This is the oldest known piece of keyboard music

16 February 2017, 11:34

Robertsbirdge codex asset

By Kyle Macdonald

The Robertsbridge Codex is a manuscript from around 1360 and it contains the earliest surviving music written specifically for keyboard.

Picture: a page from the Robertsbridge Codex. Credit: British Library

The Robertsbridge Codex includes a rich variety of music, including a few vocal motets, a transcription of an Italian dance, but perhaps most excitingly, there's also a piece for keyboard – and it's the earliest surviving music for a keyboard instrument.  

The music is an 'Estampie', which was a popular medieval dance. The word "Retrove" is also written at the top of the manuscript… though no one knows quite why.

Watch a performance of the earliest piece of keyboard music ever written 

(from pianist Alberto Chines)

Here's more from pianist Alberto Chines on YouTube  (some lovely Stravinsky from him there, if you now fancy something more recent!)

Here's the manuscript (click on the image for a close look)

Robertsbridge Codex