Thomas Stoltzer


Born: 1480 Died: March, 1526
Thomas Stoltzer, one of the most important German composers in the early half of the sixteenth century, was probably the son of Clemens Stoltzer, the town clerk of Schweidnitz, or was otherwise a member of his family. It is surmised that he studied music with Heinrich Finck, who was in Poland while Thomas was a boy. If not, Thomas certainly learned Finck's music somewhere, for he quotes it frequently. His fame as a musician began to grow and a writer named Joachim Badian wrote in 1518 about his musical talents, including the ability to play or write out any piece of music after one or two hearings. In 1519, Thomas was admitted to the priesthood, held the beneficence of St. Elisabeth's Cathedral in Breslau, and was listed as vicarius discontinuus, meaning that he didn't actually live there. Personally, he supported Martin Luther's Reformation, but never took a public stand for it as his private letters show that he was fearful of losing his job if he did so.

His music began to circulate in Eastern Europe, Stolzer's motet Beati omnes was likely performed at the wedding in 1522 of Ludwig II of Hungary and Bohemia and Mary of Austria, daughter of Philip the Fair. Ludwig was new to the throne -- he had inherited it only a month earlier -- and five months later he appointed Stoltzer magister capellae at the Hungarian capital of Ofen. It appears that Queen Mary was the force behind the appointment, and in gratitude, Stoltzer wrote four Lutheran Psalm settings at her request. Secure in this position, and with a good chorus and players at his disposal, Stoltzer wrote over 150 works, more than 70 of which were published. They remained current for decades, as long as the cantus firmus principle of organizing music remained in fashion (i.e., until the seventeenth century). These are primarily religious works, but he also wrote secular songs. His early music follows the conservative German style of Finck, but in his later works he picks up elements of the Netherlands school, including the use of imitation and split choirs. His greatest works are the Psalm motets (14 in Latin and four in German).

He considered accepting a post with Duke Albrecht of Prussia in Königsberg, but apparently hesitated to become publicly linked with a Lutheran monarch, even though he had written music at Albrecht's request. In 1526, King Ludwig died in the defeat of the Hungarians by the Turks at the Battls of Mohács on August 29, 1526. It was widely believed that Stoltzer died there also, at his monarch's side. But documentation later established that he died by slipping while crossing a flood-swollen river in Carpathia, loosing his footing and being swept away by the current.

There are 15 Thomas Stoltzer recordings available.

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