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King of Denmark (1534 - 1559)

ceiling painting by Frantz Clein, Palace Rosenborg, Kopenhagen

Tandernaken, Petrus Alamire (1470 - 1536)
Koneglige Bibliotek, Gl.kgl.Samling 1872

The court musical ensemble of King Christian III of Denmark (r. 1534-1559) was one of the largest and most magnificent in Europe. Salaried singers and instrumentalists provided music for the King's festivities and political events. The manuscript with the call number Gl.kgl.Samling 1872 in the Royal Library, Copenhagen is one of the largest and most fascinating documents of European wind music: a set of seven partbooks with 163 pieces dating from c.1500-1540 - the repertoire of the Danish Royal Wind Band. The books contain dance music, Italian madrigals, French chansons, German chorale settings, instrumental fantasias, motets and mass settings from four to 16(!) voices. The earliest composers present are Josquin Desprez and Heinrich Isaac. Nicholas Gombert, Clement Jannequin and Ludwig Senfl are among the internationally famous composers represented. There are no less than 86 unica. Although many of the compositions were originally vocal, the partbooks are untexted, and - fascinatingly - several pieces contain suggestions for instrumentation, for cornetts, sackbuts and crumhorns, something virtually unheard-of at the time. The scribe was one Georg, or Jørgen, Heyde, who was transferred to Copenhagen from the court of Grand Duke Albrecht of Prussia in Königsberg in 1540. Like Christian, Albrecht was a follower of Martin Luther and both introduced the Reformation into their dominions. It is no surprise that several polyphonic settings of Luther's chorales are to be found in this manuscript.


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