A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Senfl, Ludwig

3709033A Dictionary of Music and Musicians — Senfl, LudwigJames Robert Sterndale-Bennett

SENFL or SENFEL, Ludwig, born at Basel or Basel Augst (Basle) towards the end of the 15th century. A volume of MS. 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 chapelmaster, and held that office till the emperor's death (Jan. 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 50 gulden from Charles V. on Feb. 19, 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.' The date of his death is unknown. 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 'chapelmaster' 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 Luther to Senfl[1] is no evidence that the composer had worked specially for the Reformed Church, though the existence of the correspondence has given rise to that idea. Indeed his connection with the strictly Catholic court of Munich would, as Fétis points out, render it most improbable.[2] Four letters written by Senfl to the Margrave Albrecht of Brandenburg and to Georg Schultheis are printed in the 'Allgemeine Musik. Zeitung' for Aug. 12, 1863.

A portrait engraved on a medal 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 royal library at Munich contains the manuscript church service books begun by Isaac and completed by Senfl, as well as manuscript masses by the latter. His most important published works are (1) 'Quinque salutationes D.N. Hiesu Christi,' etc. (Norimbergae 1526); (2) 'Varia carminum genera, quibus turn Horatius, tum alii egregiae poetae harmoniis composita' (id. 1534); (3) '121 newe Lieder' (id. 1534), with 81 nos. by L. S.; (4) 'Magnificat octo tonorum, à 4' (id. 1537); (5) '115 guter newer Liedlein' (id. 1544), with 64 nos. by L. S. Besides these Eitner[3] names above 100 separate pieces printed in various collections of the 16th century. In modern notation 9 sacred pieces (à 4) are given by Winterfeld in 'Der evangelische Kirchengesang' (Leipsic 1843), and 5 Lieder by Liliencron in 'Die historischen Volkslieder der Deutschen' (Leipzig 1865–69).
  1. Dated Coburg, Oct. 4, 1530. The letter is printed in 'Dr. M. Luther's Gedanken über die Musik,' F. A. Beck (Berlin 1823), p. 58.
  2. 'Biographie des Musiciens,' vi. 44.
  3. 'Bibliographie' (Berlin 1877).