Amicus immusicus. A Study on the Tradition of the Idea of Jan Campanus as a Composer
In their day, the Latin poetic paraphrases of the psalms by Jan Campanus Vodňanský, a poet and professor at the University of Prague, were among his best known and most published works. In Prague in 1611, the printer Jonata Bohutský issued the first volume of Vodňanský’s odes. A second volume followed two years later containing songs for feast days and Sundays throughout the year, then in 1616 the third volume appeared, a paraphrase of the Song of Songs. The popular title was soon printed abroad as well: the first volume was already printed in 1613 by Johann Schönfeld in Amberg. All three originally published books were united into a single volume and were published in Frankfurt am Main in 1618 in what is now the best known edition, which also had musical notation at the end of the volume. On the basis of that edition, Campanus was long regarded as the composer, and to this day the compositions from the Frankfurt edition are given under his name at concerts, on recordings, and on the internet.
There is, however, a recently discovered complete edition, Odarum sacrarum libri duo, printed by Schönfeld in Amberg (1618), which confirms that doubts over Campanus’s authorship of the melodies were well founded. The foreword to the Amberg edition differs greatly from the previously known ones, and its content gives us a more exact idea of Campanus as a poet and tells us more about how his odes actually came to be set to music, because in it, Campanus says: “My advisor wanted Czech melodies added as well, meaning (as he himself explained) sweet melodies; I hoped to obtain such melodies easily from Jan Strejc and Pavel Spongopoeus, composers of practical music; both, however, were busy with activities on the Kutná Hora town council and elsewhere, so they were unable to help. For this reason, I added melodies that the Kouřim school administrator Tobiáš Adalbert had already sent.”
Campanus’s foreword implies that the musical settings printed in the Frankfurt edition amounted to a collection of music by various composers and of various origins, which Tobiáš Adalbert had compiled. The discovery that Jan Campanus did not compose the melodies is no loss for Czech musical culture, nor does it call into question his exceptional literary quality and importance. There naturally remains the question of where Tobiáš Adalbert got the melodies. They were probably a selection of anonymous compositions in circulation in Bohemia for use for teaching metre, singing, and composition.
Key words: Jan Campanus Vodňanský; music print, odae sacrae, humanism and music