Unknown: My Sorrow Is



The Austrian composer, organist, and teacher Paul Hofhaimer (1459-1537) was a great master of German song composition and one of the few Germanic organists widely known throughout Europe.

The father, brothers, son, and nephews of Paul Hofhaimer were all organists in Salzburg and Innsbruck. He received instruction from his father and from Jacob von Graz. Hofhaimer’s first important position, that of chamber organist to Archduke Sigismund of Tirol at Innsbruck, was in 1480. He received an appointment for life, and in 1489, upon receipt of an offer from the Hungarian court, he was promoted to the position of director of the court chapel at Innsbruck. During the 1480s he met the composers Heinrich Isaac and Arnolt Schlick and fashioned a reputation as a teacher.

In 1490 the emperor Maximilian I took over the musical establishment. Apparently well satisfied with Hofhaimer’s services, he ennobled the composer in 1515. During this period Hofhaimer apparently spent some time at other locations. He may have been at the court of the elector Frederick the Wise at Torgau with Isaac and Schlick.

Hofhaimer probably wrote most of his best songs between 1490 and 1510. The German song of this period was generally based on a familiar melody, such as a folk song or court song, which was kept largely unchanged in the tenor. The other parts wove contrapuntally around it. Unlike the songs written in the dominating Franco-Flemish style of the period, the German songs were in closed sections (often in the Bar form—AAB) rather than in continuous polyphony. With Hofhaimer’s generation, progress was made toward equality of parts and strong interpart relation through the use of imitation. There is some melodic preeminence of the soprano part.

At Maximilian’s death in 1519 Hofhaimer accepted the post of organist at the Cathedral of Salzburg and held it until at least 1524. He remained a resident of the city until his death. He became interested in the quantitative setting of Latin verse and began setting the Odes of Horace in this manner. After his death Ludwig Senfl completed these settings and published them as Harmoniae poeticae (1539). Only these pieces enjoyed any popularity after Hofhaimer’s death.

Although Hofhaimer enjoyed a considerable reputation as an organist and teacher of organists, little of his organ music has survived. This may be due in part to a tradition of improvisation of organ music. Although his pupils have not been definitely identified, his doctrines were apparently widespread among German organ composers of the early 16th century, and elements of the style may have reached Italy. In music of this generation, ornamentation idiomatic to the instrument was applied to the melody, but not so copiously as to obscure the basically sound proportions of the piece. This restraint, which probably characterized Hofhaimer’s music, generally disappeared later in the century under a welter of ornamentation.

Hofhaimer Facts:

♦ Little is known of his early years and musical education: he may have studied with the priest/musician Erasmus Lapicida, but sixteenth century Swiss scholar Joachim Vadian made the claim Hofhaimer was largely self-taught, while scholar-poet Konrad Celtis asserted he learned his keyboard skills at the Court of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick.

♦ was easily among the finest organists of his day, some of his contemporaries claiming he had no keyboard rivals.

♦ In 1969, in commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the death of Emperor Maximilian, the city of Innsbruck established the “Paul Hofhaimer Prize” for the interpretation of classic organ masterpieces. An international invitation for entry is hereby announced for the sixteenth competition which will take place from the 30th of August – 5th of September 2013. More below….

♦ There is a future Hofhaimer Festival!! …


May 25-29, 2016

The Paul Hofhaimer days in Radstadt, for years a tip for music lovers, offers 2016 an outstanding program. Old friends and exciting new discoveries bring life to the “Old City in the mountains.”
The festival 2015 is entitled “unheard” – some musical highlights:

  • Paulus Oratorio for choir, soli und orchestra
    from F. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
  • Leonhard Roczek artist in residenz
  • The Minetti Quartett
  • Federspiel
  • Trio Lepschi
  • Philharmony Salzburg directed by Elisabeth Fuchs

The “Paul Hofhaimer Prize” will be awarded as the “Paul

Hofhaimer Plaque” of the city of
Innsbruck together with a certificate and the sum of € 5000,-.

Two further prizes of  € 3500,- and € 2000,- each with a certificate will also be awarded.

The competition for the “Paul Hofhaimer Prize” is a contest of interpretation. To determine
the winners, two eliminative or qualifying rounds and a final are required.
For the first qualifying round each participant is obligated to play the following mandatory pieces on the Pirchner Organ in the St’George’s Chapel of the State Parliament.

Franz Xaver Murschhauser   Toccata undecimi Toni pro Pedali   
  aus: Prototypon Longo-Breve Organicum   
  Musikverlag Coppenrath (S. 63 ff)   
Alessandro Poglietti   Ricercar secundi toni   
  Die Orgel, Reihe II, Heft Nr. 5   
  Verlag Kistner und Siegel   
Johann Sebastian Bach   Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr BWV 675   
  Fughetta super: In dich hab’ ich gehoffet, Herr BWV 712   
Peter Planyavsky   Partita sopra Cantio Oenipontana   
  aus: Nuovi Fiori Musicali   
  Doblinger 02470   

The jury selects the participants who will then advance to the second stage of the elimination-competition, which will be played on the Renaissance organ in the Silver Chapel in the Imperial Church. The following mandatory pieces are prescribed:

Girolamo Frescobaldi   Capriccio XII sopra l’aria di Ruggiero   
  Girolamo Frescobaldi Opere Complete IV   
  Edizioni Suvini Zerboni, Seite 78 ff.   
  (Beim Wettbewerbsspiel muss diese Ausgabe verwendet und aus der Partitur mit 4 Systemen gespielt werden.)   
Girolamo Frescobaldi   Toccata Quarta Per l’organo da sonarsi alla levatione   
  aus: Il secondo libro di Toccate…   
Claudio Merulo   Toccata terza Duodecimo detto VI°. Tuono   
  aus: Toccate d’Intavolatura … il secondo libro   
  Edition S.P.E.S. Studio Per Edizioni Scelte   
  (Beim Wettbewerbsspiel muss aus dieser Faksimileausgabe gespielt werden.)   
Giovanni Paolo Cima                   La Scabrosa, canzon 15   
  La Novella, canzon 16 (di Andrea Cima)   
  CEKM 20   

The jury then determines the competitors who have qualified for the final competition, which will be played on the Ebert-Organ of the Innsbruck Court Church. The following obligatory pieces are to be played:

Paul Hofhaimer  Salve Regina   
  Edition: Denkmäler der Musik in Salzburg 15/II   
  Edition Strube München   
Hans Leo Hassler  Canzon (in F)   
  Edition: Hans Leo Hassler. Sämtliche Werke XIII. Orgelwerke I, Teil I, Seite 136 ff.    
  Breitkopf & Härtel   
John Bull  In Nomine (in a)   
  Musica Britannica XIV 28 Seite 86ff.   
Anfertigung einer Intavolierung   eines Tenorliedes im Stil der Schüler Paul Hofhaimers.   
  (Das Lied wird den Finalisten unmittelbar nach der Auslosung für die Finalrunde gegeben)   

Nota bene: The critical analysis of the source material of the respective musical texts will be considered in the assessment of the candidates.
Each competitor is free to choose the sequence in which he will play the prescribed pieces.
The jury will select the prize winners from among the finalists. To conclude the competition, the winners will present a festive concert during which the presentation ceremony will take place.

Radstadt, Austria (Hofhaimer’s Birthplace)


 Please Read on about this fascinating organist and consummate man…

The definitive work on Hofhaimer is in German. In English, Hofhaimer’s music and that of his contemporaries are discussed in Gustave Reese, Music in the Renaissance (1954; rev. ed. 1959).






More Of Hofhaimer’s Exquisite Pieces:

Author: mmartel

"If he's honest, he'll steal; if he's human, he'll murder; if he's faithful, he'll deceive. Being at a loss to resolve these questions, I am resolved to leave them without any resolution." I have so much to say to you that I am afraid I shall tell you nothing."

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