Eyn lobeliche Kunst
Musical Treasures from middelgerman manuscripts
For a long time, we have had the desire to bring rarely played music manuscripts from our region of Central Germany back to life. Unfortunately, surviving sources are rare: much was lost during the Reformation and in the turmoil of many wars. Perhaps less was written down in the fragmented German Empire than in the great centres of culture such as Florence or Paris, with their patrons of the arts.
Nevertheless some remarkable manuscripts can be found in the libraries, starting with the 13th-century Jenaer Liederhandschrift and ending with Schedel’s 15th-century Liederbuch. The pieces, most of which are in old German language, show a wide range of styles: monophonic Minnesang and Spruchdichtung are represented as well as three-voice compositions of the late Middle Ages – a small but all the more exciting treasure chest for Nimmersêlich!
Of Space and Time
Walking concert through medieval spaces
At this special concert, the audience will experience at first hand how medieval music works in the various rooms of a medieval building and what influence each individual room with its acoustics has on the perception of what is heard. The audience moves between different stations: from the radiant reverberation of the vestibule to the sublime sound in the high choir to the intimate and quiet atmosphere of a cloister. With their programme Von Raum und Zeit (Of Space and Time), which has been specially adapted to the spaces, the ensemble also includes the acoustics and the ambience for the first time in their constant search for the lost sound of the music of the Middle Ages.
Der verlorene Klang
Music along the Romanesque Road
What did music sound like that was played in the buildings of the Middle Ages?
What instruments were used?
What was played on the instruments?
These questions cannot be answered with certainty, since much of the history of music written over 800 years ago lies in the darkness of time. However, there are numerous sources, magnificent musical manuscripts, reports by chroniclers and plenty of scholarly treatises that give us an idea of how the music of the Middle Ages sounded, where it was performed and what purpose it served.
In its search for the “lost sound”, the Ensemble Nimmersêlich brings sacred and secular pieces from the 11th to 13th centuries back to the churches and palaces of the Middle Ages. With historical instruments such as lute, fiddle, harp and, of course, with singing, the ensemble awakens the works of the composers of those long-gone times from a centuries-long sleep.
Christmas charols of the 12th to 15th century
“For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
Although Christmas music as such did not exist in the Middle Ages, many songs can be found which, from today’s point of view, tell the Christmas story. They tell of a flower that sprouts from a stump of Jesse.
Of sin and forgiveness
Spiritual songs on the eve of the Reformation
France and Italy, which are considered the cultural centres of the Middle Ages, were melting pots and seedbeds of various new and exciting musical styles. In Provence, the art of trobadore singing emerged in the early 11th century, which spread throughout the Christian West in the course of a few decades and established itself as minne and chanting in the German-speaking countries and principalities. The first 4-part composition was probably performed in Paris at Christmas in 1199. The avant-garde of the French Ars Nova met Italian rhythm in the 14th century and thus merged into the refined melody and rhythm of the Ars Subtilior. In 15th century Burgundy, polyphonic compositions of enchanting beauty were heard.
The situation was quite different in the German-speaking regions. Here, particular importance was attached to the “old masters” and so a monophonic and rhythmless music-making practice was practised and refined until well into the 17th century. Particularly popular melodies of the minnesingers lived on as “tones” in the songs and sayings of the mastersingers, found their way into church music or were re-penned for sacred purposes. Even Martin Luther made use of such pre-existing melodies in the songs handed down in his name. Late in the 15th century, German melodies were also composed for several voices. It is striking, however, that monophony is still very much present here, if not even monophonic melodies were the model that formed the basis for these compositions.
Such monophonic songs of the late 15th and early 16th centuries, based on monophonic models, are presented by Nimmersêlich in his new programme “Von Sünde und Vergebung” (Of Sin and Forgiveness). The colourfulness and diversity of the music is not found here in sprawling and refined compositions, but in the quiet simplicity of narrative poetry, framed by short lively instrumental pieces.
Mirrors, moonshine and other strange things
Heinrich von Morungen is considered one of the most outstanding poets among the Minnesingers. More than 50 publications are devoted to his work, even analysing individual songs with great effort, trying to fathom the essence of this poet, so to speak. Some even think they can recognise autobiographical references in this poetry, which seems so lively. In fact, Heinrich’s language is very sensitive, very pictorial; it is Minnedichtung at its best. However, no clues to his life can be gleaned from it. Leaving all this completely aside, however, our choice of Morungen fell on quite unlyrical motives: Morungen was probably born in Thuringia and also probably died in Leipzig in 1222. We are also Leipzigers, so the idea of choosing the only “local” minstrel to create a programme was obvious to us. Unfortunately, as with almost all minnesingers, no melodies to Morungen’s texts have survived. The melodies were therefore all composed especially for this programme and are based partly on some of the few surviving minnesong melodies, partly on chant melodies (which have survived in somewhat larger numbers) or were created completely from scratch.
Short programme especially for children.
Today’s omnipresent pop culture, spread by the media, leaves hardly any room for the origins of our music. We want to bring these a little closer to the young people.
We explain the origins of the instruments, some of which are still played today in modified form, and present songs from the most diverse areas of medieval musical life.