The Berlin Chansonnier and French Song in Florence, 1450-1490: A New Dating and Its Implications

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The Berlin Chansonnier and French Song in Florence, 1450-1490: A New Dating and Its Implications

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Title: The Berlin Chansonnier and French Song in Florence, 1450-1490: A New Dating and Its Implications
Author: Gallagher, Sean
Citation: Gallagher, Sean. 2007. The Berlin chansonnier and French song in Florence, 1450-1490: A new dating and its implications. Journal of Musicology 24(3): 339-364.
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Abstract: Owing to the loss of most 15th-century music manuscripts from France and Burgundy, chansonniers of Italian origin are of special significance for our knowledge of the French song repertory and its dissemination during the second half of the century. Florence appears to have been a particularly important center of collecting, judging from a group of nine chansonniers copied there between the 1440s and the early 1490s. In recent decades the Berlin Chansonnier (Berlin, Staatliche Museen der Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Kupferstichkabinett, MS 78.C.28) has held a special place among these Florentine sources, partly because it is the only one from before the 1490s for which there is external evidence that seemed to provide a precise dating, and partly because that evidence indicated that it was our only surviving Florentine music manuscript from the 1460s. More than 30 years ago Peter Reidemeister identified the two Florentine families whose impaled arms decorate the first chanson in the collection. These arms led him to propose that the manuscript was made in connection with a wedding involving these two families, which he claimed took place in 1465 or 1466, a dating that has been accepted as a terminus ad quem in subsequent scholarship. The manuscript thus appeared to pre-date by 15 or more years the next earliest sources in the Florentine group, and the significant repertorial differences between the Berlin manuscript and those of the early 1480s seemed to reflect this time gap. Documents in the Archivio di Stato in Florence change this picture considerably. New evidence calls for a series of crucial adjustments to the theories proposed by Reidermeister that together force a reassessment of the dating of the Berlin Chansonnier. This reassessment affects in turn its relation to several other manuscripts, both from Florence and elsewhere in Italy, and provides new insight into the repertory of songs (in particular those of Busnoys) that was circulating in Florence between the 1460s and the early 1480s.
Published Version: doi:10.1525/jm.2007.24.3.339
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