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Hamelin 1284: An Interview With Norbert Rodenkirchen

Medieval flute, improvisation, and the true story behind the medieval tale of the Pied Piper, in a conversation with Norbert Rodenkirchen.

The oldest picture of the Pied Piper copied from the glass window of the Market Church in Hameln/Hamelin, Germany, commissioned by Augustin von Moersperg (c. 1592).

This week: medieval flute, improvisation, and the true story behind the medieval tale of the Pied Piper, in a conversation with Norbert Rodenkirchen of the renowned medieval ensemble Sequentia. We’ll hear music from a live performance of his solo program Hameln Anno 1284: Medieval flute music on the trail of the Pied Piper, and preview his new CD with singer Sabine Lutzenberger of the music of 13th-century minnesinger Heinrich von Meissen.

Let’s begin with music of medieval minnesinger Wizlaw von Rugen.

[playlist-item 1]


Norbert Rodenkirchen, “Hameln Anno 1284,” Part 1

One of the world’s enduring legends is the story of the Pied Piper, who rid the medieval city of Hamlin of its rats by luring them with his music into the river, only to return after a payment dispute and lure away the town’s children, who disappeared with him.

It would appear, however, that there was a real Pied Piper—and this is the theme of  Hameln Anno 1284, a CD and solo concert program by flutist Norbert Rodenkirchen, who is also a member of the renowned medieval ensemble Sequentia. Recently we had the good fortune to welcome him to the Texas Tech University School of Music, where he performed this beautiful program, worked with the early music students, and talked with me about the program and the real person behind the Pied Piper legend…

Interview segment (2:49)

Let’s hear a traditional Old Slavic tune, from the CD Hameln Anno 1284, which explores the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, played by flutist Norbert Rodenkirchen, with Giuseppe Paolo Cecere on symphonia and Wolfgang Reithofer, percussion.

[playlist-item 1]


Norbert Rodenkirchen, “Hameln Anno 1284,” Part 2

Norbert Rodenkirchen’s concert performances of “Hameln Anno 1284” program are a tour-de-force of solo flute, including medieval music, improvisation, and narration. The narrator begins by presenting the actual historical background of the tale, and then as the program progresses, moves onto the early versions of the story of the magical rat-catcher, and eventually to the disturbing tale as it is told by the Brothers Grimm. In our conversation after his concert here at Texas Tech University, Norbert talked about the process of discovering music from the time and place where the Pied Piper legend originated…

Interview segment (1:03)

Here’s more  music of German minnesinger Wizlaw von Rügen, from the CD Hameln Anno 1284, played on medieval flute by Norbert Rodenkirchen, with lutenist Giuseppe Paolo Cecere and percussionist Wolfgang Reithofer.

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Wizlaw came from the area where the legend of the Pied Piper was born; but he was just a young boy in 1284. However, as Norbert explains, there may have been a connection between Wizlaw and the flute-playing “relocator” who was the origin of the tale…

Interview segment (1:19)

Here’s music from the program “Hameln Anno 1284,” recorded live at Texas Tech University, flutist Norbert Rodenkirchen played “The Longing Tune of the Ungelarte,” a tune borrowed by the medieval minnesinger Wizlaw von Ruegen. The passage at the beginning was spoken by Dr. Chris Smith, Chair of Musicology at Texas Tech, who provided the narration for the concert.

[playlist-item 3]

Here’s more about the German minnesinger Wizlaw von Ruegen…

Interview segment (:37)

Let’s listen to Norbert Rodenkirchen, medieval flute, and Giuseppe Paolo Cecere, symphonia, play music of minnesinger Wizlaw von Ruegen and a traditional Slavic tune.

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Featured recording: In forgotten tones

Norbert Rodenkirchen’s latest CD on the Marc Aurel Edition label is a collaboration with singer Sabine Lutzenberger, and features the music of German minnesinger Heinrich von Meissen, also known as Frauenlob.

The name of the CD is In vergessenen Tönen, or “In forgotten tones.”

The “tones” referred to here are melodic and metrical poetic templates, or individually defined forms, with evocative names such as “the flight ton,” “the green ton,” or “the forgotten ton.”

These musical forms become the vehicle for von Meissen’s characteristically philosophical and contemplative lyrics. The opening piece, a “contemplation on honor” is written using the “Green Ton,” as Norbert Rodenkirchen explains…

Interview segment (1:49)

 Let’s hear the “In the verdant countryside, I sit and reflect” lyric and music of the medieval German minnesinger Frauenlob.

[playlist-item 4]

It’s not easy to find English translations of Frauenlob’s lyric, and it’s a treat to read the beautiful translations by Meredith Beck included in the CD booklet included in the recording In vergessenen Tönen, or “In forgotten tones.”

One of the most intriguing lyrics on the CD is not by Frauenlob, but is actually a lyric by the German mystic known as Meister Eckhart. Norbert talked about the process of setting Meister Eckhart’s lyric to music…

Interview segment (1:54)

The light of your soul must pass into nothingness!
All things and nothingness emanate all around!
Leave time, leave space; eschew as well all imagery,
Walk– not the well-tread path, rather the narrow trail, and you will discover the way to the desert.
Oh my soul: go out, and God enters in!
All my being sinks into god’s nothingness; it sinks into the flow without end.
If I flee from you, you come to me.
If lose myself: O perpetual goodness, above all creation.

Here’s Granum sinapis, the Mustard Seed, a lyric by German mystic Meister Eckhart.

[playlist-item 4]

Norbert Rodenkirchen has been my guest on this week’s edition of Harmonia. Our conversation took place after a concert and medieval music workshop at Texas Tech University, where he performed his “Hameln Anno 1284” program, parts of which we heard on the first half of this week’s program. We’ll end with one more piece from the new CD by Norbert Rodenkirchen and Sabine Lutzenberger, In vergessenen Tönen.

Interview segment (:26)

The end tells of the perfection of all things.
How high, how deep, how heavy and how light,
How far, how wide; the end of all things is a square!

 

The beginning, indeed, shows good sense, from whose sure hand it flows.
The perfect end is, in contrast, an asset, which is guarded by the wise.
As good as the beginning may be,
As rich as the middle which joins it in good company,
Yet only does the end have any say over perfection with all its stratum.
He whose deed impedes a good end, this deed will never be achieved unscathed.
I can guarantee you that!

Let’s finish with “The End tells of the perfection of all things,” a contemplation on form by the medieval German minnesinger Heinrich von Meissen, also known as Frauenlob.

[playlist-item 4]


Break and Theme music

:30, Danse Royale, Ensemble Alcatraz, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 1992 B000005J0B, Tr. 6: Danse Royale I

:60, Danse Royale, Ensemble Alcatraz, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 1992 B000005J0B, Tr. 8: Danse Royale II

:30, Danse Royale, Ensemble Alcatraz, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 1992 B000005J0B, Tr. 10: Retrove

Theme: Danse Royale, Ensemble Alcatraz, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 1992 B000005J0B, T.12: La Prime Estampie Royal

The writer for this edition of Harmonia is Angela Mariani.

Learn more about recent early music CDs on the Harmonia Early Music Podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes or at harmonia early music dot org.

Special note: This is our 800th episode! Special thanks to recording engineers Rachel Boyd and Breanna Englehardt and Dr. Will Strieder at Texas Tech School of Music Recording Services.

Harmonia Early Music

Harmonia Early Music is a nationally syndicated weekly early music radio program, podcast and blog produced by WFIU Public Radio.

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