Musical Tables

Helmut Lauterwasser

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The multifaceted nature of music transmission can be seen in an unusual musical source at the Berchtesgaden Royal Palace, in the southeastern corner of Germany. A song table (Liedertisch)–an etched slab of stone depicting music and set in a wooden frame–is now indexed in the RISM database (RISM no. 450113059).

The two-part motet “Solve jubente Deo” for six voices by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) forms the outer edge of the richly decorated and once colored stonework, so that the motet could be sung if the singers are grouped around the table. The music is nearly complete except for the bassus part, which is slightly shortened at the end, presumably due to lack of space.

This intricate work of art was made in 1591 by the stone etcher Caspar von der Sitt, who was active in the Bavarian towns of Amberg and Passau. On the outer edge of the stone, at the end of the first part of the sexta vox (a second alto voice), the craftsman immortalized himself with the words “Caspar Von der Sitt der Zeit Burger Zu Passau verfertiget 1591” (see photo).

Six similar stones by Caspar von der Sitt are known that were made between 1590 and 1599 and depict etched music, yet each one transmits a different contemporary vocal piece. The table in Berchtesgaden is dedicated to Duke William V of Bavaria, who was often also known as William the Pious. The ducal Bavarian coat of arms is portrayed in the center of the table. Slightly further out, the coats of arms of 34 cities are arranged in a ring. The following dedication can be read, set around the inside of this ring: “Dem Durchleüchtigen Hochgebornen Fürsten vnd herrn, Herrn Wilhelmen, Pfaltzgrafen bey Rhein, Hertzog in Nidern und obern Bayern etc., Ist diese Rundtaffeln, darauff ihrer Fl.Gn: sampt derselben Fürstentumb, 34. Stätt Wappen, auch 144. Teütsche Vers, vnd schone Geistliche Gesang, zu ehren gemacht, im Jar 1591.”

The song table can be seen any time during a tour of the Berchtesgaden Royal Palace.

Bibliography: Bertha Antonia Wallner, Musikalische Denkmäler der Steinätzkunst des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts nebst Beiträgen zur Musikpflege dieser Zeit. München: 1912, p. 154-338.

Photo credit: Wittelsbacher Ausgleichfonds, Munich

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