Oswald von Wolkenstein: Songs

Oswald von Wolkenstein
Lieder - Songs
Sequentia - Barbara Thornton & Benjamin Bagby, dirs
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (BMG) 05472 77302 2 [CD]

Contents:

  1. Wes mich mein buel (2 voices, 2 fiddles, harp)
  2. Es seusst dort her (voice, harp, 2 fiddles)
  3. Do fraig amors (voice, harp, fiddle)
  4. Es fuegt sich (voice)
  5. Wer ist, die da durchleuchtet (voice, fiddle)
  6. Instrumental piece (2 fiddles, harp)
  7. O snöde werit (voice, harp)
  8. Durch Barbarei, Arabia (voice, fiddle)
  9. Vil lieber gruesse (voice, harp, fiddle)

Sources:
(text) after the edition by Karl Kurt Klein "Die Lieder Oswalds von Wolkenstein", 2nd ed., Tübingen, 1975
(music) Oswald B manuscript (Innsbruck) with occasional variants from A manuscript (Vienna)

Performers:
Sequentia, Ensemble für Musik des Mittelalters
Barbara Thornton (voice), Benjamin Bagby (voice), Elizabeth Gaver (fiddle), Rainer Ullreich (fiddle)
Barbara Thornton & Benjamin Bagby, dirs.

Playing time: 71'

Recording site and date:
Empore des Westwerks, St. Pantaleon, Köln [1/1993];
Rel.: 1993

Reviewed in:
Fanfare (Vol./#-p.): 17/6- (July/Aug.1994)

Oswald von Wolkenstein was a major composer of the beginning of the 15th century. Poet, nobleman, diplomat, the songs he wrote and presented here reflect the variety of his life. The subjects touched on are a mirror of his development, and are philosophical, biographical, full of love or of humor. The 3rd track gives from him the image of a traveller, and mixes seven different languages to prove it. This track is by the way an excellent introduction to the style, very attaching of that composer. The crystal pure voice of Barbara Thornton is as always a pure delight to hear. The track 9, for example, after a lively introduction, shows the extent and quality of her voice. And definitely, hear the first track for a quick overview of the beauties concealed in this wonderful CD.

Bruno Cornec

Oswald is unusual for artists of his time for having been an aristocrat, and deeply involved with many of the political events of his time. As such he continues the tradition of the earlier troubadours. Indeed his output is primarily monophonic songs (as here), although he did set some new texts to polyphonic music by other (French & Italian) composers. Some of his songs have more of a spoken quality (spruchdichtung), and form a continuum with his surviving poetry.

Some other major recordings devoted to Wolkenstein:

Wolkenstein: Knightly Passions
New London Consort - Philip Pickett
L'Oiseau Lyre 444 173
Oswald von Wolkenstein
Ensemble für Frühe Musik Augsburg
Christophorus 74540
Oswald von Wolkenstein and his Italian contemporaries
Les Menestrels
Arte Nova 58969
Oswald von Wolkenstein
Studio der Frühen Musik - Thomas Binkley
EMI Reflexe 63069

Wolkenstein (1376-1445) was essentially a transitional figure in the history of German song. The earlier Minnesingers proper, such as leading figures Walther von der Vogelweide (c.1170-c.1230) & Neidhart von Reuental (c.1180-c.1240), incorporated troubadour idioms from the Romance languages into the German court context. This is considered the golden age of German minnesang. A recording devoted to Neidhart:

Neidhart von Reuental
Ensemble für Frühe Musik Augsburg
Christophorus 77108

The tradition continued to develop in the hands of such composers as Heinrich von Meissen (c.1250/60-1318), Mönch von Salzburg (fl.c.1400) and others, leading up to the transitional style of Wolkenstein. Recordings:

Frauenlob
The Celestial Woman
Sequentia - Barbara Thornton & Benjamin Bagby
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77309
Mönch von Salzburg: Weltliche Lieder
Ensemble für Frühe Musik Augsburg
Christophorus 77176
Mönk von Salzburg: Lieder
Paul Hofhaimer Consort, Salzburg
Arte Nova 37316

Following this period and moving into the Renaissance, minnesang gave way to the meistersinger style as made famous by Richard Wagner. A major recording:

Hans Sachs und seine Zeit
Eberhard Kummer / Trio des Clemencic Consort
Stradivarius 33361

Other recordings featuring a variety of German material from this period:

O Fortuna
Glück und unglück in liedern und texten des Mitellalters
Freiburger Spielleyt
Ars Musici 1181
Minnesänger & Meistersinger
Songs around Konrad von Wurzburg
Von Ramm / Jones / Nelson
Christophorus 74542
Codex Manesse - The Great Heidelberg Song Manuscript
I Ciarlatani
Christophorus 77192

See also the very under construction minnesang discography, for a variety of more obscure entries. See also some related citations in the links above.

Finally, the previous volume in Sequentia's series of German medieval music:

Bordesholmer Marienklage
Sequentia
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77280

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Todd M. McComb