IIIF : Codex Chantilly and L'Ars Subtilior

The Chantilly manuscript, Musée Condé 564, both celebrated and notorious for the extremely complicated notation of the ars subtilior,but also admired for the decorative aspect of some of its pages, comprises, in the five fascicles of its original corpus, seventy ballades,seventeen rondeaux,twelve virelaysand thirteen isorhythmic motets, all of them compositions of the second half of the fourteenth century. Only some of the more simple pieces are by Guillaume de Machaut or his contemporaries, while most of the more complex works are either anonymous or by named composers of the following generation who were in the service of the Courts of Foix and Aragon, of the Papal Palace at Avignon, or of the Duc de Berry.

Only the two compositions in the manuscript by Baude Cordier, a predecessor of Dufay, are stylistically and in their technique of notation, of a somewhat later period. They are dedicatory pieces for a lady and a seigneur written in the shapes of a heart and a circle and placed like the index at the beginning of the old corpus, probably to replace the original first fascicle, which is missing. These are the only two pieces written in the French system of the five-line stave, whereas all the others, probably copied by an Italian who did not know French, are on the six-line stave system usually found in Italian manuscripts. The large number of errors in the French texts and mistakes in the copying of the music lead to the assumption that the five fascicles of the old corpus were copied from original French five-line stave manuscripts of a different format, obviously by a copyist who did not understand what he was copying. For this reason the manuscript has long been regarded as an Italian copy of a French original. Recent doubts expressed concerning the accuracy of these early theories are not convincing, because an inscription on the title page of the manuscript establishes that in 1461 the book belonged to the Florentine family of Francesco d'Altobianco degli Alberti, which, banished from Florence in 1401, had to live for a long time in France.

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