Born: Probably around 1486 in Basel, Switzerland.
Died: Probably in early 1543.
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.