saint hildebard of bingen

German Classical and Folk Music History and Traditions

It is a fact that traditional German music is basically derived from folk and classical forms, and it has only grown in popularity.  Among the mainstream musical forms which have touched the hearts of the people include Volksmusik, Neue Deutsche Welle (NDW), Neue Deutsche Harte (NDH), Krautrock, Schlager, Hamburger Schule, and German hip hop.  Some of the best musicians and composers have been from Germany, who took music to a different level. 

Beginnings of German Musical Traditions

The beginning of German music traces back to the 12th century when Hildegard of Bingen wrote many popular traditional Christian music, hymns, and lyrics that were considered to be both mystical and auspicious.

saint hildebard of bingen

In the next section, we shall elaborate on the different forms of folk and classical music of Germany that have come up through the ages.

German Folk Music

This musical form underwent many transformations, largely inspired by English and American music revivals.  There are unique regions in Germany, where people practice different forms of dance and music.  The kind of music promoted by East Germany was based on pure notes of traditional music. 

Later, during the 1970’s, folk musicians incorporated revolutionary concepts in the songs.  During the mid 1990’s, children were taught Volkslieder, that contained lyrics of optimism, joy, reality and passion.  It was sung to celebrate German heritage. 

To name a few, Hannes Wader, Oktoberclub and Wacholder were some renowned folk players during that period. 

Traditional German wedding music composed by Richard Wagner, Felix Mendelssohn, and Johann Pachelbel, although cliched, are still played during receptions and auspicious ceremonies.

Types of Traditional German Folk Music

Traditional folk music was classified as Oom-pah, Sorbs, Swabia and Bavaria.  All these musical forms featured traditional German instruments. 

Oom-pah is played in large beer halls and the key instrument played by the brass bands with different forms of brass instruments. 

Sorbs gained popularity with Sorbian song festival where Sorbian folk was the most important element of the show. 

Playing containing ‘Saiten Fell and Firlefanz’ (by Thomas Felder) elevated the popularity of Swabian folk.  Guitar and wheel fiddle were played in sync with the verses.

Bavarian folk contained images of actual German folk life and was well-known outside Germany. 

Later, yodelling and schuhplattler were fused with various types of foreign styles.  You will find a collection of folk songs in Folksongs of Upper and Lower Sorbs and Alpine New Wave.

German Classical Music History

The renowned musicians of Germany who propagated the pure classical trend of music are Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.  In the 15th century, classical music was revolutionized by Oswald von Wolkenstein and Conrad Paumann. 

Since then, classical music in Germany evolved as diverse forms where Chorale, Opera and Baroque gained prominence.  18th century was actually known as the classical era while 19th was renowned as the romantic era.

Chorale was a polyphonic music created by intertwining of multiple melodies.  Heinrich Schutz, Dieterich Buxtehude and Martin Luther were the main composers of chorale.  German opera was quite highly appreciated by people during the 17th century.

The opera, ‘Die Zauberflote’ (The Magic Flute), composed by Mozart, received high acclamation.  Opera was further advanced by Beethoven and Heinrich Schutz. 

Other plays popular in the 19th century were The Threepenny Opera, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and the Ring of the Nibelung.  Musicians like Arnold Schenberg, Richard Wagner, Engelbert Humperdinck and Richard Georg Strauss experimented with new elements, rhythms and instruments.

Baroque music in the 18th century actually migrated to Germany from Italy.  It had typical tonality that made it so appealing.  The songs featured plenty of musical instruments like violin, harpsichord and various other wind instruments.  The tunes were introduced in concertos, preludes, and fugues. 

Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Hermann Schein, Samuel Scheidt and Michael Praetorius played an instrumental role in making this traditional music so popular.  The classical and romantic era produced the soul-touching and most sweetest melodies ever composed in the history of traditional German music.

You can check out the tunes and compositions of the famous singers and musicians from any musical online website or get DVDs for your personal collection.

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