University of Notre Dame
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Heinrich Scheidemann's Motet Intabulations

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posted on 2020-07-20, 00:00 authored by Heejin Kim

The term ‘intabulation’ refers to an arrangement of a polyphonic vocal piece for keyboard or plucked string instruments. Though the practice of intabulation was widely cultivated in earlier times, in modern times scholars have shown little interest in this genre and counted it simply as arrangement rather than original instrumental music. In some ways, intabulation serves as the early music equivalent of modern piano arrangements of orchestral scores. However, almost invariably, intabulations are enriched by extensive embellishment. Therefore, intabulations of early music often provide valuable evidence for the historical keyboard ornamentation of earlier styles of vocal music.

In the 1950s, a significant portion of Scheidemann’s music, including his intabulations, was discovered in Clausthal-Zellerfeld in Germany. The intabulations were first published in the 1990s and have since that time received a certain amount of attention. In my studies, I will investigate Scheidemann’s art as presented in his motet intabulations with a view of testifying to his artistic maturity as shown in these works. My thesis is intended to study the influence of his teacher, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, as well as the historical background, why such motet intabulations for organ were created in seventeenth-century Hamburg, and how Scheidemann arranged vocal motets into keyboard music by employing diverse colors of figuration patterns, which he called “colorations (Kolorierungen).”

The thesis will consist of five chapters. In chapter one, I will give an introduction looking at the history of vocal intabulation from its beginning in the fourteenth century. I will examine several manuscripts, including the arrangements of motets in the Robertsbridge Codex of the fourteenth century, intabulations in the Buxheimer Orgelbuch, from fifteenth-century Germany, and Ammerbach’s Orgel oder Instrument Tabulaturbuch,

a collection of keyboard intabulations published in the sixteenth century. In chapter two, I will examine three important influences on Scheidemann’s highly developed intabulation technique. The main focus of the third and fourth chapters is the figurations treated in Sweelinck’s and Scheidemann’s works, and how they are similar or different. In each chapter, I will look at the figurations displayed in Sweelinck’s sacred variations and Scheidemann’s intabulations. I will also consider Scheidemann’s approach to figuration with reference to the original vocal models. In the fifth and final chapter, I will look at the position of Scheidemann’s motet intabulations as the culmination of the genre in the mid seventeenth century. This thesis will demonstrate that Scheidemann’s motet intabulations are the equal in every respect of his other organ works and deserve a place among the very finest and the very last of the genre.


Date Modified


CIP Code

  • 39.0501

Research Director(s)

Alexander Blachly


  • Doctor of Musical Arts

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

Alternate Identifier


Library Record


OCLC Number


Program Name

  • Sacred Music

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