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James Whitbourn

Publisher: Chester Music

A brief story of Peter Abelard (2011)
Chester Music Ltd
Small Ensemble (2-6 players)
Year Composed
7 Minutes
Alternate Orchestration
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Programme Note
James Whitbourn A brief story of Peter Abelard (2011)
Peter Abelard was a medieval philosopher, poet and musician, born in France in 1079. He taught at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, lodging with Canon Fulbert, who admired his work. In time, he also became tutor to Fulbert's beautiful seventeen-yearold niece, Heloïse.

Abelard and Heloïse began a passionate love affair (Dance of Peter and Heloïse), which resulted in a son, Astrolabe.

For the sake of Abelard's position, they married secretly, and Canon Fulbert was
present at their marriage. But Fulbert later reacted furiously to news that Abelard had sent Heloïse to a convent, believing that he had abandoned her in favour of his own career. In revenge, he had Abelard castrated (Revenge of Canon Fulbert).

After his mutilation, Abelard became a monk, and he and Heloïse remained constant correspondents for the remainder of his life. He composed a hymnbook for Heloïse, who by then was Abbess of the convent of the Paraclete. Among the hymns was a visionary poem of the New Jerusalem, set to a beautiful melody in the Dorian mode,
O Quanta Qualia.

On his death in 1142, his remains were taken to the Paraclete at Heloïse's request, and
her body was later laid to rest in the same tomb. Finally, their remains were taken to
Paris and in 1817 they were buried together in one sepulchre (In Paradisum).

Peter Abelard documented much of his own story in a number of writings, including
the Historia Calamitatum Mearum (The story of my troubles).

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