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Ludwig Senfl
c.1486 - 1542/43
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L. Senfl
Ludwig Senfl (Senfel, Sennfl. Sennfli, Senfelius, Senphlius) (c.1486-1542/43) was a Swiss Renaissance composer born in Basle or lived in his early years in Zürich and active in Germany. He was the most famous pupil of the South-Netherlandish composer Hendrik Isaac (c.1450-1517). As so often of his early life and education nothing has known. In 1496 Senfl joined as singer the court chapel of Maximilian I (1459-1519), ultimately succeeded in 1517 his master Isaac as “Kapellmeister” and court composer and held that office until the death of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. During his study Senfl is known to have copied much of the great work by his master the Choralis Constantinus,which was published after the death of Isaac and Senfl. When the Emperor died in 1519, Senfl was out of a job, and his circumstances - due to an injury - altered for the worse: Charles V (1500-1558) dismissed most of Maximilian's musicians, and even refused to pay Senfl the annual stipend which had been promised to him in the event of the emperor's death. He stayed in Worms, Augsburg and Munich and in 1520 he published his first printed edition the Liber selectarum cantionum one of the first music books printed in Germany. In 1523 Senfl joined the Court Chapel in Munich. On one title-page (1526) he is called 'Musicus intonator,' on another (1534) 'Musicus primarius,' of the Duke of Bavaria IV (1508-1550), while in his own letters he subscribes himself simply 'Componist zu München.' Munich a place which had high musical standards, a strong need for new music, and which was relatively tolerant of those with Protestant sympathies. Senfl sympathized with the Reformation he admired Luther (1483-1546). Senfl was to remain in Munich for the rest of his life. By 1540 he was ill, judging from his correspondence with Duke Albrecht V (1528-1579), and he probably died in early 1543. Senfl was nevertheless an influential figure in the development of the South-Netherlandish polyphonic style, especially that developed by Josquin (c. 1440-1521) and especially his teacher Isaac in Germany. Senfl also wrote numerous (about 250) German lieder, most of them secular (a handful on sacred texts were written for Duke Albrecht of Prussia). They vary widely in character, from extremely simple settings of a cantus firmus to Polyphonic contrapuntal. His output contains among others 7 masses, many sacred motets, vespers, psalms and Magnificats settings.
Author:Wim Goossens
Quis dabit oculis nostris fontem lacrymarum
Period:Early Renaissance
Composed in:1519
Musical form:Motet
In memory of:/ dedicated to: Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519)
Label(s):HMU 807595 & Decca 436998
Accord 1419163
Obsidian 9786717
CPO 999648-2

♫ Quis dabit oculis
© Harmonia Mundi HMU 807595
The funeral motet ‘Quis dabit oculis’ used and sung at the Death of emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) is not a new created setting by Ludwig Senfl, but Senfl adopted only a setting of the Italian composer Constanzo Festa (c. 1490-1545). Festa sets this ‘Quis dabit oculis’ five years before at the occasion of the funeral of Anna of Brittany (1477-1514). Why did Senfl so? The reason may be, on the one hand, that Maximilian I died surprisingly. On the other hand the musical relations might have been more crucial: for financial reasons, but also due to the ever-changing residences (the Court Chapel had always to accompany the Emperor) of the Court Chapel and the structure and members of the court music chapel was not as stable as for instance at the Burgundian court.
We discussed here the original setting ‘Quis dabit oculis nostris fontem lacrymarum’ by Constanzo Festa already published at these website. So we refer here to our comment there written. Only the Latin text has been slightly changed by Senfl due to the occasion not the setting itself; only a few notes due to another word rhythm (Maximilian instead of Anna!) has been changed.
This motet in published in Secundus Tomus Novi operis musici, sex, quinque et quatuor vocum, nunc recens inlucem editis. Ott, Hans, 1546 [Hrsg.] Noribergae: Hieronymus Grapheus 1538.
Author:Wim Goossens

Prima pars:
Quis dabit oculis nostris fontem lachrymarum?
Et plorabimus die ac nocte coram Domino?
Germania, quid ploras? Musica sileat.
Austria, cur deducta lugubri veste
maerore consumeris?

Secunda pars:
Heu nobis, Domine, defecit nobis Maximilianus,
gaudium cordis nostri.
Conversus est in luctum chorus noster.
Cecidit corona capitis nostri.

Tertia pars:
Ergo ululate pueri, plorate sacerdotes,
ululate senes, lugete cantores,
plangite nobiles et dicite:
Maximilianus, Maximilianus , requiescat in pace.


First part:
Who will give our eyes a fountain of tears
to weep day and night before the Lord?
Germany, why do you weep?
Music shall keep silent.
Austria, why did you tear your vest in mourning and are spent with grief?

Second part:
Alas, Lord, Maximilian has passed away!
The joy of our hearts was turned into mourning;
The crown has fallen from our head.

Third part:
Therefore, boys howl, priests weep,
the singing men lament, the nobles weep and say:
May Maximilian rest in peace.
Contributor:Wim Goossens