Christian Sacred Music from Transylvania

Christian Sacred Music from Transylvania

Part of multi-ethnic empires (Roman, Austrian and Austro-Hungarian), at times an autonomous principality under Ottoman suzerainty (1526-1699), Transylvania is, together with Wallachia and Moldova one of the great Romanian historical regions, becoming part of the Kingdom of Romania in 1918. Transylvania is bordered by the Oriental and Southern Carpathians and the Apuseni Mountains, while in an extended geographical sense it also includes the western regions of Banat and Crișana and, on the north-northwest of today’s Romania, Maramureș. Over the years, many religious congregations inhabited Transylvania – Orthodox, Roman and Greek Catholics, Protestants and Calvinists as well as Jews and, today, later Protestant denominational families such as Baptists or Pentecostals.

This issue is dedicated to Christian vocal and instrumental sacred music from Transylvania (including the Banat area) and to the intersections it engendered in the quite diverse cultural and ethnic space of this province. More than in Moldavia and Wallachia, musical life (and, with it, church music practices) in Transylvania claimed a Central and Western Europe ancestry, adopting almost instantly specific genres and forms. Recruited from prestigious music institutions, mainly from Vienna and Prague, a series of Austrian, Czech, Italian or German musicians worked and composed in Transylvania: Michael Haydn, Joseph Haydn’s younger brother (1737-1806), or Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799).

Liturgical plainchant musical practices in Transylvania and the role that some of the works played in the anti-Ottoman dispute during the Crusades form the subject chosen by professor and Gregorian music palaeographer Elena Șorban from the Gheorghe Dima Music Academy in Cluj-Napoca: The Medieval Anti-Ottoman Combat and Its Emblematic Figure Saint Ioannes de Capistrano in Late Transylvanian Franciscan Plainchant. The research, conducted in libraries in Hungary, Poland, and Austria, investigates Missa contra paganos, attributed to Franciscan Friar Saint John of Capistrano (1386-1456) and held in manuscript (MS. I. 3, dated 1730) in the Batthyaneum Library in Alba Iulia (Romania) in the wider context of the saint’s cult expanding in Central and Eastern Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The study signed by Franz Metz, PhD (Romanian independent researcher, organist, and conductor living in Munich) focuses on the sacred music of the Germans living in Banat, especially on the music made after the region’s liberation from Ottoman rule in 1716. The author follows the phenomenon of the migration of colonisers coming from the south of the German Empire, Italy, and France, and settling in Banat, in parallel with the proliferation and adaptation of their particular liturgical, even Western monastic, repertoires, which would construct the liturgical identity of the new populations settled in the area. The musical life of the Dome of Timișoara, seen as a model for the development of church music in the other musical centres from Banat, an introduction to the famous figures who served as the Dome’s directors of music, and the intersection with the musical practices of other religious congregations are some other subjects Franz Metz, PhD looks into.

The research of Erich Türk, PhD, associate professor at the Gheorghe Dima Music Academy in Cluj-Napoca, Particular Features of the Transylvanian Organ Landscape, centres on the musical instrument dominating Transylvania’s sacred space: the organ. The study reveals multiple layers of analysis: investigating a patrimony of over 1000 such instruments, 85% of them more than 100 years old, it looks at their history, the famous figures who built and repaired them, and their insecure condition under the communist regime and respective authorities’ lack of interest in this patrimony, as well as at the musicological and anthropological research potential of such a domain. On another level, the author analyses the various roles the organ played in the liturgical practices of the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churches, on the one hand, and of Calvinist and Unitarian congregations, on the other hand.

The chapter Thoughts includes a study by Ioan Haplea, PhD, professor at the Gheorghe Dima Music Academy in Cluj-Napoca, Speranța Rădulescu’s Ethnophonie Series: An Occasion for Reflection. Itself a musical anthropology research, the review examines 11 of the 29 CDs in the Ethnophonie series, dedicated to Transylvanian music and featuring diverse and diversified musical repertoires, a valuable archive of “sound colours” defining – in times past and perhaps now too – the traditional societies in Transylvania.

The thematic issue of Musica Sacra magazine also contains two book reviews (Franz Metz, Heinrich Weidt: Der Lebensweg eines deutschen Kapellmeisters im Europa des 19. Jahrhunderts and Heinrich Weidt, Lieder, Duette, Quartette, Klaviermusik, ed. Franz Metz, Edition Musik Südost, Munich, 2015, 2018) by Johann Fernbach, PhD, associate professor at the Faculty of Music of the West University in Timișoara.


Nicolae Gheorghiță
English version by Maria Monica Bojin

Download as PDF