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  • Reforming Music: Music and the Religious Reformations of the Sixteenth Century by Chiara Bertoglio
  • Joseph Herl
Reforming Music: Music and the Religious Reformations of the Sixteenth Century. By Chiara Bertoglio. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2017. xxxv + 836 pp.

Chiara Bertoglio has attempted to write a comprehensive introduction to sixteenth-century church music without a confessional bias. In this she has largely succeeded.

The book begins with four topical chapters: on the sixteenth century, music, sacred music, and the opinions of various reformers [End Page 92] and church leaders about music. Separate chapters follow on Luther, Calvin, the Church of England, the Council of Trent, and Catholic music after Trent. Then comes a chapter on how the different confessions used music to air their disagreements, followed by one that identifies similarities and traces borrowings among confessions. The final chapter before a brief conclusion treats the music of women. The book covers all kinds of music, including art music, chant, and hymns. Although the music is described, the book's focus is the place of music in the political, religious, and social environment. There are no notated examples of music.

Because musical terms are only occasionally defined, readers already familiar with sixteenth-century musical genres and forms will have an advantage. A glossary of terms is provided, but it is incomplete: from page 57, "imitative" and "melismatic" are in the glossary, but "homorhythmic" and the noun "affect" (a word occurring frequently) are not. An unobtrusive marking indicating terms defined in the glossary would have been helpful.

The level of scholarship is high, and the chapters on Trent and music after Trent are especially fine, as are a survey of sixteenth-century attitudes on singing in churches (134–54) and a summary of the various reformers' views on the proper use of music (180–202). Extensive bibliographies of primary and secondary sources are given, and the author seems thoroughly familiar with the latest research. It is easy to use the book as a springboard for research on more specialized topics.

Luther's view of music is accurately conveyed, although the author slips a bit in trying to derive it from the three pillars of sola fide, sola gratia, and sola scriptura, as if Luther himself coined these terms to summarize his teachings (5–6, 206–9). A fourth pillar is said to be the "universal priesthood of all believers" (206, 257, 384), which is given more importance than it deserves. According to Bertoglio, in this teaching Luther argued for "the irrelevance of ordained priesthood and the equality of all baptised in front of God" (7). Luther, of course, said no such thing, but rather considered the ordained priesthood to have been established by God. But from this definition, Bertoglio concludes that Luther's chorales avoid responsorial [End Page 93] forms because the idea of "the universal priesthood of all believers would have been at odds with the presence of a soloist alternating with the whole of the congregation" (257), an unwarranted conclusion from a misunderstood concept. More minor issues include explaining Luther's concept of justification as being "made just" (5) rather than "declared just," and mistakenly identifying Philip Melanchthon as a pastor (32).

The discussion in the four topical chapters is sometimes disjointed because details are left for succeeding chapters. Luther's ideas, for example, are introduced early (5–9), but his life is not covered until later (31–35). His thoughts on music are summarized in chapter 4, but are not discussed until chapter 5. Similarly, the treatment of music in the topical chapters is abstract, without examples (17–25, 98), which are given only later in the book. A good index would have lessened these difficulties, but many index entries and subentries have dozens of references, making it hard to find specific topics.

The chapter on women's music is interesting, although the paucity of sources renders its conclusions tentative, as the author admits (631–32). That women were authors, or at least coauthors, of several early Lutheran hymns is well known but his assertion that "the very role of mothers as the catechists of their family was likely to stimulate their creativity" (638) is unwarranted.

The editing could...


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