Konrad Ruhland, Musikalische Rätsel. Quaerite et invenietis (Suchet und ihr werdet finden). Passau: Verlag Karl Stutz, 2009. Co-authored with Leopold Fendt and Johannes Geiger. Pp. 237. ISBN 978-3-88849-140-5.
Practice in solving puzzle canons, according to Peter Schubert (2008, p. 152), "is fundamental to Renaissance musical thinking, because it entails visualizing ways to combine melodies, imagining music that is not written down." The vogue for constructing, solving, and singing puzzle canons did by no means end with the Renaissance, but continued well into the late Baroque era and even into more recent times, a fact demonstrated in a relatively new book by Konrad Ruhland (1932-2010). Musikalische Rätsel is an anthology of canons written approximately between 1450 and 1770, with an emphasis on the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Many famous names, such as Guillaume Dufay and Hans Leo Hassler, are represented, as well as others less well known.
Ruhland is remembered as a pioneer, in Germany, of the early music revival. His numerous recordings, featuring Capella Antiqua München, include rarely heard settings of the Mass by such diverse composers as Machault and Josquin, as well as Renaissance love songs and Gregorian chants. In this anthology, published shortly before his untimely death, Ruhland conveys to the reader his life-long passion for collecting puzzle canons of various kinds. The first highlight of this passion was when, as a pupil, he came across the legendary canon "Sumer is icumen in," one of the earliest known examples of English polyphonic music. His curiosity was further excited by Palestrina's Missa ad fugam in perpetuo canone. In an anthology published by Fritz Jöde, Ruhland for the first time encountered esoteric and complex puzzle canons, written by Adam Gumpelzhaimer and Michael Praetorius. This prompted him to study Gumpelzhaimer's Compendium Musicae (Augsburg, 1595), which, according to Ruhland, might easily have provided enough material for a second book on puzzle canons.
Musikalische Rätsel does not primarily address an academic audience. As stated in the preface, the book is an attempt to inspire the readers to perform the canons compiled in it, because, according to Ruhland, music becomes music only when it becomes sound (p. 15). The book features not only facsimiles of printed and handwritten puzzle canons, but also modern transcriptions intended to facilitate performance. This makes it a comprehensive and helpful collection of canons, likely to be of interest to a wide audience, including singers and scholars. In choral settings, canons are sometimes used as warm-up exercises to relieve tension, for which reason the book may appeal to choral directors. With few exceptions, the canons are set to Latin texts. Hence, knowledge of German is not required in order to enjoy the book.
BibliographySchubert, Peter (2008). Modal Counterpoint, Renaissance Style, 2nd edn. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.