While deciding on the topic of my dissertation, I was pondering about the amount of research already done in the Early Music movement. One could assume that knowledge we have access to nowadays covers virtually every phenomenon in European music history and suffices for interpreting musical pieces of the past. Looking back to the beginnings of the movement and the environment in which it emerged- primarily hostile to any revisions of hitherto musicological knowledge and performance practices- we should be warned and avoid being complacent. Young musicians nowadays are facing gradual changes in the meaning of the “Early Music” notion, which stands on a verge of solidifying into a style, or rather a system of styles, supported by primary sources and seemingly beyond dispute- in opposition to ever so evolving and dialectic interdisciplinary movement, which it was from the beginning. The decadent atmosphere of having nothing else to discover or contribute does not have to lead us into giving in to a purely commercial and craft-like approach to historically informed performance. It can lead us instead to reflect upon what we could have been omitting, that conveyed us to the crisis we are in today, caused by non-constructive discourse. I think we are not focusing enough on regions fairly new to the movement, which are hiding a threshold of documents, instruments, and repertoire which is being discovered, researched,  and recorded just now. [2] Sometimes the barrier one could encounter in researching this music is purely linguistic, since most of the secondary sources are available only in local languages. As a person with access to it, I felt responsible for providing research and information about the musical legacy of central-eastern Europe, in a more accessible English language, and to the audience that is less likely to know about it. It appears to be that the flaw euro-centrism or western-centrism once noticed, can open us to the blind-spots in maps of our knowledge and understanding.

Finding the aforementioned path, and getting to know the musical legacy of my cultural heritage, which I define as Slavonic, led me to the musical collection of Diocesan Library in Sandomierz. It attracted my interest for several important reasons. First of all, it shocked me that the first professional, academically led query of it took place only in 2010. New publications on its topic came out even during the time of writing my thesis (2019)[3]. The recentness of secondary sources was not unique for this particular collection; while researching other Polish collections of that time, I found out that the vast majority of publications come from the years 2010-2020. [4] In my experience with learning the local history of music in Polish music schools, curricula openly ignore the majority of the 17th century and virtually the whole 18th century [5]. So-called, „baroque" or „galant" music was for a long time deliberately omitted in music education of Poland, (with no exception to higher education curriculae[6] ), and writing about it, even in a small sample of this collection, is certainly going to contribute to my local Early Music environment. By bringing attention to this issue and spreading the knowledge about the repertoire, this research can be part of a wider movement of going back to local musical sources, which, fortunately, is already beginning.[7]

The other reason for this choice is my interest in Women’s Studies in music. The musical collection of Diocesan Library of Sandomierz is a miscellany of several cloisters collections of the region but the vast majority of it is musical manuscripts coming from benedictine nuns cloister, where, after its cassation, Library was founded and is located till this day. The collection was mostly assembled by providing music (both buying, copying, and writing) for, quite a renowned and prolific at the time, nuns’ choir and orchestra. [8] While talking about the repertoire, its background, purpose, and performance in almost all cases we would refer to local benedictine’s capella and its customs, or at least assume it in case of non-ascertained provenance. The provenance of non-local works very often traces back to female cloisters as well. In the larger picture, this research can contribute to Women’s Studies in music by highlighting the importance of musical practice in female cloisters, in this case in Lower Poland of the 18th century.

Another reason for choosing the miscellany is its high importance to 18th-century Polish musical sources. Although benedictines’ legacy consists of the majority of our collection, there are 13 other provenances within it. In several cases, we find unica- the only remaining pieces of particular collections, proving its earlier existence.

Among other, obvious reasons to research the BDS collection, are sheer curiosity, wish to find a new, exciting repertoire, and a natural interest in my own cultural heritage. My biggest wish regarding this research, however, is that it will attract the reader’s attention and open her or his mind to bits and pieces of musical history, which still obscure, can inspire us to reach outside our usual field of interest. This is after all the way we keep our perspectives and outlooks fresh- by distancing ourselves from the known area and trying to map blind spots and unknown unknowns of our knowledge.

However rich and enchanting musical miscellany of the Diocesan Library of Sandomierz is, by virtue of the academic character of this paper, I restricted my interest to its instrumental chamber music section. In the whole collection, containing around 700 manuscripts, mostly of vocal-instrumental music, chamber pieces representation is relatively small- around 30-40.[9] From the accessible material, I chose 31 positions that could be ascertained as chamber pieces[10] and serve as a realistic scope of what kind and what quality of the material was preserved in the miscellany. I mention the detailed criteria in the table of instrumental chamber pieces following this introduction. Analysis of instrumental music (after all, not bound regionally or with any religion) could result in broader conclusions about local musical practices as well as affecting its foreign and regional influences. Answering my research question, “what are the characteristics of instrumental chamber music of Diocesan Library in Sandomierz”, I decided to analyze the pieces and presentation of my findings through text and performance. I based my analysis on describing/assigning genre, composer, date, provenance, and instrumentation to the piece. In several cases, I included comparative analysis between pieces from BDS and those from outside of the collection. I avail myself of works by various Polish musicologists, with special regard to Magdalena Walter-Mazur (Ph. D., Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań) and prof Alina Mądry (DSc, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań), who provided a lot of invaluable writing on the collection.