Gaspar van Weerbeke in German/Austrian Musicology

Long before much fifteenth- and sixteenth-century music was available in modern editions, a few musicologists were nevertheless fascinated by the music of this era. Herbert Birtner, professor in Marburg (1900-1942), was an influential early advocate for Renaissance music. He shared his enthusiasm for the “music of the Netherlanders” with his students, several of whom wrote dissertations on related topics. One of these was Werner Wegner, whose dissertation on Gaspar van Weerbeke’s Missa O Venus bant was the first significant twentieth-century research on the composer. Both Birtner and Wegner passed away during World War II.

Shortly after the end of the war, Paul Müller, another former student of Birtner and an Agricola specialist, was teaching at the conservatory in Düsseldorf. Using Wegner’s source material, he asked his students to transcribe Gaspar’s Missa O Venus bant from the manuscript Berlin 40021. One of the students set this task was Gerhard Croll (b. 1927), at the time studying conducting at the conservatory. Despite the difficulty of transcribing without full knowledge of notation, Croll was fascinated by the music. Together with his wife, a piano student at the conservatory, he was part of a small group of enthusiasts that sang and familiarized themselves with this musical world.

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Image 1: Original CMM contract.

Transitioning into musicology, Croll began his doctoral studies at the University of Göttingen in 1948, after Rudolf Gerber (1899-1957), professor in music, accepted his proposal to write a dissertation on Weerbeke. In 1950 he began corresponding with Armen Carapetyan about the possibility of publishing a Complete Works edition for the composer in Corpus mensurabilis musicae. Carapetyan agreed the following year, and the contract was signed on September 5, 1951 (see Image 1). Croll’s article on Weerbeke appeared in the 1952 volume of Musica disciplina, providing for the first time a catalog of works and sources. In the same year, Croll travelled to Italy for archival work on musical sources and documents. He first arrived in Rome, where he was able to study the choirbooks of the Capella Sistina. He hitchhiked to Florence, where he met Carapetyan, and continued on to Bologna, Modena, and Milan. (Image 2 shows Croll’s luggage on the side of the road; Image 3 shows the car in which he was driven from Rome to Florence.) He completed his dissertation on the Weerbeke’s motets in 1954.

Croll's luggage
Image 2: Croll's luggage.
Croll's car
Image 3: From Rome to Florence.

Croll’s career development took him in different directions, however. He wrote his habilitation in Münster on the Baroque composer Agostino Steffani (completed in 1961), took over the leadership of the Gluck Gesamtausgabe, and worked for the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe. It was not until he received his professorship in Salzburg in 1966 that he was able to dedicate some time to earlier music. He led the “Collegium musicum” in sight-reading music of Josquin, Weerbeke, and Ockeghem, he gave lectures and seminars on early music, and he encouraged those students who expressed an interest in related topics.

One of these students was Andrea Lindmayr(-Brandl), who wrote her dissertation on source studies on the motets of Johannes Ockeghem. After it was completed, Croll gave her his entire collection of Weerbeke-related materials and encouraged her to begin with the edition. Contact was again made with CMM (Carapetyan had passed away in the meantime), and an editorial board was formed, consisting of Croll, Lindmayr, and Eric Fiedler. With supporting input from Jaap van Benthem, the board decided on the editorial guidelines and the overall plan for the edition. In summer 1988, Lindmayr(-Brandl) began working on volume 3 of the Complete Works, containing the three motet cycles, and after some publishing delays, it went to print in 1998. For the remaining four volumes, financial support was received from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) for research projects under the Lindmayr-Brandl’s direction. Agnese Pavanello and Paul Kolb were appointed as research assistants for the projects. The editorial work on the Complete Works, shared by three generations of musicologists, is scheduled to be completed by 2018.