Harmonia Early Music

A Musical Tour Of Nuremberg

We’ll hear music created and published in Nuremberg, plus music by Schmelzer performed by the Freiburger Barock Consort.

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Hans Sachs

Photo: gabor (wikipedia)

Meistersinger Hans Sachs (1494-1576), detail from woodcut.

Time capsule for this episode: 1638

Nuremberg

This German city dates back to the early part of the 11th century, and shortly became a draw for tradesmen and wandering musicians.  By the 14th century, the tradition of Meistergesang emerged. Meistersingers (or “Master Singers”), were usually middle-class guildsmen based in one city center, differing from the traveling Minnesingers who were from the noble class. Both sang in the courtly love tradition, but Meistersingers followed a strict, complicated set of rules that governed both the composition and performance of their songs, often valuing use of meter and rhyme over the actual story content.

Nuremberg became one of the most important centers in Germany for these guilds, with Hans Sachs leading the Meistersinger school there. (That’s the same Hans Sachs of Wagnerian fame in the opera Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg).

Meistersingers often composed text to fit with a melody from an existing collection of tunes, like Sachs’ Gesangweise or “Meistersinger melody” on the tune “Our Lady.”  The subtitle of this piece is ‘The tale of a devout wife, falsely accused of murder.”

Hans Sachs : T. 4 – Gesangweise to the Tune “Our Lady” (excerpt)
Drew Minter — A Wind Blows from the East: Four German Medieval Tales (Bridge Records Inc , 2011)
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(Countertenor and harpist Drew Minter performed The Gesangweise or “Meistersinger melody” on the tune “our Lady” by 16th-century Meistersinger Hans Sachs.  Sachs settled in Nuremberg, working as a cobbler for most of his life.)

Music printing

Music printing became an important industry in Nuremberg during the 16th century. Printing centers already existed in Venice and Paris, but Nuremberg was the first German city to print music on a large scale. The printer Hans Ott was responsible for bringing Josquin’s music to a German public and was supposed to publish Heinrich Isaac’s Choralis Constantinus, which contained music for the mass proper.  However, Ott died before publication of the work, and it was left to his partner Hieronymous Formschneider.

In 2004, Ensemble Officium released a recording of Heinrich Issac’s Missa Pascalis and some of the pieces from his Choralis Constantinus.

T. 1 – Introitus: Resurrexi a 6 (7:50) / T. 5 – Choralis Constantinus: Alleluia: Pascha Nostrum (2:31)
Ensemble Officium — Isaac: Missa Paschalis (Easter Mass) (Christophorus, 2004)
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(We heard Ensemble Officium perform an Alleluia and Introit by Heinrich Isaac from his publication Choralis Constantinus, one of the significant works of music published and printed in 16th-century Nuremberg.)

Music publishing

In 1525, Nuremberg became the first city to declare its alliance with the Lutheran faith. Along with this new faith came a ban on the traditional Catholic music of Josquin and his contemporaries. However, in 1537 the ban was lifted, and the publisher Hans Ott now had competition: Johann Petreius.  Both publishers came out with books of masses in 1539, and the two books share only two masses out of the thirteen in Ott’s and the fifteen in Petreius’ book.

Josquin: T. 7 – M Fortuna Desperata: Gloria (7:22) / T. 10 – M Fortuna Desperata: Agnus Dei (6:30)
Tallis Scholars — Missa Malheur Me Bat and Missa Fortuna Desperata (Gimell, 2009)
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Featured recording

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer was one of the most important musicians of the Habsburg court and by a contemporary 1660 account, was even considered the “famous and nearly most distinguished violinist in all Europe!” As a composer, Schmelzer produced a varied output, but his most influential works were his instrumental sonatas and numerous suites of balleti. And it is these theatrical works that the the Freiburger Barock Consort explores on their 2012 release, aptly named Barockes Welttheater, or World Theater.

Schmelzer’s ballet suites supplied music for elaborate courtly entertainments such as pageants, masquerades, carnivals and dramas—spectacles in which even members of the imperial family were known to participate.

Even in his more serious sonatas, Schmelzer doesn’t shy away from the theatrical, using imitations of anything from bells to birdsongs, to bagpipes…you name it!  His Sonata Battaglia prescribes a military drum, not with an actual drum mind you, but rather impersonated by the violone. The battlefield encounter is waged by two opposing instrumental choirs, which, after their musical skirmish, seem to join in a peaceful resolution.

T. 6 – Balletto primo di Spoglia di Papagi (2:36) / T. 11 – Sonata Battaglia (8:25)
Freiburg Baroque Consort — Schmelzer: Baroque World Theater (harmonia mundi, 2012)
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Hans Sachs : T. 4 – Gesangweise to the Tune “Our Lady” (excerpt)
Drew Minter — A Wind Blows from the East: Four German Medieval Tales (Bridge Records Inc , 2011)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
T. 1 – Introitus: Resurrexi a 6 (7:50) / T. 5 – Choralis Constantinus: Alleluia: Pascha Nostrum (2:31)
Ensemble Officium — Isaac: Missa Paschalis (Easter Mass) (Christophorus, 2004)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Josquin: T. 7 – M Fortuna Desperata: Gloria (7:22) / T. 10 – M Fortuna Desperata: Agnus Dei (6:30)
Tallis Scholars — Missa Malheur Me Bat and Missa Fortuna Desperata (Gimell, 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
T. 6 – Balletto primo di Spoglia di Papagi (2:36) / T. 11 – Sonata Battaglia (8:25)
Freiburg Baroque Consort — Schmelzer: Baroque World Theater (harmonia mundi, 2012)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Anna Pranger

Anna Pranger moved to Bloomington in 2009 to pursue a degree in music librarianship. Before this, she worked on a degree in music history at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio. She serves as both an assistant producer for Harmonia and the Music Library Assistant for WFIU.

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  • Kittybriton KB

    Once again, you open my eyes to new possibilities! Now I want to know more about the printing processes used by Ott and Formschneider!

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