German Music Part I

German music, term for the music of the German language and cultural area.

When describing it, the following facts must be taken into account: On the one hand, one can speak of a German state at the earliest since the election of Conrad I as the first German king. The geographical borders of the Holy Roman Empire (German Nation) via the German Empire to today’s Germany have changed so much that sometimes parts of today’s France, Italy, Austria, Poland and Switzerland also belonged to German territory. Therefore, according to today’s understanding, a music-historical appraisal must inevitably transcend borders in order to take important developments into account. On the other hand, there was German and Austrian music, especially during the Viennese Classical period so closely interwoven that their (German-speaking) composers are often assigned to both nations, but are treated here as far as possible with a view to their current national classification.

Early and Middle Ages

Until the 7th century, there was hardly any information about music, musical life and practice in German-speaking countries. Ancient authors report very little and vaguely about the music of the Germanic peoples. B. on harp accompanied epic hero song, and the pairs found in the Germanic-Nordic region Luren allow no reliable conclusions about Tonvorstellungen and musical practice. However, it is characterized by a variety of cultural roots, including: Germanic and Roman style, from which an extensive repertoire of (pagan) songs and dances arose. They were closely connected to all areas of everyday life that they accompanied, commented on or tried to influence.

Since the 8th century, with Christianization via the spiritual centers of the monastery and cathedral schools (including Fulda, Aachen, Sankt Gallen, Einsiedeln, Reichenau, Eichstätt), the melodies of unanimous Gregorian chant developed from the common hero and price song in the Catholic Church and with it the sound system of the Christian Mediterranean culture. The first demonstrable self-creations can be found here, especially in the area of ​​the hymn and the tropes (Tutilo) and sequences (Notker Balbulus) created according to Western models, as well as first folk and church songs (Leisen). H. von Bingen occupies an exceptional position ; she composed numerous chants (antiphons, Responsories, sequences, etc.) that appear without a direct model. Formerly classified as amateurish, they are now considered to be trend-setting. From the 12th to the 14th centuries secular music reached a climax with courtly minnesang, which was based on the art of the Frenchtrouvères and troubadours. His most important representatives, poets and musicians at the same time, are W. von der Vogelweide N. von Reuental H. von Meissen , called Frauenlob, and later O. von Wolkenstein . The » Carmina burana ” Meistersang was a bourgeois imitation of minstrelsong, although its development was restricted to southern Germany; the best known representative is H. Sachs .


Based on the Organum practice practiced since the 9th century, a secular, polyphonic art with German texts emerged from the second half of the 14th century. The main sources are the manuscripts of the Lochamer, Schedelschen and Glogau songbooks from the middle of the 15th century. For centuries, instrumental music was the privilege of the traveling minstrels who provided entertainment for the nobility and bourgeoisie. A milestone in music history is the emergence of independent organ music in the 15th century with C. Paumann as the focus and Arnolt Schlick (* 1455, † 1525), P. Hofhaimer and later E. N. Ammerbach; The main sources are Paumann’s “Fundamentum Organizandi” (1452) and the “Buxheimer Orgelbuch” (around 1470). In vocal music, important impulses came from the Franco-Flemish school, which left traces in German church music through Orlando di Lasso and through the native Flemish H. Isaac (“Innsbruck, I must let you”) in folk music. This is where the tenor song developed, which is mainly represented by L. Senfl.

The Reformation was an event that decisively favored the development of a specifically German musical culture. M. Luther and J. Walther created the German chorale (musically linked to the early Christian hymns, the texts of which are now published in the national language), which became the focus of Protestant church music. At the same time, the tradition of the Protestant cantors in northern Germany created a basis for the coming upswing in German music. In the Catholic southern Germany, however, the Dutch and Italians still dominated, v. a. O. di Lasso in Munich. The local composers were reluctant to break away from the influence of the Franco-Flemish school: in southern Germany I. Gallus (actually J. Handl), L. LechnerH. L. Hassler, in northern Germany J. EccardC. Demantius and M. Praetorius.

German Renaissance Music