he Triumphal Procession of Emperor Maximilian is an art-historical monument of superlatives: Around 1510 Maximilian commissioned a project that eclipsed all previous ones. ReRenaissance takes this pictorial document as the occasion for the first Biennale Festival: On three consecutive days, from 22 to 24 September, more than 50 musicians will present the music of the imperial court in a unique overall show.
A wide variety of formations will illuminate unheard-of facets of music: from the keyboard solo on Maximilian’s golden «Apfelregal», the «Schwytzer Duo» with transverse flute and drum to well-known ensembles such as Leones, I Fedeli and Phaedrus. Even more: ReRenaissance takes the unique opportunity to unite the musicians of Basel, the stronghold of Renaissance music: For the gala concert in the Martinskirche on Saturday evening, nearly 30 musicians will be united to form a large orchestra. At the same venue on Sunday at 11 a.m., the vocal group of ReRenaissance will perform a mass by Heinrich Isaac together with organist David Blunden.
1 Maximilian’s Songs 22.9. 19:30
Barfüsserkirche; Ensemble Leones
2 Le Diamante et la Marguerite 23.9. 14:30
Schmiedenhof; Ensemble Phaedrus
3 Triumphzug – Gala Concert 23.9. 19:30
Martinskirche; Musica ReRenaissance
4 Mit Maximilian in die Messe 24.9. 11:00
Martinskirche; Canterey ReRenaissance
5 Pfyffer & Prosoner 24.9. 17:00
Martinskirche; music by Ludwig Senfl, Ensemble I Fedeli
Music, the Influencer of Courtly Society and Principalities
Music was omnipresent in Maximilian’s conception of the state; it shaped court life as an audible representation of imperial glory at all levels, in both public and private settings. Through printed music, many pieces reached beyond Maximilian’s court into the living rooms of the citizens. The use of the German language in the songs also helped to hold the empire together. It is therefore not surprising that the depiction of Maximilian’s court band in the “Triumphzug” was of central importance. For the pictorial programme, he commissioned the best artists of the German-speaking world at the time: Hans Burgkmair, Albrecht Altdorfer and Albrecht Dürer.
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The triumphal procession of Emperor Maximilian is a superlative monument of art history. – At ReRenaissance Festival 2023 more than 50 musicians will present the music of the imperial court in a unique show.
Vlog: Introduction by Marc Lewon
Maximilians Lieder; Festival 2023 «Musik und Macht» Barfüsserkirche HMB, Basel, 22.9.2023
(Thumbnail nach Triumphzug, 1515, koloriert 1726; Universitätsbibliothek Graz)
Mit Dank an Swisslos-Fonds Basel-Stadt; Sulger-Stiftung; Fondation Philanthropique Famille Sandoz; WaliDad-Stiftung; Fondazione Willy Brauchli; Sophie und Karl Binding Stiftung
Why I’ll be there
by David Fallows
Not so long ago historians treated the emperor Maximilian as a figure of pity – in fact, as a kind of sixteenth-century Putin: constantly starting new wars that he couldn’t afford, constantly trying to augment his lands, constantly harking back to an earlier age when things seemed better. And the vanity! One of the clearest cases was his Theuerdank, a vast poem presumably ghost-written but privately printed with a typeface specially designed for this alone and with forty copies printed on parchment with a woodcut prefacing every one of its 118 chapters: the very quintessence of vanity publishing.
But in the last fifty years people have begun to treat him more kindly: they see him as one of the hardest-working rulers of any time, as by far the most gifted military commander of his time. And in particular they note his massive patronage of the arts. He commissioned those vast series of prints, the Triumphal Arch with 192 woodcuts, the Triumphal Procession with 137 woodcuts and 54 metres in length, lead artists Dürer, Altdorfer and Burgkmair. He also commissioned enormous quantities of literature, mostly in praise of himself (like the woodcut series). And he gave prominent court positions to philosophers and humanists.
In addition of course he had his musicians, among them Isaac, Senfl and Hofhaimer. Quite how much of Senfl’s and Hofhaimer’s music was from their time with Maximilian it is hard to say: both had successful careers that lasted long after his death in 1519; and the surviving sources for both are pitifully few before that year. So far as I can see, at most six of Senfl’s songs are in sources before 1519, though over half of Hofhaimer’s come in. But we can be fairly certain that most of Isaac’s thirty-odd German songs were the result of his time with Maximilian (even though he actually lived in Florence). What has perhaps been most damaging to the assessment of Maximilian’s music is the recent fundamental redating of several choirbooks (summarized by Birgit Lodes in 2004), whereby manuscripts previously thought to be for his chapel now turn out to be for that of Wilhelm IV of Bavaria in the 1520s.
So there are many questions and provocative viewpoints available. That’s why it is so good that there are not only many concerts but lectures and discussions by some of the leaders of the field. That festival could well be a turning-point.
About the program
The focus is on music around Maximilian’s court: although no scores have survived directly from Maximilian’s court chapel, numerous music manuscripts from around 1500 and the song prints of the early 16th century are indirect witnesses to the rich musical output of this court chapel.
The ensemble instrumentation is selected in such a way that very different areas of court music are brought to life: the intimate sounds of lute, harp and viols accompany the new tenor songs, which came to wonderful flower under Maximilian; the loud wind players play motets and the latest instrumental music of the time artfully on trombones and tines; and the singers spread out their magnificent polyphony.
Basel ensembles for early music work together for this: the ensembles Leones (conductor: Marc Lewon), I Fedeli (conductor: Catherine Motuz & Josué Meléndez) and Phaedrus (conductor: Mara Winter). But not only that: they unite with ReRenaissance for the large-scale gala concert on Saturday evening to form an orchestra of monumental size – something that has so far virtually never been realized in practice here or internationally.
In addition to the five main concerts centered around Maximilian’s court orchestra, young professional groups perform in the “Kurzweyl” programs. The ensembles Contre le temps and Rubens Rosa will accompany a lecture by Prof. Jan Missfelder on voice and power on Saturday in the Schmiedenhof. The up-and-coming ensemble Parlamento with the promising young violinist Elizabeth Sommers presents a program around the Ambras heroic book of the Nibelungen. The harp-lute duo Cytharis will open the Roundtable with unheard sounds at the Hoher Dolder. The Schwytzer couple with traverse flute and drum will accompany a historical sword-playing duo in their fight choreographies on Saturday afternoon outside on the Münsterplatz.
Of particular interest: the famous golden “apple shelf” of Maximilian the Great from the Lower Austrian National Museum will be a guest in Basel. Christian Kögler(Kögler-Orgelbau, Austria) will bring it to Basel and answer the audience’s questions about it on Sunday after the concert in the Martinskirche.
The music as a representation of power
The representation of music played a central role, because as an audible representation of the imperial claim, it shaped life at court on all levels, in public as well as in private: Be it that the arrival of the ruler or his representatives was announced by timpani and trumpets, that the Alta Cappella played with shawms and trombones for the state ball, or that the court danced on a small scale to one-handed flute and drum; be it that the singers of the chapel celebrated a solemn, polyphonic mass in the cathedral with organ, or that German songs were sung in several voices to the lute in the queen’s “Frauenzimmer”.
Music was omnipresent in Maximilian’s conception of the state and contributed to his fame and honor even in the emperor’s absence. With the emergence of song printing, the songs of his court even penetrated into the living rooms of the citizens. And although Maximilian’s self-image was still wholly captivated by medieval notions of noble chivalry in almost romantic transfiguration, he made use of the most modern means of his time for its dissemination: he relied on the latest technology with letterpress printing to spread his message as widely as possible, not only with his “Triumphzug” but also with most of his other “gedechtnus” works – today one would perhaps say: influencer campaigns.
Instruments and musicians of the Renaissance in abundance
Music as a mediation of power … So it is not surprising that the presentation of Maximilian’s court chapel in the triumphal procession played a central role: In the front quarter of the triumphal procession, several fully occupied and animal-drawn carriages are reserved for the presentation of his chapel, including a lute and viol consort, harp, organ positive, crumhorns, cornett and shawm, one-handed flute and drum, and last but not least the chapel with its singers and boys. Members of various loud “Alta Cappella” ensembles follow on horseback, underlining their high status: mounted timpanists and trumpeters, trombonists and shawm players.
The greats of their time were also portrayed: Heinrich Isaac (concert on sunday 24.9. 11 a.m.), the great court composer of Maximilian, the organist and composer Paul Hofhaimer at the Organetto, the tine player Augustin Schubinger and the court lutenist Albrecht Morhanns, called Artus, together with Adolf Blindhamer, who was still young at that time and whom Albrecht Dürer would later count among the best of the lutenists.
Even a son of the city of Basel, the singer and composer Ludwig Senfl, was already involved, but was to have his big breakthrough only in the years after Maximilian’s reign (See concert on Sunday, 24.9. at 5 p.m.)
According to the plan, a frieze of 200 prints lined up was to represent his court in all its splendor – a demonstration of power that was to have an effect both externally and internally in order to consolidate and expand the dynasty’s rule over a multi-ethnic state. The best artists in the German-speaking world of the time were consulted for the pictorial program: Hans Burgkmair drew up the plan and sketches, and among the performers was even Albrecht Dürer, in addition to the painter and woodcutter Albrecht Altdorfer.
Prof. Dr. Marc Lewon
Historical Museum Basel