Settings of the Ordinary in the Late Fifteenth Century
: The Masses of Firminus Caron

  • Nicolò Ferrari

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In light of the recent literature on the polyphonic settings of the Ordinarium Missae in the fifteenth century, and of new discoveries regarding the figure of Firminus Caron, a reassessment of his corpus of Masses has become necessary. This thesis seeks to examine the five settings composed by Caron, as well as to re-evaluate modern attribution to him of a further seven Masses; these reveal to be a useful case study that allows a scrutiny of some of the most debated issues of Medieval and Renaissance musicology.

Chapter 1 examines the situation of the textual tradition, describing the manuscripts that transmit Caron’s Masses, and provides an analysis of the cantus firmi used and their treatment. Chapter 2 assess the modern attribution to Caron of the Missa Thomas cesus transmitted in the manuscript VatSP B80, the context put forward for the composition of this Mass, and the implications it would have on Caron’s biography. Both the attribution and the context are rejected on the basis of an examination of the historical and cultural context, and of the stylistic methodology used. Chapter 3 and 4 deal with the fifteenth century tradition of L’homme armé settings, from both a musicological and historical point of view. In Chapter 3 the origins and early chronology of the tradition are discussed, along with a new analysis of Caron’s Missa L’homme armé. There is also a discussion on the modern attributions, to Caron and others, of the six anonymous settings transmitted in NapBN 40. Chapter 4 explores the fifteenth-century crusading movement, its propaganda, and the link with L’homme armé tradition. The manuscript NapBN 40 is used as a case study: a new identification of the coat of arms in the manuscript is proposed, with an assessment of its donation to Beatrice of Aragon. Chapter 5 evaluates the methodologies adopted by critical editions of fifteenth-century sacred music, in order to find methodologically sound criteria for the edition of Caron’s Masses. Chapter 6 and 7 focus in detail on some philological issues related to text underlay and accidental inflections, arguing that in some case they reveal an authorial intervention. These are followed by a new complete critical edition of Caron’s Masses.

These chapters contribute towards a new understanding not just of Caron’s Masses but also of some general matters concerning the history of fifteenth-century music. Also, the critical edition provides a methodologically up-to-date text that can be used for any further investigation on this topic.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKatherine Lewis (Main Supervisor)

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