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Johan van Veen
MusicWeb International, 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.

Dick Hoban
Lute Society of America Quarterly, November 2008

Members will remember that in the summer of 2007, the LSA helped to sponsor a concert by Ensemble Dolce Melos at the Boston Early Music Festival. The concert was co-sponsored by the Schola Cantorum in Basel, Switzerland, because the ensemble members are well recent graduates of its medieval program. The event was well reviewed and a success by all measures. A few selections from that concert appear on this CD.

Dating from 1452, the Lochamer Liederbuch is an important early source of both German monophonic songs and instruments music. The book really contains two manuscripts that were brought together at about the time it was copied. The first portion contains the songs, about 50 primarily monophonic tenor lines with German texts. The second portion has several folios of German organ tablature with 32 three-part instrumental arrangements, believed to be compositions of Conrad Paumann or musicians in his circle. It is possible that Paumann was the organ instructor for the books’ original owner, who notated both the songs and the instrumental music while a student. There is some overlap between the songs and the instrumental music, which links the two halves into a unique source for mid-15th century music making.

Listeners wishing to become acquainted with the depth and beauty of Paumann’s music need look no farther. Lutenist Marc Lewon has authored two extensive volumes of music from this source and his mastery of this period’s music is reflected in the tight, well-balanced arrangements. The instrumentation varies for each selection and it is clear from the outset that the Dolce Melos musicians are all very talented. The tempos are selected to suit the texts; they never drag, in fact at times the rapid instrumental diminutions are astonishing. Source music is occasionally supplemented with the musicians’ own inventive variations to great effect.

For this recording, Ensemble Dulce Melos has collaborated with baritones, Martin Hummel. His selection as the singer was a good one, because Hummel’s voice is smooth and inviting; his tone is clear, expressive and does not dominate the instrument group, but they work well with their singer. Reflecting the composition of the source, there is an even balance between vocal music supported by instrumentation and purely instrumental music. Hummel is featured on about half of the selections on the CD, however almost every song has an instrumental section allowing the listener to focus on the interesting mix of sonorities these early instruments produce. Taken together, this variety of sound is very satisfying.

American Record Guide, May 2008

The Lochamer Liederbuch is one of the most important early German song books. Compiled in the 15th Century, it includes 50 songs, most of them monophonic. There are also 32 arrangements of well-known songs for instruments. The names of their composers are mostly lost to posterity. In only a few examples have scholars been able to identify songs with their composers, in this case the Monk of Salzburg and Oswald von Wolkenstein.

There are some absolutely gorgeous pieces here. The polyphonic arrangements for instruments are quite in keeping with the learned style associated with the great Germans and Netherlanders of the era. The presence of songs such as ‘Ach Meyden Dw Vil Sene Pein’ shows us how much the courtly love song was admired in Renaissance Germany. It would, after all, be the ground from which the meistersingers would develop their own songs on themes of love but also morality and Christian piety. In fact, one may easily follow these connections in two other Naxos releases: Tugend und Untugend (Naxos 553352; May/June 1996: 248) and Music from the Time of Tilman Riemenschneider (May/June 2005: 217). The notes are quite useful, but there are no texts and translations.

Giv Cornfield
April 2008

For very early music fans, this collection from the middle of the 15th century is fascinating. Some of the songs and instrumental pieces show an amazing degree of sophistication for the time. Martin Hummel is an excellent singer.

Glyn Pursglove
MusicWeb International, April 2008

For very early music fans, this collection from the middle of the 15th century is fascinating. Some of the songs and instrumental pieces show an amazing degree of sophistication for the time. Martin Hummel is an excellent singer.

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