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Sebastian z Felsztyna

Sebastian z Felsztyna was born in Felsztyn - the exact date is unknown, but one may assume the time between 1480 and 1490. He was an important music theorist as well as a composer. Of his education we can tell that he entered Cracow University in 1507 where he received his degree only two years later, in 1509. There are certain assumptions that either Jerzy Liban or Heinrich Finck may have been his teachers. His theoretical works were meant for teaching purposes - they deal with Gregorian chant, mensural theory and problems that arise on the question of how to accentuate recited text in liturgy. There are two treatises on Gregorian chant, the second being an enlarged, however, almost identical, version of the first: "Opusculum musice compilatum noviter" and "Opusculum musices noviter congestum". Both versions appeared in Cracow, the first one before Oct. 31st, 1517, and the expanded book in 1534. The author speaks about therapeutic and ethical possibilities of music, includes a chapter on composers ("De inventoribus musicae"); he defines music as the art of singing or playing a melody. Another chapter deals with the classification of music, and again others are on chords, scales, intervals, church modes and their usage in plainchant and more.

Next, one should mention the treatise "Opusculum musice mensuralis" (Kraków, after Oct. 31st, 1517) which was the first Polish book on mensural theory ever; in six chapters the treatise deals with all aspects of the topic, and much of the treatise is considered the author's original work, although some influence derived from other writers on music, most of all Adam von Fulda, can be found within the work. "Modus regulariter accentuandi lectiones matutinales prophetias necnon epistolas et evangelia", printed in Cracow in 1518, deals with the right way of stressing liturgical texts and gives some rules for that purpose.

There were two more theoretical treatises written by Sebastian z Felsztyna: "De musica dialogi VI" (Kraków, 1536) and "Directiones musicae ad cathedralis ecclesia Premislensis usum" (Kraków, 1543), both of which are now lost. The latter was dedicated to Mikolaj Herburt, one member of the important Herburt family who supported him through their influence and with whom he kept in touch for a long time.

Sebastian z Felsztyna also studied theology, and approx. 1528 he was appointed priest at Felsztyn and probably later at Przemysl, too. Last of all, in about 1536 he became the parish priest of Sanok, again through the influence of the Herburt family.

Of his musical compositions, the collection "Aliquot hymni ecclesiastici vario melodiarum genere editi" (Kraków, 1522) is now lost, but three of his motets have survived which are among the earliest examples of four-voice music in Poland: "Alleluja ad Rorate com prosa Ave Maria", "Alleluja, Felix es sacra virgo Maria" and "Prosa ad Rorate tempore paschali virgini Mariae laudes". They are all based on melodies from Gregorian chant which appear in long note values in the Tenor voice. By using as well florid counterpoint as also note-against-note technique, Sebastian's motets stylistically resemble those of e. g. Finck, Ghizghem or Brumel. His works were sung by the Rorantists of Wawel chapel in Kraków and included in their regular repertoire.

Information supplied by Monika Fahrnberger
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