Sunday's New York Times brought some news about my kind of musicology. An article by Michael Beckerman (‘The Czech Lute,’ a Baroque Masterpiece, Gets Filled In, August 30) describes the lost musical source discovered by Czech musicologist Petr Danek in the Franciscan library in Slaný, about 20 miles northwest of Prague:
He noticed [a] large bound volume on a high shelf and, taking it down, realized it was a special find: the bass parts for a rare collection of vocal polyphony from the beginning of the 17th century.It's the find of a lifetime. The new edition will replace the reconstruction by early music specialist Michael Pospíšil, who is quoted in the article saying that all of the ritornellos surprised him, because they are are more complex and virtuosic than his versions.
“But then I suddenly came across something marked ‘Violino,’ ” he recalled in a recent interview. “I turned the page, and I immediately knew what it was.”
Mr. Danek muttered a Czech epithet. He had found the missing ritornellos of “The Czech Lute,” one of the great works of the Czech Baroque.
Comprising 13 strophic songs fusing erotic love and religious devotion in a combination that can seem to anticipate Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” it was published by the poet-composer Adam Michna in 1653. In the original version, each song had an instrumental introduction, which recurred between stanzas. Musical passages of this kind are called ritornellos (Italian for “little return”), and for more than 360 years, until Mr. Danek came upon them, Michna’s had been missing. The discovery was astonishing, the Czech equivalent of unearthing unknown sections of another late Mozart work, the unfinished Requiem, in the composer’s hand.