"…and the trumpeters rode through the city with the King's coat of arms on their trumpets, and trumpeted the whole time"
This is how Ulrich Richental, in his Chronicle, described the procession of King Sigismund and his court. As the courtiers entered the city musicians and heralds rode ahead and nailed the coats of arms of their lords on the houses in which they were to stay. Anyone interested in the performance of mediaeval music is not only confronted with the composers and compositions of the time but also with the politicians, aristocrats and church leaders who paid these composers to further their own fame. Music, politics and religion were inseparable in the middle ages. Making music to the glory not only of God but also of political and religious leaders was as much a part of the way of life of a mediaeval composer as was travelling in his employer's train from one power base to the next. Every composer was also a performer. Countless masses were sung at the Council of Constance to a high professional standard. Outside the churches the heavenly harmony and infernal noise of trumpets and shawms sounded to announce the presence of the aristocratic guests.
"…then all the pfiffer and prosoner started to pfiffen and prosonen so loudly that no-one could hear his or her own words ."
Ulrich Richental uses the word prosonen to describe the trumpets of his time: the folded S-shaped instrument as well as the long straight trumpet. The Middle High German form of this word was busine or in Middle English buisine . This word is related to posaune, the modern German word for the trombone. This instrument with its double slide was probably invented towards the end of the 15th century and unknown at the time of the Council. The word pfiffen refers to the double-reed instruments, the shawm and its larger counterpart, the bombard.
For the 600th anniversary celebrations of the Council of Constance the members of les haulz et les bas reconstructed these S-shaped trumpets and devised a programme for the contemporary alta capella. It includes music by:
- Guillaume Du Fay who probably travelled to Constance as a choirboy. It was probably here where he made contact to his subsequent employers, the Malatesta family of Rimini.
- Antonio Zachara da Teramo's whose name appeared from 1413 in the salary lists of the Antipope John XXIII but he disappeared during the Council and was never seen more.
- Johannes Ciconia's patron Antonio Zabarella was present at the Council. Ciconias remarkable polyphony and heraldic motets set new musical standards in Europe.
- Oswald von Wolkenstein was with Emperor Sigismund's court in Constance in 1415. Politician, singer, poet and composer, Wolkenstein portrayed himself in his 'autobiographical' songs as a fighter, an anarchist, a womanizer and an ambassador and was one of the first composers to oversee the compilation of his own 'complete works'.