Enhancing contemporary engagement with late medieval music

Submitting Institution

University of Nottingham

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

This case study describes the impact of an AHRC-funded project examining the `St Emmeram Codex', a key source of early fifteenth-century European polyphony. Amongst the principal impacts of this research have been: (a) exposure of high-quality yet largely unknown repertoire for performers of late medieval music; (b) new insights into performance practice, enhanced prestige, and new performance opportunities for one of the project's collaborators, the German vocal group Stimmwerck; (c) increasing audience reach and understanding for this repertoire, through a series of concerts around Europe, over a period of six years; (d) creation of a highly distinctive and attractive offering for concert venues and a commercial CD company.

Underpinning research

The project that gave rise to these impacts was undertaken by Professor Peter Wright (Principal Investigator; 20% FTE) and Ian Rumbold (Research Assistant and Senior Research Fellow; 100% FTE) at the University of Nottingham between 1 October 2004 and 31 December 2007. The project was funded by the AHRC (£256,934). In the Dissemination phase (see below), Philip Weller (Lecturer in Music) contributed translations of the Latin texts and detailed scholarly notes about them to the concert programmes and CD booklet.

The main aim of the project was to investigate a key source of early fifteenth-century European polyphony (or part-music), manuscript Clm 14274 of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, known to musicologists as the `St Emmeram Codex'. Key outputs from the project include a colour facsimile of the Codex published by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (output 1), and a 374-page book published by Boydell and Brewer (output 2). The facsimile is accompanied by a 164-page commentary volume in German and English that establishes for the first time many details of the manuscript's history and make-up, including the materials used in its construction, the working methods of the scribes, and the different types of musical notation they employed. The book is a detailed study of the compiler of the codex, Hermann Pötzlinger, and his colleagues, the centres in which they lived and worked, and the manuscripts and music they produced there.

This phase of the project produced key insights that underpinned subsequent impacts. Rumbold's and Wright's research established in detail the full significance of the manuscript, which contains an international repertoire of 247 items, some 141 of which are found in no other source. The geographical spread of the repertoire, identified with new precision in this research, attests to the complex networks of musical exchange that shaped musical composition and performance at this time. The Boydell monograph has also transformed our understanding of the milieu around a late medieval music collector, and includes an Appendix containing new performing editions of no fewer than 13 complete works from the manuscript.

The subsequent grant of an AHRC Pilot Dissemination Award (£10,500) led to a highly productive collaboration with the professional vocal ensemble Stimmwerck. This involved Rumbold and Wright developing their earlier research through (a) the creation of modern editions of a selection of music from the codex; (b) acting as musicological consultants to Stimmwerck by advising on matters of interpretation and historical performance practice; (c) devising a concert programme based on a well-varied selection of works, a number of which had most probably not been performed since the fifteenth century. This programme was subsequently performed internationally and recorded for commercial CD release (output 6).

References to the research

1. Der Mensuralcodex St. Emmeram. Faksimile der Handschrift Clm 14274 der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München, with commentary and inventory (in German and English) by Ian Rumbold and Peter Wright (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2006), monograph. Available on request.


2. Ian Rumbold with Peter Wright, Hermann Pötzlinger's Music Book: The St Emmeram Codex and its Contexts (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2009), monograph. Available on request.


3. Peter Wright, `The "St Emmeram" Mensural Codex: Introduction', Musical Culture of the Czech Lands and Central Europe, ed. Lenka Mrácková and Jan Bat'a (Prague: Koniasch Latin Press, 2011), 99-101, book chapter. Available on request.

4. Ian Rumbold, `The "St Emmeram" Mensural Codex: A Progress Report', Musical Culture of the Czech Lands and Central Europe, ed. Lenka Mrácková and Jan Bat'a (Prague: Koniasch Latin Press, 2011), 102-10, book chapter. Available on request.

5. Peter Wright, `The contribution and identity of scribe D of the "St Emmeram Codex"', in Musik des Mittelalters und der Renaissance: Festchrift Klaus-Jürgen Sachs, ed. Rainer Klainertz, Christoph Flamm and Walter Frobenius (Hildesheim: Olms, 2010), 283-316, book chapter. Listed in REF2.

6. Codex St. Emmeram. Stimmwerck (Aeolus, AE-10023; pub. 2008, reprinted 2010), compact disc recording. Available on request.

Evidence of quality:

  • AHRC funding: £246,434 (Research Grant) + £10,500 (Pilot Dissemination Award).
  • Hermann Pötzlinger's Music Book awarded C.B. Oldman Prize of the International Association of Music Libraries for an outstanding work of music bibliography, music reference or music librarianship (http://www.iaml.info/iaml-uk-irl/awards/oldmanwinners.html).
  • Reviews of Hermann Pötzlinger's Music Book (output 2): `a dazzling documentary study ... It is difficult to imagine a more thorough, balanced and rigorous treatment of the topic than Rumbold and Wright's' (Early Music, 38/3 (2010), 442-4). `This is a wholly admirable piece of work, a delight to read ... a model of historical reconstruction' (Music and Letters, 92/4 (2011). 636-9).
  • Reviews of Der Mensuralcodex St. Emmeram (output 1): `This is surely one of the most beautiful and carefully prepared facsimiles of a music manuscript, and it sets a new standard for future facsimiles' (Speculum, 84 (2009), 216). `This is a thorough, usable, readable, and scholarly publication for which the many collaborators and funders are to be congratulated' (Music and Letters, 91/1 (2010), 97-100).

Details of the impact

From the two phases of this research project described above, the following principal beneficiaries may be identified:


As a consequence of Wright's and Rumbold's research, new repertoire, much of it of high quality yet not performed or heard for more than 500 years, has been made available to specialist performers. The lavish manuscript facsimile (output 1) has sold 163 copies (source 1), and is now held by major public reference libraries around the globe (including the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, the National Library of Sweden, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the New York Public Library, the British Library and the Zentralbibliothek Zürich; source 2), making the repertoire available to enquiring performers internationally. Additionally, the monograph (output 2) contains new performing editions of 13 complete works from the manuscript.

The benefits of this research have been especially significant for the principal collaborators in the dissemination phase of the project, Stimmwerck. First, the appeal of the new repertoire for concert promoters is indicated by the fact that Stimmwerck have performed it at 9 separate concerts in 4 European countries over a period of five years (April 2007 to January 2012; all but the first of these fall within the assessment period), and the group continues to offer it to venues (see source 3). Second, the group gained insights on context and performance practice through the informed advice offered by Wright and Rumbold, building on the insights on performance practice they offer in chapter 5 of the monograph; in the words of the group's founder and director, `we had a perfect musicological background: the highest quality modern editions and a systematic analysis of the music made it very easy for us to reawaken this marvellous music' (source 4). Third, the group's prestige was enhanced by involvement in this pioneering and scholarly project. Notably, it has triggered further high-profile scholarly collaborations. To quote the group's director again, `Since the St Emmeram Codex-CD it has become a kind of trademark that Stimmwerck is in close contact with musicologists. In 2013 we plan an important recording with Professor Reinhard Strohm (Oxford University) ... [who] mentioned in his initial contacts that he has our Emmeram-CD' (source 4). This second musicological collaboration — a direct consequence of Stimmwerck's involvement with Wright and Rumbold- is for the international project `Musikleben des Spätmittelalters in der Region Österreich' led by the universities of Oxford and Vienna; the CD recording session took place in September 2013 (source 5). The St Emmeram CD was also judged best `Late Middle Ages' recording of 2009 by the Dutch classical music retailer Prelude, a fact proudly trumpeted on Stimmwerck's website (source 6).


Sizeable and diverse audiences have engaged with the repertoire made available by Wright and Rumbold, and also (through programme notes, public talks and the CD booklet) directly with their scholarship. Since 2008 Stimmwerck have performed this repertory on 8 occasions in Germany, Portugal and the Czech Republic, with audiences averaging over 300 at each concert (source 4). The reach of these performances has extended substantially beyond the specialist early music audience, to include concerts in the leading German multi-genre arts festival Movimentos (2010), Póvoa de Varzim's summer international music festival aimed at the city's tourist market (2011), and the cultural programme of the DIAK social welfare centre for the sick and elderly in Schwäbisch Hall (2011). In addition to the purely musical satisfactions brought to these diverse audiences (Stimmwerck report spontaneous applause after their performances of the particularly ebullient contrafactum `Ad honorem / Par maintes foys'; source 4), programme notes prepared by Rumbold enabled enhanced appreciation of the music's historical context.

The CD released by Aeolus has sold 1217 copies since its release in May 2008 (source 7). The recording is also distributed through leading international online music sites, including iTunes and emusic (download figures are not available from these sites). Additionally, substantial audio extracts and a 5-minute video about the project, including commentary from Rumbold, are available from Stimmwerck's and Aeolus's websites. There is a further entire track from the CD on Youtube (749 views; source 8). Indications of interest in the project amongst non-specialists include the numerous enthusiastic reviews in non-academic music journals (see below), a review on the German Kulturradio rbb (a Berlin-based equivalent to BBC Radio 3; 21.8.08; source 4), a press review in the Rheinische Post (24.5.08, cited in source 3), blog commentary (see source 9), and two five-star reviews by Amazon customers (source 10; `I cannot speak highly enough of this recording'; `the story of how such compositions might have arrived in Pötzlinger's hands is fascinatingly told in the notes that come with this CD').

CD company

As mentioned above, the Stimmwerck CD has generated impressive sales for a recording of previously unknown repertoire, and has received a prestigious award. These achievements benefit both the financial operation and the reputation of Aeolus. The company's reputation is also enhanced by the rave reviews of the St Emmeram CD in non-academic sources (source 11): see Toccata (cited on Aeolus website: `Ein faszinierendes Klangdokument und eine modellhafte Produktion'); Fanfare (May/June 2011; `this is both a scholarly treat and entertainment of a very high order'); Musica-dei-donum reviews website (`a project like this which shows how fruitful a close cooperation between musicologists, archives and performing musicians can be ... The booklet [by Rumbold, Wright and Weller] is — as in all productions of Aeolus — exemplary: lucidly-written and informative programme notes and all lyrics with translations in English, French and German'); Early Music (37 (2009), 315: `Rumbold and Wright have taken a vital first step in bringing the codex's music to life by collaborating with the Munich-based vocal ensemble Stimmwerck in the production of a splendid recording...The disc is an inspiration to discover what other treats the codex has in store'.

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Representative, Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden (factual statement).
  2. Library online catalogue pages listing the Mensuralcodex volume. Available on file.
  3. Stimmwerck website, publicity document advertising St Emmeram repertoire, http://www.stimmwerck.de/media/programme/Stimmwerck_Codex_St_Emmeram.pdf (viewed 25 September 2013). Available on file.
  4. Founder and Director, Stimmwerck, factual statement.
  5. Stimmwerck website, list of events for 2013,http://www.stimmwerck.de/termine.php?lingua=en(viewed 25 September 2013). Available on file.
  6. Stimmwerck website, Codex St Emmeram CD page,http://www.stimmwerck.de/shop.php?lingua=en&shop_id=4 (viewed 25 September 2013). Available on file.
  7. Director, Aeolus CDs, factual statement.
  8. `Stimmwerck — St Emmeram Codex', Youtube page,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U_f5mogGoQ (viewed 25 September 2013). Available on file.
  9. Mirabilis.ca blog, 21 December 2008, http://mirabilis.ca/2008/12/21/medieval-music-brought-back-to-life/ (viewed 25 September 2013). Available on file.
  10. Customer reviews, Codex St Emmeram, Amazon.co.uk page,http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00187AG9E (viewed 25 September 2013). Available on file.
  11. Reviews of Codex St Emmeram CD: Toccata -Alte Musik Aktuell, cited on Aeolus website, Codex St Emmeram CD page,http://www.aeolus-music.com/ae_en/All-Discs/AE10023-The-St-Emmeram-Codex; Fanfare (May/June 2011), reprinted at www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-2305163351.html; Musica-dei-donum (2009), www.musica-dei-donum.org/cd_reviews/Aeolus_AE-10023.html; Early Music, 37/2 (2009), http://em.oxfordjournals.org. All viewed 25 September 2013; available on file.