The famous of Heinrich Isaac. The (spheres) signify the coat of arms of the Medicis, patrons of the arts, and of both Heinrich Isaac and Leonardo. This program celebrates the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci.
The date of Palle Palle is unknown, likely late 15th century, but the work was clearly held in high esteem by the Medici as it is the first piece in the The Cappella Giulia Chansonnier (Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, C.G.XIII.27).
A number of scholars have assigned a numerological significance to the music. It’s important to remember that this is great music–it needs no numbers to be appreciated!
in addition, although it is likely that some composers liked to create pattern of numbers in their works, one can find many different types of patterns in almost any work.
Musicologist Alan Atlas argues cogently and persuasively that one can reckon the number of notes in the tenor part as 66, and that the number six here represents the six “palle” in the coat of arms. The version performed here, however, is 66 perfect breves long, with a long note at the end, making 67, not 66, counting the last symbol when scored up as one. Think of it as 67 bars long. Perhaps the 67th musical symbol, which concludes the work, is meant to represent the crown, as the ending note in a work was often interchangeable with a , or crown, the mark we now refer to as a fermata.
Another way to count the notes in the Tenor part is to look at the 42 note symbols as the numerological equivalent of the word “Medici.” The addition of the 7th symbol, the crown, would provides the divisor of 42 as 6×7.
In any case, one of the earliest symbols of the Medici was a group of three interlocking rings, and in the tenor part we see quite plainly the three rests grouped together to divide the tenor into symmetrical parts (image here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_Isaac#/media/File:Isaac_pallepalle.jpg).
In fact, different numerological interpretations are possible (or perhaps contradictory), as the design of the Medici shield was not static, and there are versions with eight palle, which could also match up with the eight note phrase of the tenor part.
The palle and the shield of the Medicis were in evidence throughout the city as an everpresent reminder in the time of Isaac and Da Vinci, to the point where there were even complaints about them appearing in churches.
It is possible that the title should have the word palle three times, as it sometimes is written in the music; however, in some contemporaneous accounts, it clearly appears in binary form, such as Aretino’s famous poem “Alla battaglia”:
Palle palle, Marzoccho Marzoccho
legagli strecti e pon lor buona taglia!
Special thanks to musicologist/performer Adam Gilbert; you may see all of these fabulous musicians perform with Ciaramella here (and with many other ensembles!) http://bit.ly/CiaramellaVideo
Adam Gilbert, shawm
Malachai Bandy, shawm
Rotem Gilbert, shawm
Adam Bregman, sackbut
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