Benedictus Appenzeller (between 1480 and 1488 – after 1558) was a Franco-Flemish singer and composer of the Renaissance, active in Bruges and Brussels. He served Mary of Hungary for much of his career, and was a prolific composer of vocal music, both sacred and secular, throughout his long career.
He was probably born somewhere in the southern portion of the
Netherlands, and his approximate birthdate is inferred from a document late in his life, dated July 1558, in which he gave his age as "over 70". Appenzeller is first mentioned in cathedral records in 1518, when he is a singer, and in 1519, when he became choirmaster at the cathedral of St. Jacob in Bruges. His several publications during the following years show that he was active then as a composer, but nothing is known of his actual whereabouts or employment until 1536, when Mary of Hungary(Mary Habsburg, daughter of Philip I and Joanna the Mad of Castile) brought him into her Brusselschapel as a singer. By the next year he had become the master of the choirboys – the one responsible for teaching them music, and caring for them – and he was to hold this position, or its equivalent, until either 1551 or 1555.
While he spent most of this time in Brussels, he also occasionally traveled with Mary through the
Habsburglands, as it was common for the singers of the musical chapels to accompany monarchs and members of royal families. Some of the places he is known to have visited include 's-Hertogenbosch, Augsburg, and Munich. Mary went to Spainin 1555, and at that time Appenzeller became the choirmaster at the church of Ste. Gudule in Brussels, a post he held until the end of 1558. No records survive of his life from after that year, and he may have died shortly thereafter. [Jas, Grove online]
Appenzeller has sometimes been confused with two other musicians named "Benedictus", since many of his works are attributed in their sources simply to "Benedictus."
Benedictus Duciswas a German composer and Protestant cleric (1492–1544), and Benedictus de Opitiiswas an organist from the same region as Appenzeller. All of the works simply attributed "Benedictus" are now considered to be the work of Appenzeller. [Thomayer, Grove online]
Music and influence
Appenzeller wrote six masses which have survived, as well as numerous
motets and Magnificatsettings. He also left over 40 chansons, many of which were published in Antwerpin a 1542 collection, "Des chansons a quattre parties". [Jas, Grove online]
Appenzeller's music shows a range of stylistic influences, as would be expected in a composer working over many decades, and subject to influences from musicians coming and going from distant parts of an empire. His sacred music is typical of the Netherlandish style of the 1540s, with dense polyphonic textures, including pervasive imitation. He also wrote elaborate canonic structures, more in the manner of the previous generation, reminiscent of the music of
Josquin des Prezor Pierre de La Rue. In his secular music he strove for text comprehension, and also used more repetition, for example in musical refrains, than he did in his sacred music. [Jas, Grove online]
*Eric Jas, "Benedictus Appenzeller." Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed July 11, 2007), [http://www.grovemusic.com (subscription access)]
*Klaus Thomayer, "Benedictus Ducis." Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed July 11, 2007), [http://www.grovemusic.com (subscription access)]
Gustave Reese, "Music in the Renaissance". New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1954. ISBN 0393095304
* "Benedictus Appenzeller: Chansons." Edited with an Introduction by Glenda Goss Thompson. Monumenta Musical Neerlandica Vol. 14. Amsterdam: Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 1982.
*Glenda Goss Thompson. “Archival Accounts of Appenzeller, the Brussels Benedictus.” "La Revue belge de musicologie" 32–33 (1978–1979): 51–70.
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