Anonymous Masses in the Alamire Manuscripts: Toward a New Understanding of a Repertoire, an Atelier, and a Renaissance Court

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Saunders, Zoe Whitman
Haggh-Huglo, Barbara H.
This study examines eight anonymous masses preserved in the Alamire complex of fifty-one luxurious manuscripts prepared by scribes working at or near the courts of Burgundy-Habsburg between about 1498 and 1535. Chapter 1 introduces the problem of early Renaissance anonymity and situates this study within research on the Alamire complex and anonymous repertories. Chapters 2 through 5 provide analyses of eight anonymous masses that survive in the Alamire manuscripts. Where relevant, the history of their models and other polyphonic settings of these complement the analyses. Two canons are resolved, symbolism is explored, and the problem of incomplete or absent settings of the Agnus Dei is considered. The analyses allow for an evaluation of quality and reveal these composers as skilled and inventive. In Chapter 6, codicological and paleographic examinations of the Alamire manuscripts demonstrate that anonymity was largely the result of scribal initiative. Investigation of the use of exemplars by the scribes, however, confirms that they often copied from multiple exemplars, some probably lacking ascriptions, which produced anonymity. Using paleographic and codicological evidence to complement my conclusions regarding the use of exemplars, I identify a change in the manner of production of the Alamire codices occurring around 1518-1520. This separates the manuscripts into two distinct groups: the first encompasses mainly luxurious presentation manuscripts commissioned from Alamire by members of the Burgundian-Habsburg dynasty, while the second consists of plainer codices, probably ordered from Alamire directly by private patrons. In Chapter 7, I conclude that the contents of the Alamire manuscripts must not be considered a single repertory, and that the manuscripts, which were demonstrably prepared under varied circumstances, are not a homogenous group with a single context. Given that the lack of ascriptions in these sources was shown not to be a contemporary value judgment in Chapter 6, the quality of the eight unascribed masses is discussed here at length, as is their musicological significance. Appendices provide tables that detail codicological elements and scribal practices, and present the eight masses in modern notation, edited here for the first time.