Frisian and the European Capital of Culture 2018

Simon Groot

Monday, March 5, 2018

We have received the following from Simon Groot (Universiteit van Amsterdam, RISM Netherlands):

One of the European Capitals of Culture in 2018 is Leeuwarden, the capital city of the northern Dutch province Friesland (Frisia). Although a small country, in the Netherlands several dialects of the national language do exist. The Frisians, however, do not speak a dialect, but have a completely independent language of their own. As a consequence they also have a corpus of folk songs in this language, but only a few polyphonic compositions in the Frisian language are known.

One source for these compositions is a printed edition with music by Jacques Vredeman (1557-1621), a contemporary of the well-known Amsterdam composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. This edition was printed in 1602 in Franeker (another town in Friesland) and carries the name Musica miscella (RISM A/I: V 2565). Next to Italian madrigals and French chansons, both for four and for five voices, it contains 5 four-part and 2 five-part villanellas in the Frisian language. In 2015 the KVNM presented a modern edition of this print, edited by Bernard Smilde and Rudolf Rasch (with a reconstruction of the missing alto part).

Another edition from the same period is Friesche Lust-hof (RISM-A/I: S 4708), first issued in Amsterdam 1621. This book is neither filled with polyphonic music, nor does it have texts in the Frisian language. It contains Dutch songs mainly on popular tunes, but also a few on melodies by Jacques Vredeman, the composer of Musica miscella.

Photographs: Musica miscella, title page and first piece in Frisian from the Canto partbook. Photos courtesy of Simon Groot.

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