Friday, January 16, 8415

Conrad Paumann (c. 1415-1473) - Regal

Conrad Paumann (c. 1410/1415, Nuremberg – January 24, 1473) was a blind organist [a German Landini!], lutenist and one of the most talented composers of the 1400's, whose performances created a sensation wherever he went.

Born into a family of craftsmen, he received excellent training with the support of aristocratic patrons.

His surviving music is not likely of his own hand and hemay have been fundamentally an improviser. Paumann has been credited with inventing a German lute tablature, and, while not proven, this could very well be plausible.

Most of his music is instrumental, some considerably virtuosic. One vocal composition survives, the three-voice tenorlied Wiplich figur, stylistically close to the Franco-Flemish idiom, with which he may have been familiar.

In 1447 he became the official town organist of Nuremberg, and the councillors issued orders for him not to leave without permission.

Rebellious as talented, he left a probably a stifling environment, going secretly to Munich in 1450, where he was immediately employed by Duke Albrecht III as court organist. Munich was officially his home for the remainder of his life, although he began to travel extensively.

From these years dates the Fundamentum Organisandi (1452), including

Ellend du hast (Clavichord)

Mit Ganczem Willen 

(Florilegium Musicum ensemble]

(Organ) and

Prelude (Regal)

Paumann was greeted with astonishment in his travels, and grew in renown as performer and composer, traveling to Italy around 1470. Both Milan and Naples both made him job offers. and he came into contact with the Milanese Sforzas, where Josquin Desprez, Loyset Compère, and Alexander Agricola were in residence.

He was knighted in Mantua, and performed before Philip the Good and Emperor Frederick III.

His influence had much to do with the subsequent development of organ-playing and composition in Germany.

Paumann's epitaph in the Munich Frauenkirche reads:

“ Anno 1473, on the evening of St. Paul's conversion died and was here buried the most ingenious master of all instruments and music, Cunrad Pauman [sic], knight, born blind at Nuremberg, God have mercy upon him. ”


The regal was a small late-medieval portable organ, furnished with beating reeds and having two bellows like a positive organ. In Germany, the name was also given to the reed stops (beating reeds) of a large organ, and more especially the vox humana stop. The name was at first applied not to the small table instrument but to certain small brass pipes in the organ, sounded by means of beating reeds, the longest of the 8-ft. tone being but 5 1/8 in. long.

Michael Praetorius (1618) mentions a larger regal used in the court orchestras of some of the German princes, more like a positive, containing 4-ft., 8-ft. and even sometimes 16-ft. tone reeds, and having behind the case two bellows. These regals were used not only at banquets but often to replace positives in small and large churches. The very small regal, sometimes called "Bible regal" because it could be taken to pieces and folded up like a book, was also mentioned by the same writer, who stated that these little instruments, first made in Nuremberg and Augsburg, had an unpleasantly harsh tone due to their tiny pipes, not quite an inch long.

The pipes in the regal were not intended to reinforce the vibrations of the beating reed or of its overtones as in the reed pipes of the organ, but merely to form an attachment for keeping the reed in its place without interfering with its functions. The beating reed itself in the older organs of the early Middle Ages, many of which undoubtedly were reed organs, was made of wood; those of the regal were mostly of brass (hence their brazen voices).

The length of the vibrating portion of the beating reed governed the pitch of the pipe and was regulated by means of a wire passing through the socket, the other end pressing on the reed at the proper distance. Drawings of the reeds of regals and other reed pipes, as well as of the instrument itself, are given by Praetorius (pl. iv., xxxviii.).

There is evidence to show that in England, and France also, the word "regal" was applied to reed stops on the organ; Mersenne (1636) states that the word was applied at that time to the vox humana stop on the organ. In England, as late as the reign of George III, there was the appointment of tuner of the regals to the Chapel Royal.

The reed stops required constant tuning, according to Praetorius, who placed special emphasis on the fact that the pitch of the reed pipes alone fell in summer and rose in winter.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the regal was a very great favourite, and although, owing to the civil wars and the ravages of time, very few specimens now remain, the regals are often mentioned in old wills and inventories, such as the list of Henry VIII's musical instruments made after his death by Sir Philip Wilder (British Museum Harleian MS. 1415, fol. 200 seq.), in which no fewer than thirteen pairs of single and five pairs of double regals are mentioned. Claudio Monteverdi scored for the regals in his operas, and the instrument was described and figured by Sebastian Virdung in 1511, Martin Agricola in 1528, and Othmar Luscinius in 1536, as well as by Michael Praetorius in 1618.

The regal may be seen as the ancestor of the harmonium, the reed organ, and the various varieties of 'squeezebox' such as the accordion, the concertina, and the Bandoneón.

[8415 Paumann]