Passauer Liedertisch ("The Song Table of Passau")

Link to the presentation of the "Passauer Liedertisch"

The so-called "Passauer Liedertisch", a work of stone etching from 1590, is the oldest surviving source of polyphonic music from the environment of Passau Cathedral. Today, the table forms part of the collection in the "Kunstkammer" or cabinet of curiosities in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. The vocal parts of Cantus, Altus, Tenor and Bass for three different songs are etched into the outer circle of the round table in mensural notation. The madrigal Fugga longe da me was composed by Marc'Antonio Ingegneri (1547-1592): Fugga longe da me torment'e noia, poi che la donna mia, tutta cortes'e pia, gli accesi spirti miei nutrisc'in gioia. Alma, ch'ardendo d'infocat'ardore, di speme vòta et colma di desire bramasti di morire. Cant'or con liet'e con ridente core, poi che la donna mia.
The chanson Deus, qui bonum vinum creavit (LV 229) is a contrafact of a Calvinist song. The text is based losoely upon Ezekiel 33: Deus qui bonum vinum creavit, et vino abutentes capitis dolore mulctavit. Tollet prorsus istis intellectum, nec umquam quietum invenient lectum.
The German drinking song Seitt frisch auf ir Lieben geste is a contrafact of the chanson Margot labourez les vignes (LV 169): Seitt frisch auf ihr Lieben geste, date nobis bibere. Besser ist ein gutter Wein dan Biere. Last uns fröhlich sein in allen Ehren, Gott der Herr der wel uns dies bescheren; levate das gläslein; Umbher geh; date nobis bibere. Besser ist ein guter Wein dan Biere. Ghabt euch alle wel und seit Freiden vol: bibite das gläslein: Umbher gehe: date nobis bibere. Besser ist ein gutter Wein dan Biere. Both works are by Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594). Prince-Bishop Urban was fond of Lasso’s music, and Orlando dedicated the six-part motet Regnum mundi  to him.

Technical implementation

Two different MEI modules were used to encode the mensural notation. Mensural Notation enables the reproduction of the original musical notes and mensuration signs. The transcription into modern notation was carried out using Common Music Notation (CMN). Both modules differ fundamentally in the way that the lengths of notes are encoded. We are thus dealing not just with changing the keys and adding mensuration signs. Select buttons make it possible to shift from one manner of coding to the other. In both encodings, the individual parts are transcribed in score notation. The notation is rendered client-side in the browser using the Verovio toolkit. (The current version of Verovio is not yet able to display song texts for Mensural Notation. Furthermore, the stems of the notes are not displayed centered upon the note head, as is usual in mensural notation.) Sophisticated JavaScript programming enables the original (image detail of the Liedertisch) and the transcription to be viewed at the same time. The image detail can be moved parallel to the music transcription. The respective part in the score matching the image of the original table is marked in red. It is also possible to view the entire Liedertisch, zoom in on and turn the image. We recommend using an up-to-date browser (Firefox Ver. 43 or newer); JavaScript needs to be activated in the browser.

Performing artists on the audio samples

Fugga longe da me : Passau Brass, dir. Michael Beck. © Passau Brass
Deus qui bonum vinum creavit : Pierre Pitzl, Marcy Zimmermann and Christian Zinke play on instruments from the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (gambas by Antonio Ciciliano, SAM 70, 71 and 72. © Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien Museumsverband).

Seitt frisch auf ir Lieben geste : Ensemble NOVA, dir. Colin Mason with Richard Labschütz (© Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien Museumsverband)


Art-historical significance

The so-called "Passauer Liedertisch", a remarkable document of South German music history and unusual work of Renaissance art, was created in 1590 by the Passau engraver and lithographer Caspar von der Sitt. Sitt etched the limestone slab from the famous quarries in Solnhofen with several rings containing ornamental patterns, figural drawings, a poem and musical notes. He used decorations to highlight 25 coats of arms: the coat of arms of the Prince-Bishop of Passau Urban von Trennbach is positioned at the centre, while 24 coats of arms are positioned in a circle around it; 23 of these bear the names of members of the cathedral chapter. According to the etched inscription, the table was created in honour of and as an eternal memorial to Prince-Bishop Urban. Furthermore, the inscription refers to the astrological system of the planetary hours that divides both the day and night into twelve unequal sections, each ruled by a different planet. This system is represented visually in a table divided into the seven days of the week marked with the planetary symbols and including finely drawn depictions of the Roman deities Sol, Luna, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. The deities symbolise the planets that give their names to the days of the week (Sol/Sun – Sunday, Luna/Moon – Monday etc.) and ride across bands of clouds in chariots drawn by animals and fabulous creatures. The outer rings of the stone table top contain a poem divided into twelve verses that alludes to the transience of life and is separated from the music and song texts drawn at the edge of the table by an ornamental border. The content of the different rings and the way in which they refer to one another is only fully revealed to the viewer once he or she has walked around the table several times.

Towards the end of the 16th century, Caspar von Sitt produced further, similarly decorated pieces, such as the "Amberger Liedertisch" ("Amberg Song Table") and is thus one of a number of artists working in southern Germany who used lithographic techniques to create song tables. The "Passauer Liedertisch" was originally kept in the Graf Herberstein canonry in Passau, later in the Lambergpalais (also in Passau), and today is part of the Kunstkammer des Kunst­historischen Museums in Vienna (object no. KK 2410).

Stefanie Linsboth, Devision of Art History, IKM


Prince-Bishop Urban von Trennbach (1561-1598)

Reigning for 37 years, Urban became one of Passau’s greatest prince-bishops, both benevolent and strictly orthodox. The Counter-Reformation swept away the last supporters of the Reformation in the city of Passau. At the same time, Urban von Trennbach established the renewal of Catholicism that originated in the Council of Trent, the so-called "Catholic Reform". Unlike in other cathedral cities, Bishop Urban dispensed with the Jesuits in his struggle against the new teachings of Protestantism. Instead, he summoned the Observant Friars, the strict branch of the Franciscan order, to Passau in 1564. Urban proved one of the keenest episcopal advocates of reform at the Salzburg provincial synods of 1569 and 1573. In 1570, the Curia counted him as one of the German bishops whose Catholic stance could be trusted completely.

Urban’s main concern was the spiritual and moral renewal of the diocesian clergy. He ordered a reorganisation of the deanery and charged the newly appointed regional deans to conscientiously watch over the clerics’ discipline and conduct. He provided his clergy with Catholic books for a modest fee. Furthermore, Bishop Urban was keen to establish a seminary according to the requirements of the Council of Trent as soon as possible. In this undertaking he remained unsuccessful, however, as the cathedral chapter and many other prebendaries refused any financial support. Moreover, the secular local rulers objected to monies from church and prebendary foundations being used for the seminary.

Strikingly, it was this Bishop of Passau from a noble Lower Bavarian family, of all people, to whom the House of Habsburg was indebted for removing Passau from Bavarian authority after two centuries; the new order was to last up until the secularisation (1803). The highly assertive Prince-Bishop did not want to let Bavaria’s selfish and foolish politics, which ran counter to Passau’s trade interests, go unpunished. Disappointed by the Wittelsbachs, he did everything he could to gain a member of the Habsburg family as a coadjutor with the right of succession. As half of the cathedral chapter voted for the Habsburg Leopold and the other half for the Wittelsbach Ferdinand as coadjutor, Urban was able to leave the decision up to Rome, which decided in favour of Archduke Leopold as bishop coadjutor in 1598.

Source: August Leidl: Die Bischöfe des Bistums Passau, in: Handbuch des Bistums Passau. Stand: 1.8.1981, Passau 1981, 11-54.


Further references: Bertha Wallner: Musikalische Denkmäler der Steinätzkunst des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts nebst Beiträgen zur Musikpflege dieser Zeit, Munich 1912. Yvonne Silke Jäger: Die Steinätzung von Rosegg. Ein Beitrag zur Ars moriendi des 16. Jahrhunderts (undergraduate dissertation, University of Vienna), Vienna 2010 (download). "Passauer Liedertisch" in the RegioWiki Niederbayern (Lower Bavaria). Database Orlando di Lasso of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Munich.

Music editions: Deus, qui bonum vinum creavit: Dixhuitieme livre de chansons à quatre et cinq parties, par Orlande de Lassus, Paris 1567. Fugga longe da me: Ingegneri, Marc'Antonio: Il primo libro de madrigali a quatro voci. Nouvamente con ogni dilligentia ristampati, Venedig 1578, Nr. 19.

Special thanks are due to the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna for the permission to use the image of the Liedertisch and to the musicians for providing the audio recordings.

Link to the presentation of the "Passauer Liedertisch"