In 1582, Jaakko Finno, headmaster of the Turku cathedral school, and Petri, a Finnish student at the university of Rostock, publish a unique collection of Latin songs for the Schola Aboensi (Latin for Turku).
This book, Piae Cantiones ecclesiasticae et scholasticae veterum episcoporum, contains music of an wide chronological and geographical scope. Stylistically the content is clearly older than the publishing date might suggest. Some compositions can be traced back to the year 1000 AD. However, the main body of the compositions belongs to the 15th-century Germanic-Bohemian tradition of cantiones. Moreover, there are links with French, Spanish and Italian sources and Flemish masters such as Jacob Obrecht, which can probably be explained by the continuing presence of Finnish students in Catholic universities all over Europe.
The hymns, most of which are Christmas songs, are grouped according to the liturgical year: Christmas, Easter and Whitsun. The remaining songs deal with the transitoriness of earthly life, the condition humaine, the life of school children, biblical subjects and the awakening of nature in spring.
Few musical collections from the 16th century have become so strongly embedded in the contemporary musical life as the Piae Cantiones in Finland. Since the rise of national romanticism in the early 20th century, they occupy a central place in the Finnish choral and church repertoire. The Finnish religious folk music also contains variations on the hymns, and composers have made arrangements of the songs, e.g. the ‘Carminalia’ by Sibelius.
Zefiro Torna performs the Piae Cantiones with 15th-century instruments, one voice and a boys choir. The academic and folkloric music traditions are brought together by the use of the Finnish cymbalo or kantele.
Els Van Laethem soprano
Jowan Merckx flute, bagpipes
Liam Fennelly fiddle
Frank Van Eycken percussion
Timo Väänänen kantele
Jurgen De bruyn lute, artistic direction
Children choir - Antwerps Kathedraalkoor directed by Sebastiaan Van Steenberge