Musicus Online Museum

Organ Intabulation

Organ Intabulation based on a Motet by Philippe de Vitry: In arboris ⁄ Tuba sacre ⁄ Virgo sum


Philip the Bold was the Duke of Burgundy from 1364 until his death in 1404. This period saw a significant rise in the power and political influence of the duchy of Burgundy. Magnificent ceremonies and extravagant displays of unprecedented luxuriance were designed to project the wealth and political power of Burgundy. Music played an important role in court life, both sacred and secular. Records indicate Philip spent lavishly on organs, and on obtaining the best organists for his court. Unfortunately no written organ music survives from Philip’s court. However, one can attempt to recreate one type of piece that his court organists might have played: a motet intabulation. At this time, keyboard players would often adapt vocal pieces to their instrument by arranging them in a written form (“intabulation”). Typically these adaptations add florid decoration to the vocal melody and simplify the accompanying parts. The motet selected here – “In arboris/Tuba sacre fidei/Virgo sum” by Philippe de Vitry – is contained in a manuscript of vocal music owned by Philip’s court. Its texts praise the Virgin Mary and speak of the triumph of faith over reason. Philippe de Vitry had a highly successful career as a composer, theorist, diplomat, and administrator in mid-fourteenth century Paris. The duke and the composer may have met each other at the Valois court in Paris – Philip stayed there in the early 1360s after a period of captivity in England, and Vitry was a frequent guest at the court.


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