Johannes Thesselius and his Collection of Dances for Five-Part Instrumental Ensemble


  • Lidija Podlesnik



The collection Neue liebliche Paduanen, Intraden und Galliarden auff allerley Instrumenten zu gebrauchen mit fünff Stimmen componirt, by Johannes Thesselius is noted in musical history as the earliest work shaped in the sense of variation suites for instrumental ensemble. It contains thirty dances, distributed in ten cycles with a uniform sequence of three dances: Paduana - Intrada - Galliarda. It was printed in the year 1609, for the publisher and printer Paul Kauffmann in Nürnberg. The dances in Thesselius's suite are linked up by the same tonality, whereas the variational shaping is in some places merely indicated. The variation suite for instumental ensemble or, in short the ensemble variation suite was a shortlived phenomenon in the Austro-German music at the beginning of the 17th century, or more precisely between 1609 and 1616 when the four dance collections by their respective authors - Johannes Thesselius, Paul Peuerl, Johann Hermann Schein and Isaac Posch - were issued. As the beginner of the ensemble variation suite, of which it is characteristic that its movements must be at least partly related by identical motivic parts or beginnings, we regard Paul Peuerl (1611), who was, like Thesselius, active on the present-day territory of Austria. Yet its first origins can be traced already in Thesselius, notably in the first two suites (the linkage of the beginning of the Intrada and the Galliarda), in the fourth one (the linkage of the bass sequence in the Paduana and the Galliarda), and in the fifth one (the linkage of one motif in the Intrada and the Galliarda). His suites had already all the characteristics of instrumental music. The dominant principle in Thesselius's shaping of music was work on motifs which he mostly rhythmically reiterated. Most commonly the motif is in all parts at the same time rhythmically identically reiterated or by way of imitation passed on through all parts. Not so frequent were sequential reiterations of the motif or longer imitations. Like in Schein's collection of dances, entitled Banchetto musicale, in Thesselius's music for instrumental ensemble the dances were also designed in the manner of a poliphonic motet. He combined the polyphonic leading of parts with segments where the homo-rhythmic leading of all parts gave a vertical result. Thesselius has frequently as regards sound still very dense segments, interwoven with non-chordal tones, and as a result of the linear leading of parts. Thesselius's life was mysterious. We know neither the years of his birth or death, nor any data about the composer's musical education. Thesselius's collection of songs for instrumental ensemble and the dedication contained in it are thus the only two sources about his musical activity and creativeness.


Download data is not yet available.


1. 12. 1998




How to Cite

Podlesnik, L. (1998). Johannes Thesselius and his Collection of Dances for Five-Part Instrumental Ensemble. Musicological Annual, 34(1), 15-33.