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Amiens 162 D, ff. 121v-124 »Credo in unum deum« 2v

Notation: Entered by Hand C in a compact writing on staff system 3, where he anticipated a scarcity of space. The tenor is written in chant notation including rhomboid notes, while the contra voice is in undifferentiated square notes and ligatures. This piece was entered later than »O miranda dei caritas / Kyrie eleyson« (ff. 123v-124, Hand B), because the endings of each voice were copied into empty staves below “Miranda” in very small writing. There are several erasures and changes in the tenor (on the right-hand pages!) and a single one in the contra. Initials at the beginning are red; no further highlighting with colour in the text.

Disposition of parts: [Tenor], which carries the Credo-tune, is placed on the right-hand pages of the openings, [Contra] is on the left. This is the reverse of normal practise, which places the (tenor) voice with the pre-existent tune on the left. However, the same occurs in the sequence »Veneremur virginem« 2v (ff. 37v-41).

Edition: Amiens 162 Edition no. 11 (PDF) including a survey of erasures in the setting (no. 11b).

Text: Credo - complete in both voices.


An old-fashioned setting in simple polyphony for two equal voices constantly crossing each other. The tenor builds on the “Credo cardinalis” tune (Credo IV in GR, p. 67*), which probably originated in France around 1300 and during the next centuries became widely circulated all over Europe, always in rhythmically differentiated notation (canto fratto) and in several sources in two-part polyphony. (1) Also in Amiens 162 it is notated in note shapes, which may be interpreted rhythmically. However, everything point at that these elements were not appreciated at Corbie, and the setting was radically revised without regard for a rhythmically differentiated interpretation.

Even if the setting as it now stands contains many concords of thirds, also in parallel motion, it is strongly coloured by the sound of parallel progressions in fifths and octaves; there are also quite a few concords of fourths and one single occurrence of parallel fourths on “Crucifixus” (notes 176-177). Almost all main sections end on a fifth or octave concord on D (a single one is on E); one passage, “vivos et mortuos” (262), ends on a fourth, e-a. The setting is phrased by vertical strokes and fermatas; all notes have fermatas in “Et homo factus est” and “Et vitam venturi seculi. Amen”, and some single words are also set off by fermatas.

After the copying, the setting has been revised on the pages of the manuscript. The tune sung by the tenor in the originally notated version is identical with the in the 15th century well-known Credo-tune with some small variants (Sheer 1992 reproduces on pp. 186-187 the version of the Giunta Gradual, Venice 1499-1500; the small embellishments near line endings are not present in the Amiens Credo). Only three passages, “vivos et mortuos” (notes 257-262), “Et in spiritum … ex patre” (272-294) and “Amen” (398-401), are different. The counter voice does not in all details seem to be composed with the original tenor in mind, and it is positioned on the left-hand pages, the place usually reserved for the liturgical tune. Example 1a shows the words “Et vitam venturi seculi” (389-397) in the originally notated version, where the outline of Credo cardinalis still can be recognized in the tenor. Here we find this progression of concords: 5-4(3)-2-3-4-4-2(3)-2-5, quite dissonant and with many fourths. Example 1b shows the revised version with the tenor recomposed and the following harmony: 8-8-5-5-6-8-8-8-3, much nicer in sound without the fourths and seconds.

Example 1a, “Credo in unum deum” – as first copied:

Example 1b, “Credo in unum deum” – revised version:

It is quite obvious that the person, who did the revision, did regard the counter voice as the main voice and consequently made by far the greatest number of changes in the voice carrying the Credo cardinalis. These changes helped to pull the tune even stronger towards the Dorian central tones D and A. Some of the changes seem based on an aversion against ending a phrase on a fourth concord (cf. the survey “Erasures” appended to the edition). In three instances, stepwise progressions in the tenor have been reversed in order to end on a fifth concord (in all cases d-a). In other cases a more consonant counterpoint against the contra voice has been devised, and often in a range higher than the original tune; this applies to both passages in fermatas (see also ex. 1). Hereby the tenor became further and further removed from the well-known Credo-tune. We must presume that the setting already appeared somewhat corrupted in the scribe’s exemplar, with the placement of the voices reversed and with many wrong notes. These circumstances may simply have deceived the user into regarding the tenor as the variable counter voice.

The original two-part composition’s use of a simple measured notation (comprising two note values only: long and short) in the tenor voice would have been easy to perform if both singers were well acquainted with the presumably local version of Credo cardinalis.

Notes on the transcription:

The transcription reproduces the rhomboid notes and some c.o.p.-ligatures in the tenor voice as black note heads, all other signs (ligatures and puncta) are given as white note heads. The many corrections show that a rhythmic interpretation of the signs hardly has been of importance for the users, because rhomboid shapes (semibreves) have been replaced by puncta (breves), see “filioque” (notes 296-98), and the contra does not at all differentiate note values. The phrasing by vertical strokes is in the transcription reproduced in the following manner: Inside a sentence as small ’ticks’, while a barline indicates the start of a sentence (in the MS shown by the use of a capital and in some cases a previous stop). In some places it can be difficult to discern how the text shall be fitted to the music in the tenor; here the contra is completely clear.

PWCH February 2014, revised July 2015

1) Cf. Marco Gozzi, ‘Alle origini del canto fratto: il “Credo Cardinalis”’, Musica e storia 14 (2006), pp. 245-302, and Richard Sherr, ‘The performance of chant in the Renaissance and its interactions with polyphony’ in Thomas F. Kelly (ed.), Plainsong in the Age of Polyphony (Cambridge Studies in Performance Practice 2) Cambridge 1992, pp. 178-208, at pp. 183 ff.