Ludwig Senfl

Since the nineteenth century, Ludwig Senfl has been regarded as one of the most important Renaissance composers and the leading figure in the generation of composers between Heinrich Isaac and Orlando di Lasso in the German-speaking world. His life must be viewed within the transnational musical, literary, theological and political framework that defined everyday reality in Central Europe at the beginning of the sixteenth century and an emerging awareness of nation-oriented ideas.

Senfl’s network encompassed humanist scholars of the time, such as Vadian and Minervius, and included correspondence with central figures in reformed worship (Martin Luther, Veit Dietrich, Albrecht von Brandenburg), which testifies to his decisive cultural role at the beginning of confessionalisation. The continuing importance of the composer and his works for the history of music in the sixteenth century is documented by the esteem in which he was held by his contemporaries as well as composers from later centuries (Richard Wagner, for example, should be mentioned here), in addition to the reception of his works in the initial stages of the establishment of musicology as an academic discipline in the nineteenth century.

Despite sustained interest in Senfl’s musical oeuvre and various attempts to gain a better understanding of him as a singer, scribe and composer, the work of Ludwig Senfl has eluded more precise characterisation for a long time. This is all the more surprising as Senfl was active at two of the most important centres of early sixteenth-century European cultural life: the court of Emperor Maximilian I, where he began his career as a singer, scribe and composer; and (from 1523) the Munich court of Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria, where he served as court composer.

This lack of attention in research has been due, on the one hand, to the continued absence of an overview of his enormous oeuvre, which is scattered across numerous European archives and libraries and, on the other, to the incompleteness of existing editions of his work, which impedes to this day a more precise description of issues of chronology, style and reception. It was Birgit Lodes who, with her article “Senfl” (MGG2), laid the foundation for a systematic examination of his oeuvre, which has been the subject of continuous scholarly expansion since 2008.