The so-called Lochamer Liederbuch
is one of the most
important collections of German renaissance music. The name
from the owner of the manuscript, Wolflein von Lochamer,
who is presumed to have lived around 1500. The manuscript
was put together about half a century earlier by a certain
Frater Jodocus von Windsheim who entered his name into
the book in 1460. It is believed that the collection was
assembled during his years as a student.
It is also of interest is that von Windsheim was from Nuremberg, which
may well have placed him in the circle of Conrad Paumann,
the famous blind organist. This is especially important
in regard to the interpretation. Most pieces are notated
monophonically, but there was a widespread practice of
performing pieces of this type polyphonically by adding
parts to the notated single part. As we know quite a lot
about Paumann's way of arranging music - for instance from
the so-called Buxheimer Orgelbuch which is connected to
his 'school' - this knowledge can be used to 'arrange'
the monophonic pieces for a polyphonic performance.
In this recording a whole array of different kinds of 'arrangement'
are used. These are explained at length in the booklet.
In the process other sources are used, since a number of
pieces from the Lochamer Liederbuch
are also known
from other manuscripts. In fact, many pieces were very
popular and are found in various forms. The manuscript
contains 50 vocal items and 32 instrumental pieces. This
disc presents a selection of mostly vocal pieces, interspersed
with instrumental music. The latter are mostly intabulations
of vocal works.
Most pieces are of German origin, but there is also one from a composer
of the Franco-Flemish school: 'Ein vrooleen edel van naturen'
[track 19]. People who are acquainted with German sacred
music of the 17th and 18th centuries will probably recognize
'Mein frewd möcht sich wol meren' [track 13]. The melody
was later arranged to fit the text 'Herr Christ, der einig
Gotts Sohn', a hymn frequently used by, among others, Johann
As far as I know never before has a whole recording been devoted to
this manuscript. This is rather strange, considering the
importance of this source and the quality and variety of
the repertoire. It is time it was recorded in its entirety.
In the meantime we should be happy to have this generous
selection of pieces from this book.
I have already referred to the various kinds of arrangement. Not
everything is arranged: some pieces are performed exactly
as they were written down. Arrangements of music from this
era always raise questions as to how far one can go in
adding parts or in merging parts from different sources.
I leave it to the experts to debate this, but it is my
impression that there is no need to be too afraid of arranging
or adapting music like this. It is astonishing in how many
different shapes popular pieces are handed down, which
shows that it was very common practice to adapt pieces
to the actual circumstances. And the fact that so few purely
instrumental pieces from this time have come to us can
be explained from the widespread practice of improvisation.
So if today's performers of this repertoire use their knowledge
of the improvisational practices of that era that seems
And it is the performances by the instrumentalists of the Ensemble
Dulce Melos which I have enjoyed most. Their command of
their respective instruments - for instance viola d'arco,
double flute, dulcimelos, hackbrett and gittern - and their
playing skills are impressive. They play their parts with
energy and finesse. Martin Hummel has a nice voice and
sings this repertoire well, but I find his singing a bit
too sophisticated and too 'modern'. Although he sings the
texts in their original form it sounds like standard educated
German. There is reason to perform these texts with some
sort of regional colouring, in regard to pronunciation
and to the use of the voice. Probably the reader of this
review will know the performances of Benjamin Bagby of
the ensemble Sequentia. He uses specific vocal techniques
as well as diction and pronunciation to sing old German
songs. Before listening to this disc I heard a recording
of texts by the South German poet Hugo von Montfort (1357-1423),
set to music by mostly anonymous composers. That repertoire
is from about the same region and not much older than what
we find in the Lochamer Liederbuch
. The performance
by the Austrian singer Eberhard Kummer (on ORF, the label
of Austrian radio) could well be much closer to how it
may have been sung at the time than what we hear here.
There is still much work to do as far as the style of singing
in this repertoire is concerned.
But that should not dissuade anyone from buying this disc. I know
of no other recording with such a wide selection of pieces
from this manuscript and I am sure especially lovers of
renaissance music will thoroughly enjoy this disc.
see also review by Glyn Pursglove