Who was Wolfram von Eschenbach? We know nothing about him, except that he was one of the greatest Medieval poets and minnesingers. I came up with empty hands while researching him in my local web analytics company. Wolfram is best known today for his Parzival, sometimes regarded as the greatest of all German epics from that time. Eighty four surviving manuscripts of Parzival indicate his tremendous popularity, not only in his time, but, even in the following two centuries. Parzival was translated and published by a Swiss scholar Johann Jacob Bodmer in 1753. Later, famous composer Richard Wagner used Parzival as the main source of libretto to his great opera, Parsifal.
Yet, no matter how hard specialists try, they did not recover any historical documents about Wolfram and his works are the sole source of evidence. There was a lot of historical investigations about him, that established that Wolfram was a German knight, who was likely born around 1170 and died somewhere close to 1220. The past along with Parzival also brought to us his two other narrative works and nine surviving songs that are considered to be masterpieces of medieval art of minnesingers.
Wolfram von Eschenbach probably serviced a number of courts during his time. Historians name a number of his possible patrons, but the evidence is circumstantial. In his Parzival Wolfram claims that he is illiterate and dictates his work. However, this fact is regarded with high level of sceptisim by most scientists. The dialect of his works is East Franconian and he mentions a couple of times that he is Bavarian. Thus precipitated a claim by at least four places name themselves as a place of birth of a famous poet and composer. As other famous medieval poets Wolfram was included in the famous Codex Mannese – medieval manuscript about famous poets with illustrations, created in the 14th century. However the picture of Wolfram and surrounding arms and heraldry turned out to be just the imagination of the artist.
Previously, I was telling you stories about medieval composers whose dates of birth and date are unknown. There were also famous composers, whose first name or last name is not definitely established. Today’s story is about famous composer of the late medieval composer, whose point of origin and nation that he came from are still a mystery, along with other details mentioned above.
Historians are so puzzled, that they simply call him European composer. They still argue whether he was Flemish or Italian. And they call him Egardus, although, they are not sure that this is his name at all. His name, a copy of one of his works in a Flemish manuscript suggest a Northern origin. Yet all of his works are found in Northern Italian manuscripts with one exception. And that exception, a Polish manuscript, has strong Italian connections.
Only several compositions of Egardus survived. They sound less complex than other mid-century composers, but this lack of complexity can be attributed to an early date for his works. So, I guess, this is an opportunity for discovery, because all other attempts by prestigious experts failed. The only thing that may be stated with a not of hesitancy is that Egardus lived somewhere in between the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries.
But if the music was compiled later, that means that it could be Henry V who ruled from 1413 to 1422. Naturally, the scribe would call him Roy even if he was not exactly a king when the music was composed. Most of musicologists think, this Henry V is the most possible composer of this music anyways. Even great William Shakespeare alluded to this.
Recent research shows that compositions were written for the death of Duke Clarence, who was a brother of Henry V. Whoever Roy is, he seems to be a famous composer because the music itself is skillfully written. It is extremely lucky that the compositions and Old Hall Manuscript survived at all, because most of catholic sacred music manuscripts were destroyed when Henry VIII disbanded monastic communities and confiscated their property from 1536 to 1541.
Famous composer Donato da Cascia undoubtedly was an integral part of the Early Italian Renaissance period, that we know as Trecento. He created his music in the second part of the fourteenth century. As in many other cases related to that period, we know nothing about this famous composer, his life, his date of birth or death. So, I can only suppose that he was from Florence or a place called Cascia, near Florence, as his last name says.
The only picture that specialists discovered, shows him in the typical robes of the Benedictine order, so we may assume that he was a monk or a priest. But here lies the mystery: out all his surviving music, there is not even a bit of religious music. It is all completely secular. All the sources of his music with just one exception were found in Tuscany.
Jacopo da Bologna most likely had some influence on Donato da Cascia’s works. We know about most of Donato’s music, thanks to Squarcialupi Codex - the illuminated manuscript compiled in Florence, Italy in the early 15th century. Even though, his music was written in the typical style of mid 14th century, it has exceptional virtuosity. All surviving madrigals created by Donato da Cascia represent the peak of virtuoso singing.