MUSIC FROM THE TIME OF TILMAN RIEMENSCHNEIDER (Bernhard Bohm/ Harmut Hein/ Hedos Ensemble/ Il Curioso/ Martin Hummel) (Naxos: 8.557138)
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Music from the Time of Tilman Riemenschneider (c.1460-1531)
Tilman Riemenschneider was born about the year 1460and grew up in a Germany that still belonged to theMiddle Ages. The latest artistic currents flowed fromFlanders and Northern France, in particular from therich Burgundian possessions of Antwerp and Bruges. InItaly a new world was dawning, but none of this was yetfamiliar to W??rzburg, a town then of six or seventhousand inhabitants, on the river Main, midwaybetween Frankfurt and Nuremberg. It was there thatTilman Riemenschneider settled in 1483, became amaster sculptor and set up his own workshop.
Unlike D??rer or Holbein, both of whom werecelebrities in their own time, Riemenschneider, nowgenerally regarded as one of the leading Germansculptors of the Late Gothic, was soon forgotten, withinterest only reviving in the nineteenth century, bywhich time almost all his work had been destroyed,altered or at any rate removed from its original location.
Almost everything we know about his life, therefore,comes from public records, municipal accounts,business contracts and details of payments. Theseprovide evidence of a successful master of his craft whorose to a position of high esteem in the community. Heserved not only on the lower council of the city ofW??rzburg, but also four times on the much morepowerful upper council, where seven citizens (one ofthem from the ranks of the craftsmen and artisans)balanced the seven clergy chosen from the cathedralchapter. Resentment smouldered constantly towards thechurch and its clergy, owing to their special privilegesand exemption from the normal taxes. During thePeasants' War, Riemenschneider joined with othermembers of the city council in refusing to allow theircity to be used as a military base against the peasants,but the local prince-bishop had his revenge. In 1525Riemenschneider was subjected to prolongedquestioning and torture, after which part of his estateswere seized.
During the first half of the fifteenth century thefinest breeding-ground for musical ideas was Flanders,part of the northern possessions of the duchy ofBurgundy. Germany was relatively slow to embrace thelatest developments, and it was a blind organist fromNuremberg, Conrad Paumann, who had an importantplace, from 1450 onwards, in transmitting Franco-Flemish polyphony and its repertories to Germanaudiences. A copy of his Fundamentum organisandiwas bound together with a manuscript now called theLochamer Liederbuch (c.1452-60), which shows theearliest signs of the assimilation of the more subtlenorthern polyphony into the German secular tradition.
Two other manuscripts of the period, the SchedelLiederbuch (1460-67) and the Glogauer Liederbuch(c.1480), contain rather more substantial collections ofsecular songs and sacred works.
Songs have always been passed from one musicianto another, and often the recipient likes to adapt orinvent according to preference. The songs of this periodcan be found spread over a wide area, presented in avariety of forms. Es solt ein man kein mole farn, forexample, is found in the Glogauer Liederbuch as athree-part piece, author unknown. On this CD it isplayed on instruments only (track 19), but the originaltext contains the words rumpel an der T??re nicht. As aresult the same song sometimes went under the nameRompeltier, and a four-part version by Obrecht with thistitle (track 28) was included in one of the earliest of allprinted collections, produced by the Venetian printerOttaviano Petrucci in 1502.
There is a positively international flavour to thesePetrucci collections, as recognised composers tookpopular melodies and incorporated them into a morerefined contrapuntal texture. In this way a robust tavernsong such as Zenner, greiner (track 6) could find itselfmixing in much more elevated company aftertransformation by two of the foremost Germancomposers of the day, Heinrich Finck (track 7) and PaulHofhaimer (track 8). Similarly, by the time such songsas Wir zogen in das feld (track 18), Alle furf (track 26)and Canto dei lanzi allegri (track 27) had found theirway into printed collections, now in contrapuntal dress,they had come a long way from the camps of themercenary soldiers who, perhaps many decades earlier,had been the first to sing them.
Popular music in its original guise never needed tobe committed to paper; everything could be learned andtransmitted by ear. The nature of these writtenarrangements was rather different. They were designedfor a more educated audience, and would most oftenhave been heard played by the town musicians, orStadtpfeiferei, the 'waits', a term which recalled theiroriginal function as watchmen posted on the city towers,whose duty it was to signal fire within the walls ordanger without. In the course of time it became theirmain duty to provide music for the community: in Basel,a shawm-player's oath from about 1500 states that thetown musicians will play 'every Sunday after thesermon from the Richt Hall and after the evening mealfrom the Rhine Bridge, and at ceremonies in theHerrenstuben before and after the banquets'.
For such purposes it was essential to use the loudertype of instruments, designed to be heard out of doorsand over the noise of diners, and so for the towns thatcould afford them a wind band of five players, threeshawms and two trombones, became the standard; asmaller town would have to make do with only three. Itwas assumed, however, that players would be versatileenough to be competent on several instruments, often ofquite different kinds. Contemporary representations,without exception, show them performing withoutmusic, but since their repertoire was contrapuntal wemay assume that the parts were memorised from awritten score, with the customary embellishmentsimprovised while performing.
Of the composers included by name in the presentprogramme Jean Mouton (c.1457-1522) was born innorthern France, where he worked for some 25 yearsbefore becoming attached to the French court. Heaccompanied Fran?ºois I to meetings with Pope Leo X inBologna (1515) and probably to that with Henry VIII atthe Field of the Cloth of Gold (1520); on both occasionsthe chapel choirs of both rulers played an important partin the elaborate ceremonies.
The German composer Heinrich Finck (1444/5--1527), probably born in Bamberg, was intermittently inthe service of three Kings of Poland, finally, in 1510,securing a position as Kapellmeister to Duke Ulrich ofStuttgart. There followed a period at the court of theEmperor Maximilian I. In 1520 he was appointedcomposer to the Salzburg Cathedral chapter, and finallyhe made his home in Vienna, organizing a choralestablishment at the Schottenkloster. In 1527 hebecame, for a short time, Court Kapellmeister toFerdinand I. In the course of a long and varied life Finckwrote a great deal of music, of which four Mass settings,motets, hymns, and secular songs survive. In these last,in the form of tenor songs, he shows his preference forfolk-song texts.
An organist and composer Paul Hofhaimer(1459-1537) served at the court of Duke Sigmund ofTyrol in Innsbruck, later combining this position withthat of organist at the court of Maximilian I, whoennobled him in 1515. After Maximilian's death in 1519Hofhaimer served as organist at Salzburg Cathedral,holding that position until his death in 1537. He enjoyedan unrivalled reputation as an organist, famous, inparticular, for his improvisation, and exercisedconsiderable influence as a teacher. His survivingcompositions include keyboard intabulations, twoliturgical organ compositions and a number of songs, aform for which he was also much praised bycontemporaries.
A composer and poet, Johann Walter (1496-1570)was a member of the Hofkapelle of the Elector ofSaxony. After the Elector's death in 1525 he settled inTorgau as choirmaster, encouraged by the suppor