Johan van Veen
, December 2008
The so-called Lochamer Liederbuch is one of the most important collections of German renaissance music. The name comes 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 Sebastian Bach.
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 completely legitimate.
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…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.