- Burkhard Kippenberg
The German tradition of courtly lyric and secular monophony that flourished particularly in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. Though it is in many ways merely the German branch of the genre represented by the troubadours and trouvères in France, it has substantial independent features. The musical history of Minnesang is a particularly controversial subject because the melodies survive largely in manuscripts from the 14th and 15th centuries (see Sources, MS §III 5.).
The name ‘minnesinger’ appears for the first time in the work of Hartmann von Aue (Minnesangs Frühling, 218.21; c1189); the word ‘minnesanc’ is substantially later, being first found in Walther von der Vogelweide (W 66.31; c1230); and ‘minneliet’ is used by Neidhart von Reuental (85.33; after 1230). Reaching its peak in the years of the Hohenstaufen emperors, the tradition grew alongside early Gothic architecture, the great religious movements of the time (particularly the Albigensians) which culminated in the crusades, and the brilliant rise of scholasticism. Just as in France, German Minnesang was cultivated by the travelling musicians but particularly by the nobility; and the intensity of the tradition shows the central role it must have played in the cultural and social life at court. This could happen only with the rise of a separate, carefully cultivated life style and new social obligations among the nobility coming together with the ethical duty to provide guidelines for their secular existence....