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Quodlibet of the Goldberg Variations by JS Bach in the first edition

A quodlibet ( lat. 'As it is popular') is a - mostly joking - piece of music in which originally independent melodies are combined into a common set of notes. In contrast to potpourri and medley , the source melodies are not strung together, but sound simultaneously. Hence the quodlibet is a polyphonic and often contrapuntal form.

In the Alt-Wiener Volkskomödie in particular , the Quodlibet is a scenic form of song in which classical musical elements are contrasted and mixed with simple, often banal melodies (→ main article: Quodlibet (Alt-Wiener Volkstheater) ).

Development and Examples


The first polyphonic vocal compositions, which wanted to create a fun effect with intentionally incoherent stringing together of text and melody fragments, date from the year 1544 ("Good, selzamer, and artificial German singing, especially ettliche artificial Quodlibet"). The composition technique of the Quodlibet is older, however, as the Codex Montpellier (14th century) shows with various quodlibet-like works. Some motets in the 13th century also have quodlibet-like elements, since they combine various pre-existing melodies.

In the Glogau song book , three quodlibets on O rosa bella by John Dunstable (1390–1453) are handed down, whereby the original cantus is retained and the tenor counterpoints the beginnings of various German folk songs. In the first Quodlibet no less than 22 love songs are quoted.


As an entertaining form of singing, the Quodlibet was very popular in the Renaissance and Baroque periods . For the first time it was called Quodlibet by Wolfgang Schmeltzl (approx. 1505–1564) (because they drink) .

Independent forms of quodlibets developed in France and Spain during the Renaissance: fricassée and ensalada .

Baroque and Classical

Even Johann Sebastian Bach composed some quodlibets such. B. BWV 524 for the wedding celebration of Johann Friedrich or Variatio 30 of the Goldberg Variations . Quodlibets are said to have been improvised at gatherings of the Bach family .

In 1766 Mozart wrote a Quodlibet entitled Galimathias Musicum ( French: Galimathias , meaningless chatter, nonsense) with 18 numbers for orchestra (KV 32), in which he compiled well-known songs of his time in the manner of the then widespread suite practice and also experimented with fugue techniques . In the final fugue of the piece he uses the melody of the Dutch song Willem van Nassau as a theme. The occasion was the installation by Prince Wilhelm V of Orange in March in The Hague , at which the Mozart family was present.


Carl Maria von Weber wrote a Quodlibet for 2 voices and piano (op. 54 No. 2, 1817) This is how it goes in Schnützelputz-Häusel and a Quodlibet ascribed to him as incidental music for Das Österreichische Feldlager by Heinrich Schmidt (based on Friedrich Schiller ) for the celebration of victory in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.

In the Biedermeier period , the Quodlibet was taken up by the composers of the Alt-Wiener Volkskomödie and, especially in the pieces by Johann Nestroy, adapted as a scenic song sequence (see Quodlibet (Alt-Wiener Volkstheater) ).

Albert Lortzing wrote Quodlibets on L. Breitenstein's Der Kapellmeister von Venezia, Karl Haffner's Magic Posse The Sold Sleep (1844) and Johann Nestroy's A Joke ( Friends, Comes to Table, 1842).

There is a Quodlibet from Richard Wagner's opera Rienzi in an arrangement by Josef Schantl.


There is a Quodlibet op. 9 by Kurt Weill , a suite for orchestra from the pantomime Zaubernacht op. 4 (1923).

By John Cage are in the String Quartet in four parts a Quodlibet from the year 1950th

In the feature film Casablanca, a few bars of the song Die Wacht am Rhein and the beginning of the Marseillaise are heard as Quodlibet in a dramatic scene .


Web links

Wiktionary: Quodlibet  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Dolores Pesce: Beyond Glossing: The Old Made New in Mout me fu grief / Robin m'aime / Portare . In: Dolores Pesce (Ed.): Hearing the Motet: Essays on the Motet of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Stanford 1997, pp. 28-51.