“A true treasure, so much the more notable since it is unique”
– Sebastien de Brossard about the Codex Rost
The Codex Rost represents one of the most important sources of European instrumental music from the 17th Century. It consists of 157 works, collected and copied by the German musician and copyist Franz Rost in the years from 1640-1687. Some of the works are Trio Sonatas for violin, viola da braccio and basso continuo; many of them are written by anonymous composers.
Playing music from the Codex Rost presents a number of challenges, such as finding solutions to missing elements or, correcting various mistakes and misprints due to a poor condition of the manuscript.
The music leads to many open questions, for example: what was the intended instrumentation when written for the Viola? And, can we define a national or personal style in the compositions written by the anonymous composers?
These are only a few of the mysteries we try to puzzle out – an exciting and fascinating task!
Read an introduction to Codex Rost, article from the danish early music magazine Custos: Introduction Codex Rost
Questions of instrumentation
The music from the Codex Rost written for our instrument-combination leads to many questions. For example in the manuscript we find three different words for viola: besides the word Viola, we find Braccio, from the Italian Viola da Braccio, which directly translated means “arm viola” (to discern it from the Viola da Gamba which means “leg viola”) and finally Alto which comes from french.
These three names could all indicate the viola, though there are doubts wether they could also refer to other instruments as for example the viola da gamba, or a small bass instrument which was particularly appreciated in Italy in the early baroque period. This instrument was held like a violin, and is referred to as Viola or, by the french musician and theorist Jean Rousseau, as Basse de Violon.