Codex Faenza and Buxheim Organ Book

15th Century Keyboard Music North and South of the Alps

Clavicytherium - Photo: André Wagenzik

Codex Faenza is a manuscript from about 1430 - 1440. Largely virtuosic paraphrases of Italian and French late 14th century music. But it also contains early examples of alternatum-(organ-)mass settings.

The score doesn't give any information for which kind of instrument it  was intended. It fits very well on a harp or a keyboard instrument. It could be played with two lutes or a combination of plucked and bowed string instruments, even though there were no large viols around at that time in Italy to take over the lower part. Very interesting is to perfom the Faenza version face to face with the vocal originals.

The Buxheim Organ Book is the biggest single source of South German keyboard music, compiled between 1450 and 1470. The pieces are mostly intavolations of modern franco-flemish vocal music. But it also contains many earlier, almost medieval sounding pieces of German composers: improvisations and intonations on long held notes in various modes.

Without doubt this music is written for keyboard instruments with a range from B – f“. Ideal is a Gothic organ, a clavicytherium or a clavichord.


From this wealth we can choose different concert programs:

  • instrumental on harp, clavichord, clavicytherium or organ
  • with one singer and instruments
  • with a 3-part vocal ensemble and instruments