Textual and Chant Traditions of the Kyries tenebrarum in Portugal, and Polyphony around 1500

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The oldest extant piece of polyphonic music to have certainly originated in the Portuguese Royal Chapel, whose composition can be confidently dated from before or around 1500, is an anonymous three-voice, chant-based setting of the Kyries tenebrarum appearing as an appendix to a mid-sixteenth-century copy of the Royal Chapel’s ceremonial once owned by the Infanta Maria of Portugal, Princess of Parma, and now housed at the National Library of Naples. This article provides a context for this piece by tracing the textual and chant traditions of the Kyries tenebrarum in Portugal. Chant paraphrase procedures used in the polyphonic setting are analysed and its main stylistic features are discussed by comparison with the few existing polyphonic pieces composed in Coimbra in about the same period. A wider perspective of the sacred polyphonic music composed in Portugal in around 1500 eventually emerges from this brief survey.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-111
Number of pages21
JournalRevista Portuguesa de Musicologia / Portuguese Journal of Musicology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Kyries tenebrarum
  • Textual and chant traditions
  • Chant-based polyphony
  • Paraphrase techniques
  • Style analysis
  • Portuguese polyphony around 1500


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