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)

The earliest piece of keyboard music ever written

Music from the Robertsbridge Codex – played by Alberto Chines, piano

03:08

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
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