Circa 1486–Circa 1543

Introduction

portrait

Born: Prob­ab­ly around 1486 in Ba­sel, Swit­zer­land.

Died: Prob­ab­ly in ear­ly 1543.

Biography

Senfl lived in Zür­ich from 1488 un­til 1496, when he joined the choir of the Hof­ka­pel­le of Em­per­or Max­i­mil­i­an I in Augs­burg. Be­sides one brief vi­sit in 1504, he ap­par­ent­ly ne­ver again lived in Swit­zer­land.

In 1497 he fol­lowed the Hof­ka­pel­le to Vi­en­na. Be­tween 1500 and 1504 he prob­ab­ly stu­died in Vi­en­na for three years, the stand­ard prac­tice for choir boys whose voic­es had brok­en, as part of the nor­mal train­ing for the priest­hood.

During this pe­ri­od he stu­died with Hein­rich Isaac, serv­ing as his co­py­ist by 1509. Senfl is known to have co­pied much of Isaac’s Cho­ral­is Con­stan­ti­nus, an enor­mous work which he com­plet­ed af­ter Isaac’s death.

After a trip to It­a­ly some­time be­tween 1508 and 1510, Senfl re­turned to the Hof­ka­pel­le. The Em­per­or ap­point­ed him to fill Is­aac’s po­si­tion as court com­pos­er when Is­aac died in 1517.

In 1518, Senfl lost a toe in a hunt­ing ac­ci­dent; ev­i­dent­ly the in­ju­ry dis­a­bled him for up to a year.

When the Em­per­or died in 1519, Senfl was out of a job, and his cir­cum­stanc­es al­tered for the worse: Charles V 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.

During the next few years he tra­veled wide­ly, main­ly job-seeking, but he was al­so ac­tive as a com­pos­er. He is known to have at­tend­ed the Di­et of Worms in 1521, and, while he ne­ver of­fi­cial­ly be­came a Pro­test­ant, his sym­pa­thies ev­i­dent­ly were with Lu­ther, and he was lat­er ex­am­ined by the In­qui­si­tion and vol­un­tar­i­ly gave up his pries­thood.

Senfl car­ried on an ex­tens­ive cor­res­pon­dence both with Lu­ther­an Duke Al­brecht of Prus­sia and with Mar­tin Lu­ther him­self, be­gin­ning in 1530.

Eventually, Senfl ac­quired a post in Mu­nich, a place which had high mu­sic­al stand­ards, a strong need for new mu­sic, and which was rel­a­tiv­ely tol­er­ant of those with Pro­test­ant sym­pa­thies; he was to re­main there the rest of his life.

By 1540 he was ill, judg­ing from his cor­res­pond­ence with Duke Al­brecht, and he prob­ab­ly died in ear­ly 1543.

Music