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  Iš Braunsbergo vargonų tabulatūros XVII a. pirmieji dešimtmečiai - About publication 

From Braunsberg organ Tablature

The early decades of the 17th century


Braunsberg Organ Tablature (Latin, tabula – table, slate) is a manuscript with a complicated fate. Its prehistory is linked with the changes in the cultural life of Western Europe in the junction of the 16th–17th centuries, which had an effect on the art, architecture, literature and music of many countries as well as the Republic of Two Nations.


With the growth of instrumental music genres in the 17th century, 16th-century liturgical and secular vocal works were often transcribed for organ. The 17th century saw the emergence of organ tablatures written in a unique, but short-lived German form of notation (pitches notated as letters without staves and bar lines, rhythmic values described in graphic signs). Such manuscripts were universal and served as scores for performers. Braunsberg Tablature, a significant and prominent monument of musical culture, reflects on the wide cultural panorama of 17th-century Eastern Prussia, Poland and Lithuania as well as their musical ties. The Tablature had its origin in the 17th century in the Jesuit College of Braunsberg, which belonged to the Lithuanian Jesuit province. Its faculty included professors of the Vilnius University (established in 1579) including Simonas Berentas, Janas Brantas, Martynas Krecmeris and Motiejus Kazimieras Sarbievijus. As professors of law, moral theology, classic languages and rhetoric among other sciences, they sought to enrich college musical life and wrote church music compositions. In Lithuanian Jesuit colleges the students were taught singing diverse secular music, often performed by the lodgers of the Jesuit bursars, and featured in celebrations and college theatre productions. 


The Vilnius Academy inventory of the 17th century lists various string, wood and brass instruments that belonged to the cappella. The cappella had a rich and substantial nototeque; its members performed not only in various churches, college theatre productions, paratheatrical events, but also city entertainments and celebrations. Close ties between the Jesuits of Vilnius and Braunsberg suggest that a great number of tablature works might have been shared between the two institutions of higher education.


From 1612 on Jacobus Apfell, the compiler of this Tablature, was supposedly an active participant in Braunsberg College music life. It is not known when Apfell withdrew from studies and left Braunsberg for the Monastery of Cistercians in Oliwa. He took there the music manuscript Liber tabulatura, named after the first words appearing in Tablature. It is, however, known that Apfell served as a deacon in the Oliwa Monastery in 1624, and that tending the sick he was stricken by the plague and died in 1653. 


After the Oliwa Monastery was closed, from 1831 until the WWII,  the Tablature was housed in the Königsberg State Archives. Regular change of depository determined the name of the manuscript – Königsberg, Oliwa, Braunsberg and Vilnius. However, due to the place of its origin it should be called Braunsberg Organ Tablature. The manuscript includes over 300 sacred and secular works, mainly vocal intabulations – motets, chants, Mass or movements from it, madrigals, and canzones. Instrumental compositions feature various dances – pavanes, passamezzos, galliards, choreas, etc., considerably less of fantasias, fugues, toni (a form of early prelude), ricercari, and toccatas. It is assumed that  the largest part of the manuscript was completed in Braunsberg College. Secular vocal works and various dance intabulations constitute nearly 75 percent of the Tablature. Most likely, such a wide repertoire was called for by the manifold demands of the Jesuit colleges. The last part of the manuscript is written by a different hand; notated not as scrupulously, the repertoire is dominated by sacred music which, perhaps, was more apt to the repertoire performed in the Oliwa Monastery, and thus, probably written down there.


The manuscript features ornamental drawings as well as didactic sentences so characteristic of the Jesuit education program, extolling virtue, the benefits of science, obedience, and faith in God.

The Tablature includes intabulations of renowned 16th–17th Western European composers such as Agostino Agazzari, Giovanni Matteo Asolos, Gregorio Zucchini, Bartolomeo Roy, Hieronimus Praetorius William Byrd, Hans Leo Hasler, Andreas Hakenberger, Horatio Vecchi, Lodovico da Viadana, etc. Orlando di Lasso is represented by a number of compositions including the popular Susana. This theme based on a Biblical scenario was popular among composers at the time. Susana was performed by various instrumental ensembles and several vocal versions exist.

The manuscript also includes works by composers who worked in Prussia, Poland and Lithuania.

Petrus de Drusina (157?– 1611), musician of Polish heritage, studied in Dresden and was associated with Protestant Churches in Gdansk and Elbing. The disciple of Annibale Stabile and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina came to the palace of the ruler of the Republic of Two Nations from Italy. He worked as a Kapellmeister in Jesuit College Germanicum. Lithuanian Jesuit kept very close ties with this College.


Diomedes Cato (around 1570–after 1607), a renowned Italian composer and lutenist, worked in Stanisław Kostka’s (the nobleman and ruler of the Republic of Two Nations) palace from 1588. For some time he lived in Vilnius. Cato’s collection of songs, published in Krakow in 1607, included two songs dedicated to Saint Casimir, the patron saint of Lithuania, who is buried in Vilnius Cathedral.


Born in Northern Italy in the second half of the 16th century, Giovanni Batista Cocciola went to look for employment in distant northern lands. It is thought that he served Lithuanian and Polish noblemen, worked at Varmia Bishop’s palace and was associated with the Jesuit College of Braunsberg.  He distinguished himself as a Kapellmeister of  the Vilnius palace of Leonas Sapieha (1557 – 1633), the Chancellor of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy, governor of Vilnius and Great Hetman of the LGD, author of the Third Statute of Lithuania, one of the most renowned noblemen of the GDL and the foremost political figure of the Republic of Two Nations. In the context of the Lithuanian nobility, Sapiega stood out as an ardent patron of music. His royal cappella yielded only to cappella of the Vasa court celebrated throughout Europe.


Cocciola and his service to Leonas Sapieha drew the attention of renowned 18th–19th-century biographers and reference book compilers. In 1790, Ernest Ludwig Gerber gave an account about the musician in a biographical dictionary Historisch -Biographisches Lexikon der Tonkünstler. According to him, the celebrated composer from Vercelli served as a Kapellmeister to Leonas Sapieha (the chancellor of Lithuania). His motet and eight-voice mass with basso continuo was printed in four publications in Venice in 1612. Parnassus musicus, an anthology compiled by Italian singer G.B. Bergman, included various motets by the composer. Concentus harmonini ecclesiastici, Cocciola’s collection of two-, three-, four- and five-voice works with basso continuo was published in Antwerp in 1625. Its front page indicated: “Joannis Baptistae Cocciolae Vercelensis. Illustrissimi Domini D. Leonis Sapihae Cancellarij Magni Ducatus Lituaniae Musicae Magistri”. The information on this publication was featured in Frankfurt Book Fair Catalogues in the autumn of 1625 and the spring of 1626 (Karl Albert Göhler, Die Messkataloge in Dienste der Musikalichen Geschichtsforschung, Leipzig, 1901). In 1620–1640, part of Cocciola’s output was copied to Peplin Tablature, compiled in the Cistercian Monastery. The works of Leonas Sapiega’s Kapellmeister were copied and promoted by local musicians as well as their colleagues in neighbouring countries. The Braunsberg Tablature features several compositions by Cocciola. However, he is indicated only as the composer of Veni dilecte mi. Cocciola’s authorship as well as literary texts of other compositions from Braunsberg Tablature included in the CD were deduced from various sources housed in libraries and archives in Poland, Germany, Hungary and Sweden.


The majority of the works originally included in the Tablature are unidentified. To discover their authorship is rather difficult although searching other sources which include the composer’s name or original version of the composition, does sometimes lead to success.

The fate of this manuscript is complicated. It can be traced only in fragments. The point of departure is Königsberg, the city which was home to the originators of the Lithuanian written language and which saw the publication of the first Lithuanian book, Catechismus by Martynas Mažvydas in 1547. As mentioned before, from 1831 to the end of the WWII the Tablature was housed in the Königsberg State Archives. During the war the royal city was destroyed, however fate was merciful to the Braunsberg Tablature for it was saved from fire several times. At the end of the war the archive was taken away from Königsberg and hidden in Lauksyčiai Castle. In the spring of 1945, part of the hidden books were rescued from the castle ruins by a Lithuanian scholarly expedition, which was searching for collections of Königsberg archives and libraries in mansions and castles of a devastated land. It was precisely at that point of time that some of Martynas Mažvydas’ works, Jonas Bretkūnas’ prayer book, Liudvikas Rėza’s songs, copies of the Crusader Chronicles, and edicts of 16th–18th-century Prussian kings and dukes were also found. A large part of these treasures was brought to Vilnius where the Borusicos Foundation at the Lithuanian Science Academy library was formed. Braunsberg Tablature (F 15-284) found its place there as well.

A thorough study of the tablature began as late as the end of the 20th century. The majority of the works featured on this CD have been recorded for the first time early in  the 21st century – a period of undeserved neglect that has lasted for four centuries.


                                                                 Jūratė Trilupaitienė




Utwory z Oliwskiej tabulatury organowej (ca 1619) na organy lub klawesyn. I. Piotr Drusiński (Petrus de Drusina). Diomedes CatoAnonymi. Ed; Jan Janca. Gdansk, 1992.


Giovanni Battista Cocciola. Dzieła zebrane. Edycja w opracowaniu Ireny Bieńkowskiej. Warszawa, 2004.


Jūratė Trilupaitienė, Liber Tabulatura (XVII a. vargonų tabulatūra) // Menotyra, 1995 Nr. 1.


Juozas Marcinkevičius, „Lituanistikos paieškos Rytų Prūsijoje ir Klaipėdos krašte po Antrojo pasaulinio karo“ // Knygotyra, 2000, no. 36.



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