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Organ piece from the Buxheimer Orgelbuch dating from mid 15th century.

By the mid fifteenth century, organs already enjoyed a cherished place within German courtly and ecclesiastical musical culture. Unfortunately, much of the music played upon these isntruments was improvised and is now lost. The relatively few sources of copied-out organ music thus provide vital evidence of a rich musical tradition. The largest source of the first German keyboard music is a manuscript now preserved in the Bavarian State Library of Munich, the Buxheimer Orgelbuch. Its name derives from the Carthusian monastery in the small town of Buxheim, where the manuscript was discovered in the nineteenth century. The Buxheimer manuscript contains over 250 notated pieces of organ music, including a wide variety of sacred and secular arrangements, freely composed preludes, and even organ teaching pieces; its music covers the gamut of music a professional organist might be asked to perform. Furthermore, this important and fascinating book contains music of a specific fifteenth century musician: Conrad Paumann, the famous blind organist to the Duke of Bavaria.

Though the Buxheimer Orgelbuch does not always preserve the best readings of its music, it nevertheless must present ties to Paumann’s art, both the improvisatory technique and the organ teaching of his time. All of the Buxheimer music is notated in German Renaissance organ tablature, which first presents a melody notated on a seven-line staff for the right hand.


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