Pérotin.
By reimagining the performance of this repertory in a manner never before
heard, Iuchair unearth a rare glimpse into the possible performance practice
associated with the only British source of this music, W1 from St Andrews
Priory in Scotland, and the confusing creation of the repertory, rooted not in
literacy and traditional composition, but an oral culture of music in the
medieval period, spanning both Britain and continental Europe.
Master Leoninus…created a great book of polyphonic settings…this was in use
until the time of Perotinus the great, who shortened this book…Master
Perotinus composed certain excellent four–voiced polyphonic settings, such as
Viderunt and Sederunt using an abundance of colouration of the harmonic
So writes the thirteenth–century English music theorist Anonymous IV, in the
only extant account mentioning Léonin and Pérotin, making the two composers
of the Notre Dame school of polyphony (so called because it is believed to have
had its origins in the environs of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris) the earliest
named European composers. Recent scholarship, far from taking Anonymous IV's
words at face value, suggests instead that the music of the Notre Dame school
emerged not from singular compositions by two men but from a gradual oral
process of improvisation, memorisation and eventual canonisation.
Nowhere is this process more apparent than in one of the larger sources of the
repertory and only source of British provenance, D-W Cod. Guelf. 628 Helmst.
(W1). Although now residing in the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel,
Germany, W1 was made for St Andrews Priory, Scotland. Even though W1 transmits
much of the same repertory as the other main sources of Notre Dame polyphony,
such as Viderunt omnes, Sederunt principes and Alleluya posui adiutorium
(albeit with some slight differences arising from an alternate performance
practice) some settings have alternate text (Alleluya optimam partem is
commonly transmitted in other sources as Alleluya nativitas). Additionally,
W1 transmits two settings for the feast of St Andrew that are not present in
any other source: Vir perfecte and Vir iste. This is possibly due to the
differences between the Christian rites in use in Britain and the continent
at the time.
The repertory contained in the sources of the Notre Dame school is neither
disparate nor immutable, but through the music's dispersion across Europe, it
was transformed through a gradual reinvention and re-composition. For example
Beata viscera, which Anonymous IV lists as being a single–voice conductus by
Pérotin, is transmitted as described in all sources, except I.Bc Q11 (Bol)
where the “original” has been transformed by an unknown hand into a two–voice
W1 and other sources provide evidence for aspects of an oral culture having an
impact on the creation of the repertory. Many differences, both large and
small, between settings which appear in the different sources cannot be
explained by scribal error and must have been altered by some oral process;
such as improvisation, re-composition or even misremembering.
It is clear that multiple versions of the same music made their way back to the
scribes tasked with documenting this repertory, as many of the larger sources
contain more than one copy of the same setting. Moreover, the sources often
contain whole sections of fragments of polyphony that are not directly linked
with a setting. These clausulae are understood as alternate ways of
performing passages of polyphony and can reliably be swapped in without issue,
such as in this recording of Alleluya posui adiutorium.
The differences between W1 and the more central sources make it one of the most
interesting sources of the repertory to study, and exhibits the complex,
improvised and predominantly oral genesis of the music.
- D-W Cod. Guelf. 628 Helmst. (W1)
- D-W Cod. Guelf. 1099 Helmst. (W2)
- I-Fl MS Pluteus 29.1 (F)
- E-Mn 20486 (Ma)
- F-MO H 196 (Mo)
- I-Bc Q.11 (Bol)
- E-BUlh s/n (Hu)
- GB-Lbl Egerton 2615 (LoA)
1. Sederunt principes…adiuva me — ascrib. Pérotin
JS, EM, HT & AR
W1 with concordances from F, W2 & Ma. ‘va’ transcribed in mode VI as
W1’s ligation suggests. Final setting from F.
Sederunt principes et adversum me loquebantur: et iniqui persecuti sunt me.
Adiuva me Domine, Deus meus, salvum me fac propter magnum misericordiam
Princes sat and spoke against me, and sinners persecuted me. Help me, Lord,
my God, save me through your great mercy.
2. Alleluya. Optimam partem — ascrib. Pérotin
JS, EM & AR
W1 with concordances from F, Mo & three versions in W2 (original text
‘nativitas gloriose virginis…’). Alternate text from W1.
Alleluya. Optimam partem elegit sibi Maria que non auferetur ab ea in
Alleluia. Mary has chosen the better part which will never be taken away from
3. Beata viscera — ascrib. Pérotin
JS & EM
Verse 1 from F, other verses from Bol. Text from F.
Beata viscera Marie virginis, cuius ad ubera rex magni nominis. Veste sub
altera vim celans numinis, dictavit federa Dei et hominis.
Blessed flesh of the Virgin Mary at whose breasts the King of great name,
concealing under altered guise the force of divine nature, has sealed a pact
between God and man.
O mira novitas et novum gaudium, matris integritas post puerperium.
O astonishing novelty and unaccustomed joy of a mother still pure after
Populus gentium sedens in tenebris, surgit ad gaudium partus tam celebris.
Iudea tedium fovet in latebris, cor gerens conscium delicet funebris.
The people of the nations huddling in darkness rise up at the joy of so
celebrated a birth. Judea nurtures its resentment in the shadows, its heart
bearing the knowledge of the murderous crime.
Fermenti pessimi qui fecam hauserant, ad panis azimi promisa properant, sunt
Deo proximi qui longe steterant, et hi novissimi qui primi fuerant.
Those who drunk the dregs of the worst brew hasten at the promises of
unleavened bread, they are the ones who had long stood close to God and these
newest who are first.
Partum quem destruis Iudea misera, de quo nos argues quem docet littera, si
nova respuis crede vel vettera, in hoc quem astruis Christum considera.
The birth which you destroy, O wretched Judea, of him whom you denounce to us
because he teaches the law. If you refuse the new law then believe the old
law, in this One, whom you accuse, behold the Christ.
Te semper implicas errore patrio, dum viam indicas errans in invio, in his
que predicas sternis in medio, bases propheticas sub evangelio.
You always entangle yourself in the errors of your ancestors, you point the
way whilst wandering aimlessly. You strew the prophetic foundations which
underpin the gospel into the midst of those things which you preach.
4. Dum sigillum summi patris — ascrib. Pérotin
HT & AR
F with concordances from Hu.
Dum sigillum summi patris signatum divinitus, in sigillo summe matris
signatur humanitus. Nec sigillum castitatis in puella frangitur, nec sigillum
deitatis detrimentum patitur.
Dum humanum osculatur naturam divinitas, ex contactu fecundatur intacta
virginitas. Mira virtus osculandi miranda sunt oscula, que dant vires
fecundandi sine carnis copula.
When the seal of the highest father displayed divinity, in the seal of the
highest mother was displayed humanity. Neither was the seal of chastity broken
in the young woman, nor did the seal of divinity suffer harm.
When human nature was kissed by divinity, chaste virginity was made fertile.
Through the virtue of kissing, wondrous and mysterious are those kisses which
gave the power of fertility without the copulation of flesh.
5. Alleluya. Posui adiutorium — ascrib. Pérotin
JS, EM & AR
F with concordances from Mo. Alternate clausula ‘et exaltavi’ from F fol.
Alleluya. Posui adiutorium super potentem et exaltavi electum de plebe mea.
Alleluia. I have set my judgement over the powerful and exalted the chosen one
of my people.
6. Vir iste — Anonymous
JS & HT
Dilexit Andream Dominus in odorem suavitas, dum penderet in cruce, dignum
sibi computavit martyrem quem vocavit apostolum dum esset in mari. Et ideo
amicus Dei appelatus est.
Vir iste in populo suo mitissimus apparuit: sanctitate et gratia plenus.
…iste est qui assidue orat: pro populo et pro civitate ista.
Pro eo ut me diligerent detrahebant mihi ego autem orabam.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
The Lord loved Andrew in the odour of sweetness. While hanging on the cross,
he himself judged him worthy to be a martyr, the one whom he called as an
apostle while he was at sea. And thus he was named a friend of God.
This most gentle man appeared among his people, Holy and full of grace.
…this was his constant prayer: this is for the people and for the city.
In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
7. Vir perfecte — Anonymous
JS & HT
Vir perfecte pietatis et dux innocentie, vota plebis tua festa celebrantis
suscipe. Et astantes laudis tue servulos officio, precibus tuis adiunge
Imitator Iesu Christi sub crucis patibulo nos Andrea fac consortes celi
O morum doctor egregie: qui triumphas egeam hodie. Felici gaudes in requie:
inter cives eterne patrie. Assis propicius huic familie. Que tue recolit diem
victorie. Spemque donans misericordie. Nos divina commenda gratie.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto: sicut erat in principio et nunc et
O man of perfect piety and lord of integrity, hear the festive prayers of your
people as they celebrate. And by your prayers help to join your servants
standing in your service with the company of saints in praise.
Andrew, who imitated Jesus Christ under the yoke of the cross, make us partakers
of the fellowship of heaven.
O exemplary teacher of morality, whom I must exult today. Happy are the
celebrations in death among the citizens of the eternal country. All is
favourable towards this family, who remember the day of your victory. You give
hope and mercy. We entrust ourselves to your divine grace.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in
the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
8. Viderunt omnes — ascrib. Pérotin
JS, EM, HT & AR
W1 with concordances from F, Ma & LoA
Viderunt omnes fines terrae salutare Dei nostri. Iubilate Deo, omnis terra.
Notum fecit Dominus salutare suum, ante conspectum gentium revelavit iustitiam
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Rejoice in the
Lord, all lands. The Lord has made known his salvation, in the sight of the
heathen he has revealed his righteousness.
All tracks recorded in the University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel by kind
permission of the chaplain, 23rd June – 9th August 2018.