by Daniel Hathaway
It’s always fun when musical scores suddenly emerge from wherever they’ve been hiding for decades or centuries. In 2014, a physically tiny collection of 15th-century songs came into the hands of an art dealer in Brussels and caused quite a stir in the early music world. It brought the total of such books that survive to 6, and its beautifully notated pages contain 50 pieces, 12 of which were previously unknown.
“Unbelievable. It’s like suddenly finding a dozen new drawings by Rubens!” said a researcher at the Alamire Foundation of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, which owns what is now known as the Leuven Chansonnier. “We hope that we’ll be able to find out who created the songs. The 38 known works are very interesting as well, because they’re often different versions from the ones we already know.”
When Les Délices and its Chicago counterpart, The Newberry Consort, were casting about for a collaborative project, the Leuven Songbook came immediately to mind for both directors, Debra Nagy and Ellen Hargis. “I told Debra we’d love to do something with that,” Hargis said in a telephone conversation, “and she said, ‘So would we. It doesn’t make any sense to do two programs, so why not do it together?’” [Read more…]