Martin Hummel

Das Lochamer Liederbuch: German Popular Songs from the 15th Century

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The Lochamer Liederbuch (Locham Songbook) is from the Nuremberg area; the Locham name, just to confuse people who might be getting interested in the music, apparently stems from a notation made by one of the manuscript's early owners. Compiled around 1450, it's one of the first notated collections of German secular song, and it consists mostly of monophonic tunes. Most of the music is anonymous (diplomat Oswald von Wolkenstein is one of the few named composers), and in its melodic shapes it sounds like the French and Italian song of 50 years earlier, with frequent use of the medieval 7-6-8 cadence. There are some polyphonic pieces, however, and there's enough detail in the manuscript to suggest various kinds of polyphonic accompaniment. German Renaissance in general has been comparatively neglected by early music performers, and a performance like this one, which sets the modest goal of presenting a range of attractive possibilities for realizing the music, is especially welcome; the early German songbooks have too often suffered from readings by expressionless choirs or soloists. The good news begins with a baritone, Baroque specialist Martin Hummel, who approaches the music with warmth and gusto. He is backed by varying combinations of plucked and bowed stringed instruments, with possibilities ranging from pure observance of notated tones to fairly free improvisation, and there are some purely instrumental pieces. The bad news is that texts are available only on the Internet, but in general this is a successful introduction to both music and performance issues for a sorely neglected repertory.

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