Winchester Troper

The Winchester Troper includes perhaps the oldest large collections of two-part music in Europe, along with the Chartres Manuscript, which is approximately contemporaneous or a little later.

Manuscripts of the Winchester Troper

It consists of two English manuscripts dated c. 1000. One can be found in Oxford, in the Bodleian Library (Ms. Bodleian 775), the other in Corpus Christi, Cambridge (Ms. 473), but were copied out and originally used at Winchester Cathedral.

The organa collection and its reconstruction

Cambridge copy of the Winchester Troper contains more than 160 examples of two-part organum pieces, possibly written by Wulfstan the Cantor, though he can not have been the scribe (as some have thought) because the manuscript was written after his death.

The music contained in the troper was long considered to be indecipherable, as there are only rudimentary indications of pitch and duration by the use of a form of notation known as neumes and a tonary which classified and indicated the melodic mode (octoechos). However, recent scholarship, originally by Andreas Holschneider in Die Organa von Winchester, 1968, followed in the 1990s by Mary Berry, Christopher Page, Susan Rankin and others has allowed the music to be performed. (A recent CD of Christmas pieces from the troper can be found on "Christmas in Royal Anglo-Saxon Winchester" on the Herald AV Publications label, HAVPCD151, sung by the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, directed by Mary Berry.) Professor Rankin has recently edited a facsimile of the Cambridge manuscript, with an extensive introduction detailing how and why the books were made, as well as explaining the difficult notation and the principles behind the composition of the organum.

Tropes and liturgical drama

This troper is also notable for containing the entire liturgical drama Quem quaeritis, with music. This is the oldest extant medieval play with music, though it survives in other, earlier 10th-century manuscripts as well.

The title troper (possibly related to Byzantine-Greek troparion) refers to the practice, common in the Middle Ages of adding another section, or trope to a plainchant or section of plainchant, thus making it appropriate to a particular occasion or festival.