“Musical Life” goes online

The research project led by Prof. Dr. Birgit Lodes (Vienna University) with Prof. em. Reinhard Strohm (Oxford University) and Prof. Marc Lewon (Schola Cantorum Basiliensis) went online several months ago: Musical Life of the Late Middle Ages in the Austrian Region (ca. 1340–ca. 1520)


Initial „T“ (Introitus Terribilis est locus iste). Gradual of the Premonstratensian monastery Geras (NÖ), Stiftsbibliothek, “Passau” Gradual (before 1485), fol. 112r

The online presentation of the research results has since been presented at several occasions, including MedRen 2017 in Prague with presentations by the three main contributors. The publication also increasingly receives media coverage such as a radio interview with Birgit Lodes on Radio Berlin-Brandenburg (Radio Eins, Sendung „Die Profis“ am 5th August 2017), an interview with Birgit Lodes and Reinhard Strohm on scilog, an item by the news agency APA, the ORF, the “Standard“, and an article in the “Salzburger Nachrichten“. The news was also picked outside Austria by the “business press 24“, the “Internet-Nachrichtenagentur inar” (including an English version), and the “firmenpresse” (the latter also with an English version).

The project researches and presents new insights in the musical culture of the Austrian region from ca. 1340 to ca. 1520. The editors are Birgit Lodes, Reinhard Strohm, and Marc Lewon. The online presentation developed by Mag. Mirjam Kluger and Mag. Martin Gasteiner is now supervised by Mag. Imke Oldewurtel and Mag. Konstantin Hirschmann. The project is supported by 25 international advisors from various fields; 35 authors have contributed their essays up to date. 112 sound samples were specifically produced for the porject by four specialised ensembles (Ensemble Leones, Basel; Ensemble Stimmwerck, Regensburg; Ensemble Les haulz et les bas, Freiburg/Breisgau; Virgilschola, Salzburg). The essays, depictions, and recordings are published as open access on the website.

The project is a scholarly investigation of the cultural significance of music, based on transmitted documents such as musical scores, archival records, literary sources, images of art, architecture, and material remains, which it embeds in a new historiography of musical life in the region. The surviving music is placed in the context of the “musical life” of the people from the time: their materiality and spirituality, daily life, artistic practices, popular and courtly cultures, ceremonial and intellectual traditions. Musical Life emphasises spatial aspects and regional differentiations, but also reevaluates the cultural relations of music in the Austrian region with that of the rest of Europe. Thus, Musical Life aims to reveal the applicability of cultural studies to music history of this period and to reevaluate the significance of the music of this region in an historical European context.

Flos virginum – Motets of the 15th Century

The research project “Musical Life of the Late Middle Ages in the Austrian Region (c1340-c1520)” has brought two albums. For the first by Ensemble Leones, see the blog-entry “Argentum et Aurum– Musical Treasures from the Early Habsburg Renaissance“. The second was published later in 2015 by the vocal ensemble Stimmwerck and is dedicated to 15th century motets in sources from the Austrian region under the title “Flos virginum”.

“Here, Stimmwerck, the ingenious German vocal quartet, sets out on exciting and unknown paths of European musical history. The present recording featuring late medieval motets and songs by Brassart, Martini, Roullet, and anonymous composers from various manuscript sources offers an in-depth cross-section of early vocal music in which the joie de vivre and profound piety of that epoch are uniquely experienced.” (cpo release sheet)

Stimmwerck-CoverThese recordings (and more, yet unpublished ones) are on the project’s website, linked to articles and essays that are dedicated to styles, composers, pieces and musical practises. Together they present a window into the world of sacred motets and cantiones by internationally renowned composers such as Johannes Martini and Guillaume Dufay, but also by lesser known “local players” like Ludovicus Krafft and others who remain anonymous. A main focus are the famous Trent Codices:

Stimmwerck-Inlay Card

  1. Johannes Brassart (c.1400-05; d. before 22 Oct 1455): O rex Fridrice – In tuo adventu—5:51
  2. Johannes Touront (fl. c.14501-75): O florens rosa—4:00
  3. [?]Forest (fl. first half of the 15th century): Anima mea liquefacta est—4:46
  4. Johannes de Sarto (fl. c.1430-40): Romanorum rex—4:56
  5. Johannes Martini (c.1430-40; d.1497): Flos virginum—2:04
  6. Anonymous (Nikolaus Leopold Codex): O propugnator—4:23
  7. Johannes Puillois (?-1478): Flos de spina—4:53
  8. Anonymous (Nikolaus Leopold Codex): Ave mundi spes / In Gottes Namen—2:04
  9. Guillaume Dufay (?1397-1474): Missa S. Georgii: Alleluia—4:05
  10. Anonymous (Trent Codices): Dies est letitie—1:24
  11. Anonymous (Trent Codices): O beata infantia—5:28
  12. Ludovicus Krafft (fl. c.1460): Novus annus—3:12
  13. Johannes Roullet (fl.ca.1435-45): Laus tibi—8:45
  14. Anonymous (Trent Codices): Advenisti desiderabilis—3:07
  15. Ludovicus Krafft (Trent Codices): Terribilis est—1:24
  16. Anonymous (Trent Codices): Christus surrexit—1:46

Total Time: 62:10

The musicians of Stimmwerck in this recording are:

Franz Vitzthum – countertenor
Klaus Wenk – tenor
Gerhard Hölzle – tenor
Marcus Schmidl – bass-baritone

Guest: David Erler – countertenor

The CD-booklet includes liner notes by Reinhard Strohm and all sung texts of the recording including German and English translations.

The CD has since received international acclaim by noted magazines and online publications such as Gramophone, Music Web, Review Corner, and Klassik heute.

A New Concordance for “Czaldy waldy”

The cataloguing project Musikalische Quellen (9.-15. Jahrhundert) in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, conducted by Robert Klugseder and Alexander Rausch, brought forth a hitherto unknown source of textless musical notation on fol. 180v of A-Wn Cod 5455—a codex which once belonged to the artistic faculty of Vienna University. In an earlier series of blog posts I demonstrated that the notated melodies belong to a specific category of monophonic German songs, which are sometimes labelled as “tenores”. The melodies of this repertoire share certain characteristics, such as an absence of internal repetitions (textual as well as musical), an irregular rhythmical structure (no “reference rhythm”), and a tendency for cadential formulas that would render the melody suitable as a tenor voice within a polyphonic setting—furthermore, some of the transmissions carry the rubric “tenor” (see for instance “Wach auf mein hort” and “Köm mir ein trost” in  D-Bsb Mus.ms.40613, on p. 2).[1]

I was able to attribute one of the melodies to the Monk of Salzburg (“Pärlein vnd mit”). The other three, for the time being, had to remain without ascription—even though one of them (“An czal dý etc“) was hauntingly familiar. My thanks go to Lenka Hlávková for pointing out that this tune actually is the well-known “Czaldy waldy”, which is transmitted on paste-downs in the bindings of two manuscripts now in the Czech Republic (CZ-Pu XVII.F.9, fol. FS & CZ-Pu XIV.D.23, fol. BS). With the newly found concordance in A-Wn Cod 5455, fol. 180v we thus have three textless transmissions of this tune, all of which are either fragments or sketches of a melody that used to be categorised as a dance in modern publications.[2]

CZ-Pu XVII.F.9, paste-down, front binding: “Czaldy waldy”.

CZ-Pu XIV.D.23, paste-down, back binding: “dy czale dy wale“.

A-Wn Cod 5455, fol. 180v: “An czal dý etc”, reproduced with the kind permission of the ÖNB Vienna (photo ©Robert Klugseder).

It appears that the assessment of a dance tune needs to be re-evaluated, since the version in the first Prague codex (CZ-Pu XVII.F.9) with its black mensural notation very much looks like an untexted tenor from a polyphonic context, while the other two transmissions are in stroke notation typical for the transmission of monophonic secular chanson melodies—very similar to the notation in the Gruuthuse Manuscript (NL-DHk MS 79 K 10). The Vienna version even puts the melody in line with other untexted, monophonic and secular German “tenors”. Furthermore, the German incipit “An czal dý etc” could  explain the cryptic title of “Czaldy waldy” (CZ-Pu XVII.F.9) and shed light on the hard to decipher incipit in CZ-Pu XIV.D.23, which is crossed out in the manuscripts but might read “dy czale dy wale”. In the light of this new evidence the title or incipit to this melody appears to be the beginning of a German song text or—in the case of CZ-Pu XVII.F.9—a corrupted reading thereof. None of the clues point to a genuine dance tune.

The following synoptic edition shows how close the transmission from Vienna is to the versions found in the Prague manuscripts:

Synoptic edition of the three transmissions of "Czaldy waldy" (CZ-Pu XVII.F.9), "dy czale dy wale" (CZ-Pu XIV.D.23) and "An czal dý etc" (A-Wn Cod 5455, fol. 180v).

Synoptic edition of the three transmissions of “Czaldy waldy” (CZ-Pu XVII.F.9), “dy czale dy wale” (CZ-Pu XIV.D.23) and “An czal dý etc” (A-Wn Cod 5455, fol. 180v).

Some interesting observations can be made when comparing the three sources:

  1. The transmission in CZ-Pu XVII.F.9 is found on a fragment of a manuscript that must once have had a larger format than the one in which it now serves as a paste-down. The original context of the notation likely held information regarding the function of the three untexted lines of music located at the top of the fragment. They look like tenor lines from a polyphonic composition.
  2. The incipit “Czaldy waldy” in CZ-Pu XVII.F.9 only refers to the second part of the textless notation, which apparently constitutes a separate piece: The incipit is  written directly under the beginning of this melody, the two concordant sources present it without the “first part” and they feature titles or incipits very similar to this one.
  3. The melody itself is divided in two parts and its secunda pars is very clearly marked in all three sources: In CZ-Pu XVII.F.9 it is separated by a double line and marked with the abbreviated rubric “Repeticio”, in CZ-Pu XIV.D.23 it is marked with a clef-change and the only line that goes through the entire system, and in A-Wn Cod 5455 it is again separated with a double line and a clef-change.
  4. The notations of the melody in CZ-Pu XIV.D.23 and A-Wn Cod 5455 are later additions—musical scribbles or afterthoughts on left-over space in a non-musical environment. In the case of CZ-Pu XIV.D.23, the notation system was added after the paper was glued to the back binding of the host codex: The lines go over the edge of the paper and continue onto the leather of the binding. In the case of A-Wn Cod 5455, the “tenors” were written on a largely empty page in the middle of a codex that contains university lecture material.
  5. The upbeats marked by semiminims in CZ-Pu XIV.D.23 seem to indicate the beginnings of verse-lines. They impart an additional internal structure to the musical phrases that are separated by vertical lines and tenor cadence formulas. Therefore, a poetic text must once have been “married” to this tune to leave its marks on the melody and its notation.

Marc Lewon

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

[1] Christoph März first presented his idea of defining melodies with some of the aforementioned properties as “tenors” in: März, Christoph (ed.): Die weltlichen Lieder des Mönchs von Salzburg. Texte und Melodien, Tübingen (Max Niemeyer Verlag) 1999 (Münchener Texte und Untersuchungen zur deutschen Literatur des Mittelalters, vol. 114), pp. 14-9. The definition was refined and expanded by Marc Lewon in the forthcoming article: Lewon, Marc: “Zwischen Bordun, Fauxbourdon und Discantus. Zum Dilemma instrumentaler Begleitungsstrategien für mittelalterliche Einstimmigkeit”, in: Basler Jahrbuch für Historische Musikpraxis XXXV 2011 (Amadeus Verlag), 2015.

[2] For a melodic analysis of “Czaldy waldy” including the presentation of a cognate “Alleluia”-melody, see: Plocek, Václav: “Poznámky k melodice Czaldy waldy”, in: Hudební věda 32/3 (1995), pp. 279–86. Plocek opposed the dance-hypothesis as first proposed by Zdeněk Nejedlý (Dějiny husitskěho zpěvu (The History of Hussite Song), vol. 1, 2nd edition, Prague, 1954, p. 300) and postulated that the melody was written for a sung text (see FN 2). For the assumption of a dance tune see also McGee, Timothy J.: Medieval Instrumental Dances, Bloomington & Indianapolis (Indiana University Press) 1989.

Argentum et Aurum – Musical Treasures from the Early Habsburg Renaissance

We are proud to present our latest release: “The recordings by Ensemble Leones brought together on this release grew out of an academic research project at the University of Vienna led by the music historian Professor Birgit Lodes. This project, entitled “Musical Life of the Late Middle Ages in the Austrian Region (c.1340–c.1520)”, which has been sponsored by the FWF (Austria’s central fund for the promotion of academic research), makes it possible to experience through music a period of European cultural history during which the house of Habsburg emerged as a world power and Vienna as a city of music.” (Reinhard Strohm, liner notes)

Argentum et Aurum (Ensemble Leones) - Cover

“The music is sacred and secular, allowing the listener to eavesdrop on Tyrolean palaces, dance halls and bourgeois homes, and on the singer-poets who travelled the country where old local styles fused with the latest international fashions.” (Naxos release sheet)

It includes some well-known pieces from not-so-well-known sources, new finds on fragments from the Vienna University Library (see for instance the entries in the categories “Vienna Ars Nova Fragments” on this blogsite) and a number of première recordings:

Argentum et Aurum (Ensemble Leones) - Inlay CardThese recordings (and more, yet unpublished ones) are found on the project’s website, linked to articles and essays that are dedicated to styles, composers, individual pieces and musical practises. Together they present a portfolio of sometimes surprisingly diverse musical styles that coexisted in a “century of variety”:

  1. Heinrich Isaac (1450/55-1517): Argentum et aurum*—3:11
  2. Neidhart: Vyol – Urlaub hab der wintter—6:37
  3. Hugo von Montfort (1357-1423): Ich fragt ain wachter—6:13
  4. The Monk of Salzburg (late 14th c.): Das kchúhorn – Untarnslaf—1:37
  5. Oswald von Wolkenstein (c.1377-1445): Skak – Frölich geschrai so well wir machen—1:15
  6. Anon. (late 14th c.): Soyt tart tempre—1:31
  7. Anon. (late 14th c.): Or sus vous dormes trop—5:57
  8. Oswald von Wolkenstein: Durch Barbarei, Arabia—2:31
  9. Neidhart: Der sunnen glanst*—4:44
  10. Neidhart: Do man den gumpel gampel sank—8:18
  11. Oswald von Wolkenstein: Freu dich, du weltlich creatúr—2:16
  12. Oswald von Wolkenstein: Zergangen ist meins herzen we—5:03
  13. Anon. (c.1400): Gegrusset seistu maria*—5:36
  14. Hermann Edlerawer*—2:58
  15. Anon. (15th c.): Von osterreich – Sig, säld und heil*—0:57
  16. Anon. (late 15th c.): So stee ich hie auff diser erd—1:04
  17. Anon. (mid-15th c.): Alle dei filius*—2:12
  18. Anon. (early 15th c.): My ladi, my ladi, myn happ*—1:32
  19. Guillaume Du Fay (1397-1474): Seigneur Leon—1:20
  20. Anon. (late 15th c.): Gespile, liebe gespile gút—0:50
  21. Anon. (late 15th c.): Es sassen höld in ainer stuben*—0:51
  22. Anon. (late 15th c.): Ich sachs ains mals*—1:08
  23. Oswald von Wolkenstein? and Nicolaus Krombsdorfer? (d. 1479): Heýa, heýa nun wie si grollen*—0:59
  24. Johannes Martini (c.1430/40-1497): La Martinella—2:07
  25. Anon. (early 16th c.): Pavane—1:30
  26. Anon. (early 16th c.): Mantúaner dantz—1:23
  27. Paul Hofhaimer (1459-1537): Gottes namen faren wir—1:47
  28. Pfabinschwantz (fl. c.1500): Maria zart, von edler art*—3:11

Total Time: 78:37
*world première recordings

The musicians of Ensemble Leones in this recording are:

Els Janssens-Vanmunster – voice
Raitis Grigalis – voice
Baptiste Romain – vielle, Renaissance violin
Uri Smilansky – viola d’arco
Elizabeth Rumsey – Renaissance gamba, viola d’arco, vielle
Marc Lewon – plectrum lute, viola d’arco, vielle, cetra, voice
Liane Ehlich – transverse flute
Tobie Miller – symphonie
Miriam Andersén – cow horn

Since the sung texts are not included with the booklet, Naxos provides a free PDF download with German and English translations. Further information on the recording and the CD can be found on the Naxos website, for instance the full text (in German and English) of the Liner Notes by Reinhard Strohm with an addition by Marc Lewon. Naxos also provides a short feature presentation with a free bonus track. For more information regarding Ensemble Leones, check out our website, or find us on facebook.

The recording won the renowned International Classical Music Awards 2016 (ICMA) in the category “Early Music”.

Marc Lewon

PS: Ensembe Stimmwerck, who recorded a great amount of sacred a capella music for our “Musical Life” project has also issued a CD with their contributions later in 2015 with the title “Flos virginum“.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Stephan Craus’ Lutebook: A Humanist Ode

Musical settings of odes were all the rage in humanist circles around 1500 and can consequently be found in lute sources of the early 16th century. Therefore, it might not be surprising to find such a setting in Stephan Craus’ Lutebook (A-Wn 18688, fol. 90v (35v)), especially since the printed lute tutors by Hans Judenkünig (A-Wn 47356; Vienna, 1523), which were once bound to Craus’ Lutebook, also contain intabulations of ode settings by Petrus Tritonius. However, the Craus ode could not yet be connected to any concordance by Tritonius/Judenkünig, Senfl, Hofhaimer or Lossius.[1] The other unusual thing about the setting in Craus’ source is, that it is not given in tablature notation but as a later addition on the last page of the book and in mensural notation. The three voices on that page (fol. 90v (35v)) are lacking text, title and clefs, but seem to belong together since they share the same rhythm:

A-Wn 18688, fol. 90v (35v)—unknown ode compositions

A-Wn 18688, fol. 90v (35v)—unknown ode compositions

When trying to put these voices in a contrapuntal relationship it turns out that the lower two lines can be provided with sensible clefs (c1 and f4) resulting in a two-voice counterpoint, probably coming from an originally four-voice setting. The separate line above, however, cannot be fitted into this counterpoint. Therefore, I assume that it belonged to a different setting with that same rhythmic structure, made up of one asclepiadeus minor framed by two glyconic verses[1]:

– – | – ⏑ ⏑ | – ⏓
– – | – ⏑ ⏑ | – || – ⏑ ⏑ | – ⏑ | ⏓
– – | – ⏑ ⏑ | – ⏓

Maybe my attempt at a transcription of these two odes will ring a bell with someone so that a concordance can be connected to this transmission (this could be a case for Marc’s Milk Carton):

A-Wn 18688, fol. 90v (35v)—attempt at a transcription.

A-Wn 18688, fol. 90v (35v)—attempt at a transcription.

  Marc Lewon

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

[1] I would like to thank Grantley McDonald for his assessment of the composition, the comparison with a corpus of possible concordances and the identification of the Greek verse metres involved (private communication).

A New Concordance for “Cecus” from Kutná Hora

Robert Mitchell—who is also one of the contributors to our project “Musical Life of the Late Middle Ages in the Austrian Region”—had recently informed Reinhard Strohm and myself of a new concordance he had identified on a musical fragment from Kutná Hora (Kuttenberg) in the Czech Republic (currently without signature). This, among other fragments, was found at the Czech Museum of Silver by Štěpán Kafka who had made a depiction of one of the pages available on his website www.cantica.kh.cz. Josef Kremla from the Czech Museum of Silver in Kutná Hora kindly provided us with high-resolution images of the fragments and granted us permission for the reproduction in our “Musical Life” project. We would like to thank the contributors for their permissions to publish their findings on our blog site.

The “Kuttenberg-Fragment” consists of three folios which seem to have once belonged to a large-format choir-book. Four of the six pages contain the musical notation of textless, polyphonic pieces, probably written shortly after 1500. The folio which has musical notation on both sides (fol. C) features on its recto side the end of a tenor and bassus line of a three-part composition, while its front has the beginning of a cantus and bassus part of another one. Both fragmented compositions are yet unidentified. We would like to send out a call for assistance to the musicological community to identify the content of this folio. Depictions of the two pages can be viewed on “Marc’s Milk Carton“. (Check out the link to view the fragment. We would be very grateful for any help in identifying those yet unattributed works.)

Cecus non judicat de coloribus (Alexander Agricola)

The two remaining folios form an opening of the original manuscript (fols. Av-Br) and feature an almost complete prima pars of Alexander Agricola’s famous textless composition “Cecus non judicat de coloribus”. Fol. Av gives the cantus and the beginning of the contratenor bassus, fol. Br has the tenor line and the second half of the bassus voice. The same layout also seems to have been employed for the other surviving folio C, described above:

Principle layout of the Kuttenberg-Fragments with 10 staves per page.

Principle layout of the Kuttenberg-Fragments with 10 staves per page.

Unfortunately, the fragment does not give a title for any of the pieces. Fol. Cr does not provide an incipit or a title because it does not contain a cantus voice where an incipit would have to be expected. Fol. Cv—even though it has the beginning of a cantus line (or at least the beginning of a form part of a cantus line)—even leaves out the initials: So, no help there, either. The incipit or title for “Cecus” may once have stood under the now missing first line of the cantus voice on fol. Av. The following reproduction shows the remainders of fol. Av and Br, which together form an opening of the manuscript with the prima pars of Agricola’s “Cecus”:

    Kuttenberg-Fragment (fol. Av-Br): Prima pars of "Cecus non judicat de coloribus" by Alexander Agricola (identified by Robert Mitchell, reproduction with kind permission of the ©Museum of Silver, Kutná Hora) - The scribbles in the margin of fol. Av amongst other things record the purchase of a horse (information from Štěpán Kafka).

Kuttenberg-Fragment (fol. Av-Br): Prima pars of “Cecus non judicat de coloribus” by Alexander Agricola (identified by Robert Mitchell, reproduction with kind permission of the ©Czech Museum of Silver, Kutná Hora) – The scribbles in the margin of fol. Av amongst other things record the purchase of a horse (information from Štěpán Kafka).

The music of the prima pars of “Cecus” is almost identical to the versions surviving in the other great sources such as the Segovia manuscript. Curiously, the entire far side of this bifolio (Ar & Bv) only has empty musical staves. One would have expected at least the verso side of the second folio to contain the beginning of the secunda pars of “Cecus”.

Transcription of the prima pars of "Cecus" in the Kuttenberg-Fragment (surviving parts in black notation)

Transcription of the prima pars of “Cecus” in the Kuttenberg-Fragment (surviving parts in black notation)

Furthermore, Kafka and Kremla informed us of a watermark in the paper of folios A and C which they identified as Piccard 126608. This would place the manufacture of the paper to Augsburg in 1474.

Watermarks on folio A and B: blossom with six petals (Piccard 126608 = Augsburg 1474)

Watermarks on folio A and C: blossom with six petals (Piccard 126608 = Augsburg 1474)

Fol. Av contains some scribbles written upside down into the margin of the page. Since, according to their shape, the regional archive director of Kutná Hora, Vojtěch Vaněk, dates these to c.1500, this would mean that they were added only shortly after the music had been notated. Štěpán Kafka informs us that the scribbles are accounts of mining horses in Kutná Hora and surrounding villages written in Czech. This would place the fragments at their present location at least from about 1500 onwards. The notes also give the names of the villages where these animals were from as well as the vendor’s name and the price. There are also some other “business notes”, which were not yet successfully deciphered.

The provenance of the fragment remains unknown for the time being: They were deposited with other loose leaves in an unlabelled box at the Czech Museum of Silver (Kutná Hora).

Marc Lewon

PS: Incidentally, a new recording of “Cecus non judicat de coloribus” can be found on the latest recording by my Ensemble Leones (“Colours in the Dark – The Instrumental Music of Alexander Agricola”, published 2013 with label Christophorus).

Ensemble Leones: Colours in the Dark - The Instrumental Music of Alexander Agricola (Label Christophorus 2013), Track 14: "Cecus non judicat de coloribus"

Ensemble Leones: “Colours in the Dark – The Instrumental Music of Alexander Agricola” (Label Christophorus 2013), Track 14: “Cecus non judicat de coloribus”

Neidhart in Vienna

[The findings of this blog post have since been contextualised in an essay for the Vienna research project “Musical Life of the Late Middle Ages in the Austrian Region (c1340-c1520)”: Das Phänomen “Neidhart” (German).]

The songs and stories of and around the author and personage “Neidhart” were well-integrated in late medieval Viennese cultural life. Having started as the œuvre of an extremely successful minnesinger in the early 13th century, who apparently came from Bavaria and at some point in his career moved to Vienna, his songs developed a life of their own and the dissemination of his work gained momentum until it became one of the central repertoires of secular song in the Austrian region of the 14th and 15th centuries. Its popularity is well documented in a plenitude of contemporary Neidhart-collections, some of them even with melodies. The topics which made his songs so popular and widespread also inspired the creation of images in dance or feast halls, depicting scenes and personnel from Neidhart songs: Favoured among these are rustic dance scenes and burlesque stories as well as the names of the most beloved characters from the songs. The frescos of Tuchlauben 19 in Vienna likely are the most important and well-known. These depictions were collected, presented and discussed in the monograph “Neidhartrezeption in Wort und Bild”, edited by Gertrud Blaschitz, which also includes on p. 110 a newly discovered Neidhart-ink drawing from Vienna University#. It went largely unnoticed until in 2011 Burghart Wachinger published an article where he gave a thorough analysis of the drawing*. It can fulfill the function of an important missing link, connecting the different traces of Neidhart reception to form a more coherent picture, which also involves the up to now largely neglected role of the university in the secular musical life of late medieval Vienna.

The following presentation gives an analysis of the ink drawing in codex A-Wn Cod 5455 (Vienna University, c.1370) based on Wachinger’s study and broadened by additional observations. Wachinger’s findings and readings are marked “[BW]” in the illustrations. All other readings apart from the transcriptions of the names of the Neidhart personnel, which were already given by Blaschitz, are by myself and Reinhard Strohm. Fol. 226r of the codex features two drawings which were inserted in the text of Jean Buridan’s (c.1300 – after 1358) comments on Aristotle’s “Physics”, the Questiones in Aristotetelis libros physicorum. The space for the drawings was left empty by a scribe who apparently assumed that he was missing the according amount of text. The hand holding a scroll with an abbreviated Latin rubric leads from the end of the text before the lacuna to its continuation in the next column, thus bridging the gap. The scroll reads: “hic nullus est defectus, hoc scias, lector”—”nothing is missing here, this you shall know, reader” (see Wachinger, “Neidhart im Bild”, p. 144). The space thus available on the page apparently was then filled with the two drawings: One of them presenting four figures, three of which appear in Neidhart songs, and another one with a university teaching scene, supporting the fact that the manuscript and the drawings belonged to university circles. The Neidhart figures are separated by verses, three of them being psalm quotations (Ps. 7,2; 30,16; 7,4—see Wachinger, “Neidhart im Bild”, p. 147). The lesson scene shows one “teacher” sitting on the cathedra and three “students”. Wachinger deciphered the name in the scroll next to the teacher as “Plato”, and the inscriptions next to the students as “Socrates”, “Cicero” and one “Rosarius”:

Ink drawings on fol. 226r of Vienna University codex A-Wn Cod 5458—inscriptions deciphered by Blaschitz (Neidhart names), Wachinger [BW] and Lewon/Strohm. (photo with kind permission of the ©ÖNB)

Ink drawings on fol. 226r of Vienna University codex A-Wn Cod 5458—inscriptions deciphered by Blaschitz (Neidhart names), Wachinger [BW] and Lewon/Strohm. (photo with kind permission of the ©ÖNB)

Wachinger could not attribute his reading of “Rosarius” to any particular person and I cannot give a different solution either. The name “Plato” is, however, followed by an abbreviated word which I read as “magister”, and the book opened in front of the related figure features the opening words of Aristotle’s Physics: “Quoniam quidem scire et intelligere”—”Since coming to knowledge and understanding”. The drawing is thus not only connected to the university but also and very intimately to the surrounding text as primary teaching material. A very similar drawing in another codex (PL-Kj Cod 1771, fol. 142v) containing the Questiones on Aristotle’s Physics by Jean Buridan shows the great teacher himself sitting on such a cathedra with an opened codex on the bookstand, which presents the words “Venite filii audite me et florem philosophie docebo vos etc.” (“Come, children, listen to me and I will teach you the blossom of philosophy, etc.”—for the transcription see Olaf Pluto, “Johannes Buridan”, p. 870+). This modified citation of psalm 33,12 (“Venite, filii; audite me: timorem Domini docebo vos”—”Come, children, hearken to me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord”) is very reminiscent of the psalm quotes next to the Neidhart figures in our Vienna codex: Link to the depiction of Johannes Buridan in the Kraków codex PL-Kj Cod 1771, fol. 142v.

Johannes Buridan in PL-Kj Cod 1771, fol. 142v.

Johannes Buridan in PL-Kj Cod 1771, fol. 142v.

Moreover, this Kraków codex of Buridan’s Questiones was written by one Henricus de Cremona who himself was a student of the first rector of Heidelberg University, Marsilius von Inghen. Marsilius’ own teachings, however, can be found in another codex from Vienna University, which itself contains an entry of German monophonic music, and which was discussed in a previous blog entry: A-Wn Cod 5455, fol. 180v. It almost seems as if the depiction of the “teaching scene” could somehow be connected to the transmission of Buridan’s Questiones in German-speaking lands and that the gap in the text might have been left consciously in A-Wn Cod 5455, fol. 226r to insert the drawing. In any case, the net of interrelationships between university teaching materials and German monophonic song becomes ever more finely woven with these new findings.

The verses next to the Neidhart figures, apart from being allusions to the bible (in the case of the first one) and psalm quotations (in the case of the remaining three) are clearly assigned to the figures next to them:

Crura valde pulchra cum domicellis“,

says Gunprecht (= Gumprecht) and points to his legs: “Very beautiful legs with maidens”. If we should have solved the abbreviated “domicellis” correctly, this could refer to the beautiful legs of the maidens dancing with the young men. The picture, however, only shows one of them (Slumphilt). Wachinger in turn transcribes this word as “dimicellis” and suggests that it is an unattested inflection of “dimiculus” = “sword” (Wachinger, “Neidhart im Bild”, p. 147). This interpretation nicely coincides with Gumprecht’s gesture towards his own legs and the fact that the Neidhart-villains, the “dörper”, tend to lose their legs in many of the Neidhart-farces (“Schwänke”), as the depiction of Engelmar with his wooden leg exemplifies. The name “Gumprecht” appears in only three Neidhart songs and in the “Greater Neidhart Play” (“Das Große Neidhartspiel”, D-W Cod. Guelf. 18. 12 Aug. 4°, fol. 274r-321v; 15th century, Southern Germany or Tyrol). Interestingly though, one of the songs is also contained in the Eghenvelder Liedersammlung (w4), which was written by a student of Vienna University c.1430. It is particularly noteworthy that this song also mentions field names and places around Vienna (Leobendorf, Tullner Gebiet, Marchfeld) as well as the dörper Engelmar who loses half his leg in a fight.

Domine deus meus in te speravimus“,

says Snabelrúsh, who also is a known Neidhart character and who—like Gumprecht—appears only in a very small number of songs, two of which again can also be found in the Eghenvelder Liedersammlung (w6 and w12) from Vienna. Moreover, one of them (w6) features the dörper Engelmar, a village dance, the land of Austria and the statement that after a fight many of the dörpers lost half their legs. The other one is a farce-story and repeatedly mentions Engelmar, Zeiselmauer and Vienna. Another two songs featuring Snabelrúsh (alternative spellings are “Snabelraus”, “Snabelraws” and “Gnapelraus”) which survive in the Tyrolian Sterzinger Miszellaneen-Handschrift (s5 & s11) describe a dörper-fight, mentioning the Marchfeld and Zeiselmauer, both near Vienna. A “Schnabelrawss” also has a fairly substantial speaking role in the Greater Neidhart Play. This occurrence of the name bears further implications as will be shown below. His exclamation, taken from psalm 7,2, is slightly altered from “speravi” to the abbreviated plural “speravimus” (“Lord, my god, in you we trusted”) possibly to include the other dörpers and likely hinting at the multiple loss of limbs.

Domine deus eripe me de manu inimici“,

begs Slumphilt, who—as Wachinger points out—does not appear anywhere in Neidhart’s œuvre and is altogether atypical, for Neidhart never uses derisive nicknames for female dörpers (see Wachinger, “Neidhart im Bild”, p. 147). The Neidhart farces, however, might have gone further by that time to include also this feature, which otherwise is not alien to 15th century brutish poetry such as the “Ring” by Heinrich Wittenwiler (the drawing in Wittenwiler’s manuscript being slightly reminiscent of the Vienna ink drawing, as well). Her name could be roughly translated as “Awry-Hild”. Her request, taken from psalm 40,15-16 and turned from the plural into the singular (“Lord god, save me from my enemy”) could be directed at Engelmar—the most notorious and ubiquitous of the dörpers—who is standing right beside her and to whom she appears to be pointing with her left hand. He in turn says:

Domine deus si feci istud“,

by quoting psalm 7,4 which is only 2 verses away from Snaberúsh’s statement. His “Lord god, when I have done this…” sounds almost like an ominous threat and is immediately reminiscent of the ever-present antecedent of Engelmar snatching or even breaking the mirror belonging to the dörper-girl Friederun, a topic which is oft-quoted in Neidhart’s songs and which carries a several meanings; not the least of which can be interpreted as a sexual assault. Wachinger on the other hand interprets Engelmar’s statement as a comment on the flower he seems to be holding, which could be a reference to the Veilchenschwank (“violet-farce”), one of the most popular Neidhart themes, involving the replacement of a violet by a turd by some of the dörper (Wachinger, “Neidhart im Bild”, p. 147). Wachinger also notes, however, that the flower is depicted here as a lily. It may therefore be necessary to look for an alternative interpretation. Furthermore, Wachinger observes that Engelmar’s wooden leg standing in a spoon is a direct depiction of a very specific song, namely the Fassschwank (“barrel’s farce”), in which the Engelmar’s left leg is described to fit into a spoon, since it is replaced by a wooden leg now. The song also mentions pitiful Friederun, the broken mirror and the town of Zeiselmauer, near Vienna (see Wachinger, “Neidhart im Bild”, p. 147).

We are clearly looking at a dancing scene (Wachinger, “Neidhart im Bild”, p. 147) since all the protagonists are holding hands, even though some of them are at the same time pointing with one hand. Therefore, the scene in the ink drawing could be compared to other contemporary depictions of Neidhart dances, the most obvious being the frescos in Vienna’s Tuchlauben 19. Here the leading dancer, the “persevant”, carries a flower-tipped staff which is almost identical to Engelmar’s.

Neidhart fresco depicting a round dance in Tuchlauben 19, Vienna. The leading dancer holds a staff crowned with a lily.

Neidhart fresco depicting a round dance in Tuchlauben 19, Vienna. The leading dancer holds a staff crowned with a lily.

Thus the flower in Engelmar’s right hand marks him as the leading dancer and seems to be a standard feature and not an invention by the illustrator of A-Wn Cod 5458:

A-Wn Cod 5458, fol. 226r

A-Wn Cod 5458, fol. 226r

However, both, the illustrator of A-Wn Cod 5458 and the fresco painter of Tuchlauben 19, may have combined the generic attribute of the persevant’s flower-tipped staff with a very specific Neidhart-topic: The “violet-farce” which was already mentioned above in connection with Engelmar’s flower, survives as a song with musical notation in two late manuscripts (D-Bsb 779, fol. 148v-149v & Vipiteno/Sterzing, Stadtarchiv, s.s., fol. 47v-48r. In the last strophe it says that Neidhart (as his lyrical self) returns to the peasants (dörper) to take his revenge and finds them at a dance. This dance scene is further embellished in other versions of the farce, including another one (without notation) in the aforementioned Vipiteno manuscript (on fol. 38r-39r), and in the late print “Neidhart Fuchs” (Augsburg 1491-97), which contains stories from Neidhart songs and farces. In both versions the dörper not only enjoy themselves at a dance, but celebrate their victory over Neidhart by dancing around the very violet which they had previously “stolen” from underneath his hat, thus enhancing the taunt (Vipiteno, fol. 39r: “Der vail stack awff ainer stangen“the violet was sitting upon a pole”). In “Neidhart Fuchs”, this scene is depicted in a woodcut which is somewhat reminiscent of the “Dance around the Golden Calf” but also bears a haunting resemblance to the Vienna ink drawing with four of the peasants holding hands and dancing around the violet on a pole. The “violet-pole” stands exactly between the leading and the second dancer, just as the flower-tipped persevant’s-staff stands between Engelmar and Slumphilt in the ink drawing:

"Neidhart Fuchs", printed in Augsburg, ca. 1491-97—depiction of the dörper's dance around the captured violet from Neidhart's Veilchenschwank ("violet-farce").

“Neidhart Fuchs”, printed in Augsburg, ca. 1491-97—depiction of the dörper’s dance around the captured violet from Neidhart’s Veilchenschwank (“violet-farce”).

After having arrived at the peasant’s dance Neidhart starts to fight them—with dire consequences for the dörpers as the last strophe concludes (verbatim from the song version in Vipiteno, fol. 48r): “Ir warn czwen vnd trißig / die verlorn doch ir tencke pain” (“there were thirty-two of them all of whom lost their left leg”)—a detail of the story which might have been reflected in the ink drawing by supplying Engelmar with a wooden left leg. I therefore surmise that apart from a generic depiction of a round dance led by a persevant with his staff and a passing reference to the Fassschwank (“barrel’s farce”—in which Engelmar explicitly looses his leg), the Vienna ink drawing (A-Wn Cod 5458, fol. 226r) might more specifically refer to the peasant’s dance around the violet from Neidhart’s Veilchenschwank (“violet-farce”). This connection is deepened by one of the rare occurrences of the name “Snabelrúsh” in the Greater Neidhart Play in which the violet-story plays a large part.

Nevertheless, the situation depicted in the ink drawing from A-Wn Cod 5458 seems not to be savely attributable to one single Neidhart song or story. Maybe the solution lies in their combination: Several Neidhart-farces which seem to be quoted in the drawing also appear in the Greater Neidhart Play (esp. the “violet’s farce” and the “barrel’s farce”), where a number of them are incorporated into an overarching narrative. Likewise, the ink drawing might not have meant to depict one specific tale, but a generic Neidhart-“medley”, the individual aspects of which could have been encountered in the course of a typical Neidhart play of the time.

However, even if the situation in the ink drawing cannot be linked to any specific song or combination of stories, the multiple allusions to a number of songs, farce-stories and plays—all of which take place in or around Vienna and are transmitted in sources from Lower Austria—firmly link the drawing to a repertoire which must have been well-known in the city and especially in university circles; the latter connection being strengthened by the musical notation found on the cover of the very same codex: Musical scribbles which are reminiscent of German monophonic song, especially of the surviving Neidhart melodies, and which feature a rhythmic principle that can also be found in some transmissions of  Neidhart songs from the Eghenvelder Liedersammlung—the alternating “reference rhythm” (“long-short-long-short”, etc.), which seems to have a connection to the musical representation of dance:

Musical jottings on the outside of the cover of A-Wn cod. 5458 (photo by Friedrich Simader).

Musical jottings on the outside of the cover of A-Wn cod. 5458 (photo by Friedrich Simader).

By piecing together the different strands of evidence a multifaceted picture of Neidhart’s role in late medieval Viennese musical life emerges: The depictions in Tuchlauben 19, the place names in Neidhart’s songs, the university ink drawing with its musical scribbles on the cover, the Neidhart grave at the cathedral of St. Stephan, the transmissions of his songs in local song collections (most prominently the Neidhart songs in the Eghenvelder Liedersammlung) and finally the performance of Neidhart plays in the Austrian region together create a mosaic of a colourful Neidhart reception in and around Vienna.

Marc Lewon

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

# Gertrud Blaschitz and Barbara Schedl, ‘Die Ausstattung eines Festsaales im mittelalterlichen Wien. Eine ikonologische und textkritische Untersuchung der Wandmalereien des Hauses “Tuchlauben 19”’, in Neidhartrezeption in Wort und Bild, Medium Aevum Quotidianum (Krems, 2000), 84–111.

* Burghart Wachinger, ‘Neidhart-Schwänke im Bild’, in Lieder und Liederbücher. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur mittelhochdeutschen Lyrik (Berlin; New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2011), 137–159.

+ Olaf Pluta, ‘Ewigkeit der Welt, Sterblichkeit der Seele, Diesseitigkeit des Glücks – Elemente einer materialistischen Philosophie bei Johannes Buridan’, in Historia Philosophiae Medii Aevi. Studien zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, ed. by Burkhard Mojsisch and Olaf Pluta (Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Grüner, 1991), ii, 847–872.