Session 18 (Themed Papers): Mapping the motet in German-speaking regions, 1500-1550 (II) – Composers and genres

Tuesday, 6 July 2021, 14.30-16.30, Room 209 | Chair: Elisabeth Giselbrecht (King’s College London)

Session Abstract

Decisive changes in motet composition around 1500 have been variously discussed in regard to Franco-Flemish composers, but the development of the genre in German-speaking regions and contributions of composers working in them have long been neglected. Although anthologies issued by German printers were instrumental in “internationalising” Franco-Flemish repertoire, works by German-speaking composers in these sources are often disregarded as phenomena of limited regional interest. Therefore, compositional change in “German” motet production itself and its convergence with international trends remain little understood.

The proposed panel thus aims to chart new directions in motet research. In order to pave the way for a new understanding of the genre in a pan-European context, and to reassess the motet œuvre of the most prominent composer in German- speaking lands, Ludwig Senfl, scholars will investigate the style, transmission, and propagation of the music of German-speaking composers.

The second session of the panel offers an overview of the development of two of the most important genres of the time, the psalm motet and the polytextual motet, and reassesses the compositional techniques, style, and historic traditions of motets by Ludwig Senfl and the hitherto neglected Arnold von Bruck, both of whom were singer-composers active at the leading court chapels of the sixteenth- century German-speaking world.

The inclusive psalter: Understanding the rise of the Latin psalm motet in Central Europe | Scott Lee Edwards (University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna)

Latin psalm settings by Josquin, Senfl, and Stoltzer have long been the subject of scholarly inquiry for their role in charting new compositional courses in the sixteenth century, above all in the German-speaking lands, but to what extent did other Central European composers promote the psalm motet as a viable and central genre? This paper will survey the broader world of psalm-motet composition within the German-speaking lands during the first half of the sixteenth century, in an effort to better understand the expansion of this new genre and the cultural objectives, beyond confessionalism, that may have laid behind it.

The Latin compositions of Arnold von Bruck: A preliminary assessment | Markus Grassl (University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna)

Despite Arnold von Bruck’s distinguished position as chapel master of King and (later) Emperor Ferdinand I and his considerable contemporary reputation, especially his compositions on Latin texts have largely been neglected in scholarship. Therefore it seems advisable to raise two basic and more general issues. First: what can be figured out about the function and performance occasions of these works against the institutional background of Ferdinand’s chapel. Secondly, the paper will deal with the stylistic range of Arnold von Bruck’s Latin compositions and address the question in what way the general notion of a dense polyphony based on pervasive imitation needs to be diversified.

More than the sum of its parts? Senfl’s polytextual motets | Sonja Tröster (University of Vienna)

Motets with several texts sounding simultaneously are common throughout the history of the genre. Whereas the use of polytextuality generally decreased towards the end of the fifteenth century, some composers continued to explore the means of intertextuality and exegesis that open up with the technique.

Among those, Ludwig Senfl pursued polytextual composition by juxtaposing liturgical, sacred and secular texts in Latin and German. The paper will discuss the different types of combining texts and pre-existing musical elements in Senfl’s motets (and vernacular quodlibets) and trace their strands of tradition to locate those motets within the history of the polytextual motet.

Senfl’s Ave, Maria … Virgo serena in Context | Fabrice Fitch (University of Edinburgh)

Based on the eponymous four-voice setting by Josquin, Senfl’s Ave Maria… virgo serena is one of its composer’s most remarkable compositions, and one of the most frequently performed. The relationship between the two composers has been interpreted in terms of at least two distinct historiographical currents. The longer established one does so through the prism of the psalm-motet as cultivated by composers in the Germanic sphere: here Josquin is a precursor, vested, one might say, with the authority of the original Psalmist (albeit a somewhat dubious authority, given the number of psalm motets of doubtful attribution). A more recent vantage point situates Senfl within the Franco-Flemish orbit, at the tail end of the so-called “Josquin generation,” following David Fallows’ suggestion nearly twenty years ago. That view suggests a different relationship, the elder composer viewed not as the musical institution he later became but as a senior colleague to be reckoned with.

In this paper I consider Senfl’s approach to his model, focusing on two aspects in particular: the reinterpretation of Josquin’s imitative modules and the deployment of texture as a compositional resource.