“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 WDR just released another radio interview with Birgit Lodes.

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.

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.

The “Sound” of the Middle Ages – An Interview-Presentation


The online-magazine of Vienna University “uni:view” has published an interview with the team of the “Musical Life” research project (Musikleben des Spätmittelalters in der Region Österreich (1340-1520) / Musical Life of the late Middle Ages in the Austrian Region (1340-1520): Birgit Lodes, Reinhard Strohm and Marc Lewon answered the detailed questions of Petra Schiefer about the approach and aims of the research project. The resulting interview (in German) embellished with depictions and sound clips as well as an excursion to Reinhard Strohm’s Balzan Prize Award Ceremony can be found online with uni:view, here: Der “Sound” des Mittelalters.

Giogrio Napolitano hands over the Balzan Prize to Reinhard Strohm on the 14th of November 2012

Giorgio Napolitano hands over the Balzan Prize to Reinhard Strohm on the 14th of November 2012

Marc Lewon

The orange scarf is laid to rest… On the death of Ulrich Müller

Ulrich Müller (1940-2012)

We feel we need to start our blog on an important but sad note: Ulrich Müller, one of the great scholars and a unique personality in the humanities, passed away on October 14th, 2012, aged 71. Medieval German Philology and Linguistics was his primary field of expertise and he was one of the most knowledgeable and prolific experts on the Nibelungenlied, as well as the works of Neidhart and Oswald von Wolkenstein – this knowledge representing only the tip of an unfathomable intellectual iceberg. He contributed such a quantity of works and furthered the knowledge of medieval German literature in so many ways that trying to offer a list here could only fail. Such a list is, however, being prepared by the much more competent authorities at Salzburg, where he lived and worked.

Ulrich Müller as a young man with the original of Wolkenstein MS B

Ulrich Müller was one of those German scholars who did not fear the sight of musical notation and who always tried to promote an interdisciplinary approach to his field, boldly crossing borders and venturing into other hunting grounds. He always encouraged performers to bring to life and to the stage the pieces of literary and musical art that he loved so dearly. He never denied assistance or help, he always kept a positive frame of mind, and never reacted in a condescending way, no matter how silly a question might have been. He was a catalyst for projects in both the performing arts and in musicology, providing impetus to and studies and performances alike. His enthusiasm was legendary. And above all he was a friendly, cheerful, and inspiring personality who knew how to enjoy himself and the company of others.

We have lost a great man, and on a personal note I have lost a friend whom I had the honour of getting to know better and better in the past few years. I had hoped to enjoy his friendship or at least the knowledge of him being around for a few years longer. It was good to know that the world contained him and his orange scarf.

On behalf of the project-team, Marc Lewon

The day and mood of Müller’s funeral.

Musikleben des Spätmittelalters in der Region Österreich (1340-1520) / Musical Life of the late Middle Ages in the Austrian Region (1340-1520)

Reinhard Strohm, Birgit Lodes, Marc Lewon

Musical Life is a research project carried out at the Institute of Musicology, University of Vienna, by Prof. Birgit Lodes (University of Vienna) as research leader, Prof. em. Reinhard Strohm (University of Oxford) and cand. phil. Marc Lewon (University of Oxford).

The project is funded by the Austrian Research Foundation (Wissenschaftsfonds, FWF) and is running from November 1st, 2011 to May 1st, 2014. It explores the material and spiritual aspects of musical-cultural practice of the period 1340-1520 in the Habsburg territories and neighbouring areas. Results of the research will be published in the form of an interactive website with musical recordings, texts and images.

The three main researchers and several expert collaborators are responsible for writing the chapters, many of which will focus on important archival documents, musical sources and iconography. Several ensembles specialising in early music performance, co-ordinated by Marc Lewon, will contribute recordings. An international team of expert advisers is available for guidance.

For a full project description, see: Musical Life.

For enquiries, please contact reinhard.strohm@music.ox.ac.uk.

For a report on the project presentation with concerts by Ensemble Leones and Stimmwerck, including a picture gallery, see: Musik aus den Kindertagen der Universität