Stylistic Orientation of Protestant Music in Slovenia

  • Jože Sivec


In view of the unfavourable political and socio-economic circumanstances in the 16th century Slovenia (peasants' revolts, Turkish incursions) the conditions for the development of arts were anything but stimulating. Even if the Reformation had reached our territory already in the early 1530s, its endeavours in the musical field could not become more conscious and organized until the second half of the century, when the new religious movement had become stronger and already wide-spread. Like in Germany, music was also for the Slovene Reformationists in the service of ideology, significant above all as a best means for the spreading and accepting of the new religious teachings. Hence, priority was being given to the Protestant, monophonic singing in the vernacular. In the pursuit of the goals of the Slovene Reformation its spiritual leader Primož Trubar published in 1567 the first Slovene song-book "Eni psalmi", which subsequently ran into several expanded editions. Even if these song-books, largely drawing on German sources and never reaching beyond the monophonic framework, at no point consciously introduce new aesthetic principles, it is perfectly evident that the creative design (as characteristic of the Protestant choral with its straightforward, smooth and syllabic melodies) is in keeping with the basic principles of the Renaissance music. While in smaller places singing was necessarily limited to the monophonic choral, Protestants in Ljubljana and Klagenfurt (Celovec) cultivated also polyphony in sacred music. Who were the authors of vocal compositions for more than one part, however, is not at all clear from the available sources. The preface to Trubar's song-book (1567) gives information that in the Protestant church in Ljubljana the choral was sung in the version for several parts. This suggests that it is almost impossible that our Protestants should not have used such collections as "Geystlich Gesangk-Bychlein" (1524) by J. Walther or "Neue Deutsche Geistliche Gesenge" (1544) by G. Rhau, as these belonged to the stock repertoire of Protestant churches and were well known also to musicians coming to us from Germany. It would, thus, appear that also in Slovenia musical production and reproduction reached into the sphere of polyphonic choral treatments of an older, in the late Gothic music originating mode, with cantus firmus in the long notes and through-imitated choral motet, which uses already the Dutch Renaissance technique of the Josquin period. Additionally it has to be said that the collection from 1544 explicitly indicates the possibility for occasional use of compositions by Catholic authors. Even if at least in its early phase the Reformation could not feel enthusiasm for the Renaissance music, it could not simply ignore it. The religious belief of the Slovene Protestants practically did not represent a barrier between music in Slovenia and music in Italy. In this connection it is interesting to note friendly contacts which some Protestant noble families had with Italian composers. Already in 1556 C. de Rore sent to W. Auersperg a complimentary madrigal "Rex Asiae et Ponti", Since the beginning of the sixties and still in the early 17th cent. members of the Khisl family were receiving printed collections containing instrumental compositions and especially madrigals and canzonettas from Italian composers such as G. Gorzanis, C. Merulo, P.A. Bianco, M. Ferrabosco, Ph. de Duc, and others. It appears that at least some of these compositions were being performed at Khisl's mansion-house. Besides, it is certain that Johann Jakob Khisl was himself composing motets and madrigals. The stylistic orientation of the Protestant music is furthermore illuminated by the creative work of Johannes Herold and Wolfgang Striccius, whose works were certainly performed in Ljubljana. The former held since 1593 a job in Klagenfurt, the latter from 1588 to 1591 in Ljubljana. The only preserved, work by Herold, the six-part Matthäus Passion, shows a distinctly Venetian influence. Likewise, at least to a degree, we can notice the contact with the Italian Renaissance in compositions by W. Striccius, based on religious and secular German texts. The latter are also evidence that the German part song was being cultivated. Since the Reformation struck roots in Slovenia only for a limited period of time (already in 1598 the Counter-Reformation began), its musical activity understandably has the characteristics of an early, not yet fully developed musical culture. The time which it had at its disposal was too short to catch up with the current stylistic trends and achievements of Catholic composers – which, however, did occur at the beginning of the 17th cent. in German countries where the Reformationist activity was continued without hindrance.


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How to Cite
SivecJ. (1983). Stylistic Orientation of Protestant Music in Slovenia. Musicological Annual, 19(1), 17-29.