Hildegard and quilismas
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,839
    I've set in Gregorio a "Solesmesified" edition of Hildegard of Bingen's "O magne Pater", using 3 different editions plus the Riesenkodex facsimile. My question has to do with quilismas. In the chant we all know and love, one always sees the quilisma as the center notes of a scandicus; I don't recall ever seeing it in any other context, which is handy when you're reading from the Liber Brevior and aren't sure whether in fact it IS a quilisma. But in Hildegard it's different: in this piece at least, a common figure is to have a punctum followed by a torculus beginning on the same pitch, and that first pitch is a quilisma followed by a third, eg:

    g g b a
    p q

    Is this a German "chant dialect" thing? I know that German sources often have a minor 3rd instead of a step, going into a cadence. Or is it a specifically "Hildegardian" feature? I'm tempted to Solesmize these figures (move the quilismas up a step), but I need some historical justification.

    And how to perform this? The usual lengthen-the-first-note thing seems pointless, since it's already lengthened by the quilisma. One could sing it as an ornament, but in the recordings I've listen to, people seem to warble anywhere BUT at a quilisma. And what's with scholarly editions not considering the quilisma to be valuable information in spite of it being clear as day in the facsimile?
  • [T]he quilisma may be looked upon as a kind of ascending portamento. This is a plausible interpretation, for it agrees with the data furnished by the MSS. As a matter of fact an ascending portamento invariably requires the lower note to be sustained, for the voice rests on it before gliding smoothly upwards, and this is just what the MSS indicate. These scanty references in mediaeval writers will not perhaps content all our readers, and those who wish are free to treat the quilisma as an ordinary note, light, and without any portamento. This makes an easier rendering, which is a point worthy of consideration. Even in this case however, the lengthening of the notes preceding the quilisma must be maintained, for this is an ascertained fact. (Mocquereau: Le Nombre Musical Gregorien/A Study of Gregorian Musical Rhythm, p. 419)
    If Dom Mocquereau was correct in his interpretation (and I believe he was), it doesn't matter where the quilisma is actually positioned on the staff, only the position of the preceding and following notes. Perhaps the placement in the Riesenkodex acknowledges that the portamento begins on the preceding note.
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