City in Germany. Located in the Rhineland-Palatinate. Worms grew from the Celtic settlement of Borbetomagus, which came under Roman rule in the last century bce. The city museum contains items from the 1st to 4th centuries ce, including a trumpet mouthpiece, an actor’s mask, a rattle and a tambourine buried as grave goods with a dancing girl.
Ecclesiastical buildings, notably the episcopal church of Worms, built about 600 on the cathedral mound, provide information about the early practice of sacred music. Carolingian school reforms, with their recommendations on the practice of music, probably reached Worms by way of Metz. In 764 the imperial monastery of Lorsch was founded on the right bank of the Rhine, not far from Worms. Abbot Samuel, who was also Bishop of Worms in 838–56, founded the religious house of St Cyriacus in Neuhausen near Worms in 847, and in 852 a copy was made there of the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville (now in A-Wn), a work which recommends study of the theory of music as part of the Quadrivium. Worms reached the height of its political and cultural importance in the 10th to 13th centuries, when such bishops as Hildebald (979–98) and Burchard (1000–1025) were closely concerned with the liturgy and with church music. The Wormser Briefsammlung of 1036 discusses musica speculativa. In the 12th century Minnesinger such as Walter von der Vogelweide visited the city. Bligger von Steinach, whose family held feudal tenure from the episcopal court, may possibly have been the author of the Nibelungenlied.
Names of Kantors for the cathedral chapter are first recorded in 1016, for the collegiate churches of St Paulus, St Martin and the Andreaskirche after the 12th century, and for the Liebfrauenstift after the 14th century. Succentors who taught music are first specifically mentioned in 1234, and the cathedral’s first recorded organ was installed in 1259. Those manuscripts which had not already been dispersed to foreign libraries, or in the 17th century to the Bibliotheca Vaticana, fell victim to the destruction of Worms in 1689, during the War of the Palatinate Succession. No organs from before 1689 are extant, and most of the instruments built by the brothers Stumm in the 18th century were destroyed in air raids in 1945.
Under the influence of the humanists, the episcopal and imperial city of Worms saw a flowering of the arts around 1500. Emperor Maximilian I brought his Hofkapelle and the organist Paul Hofhaimer to Worms with him for the Imperial Diet of 1495. The organist and composer Arnolt Schlick and the Hofkapellen of the Electorate of the Palatine and of Saxony were also present, and documents reveal that minstrels also performed. There was music again at the Diet of 1521, to which Martin Luther was summoned to defend himself before Emperor Charles V. The coming of the Reformation in 1527, when most of the citizens turned to Lutheranism, resulted in the separation of Catholic and Protestant church music. There is evidence of music-making in the tradition of Meistergesang in the statutes of the Worms Singergesellschaft, printed in Heidelberg in 1561 and entitled Reformation, Lob und Satzung der edlen und lieblichen Kunst der Musica. The Lutheran mayor Andreas Schlatt encouraged the printing of compositions by the Palatinate pastor Cornelius Sigefrid, which were published in 1602–5 by Andreas Bertram in Strasbourg. The Catholic cathedral organist Hieronymus Rosso (Roth) was well known around 1614 as a composer of parody masses.
Records documenting the existence of town musicians date from the early 15th century, and an oath of 1470 taken by the pipers and trumpeters has been preserved. Two pipers and a trombonist played annually in Frankfurt in a procession celebrating the exemption from taxation of the merchants of Worms granted in a privilege of 1074. Besides three or four town musicians with their journeymen and apprentices, the city employed drummers and musicians to signal the hours from church towers. After the destruction of the city in 1689 the number of town musicians was reduced to two. The consecration of the Lutheran Dreifaltigkeitskirche in 1725 was celebrated with the performance of four cantatas by Christoph Graupner, Hofkapellmeister at Darmstadt. In the 16th century the organs built by Martin Ruck were highly regarded, as were the organs and harpsichords built in the 18th century by J.C. Jaeckel and his son Christian. The small bishopric had no court music of its own in the 18th century; the Lutheran town musicians joined with the Catholic ‘Dommusicus Instrumentalis’ to provide the music for festivals.
The bishopric was dissolved in 1801, and the city belonged to France from 1797 to 1814, and then to the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt. After 1800 the music publishers J.M. Götz and Georg Kreitner were active in Worms. The Musikgesellschaft, founded in 1812 and from 1880 known as the Musikgesellschaft und Liedertafel, performed choral music, and a cathedral choral society was founded in 1871. In 1893 and 1901 music festivals were held in the Spiel- und Festhaus (inaugurated in 1889). The composers Friedrich Gernsheim (1839–1916) and Rudi Stephan (1887–1915) came from Worms. An Instrumentalverein was founded in 1848 and from 1899 to 1939 was known as the Philharmonischer Verein. More recent musical institutions include the amateur Worms Kammerorchester, founded in 1951, the Jugendmusikschule, which gives orchestral and chamber concerts, and many choral societies, notably the Worms Kantorei, the Bach Chor of the Dreifaltigkeitskirche and the vocal ensemble of St Martin’s.
The Jewish community of Worms had an independent musical tradition that can be traced back to the 10th century. Its first synagogue was consecrated in 1034. Liturgically, it had connections with northern France. Raschi, Rabbi Salomon ben Isaac of Troyes (1040–1105), the famous Ashkenazy commentator on the Bible and the Talmud, studied at the Worms Talmudic School. Maharil, Jaakov Halevi Molin of Mainz (c1355–1427), regarded as one of the codifiers of the musical minhag of the Rhine area, was buried in the ‘holy sand’, the oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in Europe.
The cities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz developed a Jewish rite of their own in the 11th and 12th centuries. It goes back to Isaak ben Eleasar ha-Levy, a teacher of Raschi. 40 11th-century songs by Meir ben Isaak have been preserved, including penitential songs and introductions to the reading of Aramaic biblical translations (the Targums). The scholar Jehuda he-Chasid, who studied the connections between mysticism and music in the Sefer Hasidim (‘Book of the pious’) about 1200, had links with Worms. In the 13th century the Kantor Abraham directed a choir that probably sang antiphonal and responsorial music as well as performing in the synagogal solo style. Names of leading women singers in the women’s synagogue of the same period have also been preserved. In 1495 Empress Bianca Maria Sforza and other royal guests went to hear the singing of the Jews of Worms in the synagogue.
The Wormser Machsor, an illuminated two-volume prayer book for religious festivals written by Simcha ben Jehuda in Franconia in 1272 and acquired by the Worms community in the 15th century (now in IL-J), contains the Yemenite notation of shofar tones in its first volume. The prayer book for weekdays written in 1452 by Simon Eggenfelder and the collection of Jewish songs by Eisak Wallich (before 1632, now in GB-Ob) provide information about musical practice, as does the minhag book by Juspa Schammes (1603–76), which describes the music and dances performed at weddings. Instruments, forbidden in the synagogue, were used in wedding dances and processionals. A synagogue choral society which existed from 1870 to 1922 was founded in the wake of 19th-century liberalization, and the synagogue acquired an organ in 1877. Between 1933 and 1945 the ‘Holy Community of Worms’, which had existed for 1000 years, was destroyed.
H.Boos, ed.: Quellen zur Geschichte der Stadt Worms (Berlin, 1886–93)
S.Rothschild: Musikgesellschaft und Liedertafel Worms 1812–1912: Denkschrift zur 100jährigen Jubiläumsfeier (Worms, 1912)
W.Wolffheim: ‘Das Musikkränzlein in Worms (1561)’, AMw, i (1918–19), 43–8
H.Schmitt: ‘Aus der Geschichte der Wormser Domschule’, Wormatia sacra, ed. K. Börschinger (Worms, 1925), 52–60
F.M.Illert: ‘Regesten zur Geschichte des Domes’, in R. Kautzsch: Der Dom zu Worms (Berlin, 1938), 11–49
F.Pietzsch: ‘Zur Geschichte der Musik in Worms bis zur Mitte des 16. Jahrhunderts’, Der Wormsgau, iii (1956), 249–82