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


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
Classic FM Apps

Get the Classic FM app for iPhone, iPad and Android - now with HD audio

Musical abbreviations quiz asset

You won’t get 20/20 on this quiz if you don’t know your musical abbreviations

musician would you rather

This musician edition of Would You Rather is completely excruciating

greatest best man speech

Everyone is saying this pianist gave the greatest best man speech of all time