Exhibition 'Petrus Alamire. Polyphony in the picture'

Expo 'Petrus Alamire. Meerstemmigheid in beeld'

The recently restored Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady will host an exhibition where unique illuminated music manuscripts and masterpieces of Flemish primitives will converge, embedded in a digital multimedia world.

Peter Imhoff (ca 1470 - 1536), also known as Petrus Alamire, was born into a well-known merchant family in Nuremberg, where he was presumably trained as a musician and music copyist. Following family members travelling on business, he journeyed to the Low Countries shortly before 1500, where he was commissioned to produce music manuscripts for Margaret of Austria and Archduke Charles (later emperor Charles V). He turns up as a businessman, a spy for Henry VIII and a courier for Erasmus and other humanists. He also kept personal contacts with several European courts and with powerful merchants and bankers. This network ensured that the music manuscripts, still famous today, were disseminated throughout Europe from Flanders.

Choirbooks in the Antwerp Cathedral

Taking advantage of seven extraordinary music manuscripts from the workshop of Petrus Alamire, preserved in our country, you can get immersed in the Flanders and the Europe of around 1500, getting acquainted with the rulers, composers, musicians, the arts and the world view. These choir- and songbooks from which the singers sang straightaway, will be given visual and auditory life. Not only will you see the skill with which they were made, but by virtue of digital images of the most beautiful pages and the most splendid details you will be in a position to access the whole manuscript to boot. Aided by a headphone you will enter a universe from 500 years ago, pride of place evidently being given to music and polyphony. After the seven case stories you can enjoy total immersion into the sound world of early 16th-century polyphony. Walking through a sound and video installation by artist Rudi Knoops, you will experience the polyphonic texture of the music, as a whole or as a multitude of individual musical lineaments, seeing the musicians at work. The story of the manuscript will be further illustrated by artworks (and objects) from the collection of Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. On view will be works by Gerard David, Bernard van Orley, Ambrosius Benson and others.

International Conference: Petrus Alamire - New Perspectives on Polyphony

From 18 to 23 August 2015

The opening of the exhibition will be attended by musicologists, performers of polyphony and managers of early music festivals from all over the world. They will converge on Antwerp for a five-day international conference to engage in a dialogue on the latest musicological theories about the Alamire manuscripts, their history, significance, repertoire, etc. as well as discussing performance practice of late medieval polyphony.

This exhibition is the result of years of research by the Alamire Foundation, the Centre for the Study of Music in the Low Countries affiliated with the Catholic University of Leuven and is part of the Laus Polyphoniae Festival that will take place in Antwerp from August 19th until August 30th. Visit www.amuz.be to find out more about the festival.

(News item August 14, 2015)