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Development of German Lieder, part i

March 9, 2017

 

The Development of German lieder can be traced back to the 9th Century, but "Ain't nobody got time for dat" that right now... So here we go. 

 

 

 

1200

The beginnings of the Lied starts circa 1150 with the Minnesingers. Minnesingers wrote verse and song on the subject of courtly love. There are actually several operas written about Minnesingers: Wagners Tannhäuser, and Der Meistersinger, Strauss's Guntram - just to name a few. 

 

1400 

The polyphonic lied begins to present itself as a genre. Polyphonic lied is a general term used to describe music that had a combination of songlike aspects that expanded on a pre-existing borrowed melody from Minnesang, Cantus Firmus, and even early French Chanson. As the lied developed through its history, the number of voices increased. At this point in time, the lied has one to two voices. The Polyphonic lied could be performed with both parts sung, both parts played instrumentally, Or with one voice and one instrument, etc. 

 

The practice of using the pre-existing melodies led to a specific type of polyphonic lied called the Tenor lied. The borrowed melody was used in the highest voice (the tenor), the other parts were composed around the tenor.  At this point the lied starts to be composed for two to three voices. 

 

Late 1400's

At this point in history, communal music making was a very popular activity and large scale publications of lieder were being produced for the community, rather than the court.

 

Early 1500's 

The Polyphonic Lied is established as a genre because the publications were being printed and distributed to the people, not the court. The number of voices at this point in time had increased to four or more! The cantus firmus, which used to be composed in the highest voice, was now surrounded by the  Soprano, Alto, Bass texture. The SAB lines were livelier in rhythm and melodic content than the CF tenor line. Again, the number of voices being composed kept increasing still, from five, to six, even to eight voice texture! 

 

Publication of music for the community steered the compositional development from this two to eight part texture. This left room for numerous performance combinations. You did not have to include all eight parts. One could vary the number of voices and instruments in the texture and not always include all written parts. 

 

1553 - Tenor lied ends but held strong in the protestant church which later developed into the basis for chordal church hymns.... but we don't really need to know that. (I just thought it was interesting) 

 

Between 1620-1750 we begin to see the development of the Continuo Lied and Opitz lieder.

 

Continuo Lied (or General Bass Lied) is a strophic secular song for one or sometimes more voices, written with a bass accompaniment and sometimes has additional instruments playing obbligatos or ritornellos. The styles range from simple to ornate and melismatic. The continuo lied was developed in tandem with poetry, since poets would ask composers to set their verse to music (<---- beginning of lieder tradition) or they would set their poetry themselves. 

 

Martin Optiz and Opitz Lieder 

Martin Opitz was a german poet who published a book outlining high standards for German poetry. It basically stated that poetry needed to the written with consistent and clear high German spelling, accent and rhyme, regular meter, and lofty subject matter. Opitz Lieder is a term used for identifiying those who followed his rules and poetic values in setting poetry to music. This foreshadows the later practice of Lieder: the importance of music expressing the text. 

 

(Circa 1670: what we know of the lied at this time disappeared because of the popularity of German Opera and the Italian Cantata. Songs at this point became difficult for the amateur.) 

 

OK, just to recap....

1150/1200 Minnesingers: courtly love.  

1400 Polyphonic Lied: one to two voices on a pre-existing melody from Minnesang, CF, Chanson.

          Tenor Lied: pre-existing Melody in tenor (the highest voice), two to three voices. 

1500

      Community music making

      Publications of lieder to public = Polyphonic Lieder is a genre     

      Tenor lied develops into SATB, 1553 dies out (except in church).

1620  

      Continuo Lied (General Bass lied) - continuo bass accompaniment

1660

      Opitz lieder - well written german poetry on a loft subject matter set to music. 

 

Got it. 

1700 

Songs with continuo accompaniment became popular, and texts were added poorly to pre-existing music. 

 

1740 We begin to see a resurgence of the Continuo Lied. Poets became focused on simplicity, everything modest and simple, and take care that the music fit with every strophe. Keyboard parts were simple, diatonic, and void of any flourishes or ornamentation.  The close of the 18th Century came with a growing middle class.  More people had time for music making. Therefore keyboard parts became more active.

Some Lied composers of this time:

-  Telemann (1681 - 1767)

-  C.P.E. Bach (1714 - 1788)

-  Haydn (1732 - 1809)

-  Mozart (1756 - 1791)

- Beethoven (1770 - 1827) *first song cycle: An die ferne geliebte (1816)*   

 

OK, FINAL recap....

1150/1200 Minnesingers: courtly love.  

1400 Polyphonic Lied: one to two voices on a pre-existing melody from Minnesang, CF, Chanson.

          Tenor Lied: pre-existing Melody in tenor (the highest voice), two to three voices. 

1500

      Community music making

      Publications of lieder to public = Polyphonic Lieder is a genre     

      Tenor lied develops into SATB, 1553 dies out (except in church).

1620  

      Continuo Lied (General Bass lied) - continuo bass accompaniment

1660

      Opitz lieder - well written german poetry on a loft subject matter set to music. 

1670 

    Lied started to disappear because of Opera madness.

1700 

    Song with Continuo accompaniment became popular again 

1740

     Resurrgance in Continuo Lied, more complicated accompaniments, poets wrote more simply and a         music and poetry relationship started to form. 

1816 

    Beethoven write first song cycle: An die ferne geliebte which had a strategic key scheme, and reprise of music from song 1 in song 6. 

 

 

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