Music for Maximilian

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Program: #20-24   Air Date: Jun 01, 2020

The Christophorus label gives us three CDs showcasing the lively musical scene at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I.

NOTE: All of the music on this program is from recordings on the Christophorus label released for the 500th anniversary commemoration of the passing of Emperor Maximilian I in 1519.

I & III. Sacred Music for Kaiser Maximilian I (Ensemble Hofkapelle/Michael Proctor). Christophorus CD CHR 77439.

Geistliche Musik für Kaiser Maximilian I: Heinrich Isaac, Josquin, Senfl, Hofhaimer Product Image
On 19 January 1519 - 500 years ago - Maximilian I, archduke of Austria, German king and Holy Roman emperor (1493–1519) died. With his policies of war and marriage, Emperor Maximilian I laid the foundations upon which the Habsburgs rose to become a great power. In addition to extending his power base, he promoted science and the arts and stylized himself as the ‘last knight’. He founded a court chapel around the composer Heinrich Isaac and gathered the most famous musicians of Europe.

The program on the first CD presents motets by Isaac, Senfl and Josquin which are written for different sacred occasions at the Maximilian Court.

The second CD presents two Marian Masses composed for Maximilian by Isaac. The first one is set for four voices and Maximilian must have liked it very much because he tasked Isaac to revise it into a six voice mass.

The Ensemble Hofkapelle present these two masses in alternation first with Gregorian chant and the second mass with organ improvisations in the style of Paul Hofhaimer, Maximilian’s famous court organist.

From BBC Classical Music: These recordings are particularly welcome as they increase significantly the available music of a fine composer. Isaac was a well-travelled Netherlander who joined Maximilian’s court in 1497. The two discs starkly illustrate our dependence on the selection of forces, venues and sound engineering.   Hofkapelle – male voices, cornetts and sackbuts – together with the distinctively voiced organ of a Black Forest church, have an excitingly raw quality. Male sopranos sometimes sharpen in their topmost register, but at moments of cadential repose all six voices generate that special sonority which arises from impeccable intonation.   Gregorian chant is recorded more remotely than polyphony, creating a distinctive sense of distant fervour. Munich Cathedral Choir has 14 singers; its women are much smoother than Hofkapelle’s male sopranos in the high duet which opens the motet Virgo prudentissima and each section of the Mass based on the same plainchant. The cathedral acoustic reverberates for up to eight seconds – plainchant acquires a strikingly evocative halo of lingering sound.   Tempo variations between sections within the Mass movements take a moment to grasp in such a misty acoustic, but the sound is enchanting. Cornetts and sackbuts play transcriptions and alternate with voices, most memorably with the Hofkapelle in Isaac’s familiar ‘Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen’ lament. 

Isaac: Motets for Kaiser Maximilian I

Salve Regina

Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen

Inviolata, integra et casta es Maria

Quis dabit oculis

De profundis

Christ ist erstanden

Proch dolor

Inviolata integra et castra es, Maria

Christus surrexit

Virgo prudentissima

Salve sancta parens enixa

Sancti spiritus assis


Isaac: Virgo Prudentissima

Missa, 'Virgo prudentissima'

Virgo prudentissima

Virgo prudentissima

Optime pastor

A la Battaglia


III. Kaiser Maximilian I: Lieder, Chansons, Tänze  (Per Sonat Ensemble/Sabine Lutzenberger). Christophorus CD CHR 77438

Kaiser Maximilian I. Lieder, Chansons, Tänze Product Image
The 500th anniversary of the death of Emperor Maximilian I this year is the occasion for several exhibitions and also for the programme of the ensemble Per-Sonat’s new CD.

Maximilian, who was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1508, was a great patron of the arts in addition to his warlike activities. Here the music was in his special interest and he brought the most important musicians of his time to his court: Heinrich Isaac, Josquin des Pres, Paul Hofhaimer and Johannes Ockeghem. The artistic sacred music for Emperor Maximilian has already been widely published.

The ensemble Per-Sonat, directed by Sabine Lutzenberger, consists exclusively of leading heads of the early music scene and now turns to secular music at Maximilian’s court: the songs, chansons and dances that document the emperor's love of music in a new way.

From Presto Classics: In a year packed with major anniversaries – Leonardo, Queen Victoria, Gandhi, Napoleon – it may have slipped your attention that 2019 also marks 500 years since the death of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. A generous and knowledgeable patron of the arts, Maximilian’s Hofkapelle was a hub for some of the age’s greatest sacred musicians. But it’s the court’s secular repertoire – what the theorist Tinctoris termed the cantus parvus (‘small songs’) – that is the focus here, in this delightful anniversary tribute.

Ensemble Per-Sonat and their director Sabine Lutzenberger have put together a varied recital of musical miniatures that combines dances, love songs and secular chansons to give a vivid picture of the daily life of Maximilian’s court, where music might be after-dinner entertainment, seduction tool or accompaniment to dancing. Ockeghem’s hugely popular love song ‘D’ung aultre amer’ is heard first in its elegant, mercurial original, then in one of many anonymous arrangements – crisper and more playful than Lutzenberger’s own yearning solo account. What emerges most strongly here is the sense of music on a cusp. Many of the modal dances, with their primitive twoor three-part counterpoint, look back to earlier decades, while in the sophisticated works by Heinrich Isaac and Ludwig Senfl (whose exquisite love songs, particularly the former’s ‘Kein frewd hab ich uff erd’ and the latter’s ‘Kein Freud’ ohn’ dich’, are a highlight) anticipate the musical future.

Touchingly, the programme closes with the brooding, sober beauty of Josquin’s ‘Proch dolor/Pie Jesu’, whose text mourns the death of an emperor – probably Maximilian himself. Two texts and three voices are tightly woven into a canonic path from which there is no deviating – a metaphor that needs no explanation.

The joy of this release is in the detail: the close recording that brings out the grit and gasp of the period strings, their rich colours illuminated against the white purity of the voices, the many stories of unlikely or curious provenance that emerge in the booklet notes. 

1 Kain höhers lebt noch schwebt - Ludwig Senfl 0:27
2 Engoulesme - Anonym 0:52
3 Zwischen perg und tieffe tal - Heinrich Isaac 0:51
4 La basse danse de Cleves - Anonym 0:41
5 D’ung aultre amer - Johannes Ockeghem; Anonym 0:50
6 Kein frewd hab ich uff erd - Heinrich Isaac 1:11
7 La basse danse du roy d‘Espaigne - Anonym 0:55
8 Kein Adler in der Welt so schön - Adrian Willaert 1:07
9 D’ung aultre amer / Dun uatre mer - Anonym 1:32
10 Kein Freud’ ohn‘ dich - Ludwig Senfl 0:58
11 La douce amour - Anonym 0:55
12 O pulcherrima mulierum - Antoine de Févin 1:03
13 La Portingaloise - Anonym 0:53
14 Mein Freud allein in aller Welt - Heinrich Isaac 1:33
15 La Margerite - Anonym 1:18
16 Ach lieb mit laid - Paul Hofhaimer / Hans Neusidler 2:14
17 Proch dolor/Pie Jesu - Josquin Des Prez 0:50  



Composer Info

Paul Hofhaimer, Heinrich Isaac, Josquin des Pres, Johannes Ockeghem, Ludwig Senfl. Adrian Willaert, Antoine de Févin, Hans Neusidler

CD Info

Christophorus CD CHR 77439, Christophorus CD CHR 77438