03.01.20, Kirnbauer, Hartmann Schedel und sein "Liederbuch"

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John Haines

The Medieval Review baj9928.0301.020


Kirnbauer, Martin. Hartmann Schedel und sein "Liederbuch": Studien zu einer spaetmittelalterlichen Musikhandschrift (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Muenchen, Cgm 810) und ihrem Kontext. Publikationen der Schweizerischen Musikforschenden Gesellschaft, Ser. 2, Vol. 42. Bern: Peter Lang, 2001. Pp. 417. ISBN: 3-906768-05-8.

Reviewed by:
John Haines
University of Toronto

When Dr. Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514) bequeathed his library to his family, he probably never imagined that the one little music book it contained would go on to become some five centuries later one of the most important and well studied documents in the study of late medieval German music. It was during his student years in the 1460s that Schedel compiled his musical anthology with a certain haste and inexperience as its untidy script shows. He eventually moved back to his birthplace of Nuremberg to practice his trade as a doctor, and there his small music book was swallowed up in his ever increasing library -- some 660 volumes at his death. He apparently never compiled such a book again. Instead, Schedel devoted his later years to the worthwhile occupation of historiography, producing what is now the work most readily associated with his name, the 1493 Liber chronicarum, the kind of thing Germans nickname a Weltchronik. Schedel's is typical, a history of the world from its creation until his time; it is divided into six ages to which he added a seventh, eschatological one. His so-called "Nuremberg Chronicle" is celebrated among scholars for its length, its over 1800 woodcuts and the information it offers on late medieval Hapsburg Germany. It has rightfully earned the reputation of "the most ambitious publishing project of the [fifteenth] century."[[1]] So Hartmann Schedel's name is deservedly well-known, although less so to music historians, as his absence from the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians shows. His music book, a small volume (15 x 10.5 cm) he simply entitled Liber musicalis (Liber musicalis cum cantilenis in his library inventory), is now in the possession of the Munich Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, shelf mark Cgm 810. It contains 126 musical pieces, mostly polyphonic, over half of which are unique to Schedel's book; it combines the international pieces found in other contemporary sources with native German ones, the latter in the majority. So, despite its humble appearance, it is to musicologists what Schedel's chronicle is to historians, one of the most important German sources in the fifteenth century.

The book under review here is Martin Kirnbauer's 1998 dissertation on Schedel's Liederbuch which appears in Peter Lang's series the Schweizerischen Musikforschenden Gesellschaft. Nearly half of this volume consists of a stack of hefty appendices which include an edition of eleven pieces from the songbook along with a few other versions, and a detailed catalogue, the latter the book's most useful tool (233-284). This is the level of detail which also characterizes the book's first half and has naturally led Kirnbauer to provide a more secure dating than hitherto for Schedel's Songbook. It is based on codicological and paleographic analyses and a comparison of the book's handwriting with that of Schedel's other extant books. Kirnbauer concludes that the bulk of the book, including the index, was begun between 1459 and 1461 and finished right prior to Schedel's 1463 departure for Padua, that is to say, during his time in Nuremberg and Leipzig where he was a student. As for the date of 1467 found on fol.139r, it relates only to the few mostly textual additions made after the main compilation.

This is all pretty important information, since one might have assumed that Schedel entered such Burgundian pieces as Dufay's "Bella rosa" in his book during his time in Italy, perhaps inspired by a native performance. The fact that the French and Italian pieces were copied before Schedel even left for Padua raises the question of how much of a performance book this was, especially given that several have imagined the young Schedel pulling out his musical vademecum to sing with his university chums.[[2]] A good deal of Kirnbauer's book brings evidence to debunk this idea, demonstrating that Schedel's contact with the music he copied was primarily a writerly and not a practicing one. Aside from the fact that Schedel's brother was a harp player, no evidence survives of Schedel himself playing music, despite abundant records regarding the humanist's other activities.

Compare this with the ample evidence for his lousy musicianship. Schedel's copying of musical notes frequently betrays that he could not read them. This goes against the idea that music copying entails its performance, a notion which Kirnbauer exposes as a typically modern assumption (125). Schedel was first and last a humanist, a book reader and copyist, and his Liber musicalis comes out of this tradition rather than out of musical performance. Kirnbauer first reminds us of this literary background and of the fact that the impetus for book and music notation copying was certainly strong in Nuremberg and the vicinity at the time. In discussing this, he notes in passing a fact which could have received more elaboration, that the first book to describe a stave-drawing device was printed shortly after Schedel's death in not-so distant Basel, Heinrich Holtzmueller's 1553 Liber Perutilis; he also mentions a 1613 Nuremberg treatise specifically mentioning music copying (77, n. 37). The study cited by both Kirnbauer and the authors he cites is well out of date and desperately in need of a musicological counterpart which even cursorily discusses music writing tools, let alone the rastrum or rake.[[3]]

Kirnbauer then points out that, beyond the little Liber musicalis of his student days, Schedel displayed surprisingly little interest in music. The Liber is the only such collection of its kind in the humanist's vast library (98), so it appears that Schedel never followed up with another book of contemporary music. After compiling his Liber musicalis in the early 1460s, he laid it to rest on the shelf where, as Kirnbauer puts it, it became "nothing more than one volume among many others in his library" (69). Through different examples well illustrated with plates, he shows that Schedel's few other copies of musical excerpts from treatises by Guido of Arezzo were often graphically neat but frequently incompetent as to practical realization (111-126). A closer look at the Schedel Songbook itself confirms this thesis and shows similar unperformable errors which are attributable to the copyist rather than the exemplar (126-145). To paraphrase what is Kirnbauer's central point, Schedel copied music notation to be looked at rather than sung from. The songbook's primary purpose seems to have been as a bibliophilic display of German musical art along with some more international pieces of his day. In this sense, his Liber musicalis serves a purpose similar to his Liber chronicarum which also sings the praises of Nuremberg and other cities throughout the "teutscher land," to borrow the chronicle's words.

This brings us to the important consideration of the book's Germanness. Kirnbauer does at least begin to address this question. His introduction, a traditional survey of secondary literature, proves more interesting in this respect than one might expect. Kirnbauer's perspective is influenced not only by theoretical work from Carl Dalhaus on and by recent musicological work in historiography, but also by an almost confessional reckoning with Nazi-era scholarship typical of the younger Germanic generation. This point of view turns out to be appropriate for the Schedel music book, which comes to us with a heavy history of scholarship indeed. The Germanness of the book has been emphasized ever since Ludwig Uhland first published some of its poetry in the 1840s. Kirnbauer documents the subsequent conceptualizing of the manuscript as a Liederbuch -- a discussion, incidentally, which could prove a helpful analogue for a historiography of the French term chansonnier. The difficulty with the nickname Schedel or Schedelsches Liederbuch is that it undermines the book's actual heterogeneous character. This is, after all, simply a "music book": a hodgepodge collection of sacred motets, instrumental pieces and secular songs, not to speak of various texts ranging from Latin meteorological annotations to German verse -- in other words, not quite a straightforward collection of German songs. In fact, Schedel's own sub-title found on fol. 1r designates the book's attention to non-German music: "This book contains sweet songs of the French" (Carmina francigenum liber hic predulcia claudit). Kirnbauer also stresses how the nineteenth-century appelation Liederbuch was long used as a tool for nationalistic propaganda. The Schedel Liederbuch was viewed as belonging to a type, the German collection of songs, which showed the leading and independent German artistic spirit in the late Middle Ages whose achievements rivalled those of Italy and France. It was thus seen as part of the "heritage of German music" or Das Erbe deutscher Musik, to cite the series in which the facsimile appeared in 1978.[[4]]

As it turns out, the Germanness of the Schedel Songbook -- not to mention many other sources in and out out of this period, for that matter -- is a legitimate focal concern for ongoing inquiry. One question arises, especially in light of the Schedel Songbook's concordances with other extant books such as the Glogauer Songbook or the Buxheim organ book: What exactly makes the different works we find here German? This dilemma surfaces readily for such a piece as "Elend du hast" (number 11 in Kirnbauer's catalogue), only partially texted in German; the same music is found elsewhere as two different French rondeaux and a Latin motet. So which came first? Kirnbauer keeps this question open by identifying both rondeau and Tenorlied characteristics in "Elend du hast," arguing that this mixture seems characteristic of a northern, "peripheral" repertory, as well as of pieces by Johannes of Touront who is known only in the Schedel source (199-210). More difficult is the German specificity of the songbook's many unica. In certain cases, such as the Tenorlied "Ich het mir auserwelet" (number 17), only one voice (the tenor) has the full text. Others such as "Hubsch czartlich" (number 3) give only an incipit with the full poem written out at the bottom of the folio. And others such as "Die plumlein" (number 5) just give a title, with no text anywhere. Still others such as numbers 43 and 53 have no title at all; Schedel has simply labelled them sine nomine in his index. Is it merely these pieces' presence in a German book that makes them German?

The most detail Kirnbauer devotes to the issue of the songbook's Germanness or northernness occurs in a section devoted to its contratenors, which frequently differ from those in other sources (147-199). He demonstrates what he calls a northern (i.e., German) reception of non-German pieces. Contratenors accomplish different purposes depending on the piece. In "Se la face ay pale" (number 60), for example, the contratenor plays the part of a bass voice thanks to its extended lower range. But not all cases support as this one does Heinrich Besseler's old theory about the Burgundian repertoire's pivotal role in a supposed evolution towards modern harmony (summarized on p. 150). The contratenor of "Entre prison" (number 14), for instance, does not extend the range of the piece; but it does alter the original rondeau form to a bipartite sectionalization. Either way, these contratenors contribute to unique, northern readings of well-known pieces. Of course, the kind of musical creativity Kirnbauer here suggests seems difficult to resolve with Schedel's supposed illiteracy he proposed earlier, but he sidesteps this dilemma by assuming that Schedel was copying -- and copying badly -- now lost exemplars circulating north of the Alps around 1450 (212).

Ultimately, more complete answers to the question of the Schedel Songbook's German identity will have to wait for what is still, even after this incisive study, a glaring lacuna: a complete edition with commentary. In Kirnbauer's defense, an edition would easily have cost one or two additional volumes and several more years' work. And the kind of study he offers is needed to precede an edition of the Schedel Songbook, as he himself suggests (219). Nevertheless, editions exist for the contemporary Lochamer and Glogauer Songbooks, even though the Schedel Songbook surpasses them in importance with its high number of unica; it is, in the words of Reinhard Strohm, "the most comprehensive and sophisticated of all German sources of polyphonic song in this period."[[5]] The pieces Kirnbauer edits in his appendix are well equipped with commentary and concordances, but this only underlines the need for an up-to-date and complete edition. Partial editions of Schedel's book began over a century ago, and Heinrich Besseler announced his forthcoming Gesamtausgabe (citing a finished manuscript) in the early 1960s, but it never appeared.[[6]] A Gesamtausgabe for the celebrated Schedelsche Liederbuch is still needed and it would be the logical follow-up to a study which has already considerably enriched the state of knowledge surrounding the written transmission of late medieval German music. Such an edition would no doubt tell us more about a musical repertoire which, if it was not fully understood by a musically illiterate Schedel, was perhaps at least aurally appreciated by him and other Germans of his generation.


[[1]] Jeffrey Chipps Smith, "Nuremberg, ¤III, 1: Centre of Production" in The Dictionary of Art, Jane Turner, ed. (London: Macmillan, 1996), vol. 23, 310.

[[2]] Reinhard Strohm, The Rise of European Music, 1380-1500 (Cambridge University Press, 1993), 495; Keith Polk, German Instrumental Music of the Middle Ages: Players, Patrons and Performance Practice (Cambridge University Press, 1992), 246, note 63.

[[3]] Werner Doede's Bibliographie deutscher Schreibmeisterbücher von Neudoerffer bis 1800 (Hamburg: Hauswedell, 1958) is cited in Jean Wolf and Eugene Wolf's "Rastrology and its Use in Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Studies" in Eugene Wolf and Edward Roesner, eds., Studies in Musical Sources and Style, Essays in Honour of Jean LaRue (Madison: A-R Editions, 1990), 240, note 8. See Randall Rosenfeld's recent "Tools for Producing Books and Documents in Roman Antiquity and the Middle Ages: A Summary List of Classes" in Speculum 56 (2002), 170.

[[4]] Bettina Wackernagel, ed., Das Liederbuch des Dr. Hartmann Schedel: Faksimile. Das Erbe deutscher Musik 84 (Kassel: Baerenreiter, 1978).

[[5]] Strohm, The Rise, 495. Walter Salmen and Christoph Petzsch's Das Lochamer-Liederbuch (Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Haertel, 1972) is a partial edition only. The Glogauer edition, on the other hand, is complete: Heribert Ringmann and Christian Vaeterlein, eds., Das Glogauer Liederbuch. 4 vols. Das Erbe deutscher Musik 4, 8, 85 and 86 (Kassel: Baerenreiter, 1936-81).

[[6]] Heinrich Besseler, "Schedel, Hartmann" in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, vol. 11 (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1963), col. 1612 and bibliography.

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John Haines

University of Toronto