Gabriel Tetzel

(1999 - 2000)

  • Tenor, Flute, Oboe (or Soprano Saxophone), Clarinet, Viola, 'Cello, Piano
  • Duration: 6 min.


Wall of a ruined church, Northern Spain

In 1465 Leo of Rozmital set off with a great entourage on a journey through Europe to "visit all Christian kingdoms, also all principlaities in Germany and foreign countries, ecclesiastical and lay, and above all to visit the Holy Sepulchre and the beloved Saint James." Rozmital's main goal however, seems to have been to gain support for his recently excommunicated brother-in-law, the King of Bohemia. Among his retinue were two chroniclers: a Czech polyglot known only as Schasek, and a wealthy landowner from Nuremburg, Gabriel Tetzel. Throughout their journey the group was plagued by numerous troubles, among them bandits and disease, until they finally arrived at, and at first were denied entry to, the cathedral at Compostela in Northwestern Spain. Little is known of Tetzel othar than his position and what appears to have been a benign temperment. Upon their return to Bohemia, Rozmital awarded Tetzel two horses and a sum of money.

In the spring of 1996, I was able to retrace a portion of their route, one thousand miles on foot across France and Spain. In retrospect, I could see that while landscapes and cultures changed slowly from the mountains of the Auvergne to the Basque region and weeks later the flat plains of the meseta, overall the change was profound. On the journey, I conceived of an imaginary songbook, the Cancionero Anónimo, from which any number of works could be discovered.

This piece imagines an aging Tetzel, moving between memory and reality. Along the way his landscape changes, his mind opens to more possibilities and his rhythm slows with the coming of night. Musically this is accomplished by six note harmonic-tonal clouds that shift one note at a time to become, at the end of the piece, a completely different set, all of which are derivations of the initial six note set; a musical pilgrimage of a sort. The rhythm of the piece follows essentially the same procedure. Tetzel's song is not meant to be dramatic, nor to indulge in a post-modern quasi-medieviality, but simply to reflect on the internal motions of a man.

The Camino


He had with him Jan Scrobitz Kollattbratt, Lord Buyan von Schwanburck, Achatz Frodner, Petipesky, Knysto, Indersyz, and three noble pages, among them a banneret's son...

Winter and summer it is hot there, snow never falls, and it is hot beyond belief. We rode for many days, and came to markets and villages, but no one would take us in, and we had to lie in the fields under the sky.

from Malcolm Letts, trs., ed., The Travels of Leo of Rozmital through Germany, Flanders, England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. 1465-1467. (Cambridge, 1957) 20,82.


Merkin Concert Hall, New York March 30, 2005
Alex Richardson, tenor
Ulla Suokko, flute
Eliot Gattegno, soprano saxophone
Carol McGonnel, clarinet
Maiya Paipach, viola
Joanne Lin, cello
Cristina Valdes, piano

Matthew Cody, conductor

Previous Performances

Jordan Hall, Boston April 18, 2000
Stephen Beaudoin, tenor
Natalie Debikey, flute
Sarah Boyle, oboe
Michael Norsworthy, clarinet
Leandro Vargas, viola
Sam Ou, cello
Amy Cheng, piano

Orlando Cela, conductor

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