The Earliest Source for the Lute: The Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature

The blog series at hand on the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature has since its publication received wide acclaim, was cited in Victor Coelho’s and Keith Polk’s new groundbreaking work on “Instrumentalists and Renaissance Culture, 1420–1600” (Cambridge University Press, 2016; p. 238), and the Journal of the Lute Society of America in 2015 had asked for this chapter of my dissertation to be pre-published as an article. That article has now been published and on its 70 pages it combines all the different strands of the blog series plus a number of additional observations. It also includes a full colour facsimile of both the Kassel Collum Lutine and the Wolfenbüttel Fragments, thus complimenting my previous publications of a commented playing edition and a complete premiere recording.

Cover Journal (Wolfenbüttel)

Lewon, Marc: „The Earliest Source for the Lute: The Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature“, in: JLSA 46 (2013) (2017), S. 1–70 & Plates 1–6





A (Re-)Construction of the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature-Fragments

As announced, the commented playing edition to the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature (WolfT) was published with the Quarterly of the Lute Society of America in 2016. The article includes a short introduction to the fragments, based on the research that is layed out in the blog series at hand and which is forthcoming as a separate article with the Journal of the Lute Society of America, shortly.

The five surviving pieces are discussed individually and then given in French tablature notation for the five-course lute (i.e. with five staves), which represent the top five courses of a traditional six-course lute. Below the tablature is a polyphonic transcription, assuming a lute in nominal A tuning. Missing parts were reconstructed using parallel transmissions of the model songs and by ornamenting them in the style of the source. These bits are of course subjective to some degree, which is the reason for the parentheses in the title:

Marc Lewon: „A (Re-)Construction of the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature-Fragments“, in: Quarterly of the Lute Society of America, vol. 51, No. 1 (2016), pp. 12-25.

A (Re-)Construction of the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature Fragments (Quarterly of the LSA, 51-1)

Cover of the Quarterly of the Lute Society of America (Volume 51, No. 1, Spring 2016).

A Premiere Recording of the Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature

October 2014 saw the release of Ensemble Dragma‘s first CD, a recording with German sacred songs by Heinrich Laufenberg (c1390-1460)—many of them première recordings—as well as instrumental music from his time. The ensemble consists of Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennett (voice, harp), Jane Achtman (vielle) and Marc Lewon (voice, lute, vielle). Guest musicians are Elizabeth Rumsey (vielle) and Hanna Marti (voice). The CD was released with the label Ramée. More information on the CD, including an online booklet that can be browsed was published online with the distributor Outhere Music.

The recording also contains the world première recording of the five partly fragmented arrangements from the “Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature”, performed soloistically on the plectrum lute by Marc Lewon. Reconstructions of the missing parts by imitating the style of the tablature and using parallel transmissions of the songs were made for the three tablatures that remain incomplete in the source. The reconstructions will be published in the Quarterly of the the Lute Society of America, shortly.

"Kingdom of Heaven - Heinrich Laufenberg", Ensemble Dragma (Label Ramée, 2014). This recording contains the premier recording of the 5 pieces from the "Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature".

“Kingdom of Heaven – Heinrich Laufenberg”, Ensemble Dragma (Label Ramée, 2014). This recording contains the premier recording of the 5 pieces from the “Wolfenbüttel Lute Tablature”.

Continue reading

Oswald quoting Neidhart: “Ir alten weib” (Kl 21) & “Der sawer kúbell” (w1)

In a recent article Michael Shields[1] had proposed a hitherto unnoticed canon in the oeuvre of Oswald von Wolkenstein. He argued that the third section of “Ir alten weib” (Kl 21) was intended as a “fuga” because the transmission in WolkA (A-Wn 2777, fol. 12r-v) features strange and seemingly functionless clef-changes. They would, however, be in the right places if they were meant to mark the entrance of a second voice and the beginning of the ouvert ending (for a comprehensive discussion and a transcription of the piece, see Shields, Hidden Polyphony[1]). The resulting canon in two-voices works in a rustic kind of way with dissonances similar to those found in the canon “Martein, lieber herre” by the Monk of Salzburg:

Oswald von Wolkenstein: "Ir alten weib" (Kl 21; A-Wn 2777, fol. 12r), third section.

Oswald von Wolkenstein: “Ir alten weib” (Kl 21; A-Wn 2777, fol. 12r), third (canonic?) section.

Shields noted other remarkable features of this song, particularly in its text: one verse appears to quote the humanist Giustiniani (c1383-1446) and the contemporary Italian practice of accompanying songs in this tradition with string instruments such as the lira da braccio and the cetra: “und freut mich vil fúr Jöstlins saitenspil.” (“and delights me much more than Giustiniani’s songs performed on the fiddle.”[2]) Furthermore, the song text has an unusual amount of musical allusions, even for Oswald, quoting—apart from Giustiniani and the “saitenspiel”—dancing, singing, a musical form (“hofeweis”, used here in the double meaning of “courtly manner” and “Hofweise”, a meistersinger genre) and birdsong. Finally, Shields noticed a close proximity to the Neidhart genre, especially in the first strophe.[3] Furthermore, Oswald’s song text can be found anonymously and with some additions in the late Neidhart-Fuchs prints from Augsburg (1495), Nuremberg (1537) and Frankfurt (1566) and thus shows that late 15th century compilers considered the text to be from a Neidhart song.

This claim can be substantiated with some additional observations: Continue reading

A Cognate to “Verlangen thut mich krencken” (Loch 35)

The new cognate in the Hohenfurter Liederbuch to a well-known and today widely performed monophonic song from the Locham Songbook may not be as spectacular as the latest find of a contrafact in the same source (see the last blog entry on “Talent m’est pris” and “Es ist geporn ain kindelein”) but it nonetheless draws even more attention to this songbook full of sacred contrafacts.

“Wol auf, wir wellens wecken”

CZ-VB 8b, fol. 74v-75r - "Wolauff wir wellens wecken"

CZ-VB 8b, fol. 74v-75r – “Wolauff wir wellens wecken”

The song “Wol auf, wir wellens wecken” on fol. 74v-75r of the Hohenfurter Liederbuch (Hoh 46; CZ-VB 8b; Southern Germany, c1450) looks like a compressed and re-arranged version of “Verlangen thut mich krencken” from the contemporaneous Lochamer Liederbuch (Loch 35; D-B Mus. ms. 40613, p. 33, Nuremberg c1450). Continue reading

A New Contrafact on “Talent m’est pris”

A new contrafact in a well-known source has come to light and I would like to thank Regina Schmidt, who studied with me and who is credited with the discovery of this version, for sharing her finding and allowing me to present it on my blog site.

[20/06/2016 Update: Two years after this seemingly new find we were made aware that the contrafact had independently been identified in a Czech publication some ten years previously: Jaromír Cerný et al. (eds.): Historicka antologie hudby v ceských zemích (do cca 1530) / Historical anthology of music in the Bohemian lands (up to ca 1530), Prague (Koniasch Latin Press) 2005, pp. 122-123. My thanks go Reinhard Strohm who found the reference.]

The Hohenfurter Liederbuch (CZ-VB 8b; Southern Germany, c1450) is an exciting source for sacred contrafacts on secular songs in the vernacular. The annotations to some of the songs by the first editor of the manuscript, Wilhelm Bäumker, show that he had realized the significance of this manuscript and identified many concordances and cognates.[1] The song no. 52 “O sünder, grosser sünder” (“O sinner, great sinner”) on the popular melody “Nu lobe linde lobe” (“Now leaf, linden tree, leaf”)[2] is a good example for the procedure of providing secular songs with new, sacred texts, a practice, which is also witnessed by a number of other German sources from the same time, such as the Codex St. Emmeram (D-Mbs Clm 14274; Vienna & Regensburg c1435-c1450), the now lost Strasbourg Codices (the Strasbourg manuscript (olim: F-Sm 222 C. 22; Zofingen, c1410 & Basel c1435) and the Songbook of Heinrich Laufenberg (olim: F-Sm, B 121; first half 15th century), both consumed by fire in 1870), as well as the slightly later Pfullinger Liederhandschrift (D-Sl Cod. theol. et phil. 4° 190; Pfullingen, c1470/80) and the Songbook of Anna of Cologne (D-B mgo 280; c1500).

“Es ist geporn ain kindelein” (CZ-VB 8b, fol. 118r-119r)

It is worthwhile to occasionally revisit such well-known sources, as this new find reminds us: No. 72 of the Hohenfurter Liederbuch (CZ-VB 8b, fol. 118r-119r)—”Es ist geporn ain kindelein”—proves to be a German contrafact on the anonymous French chasse (actually a round) “Talent m’est pris” (2-3vv)[3], which up to now had gone unnoticed. Continue reading

Oswald quoting Oswald: Crossing the Border to Polyphony

It is a well established fact that Oswald’s musical work features a plenitude of contrafacts, musical borrowings and melodic intertextuality. Oswald was clearly not only taking over complete melodies or polyphonic settings from other composers, he was not only writing contrafacts on his own compositions, but was also re-using and re-assembling melodic bits and pieces from his own material to create new songs.

The free interchange of phrases or whole melodic parts within Oswald’s monophonic oeuvre has long been known (e.g. the refrain of “Es seusst dort her von orient” (Kl 20) provides also the refrain for “Ich spür ain lufft” (Kl 16)[1] and certain phrases of “Ain jetterin” (Kl 83) can be found in “Gelück und hail” (Kl 61) amongst other pieces).

Organum-Like Polyphony

One case of such self-borrowing, which has not been discussed in musical scholarship up to now, sheds new light on the interrelationship between Oswald’s monophonic and polyphonic output. Not only does that show the interrelation between monophony and polyphony (traditionally treated separately within musicology), but it also strongly suggests that Oswald himself—or someone he was closely working with—was responsible for those compositions in two voices, which I like to refer to as “organum-like”. Continue reading