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Walther, Johann Jakob

(b Witterda, nr Erfurt, c1650; dMainz, 2 Nov 1717). German violinist and composer. According to J.G. Walther he learnt the violin from a Pole whose servant he had become. He was in Florence from about 1670 until, at the latest, the end of 1673, when he returned to Germany. From 1 January 1674 he was in the service of the elector of Saxony at Dresden as ‘primo violinista da camera’. By 1681 he had moved to Mainz, where he was clerk and ‘Italian secretary’ at the electoral court and where he remained until his death.

With Biber, Walther was the most important and daring of the late 17th-century violinist-composers in Germany and Austria who cultivated virtuoso techniques involving polyphonic writing, multiple stopping and the use of high positions: Fétis called him ‘the Paganini of his century’. Whereas in using multiple stopping Biber was interested chiefly in scordatura, Walther emphatically rejected it, preferring instead the imitation of other musical instruments and of birds and animals. In doing so he was following in the footsteps of such composers as Biagio Marini, Carlo Farina (who had also worked at the Dresden court and whose Capriccio stravagante (1627) is a notable example of such pictorial music), Marco Uccellini, J.H. Schmelzer and even Biber himself. He is known by only two collections of music: Scherzi da violino solo con il basso continuo per l'organo o cembalo accompagnabile anche con una viola o leuto (Dresden, 1676, 2/1687; ed. in EDM, 1st ser., xvii, 1941) and Hortulus chelicus uni violino duabus, tribus et quatuor subinde chordis simul sonantibus harmonice modulanti (Mainz, 1688/R in Masters of the Violin, ii (New York and London, 1981), 2/1694, also 3/1708 according to Walther; edns of three works plus citations of other modern republications of individual works in Saslav).

Most works in the Scherzi are in free form, reminiscent of earlier sonatas in their sudden changes of tempo and metre: in Hortulus chelicus most movements are similar to the dance movements typical of the sonata da camera. Sets of variations and varied strophic arias in the form AA'BB' are likewise prominent in both volumes. But Walther's most characteristic works are those in which programmatic elements predominate. In the Serenata a un coro di violini (Hortulus chelicus, no.28) Walther imitated a ‘chorus’ of violins, the tremulant organ, bagpipes, trumpets, timpani, the hurdy-gurdy and the guitar; Galli e galline, Scherzi d'augelli con il [sic] cucci and Leuto harpeggiante e rossignuolo, are among those works in which various birds are imitated.







A. Gottron: Mainzer Musikgeschichte von 1500 bis 1800 (Mainz, 1959)

R. Aschmann: Das deutsche polyphone Violinspiel im 17. Jahrhundert (Zürich, 1962)

I. Saslav: Three Works from J.J. Walther's ‘Hortulus chelicus’ (diss., Indiana U., 1969)


Walther, Joseph.

See Walter, Ignaz.

Walther von der Vogelweide

(c1200). German Minnesinger and Spruch poet. He is regarded as one of the most outstanding and innovative authors of his generation. In the opinion of his contemporaries, too, he was considered the leading poet and musician among the Minnesinger (see, for example, Gotfrid von Strassburg: Tristan, 4751–820; for an overview of contemporary comments on his work (see Bein, 1997; also Ranawake, rev. 11/1997 of Paul edn). His poetic oeuvre is the most varied of his time, comprising many Minnelieder and Spruch stanzas as well as religious lieder (including one Leich and a Kreuzlied), and his poetry treats a number of subjects, adopting frequently contradictory positions. In his work he freed Minnesang from the traditional patterns of motifs and restricting social function and transformed it into genuinely experienced and yet universally valid love-poetry.

1. Life.

2. Works.




Walther von der Vogelweide

1. Life.

Little is known for certain about his life. The title ‘her’, which he is given in two sources of his works, is not necessarily an indication that he was of knightly birth, especially as these sources (D-HEu Pal.germ.848; D-Sl HB XIII 1) tend to add this title to authors' names (Sayce, 1982). With Walther, as with most writers of Middle High German song, we are largely dependent on contemporary allusions in his own texts for information about his life and career. In fact, Walther adopted a more personal stance than any earlier writer towards contemporary political events such as the dynastic disputes between the Hohenstaufens and the Guelphs, the struggle for political power between the papacy and the Empire, and the repeated efforts to revive the crusading movement. Study of the identifiable events and persons that he mentioned shows that his works are likely to date from the end of the 12th century to the first third of the 13th, and that he may have been active principally in the Austrian area, where, according to his own account (ed. in Cormeau, 12.IV, line 8), he learned ‘singen unde sagen’ (this would mean that rather few sources transmitting Walther's work come from his main area of activity). In Walther's case, unlike that of other authors of his generation, there is also a non-literary reference mentioning him as a singer: the expense accounts of Wolfger von Erla, Bishop of Passau, contain an entry for the day after Martinmas (12 November) 1203, recording payment of five shillings made to Walther for a fur coat: ‘Sequenti die apud Zei(zemurum) [Zeiselmauer, nr Vienna] Walthero cantori de Vogelweide pro pellicio .v. sol(idos) longos’. It appears that Walther was being remunerated for his services as a travelling singer, a role mentioned in several of his poems.

It is difficult to draw many conclusions about the author's career from his texts, since the circumstances of their performance are not usually clear. The same difficulty applies to the significance of intertextual references. For instance, several of Walther's verses suggest some rivalry (or at least engagement) with the work of Reinmar der Alte, the most prominent example probably being the borrowing of a Ton, perhaps with some variation – mentioned only in D-HEu Pal.germ.848, with the words ‘In dem dône: Ich wirbe umb allez daz ein man’ (Cormeau, 81; see Des Minnesangs Frühling, 159.I). However, this citation gives no grounds for any precise dating of a ‘feud’ between Reinmar and Walther, nor does it prove that Walther served for any long period of time at the Viennese court, as earlier research has assumed (see Schweikle, 1986). The information about Walther's grave from the collections of the episcopal protonotary Michael de Leone (for instance in D-Mu 2° Cod.ms.731, from 1347–54), stating that he was buried in the cloisters of the collegiate foundation of Neumünster in Würzburg, is of late date, and is associated with texts that were compiled with local ‘patriotism’ in mind. It is not impossible, however, that Walther did die in the Würzburg region.

Walther von der Vogelweide

2. Works.

Despite the wide transmission of his poetic works, any attempt at adequate assessment of the musical aspect of his work, explicitly mentioned in Gotfrid von Strassburg's Tristan, is almost impossible in the state in which it has come down to us. As far as musical transmission is concerned, we may set out by assuming that in Walther's time poetry usually meant poetry for singing (for a different view see Cramer). It is generally presumed that in the 12th and 13th centuries a new Ton was created for each song (Ton meaning the metrical rhyme scheme as well as the melody). Walther was probably one of the first poets to compose Sprüche in several different Töne (it seems that earlier Spruch poets each used a single Ton); his Töne were often of Stollen-like construction. Those Töne that bear his name, or may be ascribed to him for reasons of parallel transmission, are contained in over 30 extant sources dating from the 13th century to the 17th. The breadth of the transmission of his works may reflect something of the high regard that Walther enjoyed. The sources are of very different types, from isolated works added later to manuscripts predominantly containing material of a different nature, through collections of works by different authors and manuscripts containing representative examples of repertory, to the records of the Meistersinger who venerated Walther as one of the ‘old masters’. Most of the transmitted documents, including those containing the most extensive collections of Walther's works (such as the Manessische Liederhandschrift, D-HEu Pal.germ.848; see illustration), give the texts but no melodies, so that only the metrical-rhyme scheme of the Töne are preserved and we know nothing about the way they were performed. There may be a number of different reasons for this absence of melodies: a lack of interest in writing them down during the preparation of a manuscript, inadequate means for doing so, or in many cases perhaps a change in the function of the songs.

There are three early sources that transmit stanzas by Walther with their melodies: the Carmina Burana manuscript (D-Mbs Clm 4660/4660a), the manuscript A-KR 127 and the fragment D-MÜsa VII 51. The Carmina Burana, one of the earliest sources of Minnesang, contains notation in staffless neumes for part of the anonymously transmitted stanza So wol dir meie wie du scheidest, appended to a Latin poem, Virent prata hiemata (the German stanza is ascribed elsewhere to Walther and to Lutold von Seven). The melody and the metre of this stanza correspond to the Latin poem, although no concordant version with a transcribable melody is known. Other stanzas ascribed to Walther elsewhere have no neumatic notation in the Carmina Burana manuscript. One, Roter munt wie du dich swachest, is in the same Ton as So wol dir meie, while the other, Nu lebe ich mir alrest werde, is the first stanza of the famous ‘Palästinalied’ and is also transmitted in the Münster fragment. The Kremsmünster manuscript contains seven stanzas ascribed to Walther in other sources, but only one stanza, Vil wunder wol gemachet wip, is notated for only part of the verse. Although the concrete pitches of the melody (which is notated in staffless neumes) are not clear, it is evident that the melody has a relatively large number of melismas compared with the melodies in the Carmina Burana. The only early source to contain legible versions of Walther's melodies is the Münster fragment. It contains three Töne with uncontested attributions: the ‘Palästinalied’ (with 12 stanzas), the ‘König-Friedrichston’ (10 stanzas, the first incompletely preserved) and the ‘Zweiter Philippston’ (1 incomplete stanza). Another Ton, the melody of which is partly preserved in the Münster fragment (Cormeau, 115), is ascribed to Walther but doubt has been cast on its ascription (see Cormeau).

A number of later manuscripts also ascribe melodies to Walther, principally among them the Kolmarer Liederhandschrift (D-Mbs Cgm 4997), dating from about 1460. This source ascribes three Töne to him, the ‘Gespaltene Weise’, the ‘Hof- oder Wendelweise’ and the ‘Goldene Weise’. The ‘Gespaltene Weise’ was left unnotated in the source, but its formal scheme matches that of the ‘König-Friedrichston’ in earlier manuscripts. The ‘Hofweise’ matches the ‘Wiener Hofton’ transmitted in older sources, so is regarded as genuine, but the ‘Goldene Weise’ is generally regarded as spurious, as there is no earlier evidence that Walther used its formal scheme (although see Stauber, 1974, for a different opinion). Both the ‘Hofweise’ and the ‘Goldene Weise’ are found in later Meistersinger manuscripts, the latter usually under slightly different names and ascribed to Wolfram von Eschenbach; sources preserving its melody have different versions from that in the Kolmarer Liederhandschrift. Such different versions may reflect either different strands of tradition or ‘editorial’ revision, factors that must be considered in all study of melodies from the Spruch tradition. Among other Töne ascribed to Walther in Meistergesang manuscripts of the 16th and 17th centuries, the ‘Feiner Ton’ has been identified with Walther's ‘Ottenton’ and consequently its melody has been claimed for him (see Cormeau); in this case there are two distinct versions of the melody.

Other melodies may be provided for Töne by Walther if we consider works transmitted with conflicting attributions and possible contrafacta. For example, four stanzas included among Walther's works in the Manessische Liederhandschrift (Cormeau, 104.I-IV) are transmitted in the Jenaer Liederhandschrift (D-Ju El.f.101) as part of a Ton ascribed to ‘Meyster Rumelant’; the latter source has square staff notation and thus provides us with a transcribable melody in a version roughly contemporary with the Münster fragment. Possible contrafacta among Walther's works of Romance models (for a brief survey see Brunner and others, 1996) include two melodies: the Ton for So wol dir meie (Cormeau, 28) has been suggested as a contrafactum of the chanson Quant je voi l'erbe menue by Gautier d'Espinal (R.2067), and Walther's ‘Palästinalied’ may be modelled on Jaufre Rudel's Lanquan li jorn son lonc en mai (PC 262.2). In the first of these cases the melodies appear not to be identical (see Welker, 1988): there is seldom direct correspondence between the neumatic notation of the Carmina Burana manuscript and the melody preserved (in staff notation) in the chansonnier F-Pn fr.20050 – although the preference for notating single notes with virgae in the Carmina Burana conveys only a very vague idea of the course of the melody (see ex.1); much the same applies to the ‘Palästinalied’. As a result the same material may be interpreted either as confirming the contrafactum connection (Brunner, 1963) or as evidence of its improbability (McMahon, 1982–4). The problem is exacerbated by the several variant versions of the troubadour melody in the French/Occitan manuscripts, none of which matches in a convincing way the version ascribed to Walther (see ex.2). We would therefore have to assume deliberate revision of the melody in the course of its adaptation or else find an alternative explanation for the similarities in the Occitan and German melodies as the result of a largely analogous pattern in an existing melodic and tonal context (for a discussion of these issues see Treitler, 1995).

Although there are many difficulties associated with the musical transmission of Walther's works, compared with his Germanic contemporaries the transmission pattern of his music may be described as relatively rich (only the works of Neidhart are much more widely copied). But any attempt to assess style or to determine national idioms from his works (see Gülke, 1975) is doomed to failure: the many discrepancies between the surviving melodies have ensured that, as yet, we can say little of a convincing nature about Walther's musical art.

Walther von der Vogelweide


Edition:Die Gedichte Walthers von der Vogelweide, ed. K. Lachmann (Berlin, 1827, rev. 14/1996 by C. Cormeau as Walther von der Vogelweide: Leich, Lieder, Sangsprüche, with edition of melodies by H. Brunner) [W]

melodies in early sources


Mir hat eyn liet von vranken (‘Zweiter Philippston’), inc., D-MÜsa VII 51; W 8b

Nu alrest leb ich mir werde (‘Palästinalied’), 12 stanzas, MÜsa VII 51; W 7; possible contrafactum of Jaufre Rudel: Lanquan li jorn son lonc en may (PC 262.2)

Uil hoch gelopter got (‘König-Friedrichston’), 10 stanzas (first stanza inc.), MÜsa VII 51; W 11 (also in Mbs Cgm 4997, unnotated, as ‘Gespaltene Weise’)


So wol dir meie wie du scheidest, D-Mbs Clm 4660/4660a, anon., partly notated in staffless neumes but matches melody of preceding Latin poem Virent prata hiemata; C 28.III; also Roter munt wie du dich swachest, MbsClm 4660/4660a, anon., same Ton, no notation; W 28.IV; Ton is possibly contrafactum of Gautier d'Espinal: Quant je voi l'erbe menue (R.2067)

Vil wunder wol gemachet wip, 5 stanzas, A-KR 127, anon., partly notated; W 30.I–V

melodies in later sources

‘Feiner Ton’, ascr. Walther in Meistersinger MSS PL-WRu 1009, lost; D-Nla Fen.4°V182 (c1590–95), anon.; Nst Will III. 784, annotated ‘Im Feinenthon/H. Walthers’; ed. in H. Brunner and others, 1977, no.11; matches ‘Ottenton’ (W 4) from older tradition; melody thus attrib. Walther

‘Gespaltene Weise’, D-Mbs Cgm 4997, ascr. Walther; see Uil hoch gelopter got

‘Goldene Weise’, Mbs Cgm 4997, ascr. Walther but generally assumed not to be by him; PL-WRu 1009, D-Nst Will III.784, Nst Will III.792, all ascr. Wolfram von Eschenbach; ed. in Brunner and others, 1977, no.8

‘Hofweise’, Mbs Cgm 4997, ascr. Walther, matches ‘Wiener Hofton’ (W 10) in older MSS (also in D-WRl fol.421/32)

‘Kreuzton’, PL-WRu 1009, D-Bsb mgf 25, Nst Will III.784, Nst Will III.792, WRl Q576/1, ascr. Walther in Meistersinger MSS; ed. in Brunner and others, 1977, no.10

‘Langer Ton’, Ju El.f.100, PL-Wru 1009, D-Nst Will III.784, Nst Will III.792, ascr. Walther in Meistersinger MSS; ed. in ibid., no.9

Got in vier elementen, melody first copied in D-Ju El.f.101, annotated ‘Meyster Rumelant’, matches Ton of 4 stanzas in D-HEu Pal.germ.848; W 104.I–IV

Walther von der Vogelweide


principal editions

H. Paul, ed.: Walther von der Vogelweide: Gedichte (Halle, 1882, rev. 6/1943 by A. Lietzmann, 9/1959 by H. Kuhn, 11/1997 by S. Ranawake)

F. Maurer, ed.: Die Lieder Walthers von der Vogelweide, i (Tübingen, 1955, rev. 4/1974); ii (Tübingen, 1956, rev. 3/1969)

H. Brunner, U. Müller and F.V. Spechtler, eds.: Walther von der Vogelweide: die gesamte Überlieferung der Texte und Melodien (Göppingen, 1977)

G. Schweikle, ed.: Walther von der Vogelweide: Werke (Stuttgart, 1994–8)

C. Cormeau, ed.: Walther von der Vogelweide: Leich, Lieder, Sangsprüche (Berlin, 1996)

other editions

K. Lachmann and M. Haupt, eds.: Des Minnesangs Frühling (Leipzig, 1857, rev. 38/1988 by H. Moser and H. Tervooren)

K. Bartsch, ed.: Meisterlieder der Kolmarer Liederhandschrift (Stuttgart, 1862/R)

A. Hilka, O. Schumann and B. Bischoff, eds.: Carmina Burana (Heidelberg, 1930–70)

H. Moser and J. Müller-Blattau, eds.: Deutsche Lieder des Mittelalters, von Walther von der Vogelweide bis zum Lochamer Liederbuch (Stuttgart, 1968)

E. Jammers: Die sangbaren Melodien zu Dichtungen der Manessischen Liederhandschrift (Wiesbaden, 1979)

H. Heinen, ed.: Mutabilität im Minnesang: mehrfach überlieferte Lieder des 12. und frühen 13. Jahrhunderts (Göppingen, 1989)

H. Brunner and B. Wachinger, eds.: Repertorium der Sangsprüche und Meisterlieder des 12. bis 18. Jahrhunderts (Tübingen, 1986–)

biographies and collections of essays

K.H. Halbach: Walther von der Vogelweide (Stuttgart, 1965, rev. 4/1983 by M.G. Scholz)

S. Beyschlag, ed.: Walther von der Vogelweide (Darmstadt, 1971)

G. Hahn: ‘Walther von der Vogelweide’, Die deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters: Verfasserlexikon, ed. K. Ruh and others (Berlin, 2/1977–99)

G. Hahn: Walther von der Vogelweide (Munich, 1986, 2/1989)

H.-D. Mück, ed.: Walther von der Vogelweide: Beiträge zu Leben und Werk (Stuttgart, 1989)

J.-D. Müller and F.J. Worstbrock, eds.: Walther von der Vogelweide: Hamburger Kolloquium 1988 zum 65. Geburtstag von Karl-Heinz Borck (Stuttgart, 1989)

H. Brunner and others: Walther von der Vogelweide: Epoche – Werk – Wirkung (Munich, 1996)

T. Bein: Walther von der Vogelweide (Stuttgart, 1997)

M.G. Scholz: Walther von der Vogelweide (Stuttgart, 1999)


H. Brunner: Die alten Meister: Studien zu Überlieferung und Rezeption der mittelhochdeutschen Sangspruchdichter im Spätmittelalter und in der frühen Neuzeit (Munich, 1975)

P. Gülke: Mönche – Bürger – Minnesänger: Musik in der Gesellschaft des europäischen Mittelalters (Vienna, 1975, 3/1998)

R. Flotzinger, ed.: Musikgeschichte Österreichs, i (1977, 2/1995)

G. Kornrumpf and B. Wachinger: ‘Alment: Formentlehnung und Tönegebrauch in der mittelhochdeutschen Spruchdichtung’, Deutsche Literatur im Mittelalter: Kontakte und Perspektiven: Hugo Kuhn zum Gedenken, ed. C. Cormeau (Stuttgart, 1979), 356–411

O. Sayce: The Medieval German Lyric 1150–1300: the Development of its Themes and Forms in their European Context (Oxford, 1982)

L. Voetz: ‘Überlieferungsformen mittelhochdeutscher Lyrik’, Codex Manesse, Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, 12 June – 4 Sept 1988, ed. E. Mittler and W. Werner (Heidelberg, 1988), 224–74 [exhibition catalogue]

L. Welker: ‘Melodien und Instrumente’, ibid., 113–26

J. Rettelbach: Variation – Derivation – Imitation: Untersuchungen zu den Tönen der Sangspruchdichter und Meistersinger (Tübingen, 1993)

G. Schweikle: Minnesang in neuer Sicht (Stuttgart, 1994)

T. Cramer: Waz hilfet âne sinne kunst? Lyrik im 13. Jahrhundert: Studien zu ihrer Ästhetik (Berlin, 1998)

specific aspects

F. Gennrich: ‘Melodien Walthers von der Vogelweide’, ZDADL, lxxix (1942), 24–48; repr. in Beyschlag (1971), 155–89

U. Aarburg: ‘Wort und Weise im Wiener Hofton’, ZDADL, lxxxviii (1957–8), 196–210; repr. in Beyschlag (1971), 495–513

A. Kellner: Musikgeschichte des Stiftes Kremsmünster (Kassel and Basle, 1956)

H. Brunner: ‘Walthers von der Vogelweide Palästinalied als Kontrafaktur’, ZDADL, xcii (1963), 195–211

H. Heger: Das Lebenszeugnis Walthers von der Vogelweide: die Reiserechnungen des Passauer Bischofs Wolfger von Erla (Vienna, 1970)

B. Stauber: Alter und Echtheit der alten Töne bei den Meistersingern unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Walther von der Vogelweide zugeschriebenen Melodien (diss., Erlangen U., 1974)

J.V. McMahon: ‘Contrafacture vs. Common Melodic Motives in Walther von der Vogelweide's Palästinalied’, RBM, xxxvi–xxxviii (1982–4), 5–17

B. Wachinger: ‘Deutsche und lateinische Liebeslieder: zu den deutschen Strophen der Carmina Burana’, From Symbol to Mimesis: the Generation of Walther von der Vogelweide, ed. F.H. Bäuml (Göppingen, 1984), 1–34; repr. in Der deutsche Minnesang: Aufsätze zu seiner Erforschung, ed. H. Fromm, ii (Darmstadt, 1985), 275–308

K. Bertau: ‘Sangvers und Sinn in Walthers Elegie’, ZDADL, cxiv (1985), 195–221

G. Schweikle: ‘Die Fehde zwischen Walther von der Vogelweide und Reinmar dem Alten: ein Beispiel germanistischer Legendenbildung’, ZDADL, xcvii (1986), 235–53; repr. in Schweikle (1994), 364–89

T. Klein: ‘Zur Verbreitung mittelhochdeutscher Lyrik in Norddeutschland (Walther, Neidhart, Frauenlob)’, Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie, cvi (1987), 72–114

O. Ehrismann: ‘Nachdenken über Walther: Probleme beim Schreiben einer postmodernen Biographie’, Walther von der Vogelweide: Beiträge zu Leben und Werk, ed. H.-D. Mück (Stuttgart, 1989), 191–205

J. Schulze: ‘Ein bisher übersehenes Kontrafakt in der Jenaer Liederhandschrift?’, Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie, cviii (1989), 405–6

J. Haustein: ‘Walther in k’, Lied im deutschen Mittelalter: Überlieferung, Typen, Gebrauch: Chiemsee 1991, 217–26

L. Treitler: ‘Once More, Music and Language in Medieval Song’, Essays on Medieval Music in Honor of David G. Hughes, ed. G.M. Boone (Cambridge, MA, 1995), 441–69

For further bibliography see Minnesang, Spruch and Sources, MS, §III, 5.

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