Mille regretz  - Josquin des Prez (ca 1450 -1521)

arr. Hans Gerle (ca.1500-1570)

From Tabulatur auff die Laudten (Nürenberg: H. Formschneider, 1533)

Josquin Desprez (c.1440/55-1521) is widely regarded as one of the finest and most influential composers in the history of Western music. The stylistic traits of his music, both in contrapuntal technique and in text-setting, gave the defining direction to the High Renaissance and with it the course of music history as a whole. Not only was Josquin admired by Martin Luther as the greatest of composers, but his music was distributed throughout Europe and especially in Germany for decades after his death. In 1538, seventeen years after Josquin died, Martin Luther extolled him as “the master of the notes, which must do as he wishes, while other composers must follow what the notes dictate.” 

Hans Gerle - German lutenist; also a lute and viol maker. In the 1530s he issued one of the more important German lute tablature books.

  1. Musica teusch, auf die Instrument der grossen unnd kleinen Geygen, auch Lautten (1532)

  2. Tabulatur auff die Laudten (1533)

Music and Martin Luther

As with most music students of his time, Luther had a grounding in both singing and the lute and was recognized as a skilled lute-player with a pleasant tenor voice.

For Luther, music was not a ‘dark art’ but one which he grasped as well as any other educated person of his time. He enjoyed singing and playing his lute at home.

Luther’s detailed knowledge of polyphonic works may well have links with his proficiency on the lute. A substantial portion of the pieces found in German tabulations of the period, both in manuscript and published, are drawn from vocal models.

There are lute tabulations of vocal polyphony by such composers as: de la Rue, Schlick, Isaac, Hofhaimer, Senfl, Ducis, Stolzer and others.

There is therefore the possibility that Luther played such lute transcriptions as well as singing the vocal polyphony with his family, friends and colleagues.

Josquin Desprez