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The Codex Manesse

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Old 15-04-09, 05:12 PM
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Default The Codex Manesse

The Codex Manesse, also called the “Grosse Heidelberger Liederhandschrift”, is the most extensive collection of Middle High German poetry, and many songs of the minnesingers have been handed down exclusively by way of this manuscript. Since it is kept there, the famous parchment codex has been named after the city of Heidelberg. It was first recorded in possession of the palatinate electors in 1605/06, but the precious book only remained in the palatine residency for a brief time. The valuable "antique" was presumably sold during the Thirty Year’s War by the widow of the unfortunate elector and “Winter King” Frederick V, who found herself in financial difficulties. As of 1656, the manuscript was in the library of France’s king and remained in Paris until 1888. Since its repurchase, it has been kept in the Heidelberg University Library under the call mark Codex Palatinus germanicus 848 (Cpg 848).

The "wondrous book" (Gottfried Keller) was created at the beginning of the 14th century in Zurich, probably through the initiative of the patrician family Manesse, redidents of that city, whose interest in old "song" has been documented in the manuscript itself. Yet, the Codex Manesse became famous throughout the world not because of the text’s transmission, but its numerous colorfull illustrations. The collected verses of each author - their order corresponds to the (partly presumed) social rank in the medieval society - are usually preceded by a full-page picture of the poet; however, no similarity with the portraits should be expected here.

Contrasted with several Romance manuscrits containing works of troubadours and trouvères, the "loveliest book of the German Middle Ages" has one flaw: it contains no music. But the word "minnesong" should be taken literally - lyrics that are sung. Most minnesingers were both poets and composers and also performed their songs themselves. Minnesong, as well as epigrammatic poetry, was primaly a performing art and words and tunes were passed on in an oral tradition. The zenith of Middle High German sung-verse poetry falls in the period of the Hohenstaufen emperors’ rule, from the middle of the 12th century to the middel of the 13th century. When the verses - and less frequently, the melodies - were later recorded, this was the attempt to preserve the remainder of an art in the state of decline.

It is a painful fact most of the minnesong melodies have been lost and the corresponding music can be deduced from a parallel transmission or other sources for only a fraction of the Codex Manesse’s texts. Manuscripts with music like the Jena Manuscript (ca. 1330) or the later Colmar Manuscript (ca. 1460) contain a repertoire from the end of the epoch, handing down melodies that are not always beyond doubt. A relatively large number of tunes has only been preserved for Neidhart’s songs in a fragment belonging to the Frankfurt Municipal Library (early 14th century) and particulary in the Berlin Neidhart Manuscript, compiled around 1465. Although there is a portion of a song manuscript (14th century) in the Münster State Archives containing the complete melody from Walther’s "Palestine Song", we still do not know the original tunes to any of his minnesong.

For those poets of minnesong’s early period who clearly show that they are indebted to the Romance models (troubadours and trouvères), the method of contrafactum is justified. If a Middle High Geman poem has the same stansaic structure as a Provencal of French model with music, the German text can be set to this melody. If the rhyme pattern and text contents also a degree in the details, one can assume with great probability that the German singer wrote to the tune of the Romance model. Using an existing melody for a new poem was quite common in the Middle Ages, and there are even many songs handed down from the 16th century without music and solely the instrucions that they are to be sung according to the tune of another song (whose melody, of which we often have no knowledge of today, was common knowledge at that time).

The most complex form of the minnesong is the "lay", a complicated and usually also extensive lyric form with a very individual structure. A fortunate circumstance has preserved for us - in a concealed form - the melody to Tanhuser’s lay "Ich lobe ein wib". The Latin Conductus "Sion egredere" from the manuscript Clmm 5539 of the Bavarian State Library in Munich, which is complete with music, ends to our astonishment with the Middle High German sentence; "Der sait der ist enzwai". Also used by Tanhuser on more than one occasion, this closing phrase stating that the string on the bow of the fiddler breaks led the musicologist Hans Spanke to the discovery that the Latin text and Tanhuser’s lay demonstrate the same structure, meaning that contrafactum exists here.

The few melodies of the minnesingers that have been written down more than once, sometimes differ considerably from each other because of the various influences between the oral tradition and setting them down in writing. At this point it becomes clear that the ambition of letting "music from the Middle Ages" sound today can only be an approximation from a distance, in the best case, for the interpreters and the listeners, an equally suspenseful path between the rich text tradition and the distinctly less abundant transmission of the music. Very little of the instrumental music of the medieval ministrels has been hended down to us, one possibility for bridging the intervals of time is an adaption of preserved troubadour melodies that does justice to the instruments.

In addition, the texts of the minnesingers have not reliably been preserved anywhere in an "original version" by the respective poet.
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Old 15-04-09, 05:41 PM
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Default Berner von Horheim: Nv enbeis ich doch des trankes nie

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Provencal and French models shaped the minnesongs of Bernger von Horheim. We encounter his name in 1196 in two Italian documents by Philipp of Swabia, and it is possible that he came from Horrheim near Vaihingen in Württemberg. In terms of both form and content, the song with the lament “das si mich truren lat” and the quotation of the love potion that fatefully bound Tristan and Isolde, is a faithful paraphrasing of Chrestien de Troye’s song “Onques del bevrage ne buit”, for which a melody has been preserved.

[ame]http://www.classicalmusicforum.net/music/02-Nv-enbeis.mp3[/ame]
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Old 15-04-09, 06:27 PM
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Default Dietmar von Ast: Der winter were mir ein zit

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The melody of the “Lark Song” by the troubadour Bernart de Ventadorn was familiar throughout all of Europe during the Middle Ages. It has been handed down in ten different sources and stimulated some minnesingers to paraphrase it in the same “mode”. It was used for a sung dialogue between an man and a woman by the biographically not clearly discernible Dietmar von A(i)st (there is proof of bearers of the name Dietmar in the Austrian baron dynasty of Aist between 1139 and 1171). In the verses handed down under the name of Reinmar von Hagenau, a woman also professes faithfulness to her beloved. Whether the verses actually originated from this completer of courtly song art who wrote between about 1180 and 1205 at the Vienna court of the Babenberger is doubtful. Exactly the same text can be also found by Heinrich von Rugge in the Codex Manesse. His Upper Swabian origins are generally considered to be certain, perhaps he was an estate official of the Tübingen count palatine in the last quarter of the 12th century.
[ame]http://www.classicalmusicforum.net/music/04-Der-winter.mp3[/ame]
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Old 15-04-09, 06:36 PM
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Old 15-04-09, 06:44 PM
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Old 15-04-09, 10:18 PM
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Default Bligger von Steinach: Er fvnde gvoten kovf an minen iaren

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The “Hinterburg”, the oldest of the four fortresses of Neckarsteinach, lies about fifteen kilometers up the Neckar River from Heidelberg on a narrow mountain ridge between the Steinach Valley and the Neckar Valley. It was the family seat of Bligger II, who was recorded between 1165 and 1209 in documents. His contemporaries valued him mainly as a writer of epic poetry, and his chief work that Gottfried of Strasbourg highly praised, the “Umbehanc”, has been lost. If we disregard speculations about his possible contribution to the “Nibelungenlied”, then only few of his verses where he shows himself obligated to the recunciatory “hohe Minne” (love) have been handed down. The song in which he laments his joyless life and hopes to be rescued by a “beauty from the Rhine” could have been created during a crusade in the Holy Land. It can be sung with exact number of syllables to the melody of “Tant m’a mené force de seignorage” by the trouvère Gace Brulé.
[ame]http://www.classicalmusicforum.net/music/06-Er-fvnde.mp3[/ame]
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Old 16-04-09, 08:48 AM
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Default Walther von der Vogelweide: Alrerst lebe ich mir werde

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Without a doubt, Walther von der Vogelweide was the most significant personality of the minnesong and epigrammatical poetry. No other Middle High German poet has come close to leaving behind such an extensive and diverse lyrical work, for which, unfortunaly, scarcely no music has been preserved. His "Palestine song" is generally associated with the fifth crusade, to which the emperor Frederick II started off in May 1228. It is a political-religious propaganda song, Walther’s only poem with a melody handed down in a complete form. In the last verse, the "Minstrel of the Empire" present the Christians’ self-righteous claim to the Holy Land in comparison to the Jews and Muslims.

[ame]http://www.classicalmusicforum.net/music/08-Alrerst.mp3[/ame]
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Old 16-04-09, 12:32 PM
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Default Friedrich von Hausen: Min herze vnde min lip die weilent scheiden

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If it is at all permissible to speak of a "group of southwestern German minnesingers" (within which one could also imagine Bernger von Horheim and Bligger von Steinach), then Friedrich von Hausen from the Rhine-Main region would be its most important representative. He was a politically influential estate official and is the first historically recorded minnesinger. His death (1190) during the third crusade, from which emperor Frederick Barbarossa also did not return, has been recorded by a number of his contemporaries. Like no other before him, he transposed the Romance models into Middle High German. In the crusade song "Min herze vnde min lip", he focussed of the theme of the conflict between his lady’s claim to the service of the Minne and his social obligation as a knight devoted to God. The musical model here was "La douche vois del rosignol salvage" by Chastelain de Couci.

[ame]http://www.classicalmusicforum.net/music/09-Min-herze.mp3[/ame]
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Old 16-04-09, 06:30 PM
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Default Tanhuser: Steter dienest der ist gvot

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It is possible that Tanhuser was a Franconian knight, yet his restless life of wandering tends to speak more for a travelling professional singer. Frederick II of Austria (the last Babenberger) granted him an existence near Vienna, which he once again lost in 1246 after the death of the duke. Tanhuser used the conventional forms of the classic minnesong, yet he parodied the contents. In his ironic song, he sings about the wishes of his beloved lady to first grant her favor when the admirer has completed a number of extraordinary heroic deeds. Retieving the legendary salamander from the fire, diverting the Rhone into the region of Nuremberg, of causing the Danube to flow to the left of the Rhine are all tasks that don’t appear to deter Tanhuser. But when she finally also desires Noah’s Ark, he admits that this could cause him some difficulty. This song is recorded in the Colmar Song Manuscript with music, but without the refrain, which only appears in the Codex Manesse. The obvious eroticism in some of his poems may be to blame for the identification of the historical Tanhuser with the mythical figure of Tannhäuser, who was a slave to Mistress Venus.

[ame]http://www.classicalmusicforum.net/music/11-Steter.mp3[/ame]
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Old 17-04-09, 10:26 AM
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Default Wimpfener Fragmente: Ave gloriosa

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The remainder of a motet manuscript compiled around 1300 for the Dominican monastery of Wimpfen on the Neckar contains a multi-voice notated repertoire. The parchment pages were later cut into pieces and served to bind paper manuscripts and incunabulum, which then came to the Hessian State Library in Darmstadt.

[ame]http://www.classicalmusicforum.net/music/12-Ave.mp3[/ame]
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