Recent publications

General index of music editions

Coppini, Musica tolta 1607

Editions and papers
on this site:

Copenhagen Chansonnier

Amiens MS 162 D

Sacred music of the 15th century

Complete Works of Gilles Mureau

Uppsala MS 76a

Papers on

Basiron’s chansons
Busnoys & scibes PDF
Chansons in Fa-clefs
Chansoner på nettet
Fede, Works
Dulot’s Ave Maria
Open access 15th c.
MS Florence 2794



NEW Section

Sacred Musiv of the Fifteenth Century. Music by Du Fay, Missa Se la face ay pale, & Missa Sancti Anthonii de Padua,
Anonymous Missa Sine nomine,
Ockeghem, Missa Quinti toni,


The Copenhagen Chansonnier and
the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers.

An open access project
(October 2013).

NEW chansons in 2023

Songs for funerals and intercession.
A collection of polyphony for the confraternity
of St Barbara at the Corbie Abbey. Amiens, Bibliothèque Centrale Louis Aragon, MS 162 D

An open access project
(November 2015)

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen, The Sound of Music and Composing with Hexachords. A collection of articles and papers on fifteenth- and sixteenth-century music, 2001-2019, 2024, PDF 322 pp.

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen, ‘Liturgical music in a tight rein. Alternatim masses for Santa Barbara in Mantua’ (‘Kirkemusik i stramme tøjler. Om alternatim-messer til Santa Barbara i Mantova’,
Dansk Årbog for Musikforskning 30 (2002), pp. 9-50), 2023, PDF 40 pp.

English version of an article from 2002 with a few new notes. Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga of Mantua, himself an accomplished composer, kept a tight rein on the polyphonic church music he ordered for his new church, la Basilica Palatina di Santa Barbara. This study takes a closer look at theSunday masses by Wert, Rovigo, Contino, Gastoldi, Striggio and Palestrina published by Pellini in 1592. They all conform perfectly to the duke’s wishes for his music (alter­natim five-part imitative settings of the reformed liturgical songs – fugate con­tinua­­mente), but also give an idea of how much room for personal expression this heavily regulated music allowed. Varied contrapuntal techniques, placement of dissonances and above all the timing of effects stand out as the most important means of expression in this ‘perfect’ church style. A possible inspiration for the duke’s demands may have been the church music of the imperial chapel during the reign of Maximilian I.

Anonymous, Missa Sine nomine a 3 (Missa La plus dolente) in Parma, Bibl. Naz. Palatina, Fondo parmense, ms. 1158. Edited by Peter Woetmann Christoffersen August 2023 (PDF, 17 pp.)

Kyrie and Gloria from a mass for two equal high voices (c'-f", a-f") and a tenor voice, which is based on canonic imitation at the unison between the upper voices all the way through. The musical material in the mass is borrowed from an anonymous three-part rondeau “La plus dolente qui soit née” written for a similar disposition of the voices. The mass is simple and euphonious and an obvious choice for performance with the boys of a maîtrise supported by their maître.

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen, ‘What every choirboy should know. Considering the motet Ut Phebi radiis by Josquin Desprez’ (‘Hvad enhver kordreng skal kunne. Betragtning af motetten Ut Phebi radiis af Josquin Desprez’, published in Musik & Forskning 28 (2003) pp. 97-118), 2023, PDF 22 pp.

English version of an article from 2003 with a few new notes. My main conclusions are: That Josquin transformed a well-known musical symbol for the Virgin Mary (scala caelestis) into a sonorous idea by expanding the principles of the hexachords to the whole sounding complex, text as well as tones, and thus produced a motet for devotion, which was at the same time a summary of the singers’ training and a symbol of the singers’ worship of Mary. That the solmization syllables with associated tones appear at the same time as sound phenomena, as symbols and as part of a meaning-bearing text. That the perception of its sound in this case must have arisen together with the idea for the motet, and that the conception of the whole was largely finished at the same time as the writing of the text.

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen, ‘Josquin and the sound of the voices. Analysing vocal instrumentation – a suggestion’ (‘Josquin og stemmernes klang. Et forslag om analyse af vokal instrumentation’, published in Musik & Forskning 27 (2002) pp. 7-24), 2023, PDF 18 pp.

English version of an article from 2002 with a few new notes. Based on the sumptuous sounding presence of Josquin’s Missa L'homme armé sexti toni I discuss the treatment of sound and vocal instrumentation in the music of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. My main hypothesis is that not only did norms of sound exist that developed and changed through generations, but also that composers consciously worked out the sounding presence of music.

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen, ‘The braying of the ass and singing through tears. Images in music in the popular and artful traditions of the fifteenth century’ (‘Æslets skryden og sang gennem tårer. Billeder i musik i 1400-tallets populære og kunstfulde traditioner’, published in Musik & Forskning 26 (2001), pp. 97-134), 2023, PDF 39 pp.

English version of an article from 2001 with a few new notes. The rendering of phenomena external to music (natural sounds, happenings, speech, ideas) in musical composition has always fascinated me. The article discusses traces of such imitatio in popular and courtly songs of the later fifteenth century. Another topic, forced by the sources, is the relation between triple and double time – from simply ignoring triple time in the notation of popular songs to the refined use of proportional tempo relations. The article includes editions of three songs from the Bayeux MS (the theatrical “Mymy, Mymy, mon doulx enfant” and the short songs “Celuy qui nasquit sainctement” and “Les filettes de Montfort”) and two anonymous songs from the Copenhagen chansonnier (“La plus bruiant, celle qui toutes passe” and “Sur mon ame, m’amye”).

Johannes Ockeghem, Missa Quinti toni. Edited with an introduction by Peter Woetmann Christoffersen June 2021 (PDF, 59 pp.)

The interpretation offered in the present edition is based on an understanding of the hexachordal disposition of Ockeghem’s mass. Since some aspects concerning Missa Quinti toni have not been touched on in the existing literature, the introduction has become quite extensive. After a survey of the sources and their special features, I discuss the relationship between Du Fay’s and Ockeghem’s masses, the questions of Ockeghem’s use of a model, his composing with hexachordal procedures, the use of imitation, and finally his handling of the rhythmic layout of the mass.

Guillaume Du Fay, Missa Sancti Anthonii de Padua (Mass ordinary). Edited with an introduction by Peter Woetmann Christoffersen June 2019 (PDF, 49 pp.)

The introduction discusses the sources for and the identification of Missa Sancti Anthonii de Padua and Du Fay's strategies in creating freely composed mass music. It concentrates on 1) his exploration of the rhythmic tensions between triple and double time, between tempus perfectum and imperfect minor modus under brevis equivalence, and the 3:4 relations on all rhythmic levels; and 2) his use of hexachords to build larger musical structures. The mass ordinary seems to be part of a process of reconsideration and refinement of his musical thoughts and practices during the 1440s.

Guillaume Du Fay, Missa Sancti Anthonii de Padua (Mass proper). Edited with an introduction by Peter Woetmann Christoffersen October 2019 (PDF, 47 pp.)

The introduction discusses the sources for and dating of the proprium mass, its copying into MS Trent 88 as part of a long series of mass propers, and the controversies concerning Du Fay’s authorship of the cycle as a whole. After a discussion of its elements and of the careful design of the plenary mass for St Anthony as regards performance forces and sound, I conclude that it seems most probable that Du Fay composed most of the music, with the help of associates in Cambrai under his supervision in order to finish the project, as one among many proper masses.

Guillaume Du Fay, Missa Se la face ay pale. Edited with an introduction by Peter Woetmann Christoffersen. June 2018 (PDF, 58 pp.)

The introduction discusses briefly the date of creation for Missa Se la face ay pale, around 1450, its context as one of three masses on secular chansons that were copied into MS Trent 88 simultaneously, its relation to its song model, and Du Fay’s exploration of the rhythmic possibilities offered by equivalence of the semibreves under an overriding pattern of perfect minor modus. The perfect longae bars are indicated in the edition, which presents the oldest source, MS Trent 88.

The anonymous Missa Sine nomine in MS Cappella Sistina 14. Edited with an introduction by Peter Woetmann Christoffersen. October 2018 (PDF, 71 pp.)

The introduction discusses the sources for the anonymous four-part mass (Cappella Sistina 14, and the ‘Lucca Choirbook’) and its date and origin (1450s, Northern France or Burgundy). Its most remarkable trait is its strict adherence to the Caput model, which is reduced to a rigid scheme. This produces an extreme unity of sound all the way through the five sections, a sound picture apparently developed deliberately in keeping with the practises of improvised polyphony in singing on the book – a sacred sound.

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen, ‘An experiment in musical unity, or: The sheer joy of sound. The anonymous Sine nomine mass in MS Cappella Sistina 14’, Danish Yearbook of Musicology 42 (2018), pp. 54–78.

In the middle of the fifteenth century a principal concern of the new sacred genre, the cyclic cantus firmus mass, was the question of musical and liturgical unity. How to balance the quest for unity and the wish for diversty in musical expression or varietas, which Tinctoris advised in his teachings of counterpoint. I take a closer look at an anonymous mass dating from the decade just after 1450, the Missa Sine nomine in MS Cappella Sistina 14, in which the composer was intensely involved with the problem of unity, so involved that he – according to our ideas about music – has focused on ‘unity’ to such a degree that it became rather to the detriment of ‘diversity’. The mass was highly regarded in its time, and this fact puts our aesthetic understanding of the period’s music to test. In addition to the classical analysis of how such a cantus firmus mass is structured as a musical architecture transmitted in writing, we have to ponder how it served as a sounding reality, and how it may have related to the little we know about the musical practices of the period.

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen, The music of Jean Sohier dit Fede: Comments and edition. July 2013. Html-file – also available as a PDF (20 pp.), which includes the editions of Fede’s motets and chansons.

The French singer and composer known in the musical sources as “Fede”, whose career unfolded between 1440 and 1475, was listed among prominent musicians in poems by Greban, Crétin and Eloy d’Amerval. Here he was mentioned along with Du Fay, Binchois, Ockeghem and Busnoys. Only five compositions by him are preserved, two small motets and three chansons.

The chansons of Basiron’s youth and the dating of the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers’. February 2013. Available as html- or PDF-file including music appendices (October 2021, 83 pp.).

The four chansons by Philippe Basiron in the Laborde, Wolfenbüttel and Copenhagen chansonniers are crucial for the dating of the whole complex of related ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers. The article discusses the date of birth for Basiron, his voice change and career, analyses the dispositions of the sources, the poems and their music and the context with attention to influences from slightly older colleagues, especially Mureau, Caron and Tinctoris. It appears that the songs entered the repertory of the chansonniers in 1470-71, when the fame of the young Basiron was in ascendency. Some anonymous songs copied next to the four in the sources are tentatively ascribed to Basiron. All songs are in the newly added Appendices.

The French musical manuscript in Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, Ms. 2794, and the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers. June 2012. Available as linked html-files or a PDF-edition including the list of contents of MS Florence 2794 (12 pp.).

A description of the MS and its genesis as a failed project, an unfinished chansonnier, probably begun by a scribe with connected with the French court chapel during the late 1470s. This scribe was also involved in the fate of the Dijon and Laborde chansonniers. An analysis of the concordances entered by scribal hands common to the three MSS shows that the temporal distances between are not as great as usually thought.

Gregorius presul meritis. The anonymous three-part motet in the manuscript Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, Ms. 2794. An abandoned dedicatory song from the 1470s? Introduced and edited by Peter Woetmann Christoffersen. December 2018 (PDF, 10 pp.)

Presents the textless setting of the chant trope “Gregorius presul meritis”, which functions as an introduction to the Introit “Ad te levavi” for the first Sunday of Advent. It was added to the French chansonnier as its opening piece with spaces left open for big decorative initials, but it was never finished.

The Complete Works of Gilles Mureau (c1442-1512) – poet-musician of Chartres. Introduced and edited by Peter Woetmann Christoffersen. August 2011 (revised 2017). Available as linked html-files or a complete PDF-edition (65 pp.).

The introduction discusses what we know about the life and works of Gilles Mureau and a reviews his few preserved songs. His stature as a composer may turn out to be more important than one would expect from the treatment as a third-rank composer he usually receives in the musicological literature. Mureau’s literary ambitions and his way of transforming his poetic texts into music may have had some influence on the younger generation of chanson composers. At the end comes an investigation into some candidates for inclusion in the works of Mureau. The edition includes four songs preserved under Mureau's name and three anonymous songs.

Songs for funerals and intercession. A collection of polyphony for the confraternity of St Barbara at the Corbie Abbey. Amiens, Bibliothèque Centrale Louis Aragon, MS 162 D. Edited by Peter Woetmann Christoffersen. 2 vols. (September 2015). Available as linked html-files or as a complete PDF-edition (98 + 264 pp.).

MS Amiens 162 was made in Paris in 1502 in cooperation between a professional music copyist and the young monk Antoine de Caulaincourt. The MS contained simple polyphony for funerals and commemorative services, and it was to be used in a confraternity, Confrérie Ste Barbe, at the big Benedictine monastery in Corbie (near Amiens). During this period the monastery was struggling to preserve the privileges as an independent religious institution, which it had enjoyed for nearly a thousand years. It was a fight against the French kingdom, against the bishop of Amiens, and – maybe primarily – against the ideas of a new age, fought with arguments as well as violence. A bold move to bolster its position was the demolition of the abbey’s old main church and starting the building of a vast new one in 1502. The founding of the confraternity and the ordering of the music manuscript in Paris were probably deliberate moves to ensure local support for the building project.

The MS offers music whose sound may compare with contemporary art music in fullness and solemnity, but monks who were neither able to read modern mensural notation nor improvise simple polyphony could perform it. Their competence in singing the daily liturgy was sufficient for this sort of polyphony. The repertory was carefully selected from different traditions, and it was revised and supplemented after use, which contributes to its uniqueness.

We do not know anything about the confraternity and its relations with the monastery, except for the fact of the existence of the music manuscript. This, of course, brings up many questions and hypotheses, which may be discussed. On the other hand, we know more about the main persons in the story, abbot Pierre d’Ostrel and Antoine de Caulaincourt. The last mentioned gave in fact an almost day-to-day account of life in the monastery in his Chronicon corbeiense - and he signed the music manuscript.

THE UPPSALA CHANSONNIER MS 76a. The music manuscript Vokalmusik i Handskrift 76a in the University Library of Uppsala: A selection of music, secular and sacred, courtly and popular, from a French musical manuscript dating from the beginning of the 16th century. January 2011.

On chansons notated in fa-clefs – and the question of pitch in 15th century secular music’ (May 2010).