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Ludwig Senfl (Composer)

Born: c1486 - Basle or Zürich (?)
Died: between Dec 2-10, 1542 - Munich, Germany

Ludwig Senfl [Senfel, Sennfl, Sennfli, Senfelius, Senphlius] was a German composer.

A volume of manuscript songs in the Vienna library contains some verses, written and set to music by Senfl himself, describing his early enthusiasm for music, his education under Heinrich Isaac, and his gratitude to that master. At an early age he entered the court chapel of Maximilian I, ultimately succeeded Isaac as Kapellmeister, and held that office till the emperor's death (January 1519), on which occasion he wrote music to the words Quis dabit oculis nostris fontem lacrimarum. In 1520 he was at Augsburg, received a present of fifty gulden from Charles V on February 9, and in the following November personally edited the Liber selectarum cantionum, one of the first music books printed in Germany. Thence he went to Munich, though in what capacity is uncertain. On one title-page (1526) he is called 'Musicus intonator,' on another (1534) 'Musicus primarius,' of the Duke of Bavaria, while in his own letters he subscribes himself simply 'Componist zu München.' In Forster's collection of Liedlein (preface dated Jan. 31, 1556) he is spoken of as ' L. S. seliger ' (i.e. dead); and if the title 'musicus primarius' stands for Kapellmeister he must have died or retired some years before, since Ludwig Daser had held that office for some years when Lassus went to Munich in 1557.

The well-known letter from Martin Luther to Senfll is no evidence that the composer had worked specially for the Lutheran Church, though the existence of the correspondence has given rise to that idea. Indeed his connexion with the strictly Catholic court of Munich would, as Fétis points out, render it most improbable.2 Four letters written by Senfl to the Markgrave Albrecht of Brandenburg and to Georg Schultheis are printed in the A.M.Z. for August 12, 1863.

A portrait engraved on a model by Hagenauer of Augsburg, with the inscription 'Ludovvicus Senfel,' and on the reverse Psallam deo meo quamdiu fuero 1529, is in the collection of coins and medals at Vienna.

The state library at Munich contains the manuscript church service books begun by Isaac and completed by Senfl, as well as manuscript masses by the latter. These have been published in D.D.T. (second series) III. ii. The most important publications during his life are:

(1) 'Quinque salutationes D. N. meau Christi,' etc. (Norimbergae. 1626).
(2) 'Varia carminum genera, quibus tum. Horatius, tum alii egrgeii poetae… harmoniis composits' (Id. 1534)
(3) '121 newe Lider (Id. 1534), with 81 nos. by L.S.
(4) 'Magnificat octo tonorum,' a 4, 5 (Id. 1537).
(5) '116 guter newer Liedlein' (Id. 1644), with 64 nos. by L. S.

Besides these Eitner names above 100 separate pieces printed in various collections of the 16th century. (See Q.-L.) Nine sacred pieces (a 4) are -given by Winterfeld in Der evangelische Kirckengesang (Leipzig, 1843), and five Lieder by Liliencron in Die kistorischen Volkslieder der Deutschen (Leipzig, 1865-69).

Source: Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition, by J.R. Sterndale-Bennett)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (February 2006)

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


Christ ist erstanden, Setting for 6 voices in Neue deutsche Gesenge

Christ ist erstanden


Links to other Sites

The 'Swiss Orpheus' - Ludwig Sennfl


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