This unit was developed by Anita Stinia    Bibliography   Didactic Comments  

Information Text   Source Sheet   Worksheet

Information Text: Krakow - Renaissance - Music of 16th century Kraków


The musical life of the city developed rapidly after Bona Sforza had married Zygmunt I. She could play various instruments and she liked dancing and singing. It is quite probable that she was the figure responsible for the reorganization of the Kraków chamber orchestra around 1520. The founding of a special college of singers at the Zygmunt Chapel, called the Rorantists choir (Capella Rorantistarum), had a crucial importance for supporting and promoting musical culture at Wawel. The choir was established by the Foundation Act of 1540. The first concert, given on August 19, 1543 constituted a combination of sculpture and live music. The ensemble, consisting of the superior, eight educated singers (double male quartet à capella) and a cleric, was responsible for singing in the morning mass (rorata) every day throughout the year apart from Advent. The ensemble was Polish and existed till the second middle of the 19th century. In the 16th century, its repertoire was very rich and consisted of works of the Polish composers such as Sebastian from Felsztyn, Tomasz Sadek, Krzysztof  Borek, as well as Dutch composers, for example Nikolas Gombert, Pierre Certon or Italians such as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

The lute was the favorite instrument of 16th century musicians.

Walenty Graff Bekwark from Transylvania was considered the most famous lutenist of that time. He was a virtuoso and composer at Zygmunt August’s court extolled for his talents by Jan Kochanowski. His compositions were printed in Lyon (1552), Paris (1564), Kraków (1565 and 1568) and Antwerp (1569). The harp virtuoso was Dominik from Verona.

Apart from its great musicians, Kraków boasted excellent composers. One of the most remarkable figures was Wacław from Szamotuł. In 1547 or 1548 he was appointed composer to the Vilnius court of Zygmunt August. He represented a mature, polyphonic Dutch style. His works are compared to Palestrina’s compositions.

Mikołaj Gomółka was another prominent musician of that time. In 1545, he became a member of the royal choir. Then he became the wait (“Waits or Waites were British town pipers. From medieval times up to the beginning of the 19th century, every British town and city of any note had a band of Waites” )  of the King’s ensemble, and afterwards he resided at the Bishop of Kraków, Piotr Myszkowski’s, court and then at the Chancellor court.

Marcin Groblicz was a virtuoso violin and organ player, and an outstanding violin maker. He is said to have adjusted the soundboard of the 15th century Italian seven-string lira de braccio - the Polish four-string fiddle “gęśle”, thus creating one of the first violins in Kraków. He also designed a new scroll with four pegs and a carved scroll in the shape of a lion's head.