Jacobus Gallus

J. Gallus

Gallus Jakob - einer der bedeutendsten deutschen Contrapunktisten der zweiten Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts, hiess eingentlich Hähnel oder in der Volksmundart Handl. Um 1550 zu Krain geboren, wurde er Kapellmeister des Bischofs Stanislaus Pawlowski von Olmütz, darauf kaiserl. Kapellmeister un starb sehr berühmt am 4. Juli 1591 zu Prag. Die zahlreichen Trauergedichte auf seinen Tod bilden in der Strahover Bibliothek zu Prag eine eigene Sammlung. - G’s Ansehen als Tonsetzer war sehr gross, und er verdiente auch das Lob vollständig, welches ihn den besten italienischen Tonmeistern seiner Zeit würdig zur Seite stellte.

Hermann Mendel
Musikalische Conversations-Lexikon
Band IV, Berlin 1874


There is some little thing I would like to impart to you who cultivate music so ardently, concerning the arrangements of my painstaking work and the complaints coming from some. They complain that singers at most of the churches are often hindered by the multitude of the vocal parts, and are not up to the task because they are too few in number. Seeing that almost every bigger town has its blowers, and that there is almost none church choir without a pipe organ, and if the small number of singers is assisted by the pipe organ, I really do not perceive such an overabundance of vocal parts that could not be performed in a pleasing multitude of their voices, especially so as this will, if the singers and the other two rows individually back the choir, create a likeness of the Levites making diverse music at Solomonís commandment with their voices, cymbals, and cithers.

(Jacobus Gallus: Instructions for Musicians - Opus Musicum III, 1587)


Nunc primùm in lucem editus.
Iacobo Hándl
PRAGAE, Excudebat Georgius Nigrinus
Anno: M. D. LXXXIX.


In Harmoniae Morales, published in 1589,
Jacobus Gallus addresses musicians and music lovers:

From Jacob Handl to friends and lovers of music -- greetings.

They no longer demand of me to be up to particular tasks; everyone expects me to do all things single-handedly now. Free music has never lightly refused to lend a hand to any man worthy of freedom, and I would therefore like to oblige all, without offending anyone with my talent which the Master of all honourable arts has entrusted me with, however modest it may appear. I have devoted my undivided attention to the church choir for three years now. I have given much that is now sung and listened to daily, and I would have added more to it, were it not beyond my strength for the time being. The Art remains intact, but the string and the typesetting vigour are broken. Meanwhile, my friends try to persuade me: "Put aside your worries from time to time, join the mighty voices from the choir in the forum!" They want me to leave my serious and holy undertakings, and join their jokes, banquets, and merry-making at the fireside. Should I resist that? They are most benevolent, for they are not as eager to fill up their ears as they are to see me take good care of myself by putting serious music aside now and then.

I dedicate this to you, my noble and abiding friends, to provide you with something in which you will take delight, and myself with those who will defend me, because there is no lack of those who grumble hoarsely at Gallus’ singing. Nonetheless, love overcomes everything, and to the love of music we submit ourselves.



En excerpt from Gallus´ letter to Stanislav Pawlowski, the bishop of Olomuc,
written in Latin in the A.D. of 1580, from Prague:

To my reverend father in Christ, and illustrious prince, lord Stanislaus Pawlowsky, the bishop of Olomuc, my gentle lord -- kind greetings.
Although there are many things in life, my noble prince, that rightly claim the glory due to them, music, which is heard among all nations and used and celebrated everywhere, has always merited the highest praise. Would anyone wonder at that? For wherever you may turn your eyes, ears, or your spirit, you shall not find a single thing that hasnít been surrounded by the graceful influence of this art or completely overwhelmed by its wondrous charms. This art which has been dilligently cultivated by many, and which is the highest praise, has always been held in high esteem by all. It has the power not only to distract the mind from worries, restore strength to the weary, and console the suffering, but can likewise (if we may believe the poets) pacify the anger of the gods and change their resentment to benevolence.



Ljubljana in the time of Jacobus Gallus
From Johan Weichard Valvasor’s "Die Ehre des Hezogsthums Crain"
Laibach - Nürnberg 1689


The excerpts are taken from the work
Gallusovi predgovori in drugi dokumenti
(Gallus’ Introductions and Other Documents)
Collected and edited by Edo Skulj
Published by Druzina-Cerkveni glasbenik, Ljubljana 1991