cooperative projectResearch Centre “Court – Music – City”

Press Release No. 11/2021
5 February 2021

A new cooperative project with participation of musicologists from Heidelberg University

Early this year saw the launch of the new research centre “Court – Music – City”, a cooperative project between the Department of Musicology of Heidelberg University, Mannheim University of Music and Performing Arts and the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Under the roof of the joint institution, musicologists will explore the question of how courtly and urban music developed in southwest Germany and mutually influenced each other. A central element of activities is, moreover, enhancing university teaching in musicology, e.g. in the field of digital edition. The centre, located in Schwetzingen, is directed by Prof. Dr Christiane Wiesenfeldt (Heidelberg) and Prof. Dr Panja Mücke (Mannheim).

From the late Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th century, the court was an important patron of musical life. “In today’s state of Baden-Württemberg there are numerous courts of varying size at which courtly music developed by different means, ranging from ceremonial events for the aristocracy to civic and state orchestras with an educational mission,” explains Prof. Wiesenfeldt, who lectures and conducts her research at the Department of Musicology of Ruperto Carola. The scholars involved in the centre want to start at this interface and examine more closely how courtly and civic musical cultures were intertwined. “So far researchers have presupposed that these were two more or less separate areas of activity,” says Prof. Wiesenfeldt. “After the loss of local courts, however, aspects of courtly music lived on and the civic musical culture owes many structures, themes and genres to the music played at courts. These dynamics, which belong to the hitherto unexamined areas of music culture around the year 1800, are the focus of our research projects.”

The musicologists also want to contribute their expertise to the curricula at Heidelberg University and Mannheim University for Music and Performing Arts. “We will particularly focus on digital edition, one of the most important future fields of musicology as a subject,” says Prof. Mücke. Summer schools for international students and doctoral candidates are planned as well, to take place every two years and give young researchers the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the southwest German repertoire and the places where it was played. Bridging the gap between performance and the musical public will also be a central concern, e.g. through coaching for musicians and ensembles or lending out performance resources. The academic staff member at the research centre is Dr Rüdiger Thomsen-Fürst, who was a research assistant in the previous project as well.

The newly founded research centre is the successor of the research centre “Southwest German Court Music”, which was funded by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities from 2006 to 2020. Amongst other things, the project pre-edited and examined sources relating to the social and institutional history of southwest German court orchestras. Other research areas were the history of the modern orchestra, innovation in instrument manufacturing in the 18th century and historical performance practice. With support from the city, the research centre was already located in Schwetzingen – once an important location for court music in the Electoral Palatinate.