Jerzy Liban of Legnica
Jerzy Liban (1464 – after 1546) occupies an important and lasting position in the Polish culture of the Renaissance. An outstanding and versatile humanist, he was a philologist skilled in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, a theorist of music, teacher, publisher and composer. He probably came from a German family named Weihrauch, meaning “incense” and ”libanos” in Greek. The Church of St Peter and St Paul collegiate school in his hometown of Legnica provided his early education. From 1494 he studied at the Cracow Academy and he continued his studies in Cologne. He spent the rest of his life in Cracow, teaching at the Academy and St Mary’s Church School. He worked as a cantor, teacher and rector. Although of German descent.
Jerzy Liban felt a Pole and his life and work were strongly connected with Poland. He called it patria nostra, or our fatherland, and regarded the Polish language as the tongue of his fathers: sermo patrium nostrum id est Polonus In his published works (more than a dozen) Liban raised some universal issues of philosophy, philology, history, medicine, law, theology and music, which was the sole subject of two of his works. His first written work, entitled De accentuum ecclesiasticorum exquisite ratione (On the Exquisite Method of Ecclesiastical Accentuation), dedicated to the Bishop of Cracow Piotr Gamrat, was printed around 1539. though no date was stated. lt discusses the accentuation and prosody of liturgical chants. As examples of model execution the author presents a prayer for King Sigismund ] (Oratio pro Rege) and a lesson praising the life and activity of the king (Epistola de Rege Sigismunda), both using his own original text. Finally, the treatise contains a polyphonic piece in four voices (disoantus, altus, tenor, and contratenor), based on the tune of a choral antiphon, entitled Ortus de Polonia. The composition dedicated to St. Stanislaus, the patron saint of Poland, was created on the occasion of Liban’s coming to Cracow in 1501. The other treatise on music, De musicae Iaudibus oratio (Oration in Praise of Music) was published in 1540 by the Cracow printing house of Jan Halicz. As emphasized by the author, it contains a lecture of his delivered in 1528 in Cracow, most probably at St Mary’s School. Starting with an enthusiastic praise of music, it proceeds with the presentation of basic issues from the theory of music. psalm tones in particular (8 toni psalmorum and the tonus peregrinus).
Liban illustrated his retlections with short polyphonic examples of the first line of the Magnificat in eight tones and Psalm