The Collection »Neue Teutsche Lieder« (Nürnberg 1588) of Wolfgang Striccius


  • Jože Sivec



Among the protestant musicians who were working at the time of Reformation in the former Dukedom of Carniola, Wolfgang Striccius is the only one whose works are at least partially preserved. He was born at Wunsdorf near Hannover but he was employed as cantor at the latin school in Ljubljana from April 2nd, 1588 till May, 1591, at least. In connection with the study of the music of the protestant era in Slovenia, his collection »Neue Teutsche Lieder« (Nürnberg 1588) demands attention, since its author is denoted as »cantor of the estates of Carniola« and since he himself wrote the dedication in Ljubljana May 1st, 1588. The collection consists of 21 compositions; all but two are devotional pieces. The texts are for the most part German versifications of biblical sentences from the Book of Prophets. Although the compositions are on the title page said to be for four parts, two of them are for three voices and one for two voices. From the dedication and annotation »mehrerer thails ad pares vocem« it is clear that the pieces are set mostly for high voices and intended for a schoolboys' choir. The structure of the compositions in the collection »Neue Teutsche Lieder« is predominantly polyphonic, whereby the fundamental method of composition is imitation, respectively »durchimitieren«. So Striccius followed the older tradition which was based on the principles descending from late Gothic. As a result of the simultaneous development of melodic lines there mostly appear triads, and sixth chords only seldom. At any rate in the pieces for four parts incomplete triads on the down beat, which are to be found here and there in nearly all compositions, attract attention. Among these, chords with the fifth and the eighth, which sound empty and sometimes raw and awkward, are especially characteristic. We have to do with a relic of past tradition revealing the conservative orientation of the composer. So, if the devotional songs of Striccius are compared with those of Lasso and Lechner, a remarkable difference in the quality of sound can be discerned. Among the modes used in this collection dorian and aeolian prevail. Yet this doesn't mean much because the composer still clings very strongly to the old modal system as is seen from the whole harmonic structure; a marked tendency towards a new tonal feeling is not yet present. The chords have not yet a functional role, and the single, short homophonic passages, as much as they appear here and there do not seem to be guided by harmonic principles. As far as the formal structure is concerned, two types of compositions can be found. The first is »durchkomponiert« and usually contains several sections built in imitation. This type is identical with the motet form. The second is strophic and so several strophes, usually three, are sung to the same tune. Here most frequently the two part form AB occurs. Since these pieces also are mostly based on imitation technique, they remain in fact somewhere on the border between the lied and the motet form. In spite of the fact that we find some awkward spots occasionally and some awkwardness in the development of the parts, we must point out that Striccius, who was still very young and at the beginning of his career, was well acquainted with the principles of musical composition of his period and paid attention to them. The so-called forbidden progressions, which are here and there used even by the great masters, are found very seldom in Striccius. Also, as far as the treatment of dissonance is concerned, he almost always respected the rules. Though some spots do occur which display a somewhat freer treatment, Striccius is not an exception, for a greater or lesser deviation from the strict standard was usual in nearly all composers of the period. Though in the collection the older polyphonic principles strongly prevail, we must not overlook the fact that there are traces of a more modern attitude which has its origin in Italy. The completely homophonic structure and declamatory syllabic melodies of composition XIX and the extensive and effective tone-painting of composition VI most clearly illustrate this. The collection »Neue Teutsche Lieder«, which was surely also performed in Ljubljana, is an interesting historical document which helps us complete the picture of the musical repertoire in Slovenia in the Reformation era and elucidates the problem of the stylistic orientation of the music of that period in Slovenia. In addition to this, it has a certain artistic value and so with some of its compositions it will make a contribution to our repertoire of old polyphonic music.


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How to Cite

Sivec, J. (1969). The Collection »Neue Teutsche Lieder« (Nürnberg 1588) of Wolfgang Striccius. Musicological Annual, 5(1), 19–39.