Josquin and his Legacy
Illibata Dei virgo nutrix Josquin des Prez (ca. 1455–1521)
Une musque de Biscaye
Nymphes des bois/Requiem
Si j'ay perdu mon amy à 4
Scaramella va alla guerra
Praeter rerum seriem
Musae Jovis Nicolas Gombert (ca. 1495–c.a 1560)
Sy je m'y plain j'ay bien raison Jean Richafort (ca. 1480–ca. 1547)
D'amour je suis desheritée Richafort
Le berger et la bergere Jean Mouton (ca. 1459–1522)
Le grand desir d'aymer me tient Mouton
Navés pas veu mal assenée Richafort
Gentilz gallans, compagnon du raisin Richafort
Veni Domine Cristóbal de Morales (ca. 1500–1553)
Plus revenir ne puis vers toy madame Johannes Lupi (ca. 1506–1539)
Revien vers moi qui suis tant desolée Lupi
Dueil double dueil renfort de desplaisir Lupi
Vous ne pouvés au moins me reprocher Jacques Arcadelt (ca. 1507–1568)
Laissez la verde couleur Arcadelt
Monsieur l'Abbé et monsieur son valet Claude Le Jeune (ca. 1528–1600)
Martin Near, countertenor
Owen McIntosh, Steven Soph & Zachary Wilder, tenor
Bradford Gleim & John Proft, bass
Friday, October 30, 2009 at 8pm
Union Church in Waban
Saturday, October 31, 2009 at 8pm
University Lutheran Church in Cambridge
Sunday, November 1, 2009 at 3pm
First Lutheran Church of Boston
Notes on the Program
Josquin des Prez (ca. 1455–1521) was the most famous European composer between Guillaume Dufay and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. He is usually considered to be the central figure of the Franco-Flemish School, and was certainly the prominent composer in what is termed the third generation of this school—Dufay be taken as the first, Ockeghem as the second, and Josquin as the third, with Lassus and de Monte yet to come as the fifth and last respectively. Josquin is widely considered by music scholars to be the first master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music that was emerging during his lifetime. During the sixteenth century, Josquin gradually acquired the reputation as the greatest composer of the age, his mastery of technique and expression universally imitated and admired. Writers as diverse as Baldassare Castiglione and Martin Luther wrote about his reputation and fame; theorists such as Heinrich Glarean and Gioseffo Zarlino held his style as that best representing perfection. He was so admired that many anonymous compositions were attributed to him by copyists, probably to increase their sales. Yet in spite of Josquin’s colossal reputation, which endured until the beginning of the Baroque era and was revived in the twentieth century, his biography is shadowy, and we know next to nothing about his personality.
Born around the year 1450 and probably trained as a choirboy at St. Géry, Cambrai, Josquin spent his early professional career in the employ of René of Anjoy in Aix-en-Provence, Ascanio Sforza in Milan and Rome, and as a singer in the papal chapel. But as Jesse Rodin points out in his recent article, it was not until the publication of Petrucci’s Misse Josquin in 1502 that the composer emerges unambiguously as a dominant figure of his generation. That same year, Gian de Artiganova and Girolamo da Sestoia (nicknamed “il Coglia”) composed their famous letters that ultimately led to the hiring of Josquin rather than Isaac as maestro di cappella at the Este court in Ferrara. Coglia’s statement in his letter of August 14 that “by having Josuqin in our chapel I want to place a crown upon this chapel of ours” must have reflected a widely held view for it to have had any impact, and anticipated a flood of anecdotes attesting to Josquin’s unparalleled fame, even if the bulk of these date from after the composer’s death. Josquin spent the last years of his life in Condé-sur-l’Escaut, where he held the post of Provost of the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame.
All of Josquin’s music is complex, intellectually and vocally. He composed both sacred and secular music in all of the significant vocal forms of the age, including masses, motets, chansons, and frottole. Josquin lived during a transitional stage in music history, when musical styles were changing rapidly, in part due to the movement of musicians between different regions of Europe. Many northern musicians, including Josquin, moved to Italy, the heart of the Renaissance, attracted by the Italian nobility’s patronage of the arts; while in Italy, these composers were influenced by the native Italian styles, and often brought those ideas with them back to their homelands. The sinuous musical lines of the Ockeghem generation, the contrapuntal complexity of the Netherlanders, and the homophonic textures of the Italian lauda and secular music began to merge into a unified style; indeed Josquin was to be the leading figure in this musical process, which eventually resulted in the formation of an international musical language. The first half of our program offers some of Josquin’s most famous works from all of the musical forms save for the mass, as well as some rare gems you may not have had the opportunity to hear before.
The machinations of modern musicologists regarding the fifteenth-century motet Illibata Dei virgo nutrix have nearly eclipsed the piece itself. Through, and in spite of, all the analyses of motivic interpolation from or to other pieces both by the composer himself and by other composers and the twistings and interpretations to which the text and even its letters have been subjected, we must first acknowledge that Josquin des Prez wrote a miniature stylistic masterpiece. This piece of Marian devotional music follows a conservative “Roman” general form—the five-voice cantus firmus motet—while demonstrating some influences: namely, the progressive imitation and text setting current in Milan, and the popular form of the Italian lauda. At the same time, Josquin invests both text and music with manifold details attributable only to his own superior compositional imagination. As a source of biographical information about Josquin, the motet Illibata is mildly informative. But it is as a window on the all-embracing nature of Josquin’s mind that the motet is most revealing. Here is a composer whose delight in numerical and textual codes belongs firmly to the medieval period, and yet whose manner of expressing the text as a whole begins to point towards the new age of humanism.
In a pattern common earlier in the fifteenth century, four of Josquin’s voices pair off in triple-time duets, and weave about a fifth, slower-moving voice, the tenor cantus firmus. One of the tenor parts is a cantus firmus on the syllables La mi la (whose vowels are the same as those in Maria—such a process is known as Solmization), while the other two (labeled contratenor primus and contatenor secundus in the score) are part of the contrapuntal, almost canonic musical texture. Also interesting is that the poetic text of the Prima pars (presumably by Josquin himself) forms a downward acrostic of his name (“Iosqvin des Prez,” interchanging I for J and V for U, as was common during the sixteenth century).
Interpreting the acrostic of the second part of the motet is more problematic because of the unclear verse structure, but Caldwell Titcomb has given the following as a possible reading of Josquin’s birthplace:
CA “the head of” (CA being an abbreviation of caput)
FIUV “the river” (FIUV, an abbreviation of fluvius)
ESCAU “Escaut” (silent final letter omitted; it was in the valley of Escaut [a river in
northern France], at Condé-sur-l’Escaut, that Josquin died)
GDAM “to the greater glory of God” (Gloriam Dei ad majorem: later to become the
This reading becomes more plausible still when we realize that “prez” is the old form of the French for “pastures.” The acrostic can then be interpreted as “Josquin, of the pastures at the head of the Escaut. To the greater glory of God.”
Josquin’s Fama, malum employs the fully polyphonic style of the motet circa 1500, setting four lines from the fourth book of the Aeneid. In this passage Virgil describes Rumor, “of all evils the swiftest,” carrying abroad the scandal of Dido’s dalliance with Aeneas, and Josquin’s work is as much a marvel of precise dramatic characterization as Virgil’s. It begins with a worrying, obsessive ostinato figure on the words “Fama, malum” which returns at twice the speed for the word “velocius.” The top parts sing a duo on the words “parva metu primo” (“small at first through fear”), interrupted by a duo in the lower parts at “mox sese attolit in auras” (“soon she mounts up to heaven”). The effect of the whole work is threatening and unsettling, foreshadowing the tragic events to follow.
Josquin composed an enigmatic dance as well as a mass on the popular tune Una musque de Buscgaya. The mousse de Bisquaye, the Basque lass (moza is Spanish for girl), is the subject of a charming dialogue between a young man and a girl, who replies to all his amorous proposals with the mystifying (to him) “Soaz, soaz, ordonarequin” (Howard Mayer Brown deciphered “soaz” as the Basque “zoaz,” meaning “go,” while native Biscayan professor Joseba Zulaika recognized “ordonarequin” as the modern “hor dagoenarekin” meaning “with that (person or thing) over there;” thus the girl, who did not quite let the young man have his way, was telling him to “get lost.”) The melody, preserved in a fifteenth-century monophonic chansonnier, is a curious modal conglomeration: beginning in F, it quickly cadences in G, returning to F after four bars. These two lines are then repeated. The second part, consisting of four more four-bar phrases, cadences in B flat, G, F, and ends surprisingly in B flat. In his four-part chanson setting, Josquin placed the melody in the top voice, but with his characteristic wit did not notate it: the superious is to be derived canonically from the alto at the upper fourth after a semibreve.
Nymphes des bois, Josquin’s déploration in honor of Johannes Ockeghem (d. 1497), was probably influenced by Ockeghem’s Mort, tu as navré de ton dart. In addition, it exerted considerable influence on later déplorations. The text is by Jean Molinet, a poet of considerable renown in the period. Death, personified as Atropos and described as having “trapped” Ockeghem, is not addressed directly. Expert singers are grouped together with classical figures such as “wood-nymphs” and “goddesses of the springs,” all of whom stand in opposition to death. However, the poem focuses on the musicians, both Ockeghem and his mourners. It contains three imperatives directed at the mourners: “Change your voices,” “Dress yourselves in clothes of mourning,” and “Cry great tears from your eyes.” The opening soprano melody quotes the Kyrie of Ockeghem’s Missa Cuiusvis toni, an act of homage that later composers were to imitate in their déplorations. The cantus firmus, heard in the second tenor, presents the introit melody for the mass for the dead, which bears the text “Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine” (“Grant him eternal rest, O Lord”). Josquin recasts the mode of the original chant from Lydian to Phrygian to make it conform to his somber counterpoint. In the second section of the motet, the imperatives are directed at composers who considered themselves Ockeghem’s disciples, Josquin and “Pierson” (Pierre de la Rue) among them. Josquin completes the cantus firmus at the conclusion of the first part, and keeps the second tenor silent until the last line (“Requiescat in pace, amen”). The more intimate four-voice texture thus sets the portion of the poem that is directed to the four composers in particular instead of “musicians of all nations.”
In this remarkable piece, Josquin deliberately composes the first verse in an archaic style, and then in the second verse, changes to an innovative setting in which he calls upon all his contemporaries to mourn for the loss of their respected father figure.
The starting point for many of Josquin’s chansons was cantus prius factus: a tune that already existed, and often a popular song. One of Josquin’s great attributes was his ability to match the direct and simple tunefulness of these popular songs even when his setting of them used sophisticated imitative or canonic devices: as with fine jewelry, the setting enhances rather than overwhelms the gem. Si j’ay perdu mon amy was a well-known monophonic song, upon which Josquin constructed two different settings. The three-voice piece uses a variant of the song in the tenor, with some imitation in the other voices. In the distinctive final section, where the melody falls in fast notes, all voices imitate to create a “waterfall” effect. In the four-voice setting performed here, which is more succinct and perhaps even more expressive, the melody is in the top voice, involving the other three voices in a tight imitative structure, while the final “waterfall” is harmonized note-for-note.
The text of the popular Italian ditty Scaramella fa la galla uses onomatopoeia to describe the journey to war of a swashbuckling youth who loved the uniform, the boots, and other accoutrements of a soldier but would have nothing to do with the requirements of soldiering. Josquin set the text for three voices, with consistent tripla dance-rhythms in keeping with the bouncy triple meter of the original tune, and divides the setting into two sections of eighteen bars, each containing one full statement of the melody. Each section also embodies a different way of treating the original melody. In the first section, the tune begins clearly on F in the superius and continues in the superius until bar 9. At the same time, in bars 1 through 8, the superius and tenor parts are in strict canon at the lower fourth, Josquin’s standard canonic interval for pieces based on popular melodies. Up to this point, it appears as if Josquin is following both the frottola practice of putting the main melody in the top voice—a melody plus accompaniment—and the French technique of a popular melody treated in canon. It further suggests that the section will cadence on D. It is not until bar 9 that we realize that Josquin actually has placed the tune in the tenor, transposed to C, and that the beginning was a ruse. This turns out to be not melody plus accompaniment or a canonic setting, but the old procedure of placing a borrowed melody in the tenor. The quotation of the tune on C leads to a cadence on A at the end of the first section of the piece at measure 18 instead of the expected D, providing an impetus to go on to the second section. In the second section, all voices begin the tune again in imitation at the octave or unison on F, suggesting perhaps the use of sacred contrapuntal technique. But this is also a ruse; the imitation is abandoned and the tune is now quoted entirely in the tenor, in a literal repetition of measures 4 through 18, except that it is now on F, leading to a final cadence on D, with new counterpoint added by the other voices. So although the two sections are both equal in length and united by the exact repeat of the tune in the tenor, they are quite different in their effect.
Josquin’s Praeter rerum seriem must rank among his very greatest achievements. It takes the form of a succession of carefully worked motifs around the devotional song on which it is based. For much of the piece the polyphony is presented antiphonally between the three upper voices, when the song is in the top part, and the three lower voices, when it is in the tenor. This method is introduced at the very opening with the lower scoring, resulting in so powerful a piece of writing that in his mass based on this motet, Cipriano de Rore based the opening of all five of his mass movements on it. The second part of Josquin’s motet is rather freer than the first, concealing the song in what has become a more consistently six-part texture, which breaks into triple-time where the text makes final reference to the mystery of the Trinity, before returning to the duple time of “Mater Ave.”
Due to his unprecedented fame, Josquin’s works were the basis of parodies and quotations by numerous composers for decades, and his works continued to be sung well after his death; the seventeenth-century writer Hémeré, our source for Josquin’s connection with the church of Saint Quentin, stated that an endowment had been instituted there in the late sixteenth century for the singing of Josquin’s Stabat mater on Fridays in Lent and at the Easter vigil. Many of his motets and masses were copied for Spanish cathedrals around the middle of the sixteenth century, and instrumental intabulations of his works (though beginning to appear during his lifetime) were published frequently from the 1530s into the early 1590s. Theorists after Josquin’s death drew heavily on his works to illustrate their doctrines, reinforcing his classical or exemplary status. Most notably, the Swiss theorist Heinrich Glarean referred to Josquin’s music and that of “other superior composers” of his generation as an ‘ars perfecta’ in his Dodecachordon of 1547. Glarean praised Josquin’s music above all, saying “in this class of composers and great crowd of talented men, he stands out most particularly in talent, conscientiousness and industry,” and he also noted that Josquin expressed more effectively than others the complete gamut of human emotion, so that he could be compared to Virgil. He stated that Josquin worked laboriously on his compositions, revising them and holding them back for many years before releasing them to the public. Glarean printed many entire works and he also related a number of anecdotes, making Josquin the first composer in the Western tradition about whom such stories were told.
A particular testament to Josquin’s influence is his effect on Martin Luther in Germany. In 1538, Luther delivered a famous judgment on Josquin, making particular reference to Josquin’s six-part Nymphes, nappés, built around a canonic cantus firmus on Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis. Luther performed the work with some friends in the widespread contrafact version Haec dicit Dominus, and after singing it through he exclaimed “Josquin is the master of the notes, which must do as he wishes, while other composers must follow what the notes dictate. He most certainly possessed a great spirit.” Luther went on to express the wish that this motet might be performed at his deathbed, and is probably the source of the wry comment that “now that Josquin is dead, he is putting out more works than when he was still alive.”
Josquin’s death called forth a number of laments, three of which were printed by Susato in his 1545 collection of Josquin’s chansons. The motet Musae Jovis for six voices by Nicolas Gombert (ca. 1495–ca. 1560) laments the loss of Josquin in a manner that cannot help but move anyone who hears it. The theoretician Hermann Finck reports that Gombert was a pupil of Josquin, probably during the time when Josquin lived in Condé, and it has been generally concluded that Gombert was born not far from there. In 1526 Gombert was accepted into the court chapel of Emperor Carl V in which he rose to maître des enfants (boys’ choir master), and, as a priest, he had benefices in Courtrai, Béthune, and Metz. However, in 1540, his position in the imperial chapel brought him into dire straits when he violated a choirboy, resulting in his being banned for a time to a galley. But even under adverse circumstances at high sea, he seems to have continued to compose, and word has it that he finally convinced the emperor to pardon him; all trace of him following that point is missing.
The main difference between Josquin and Gombert is in texture. Josquin generally composed for four voices and almost always included duo and trio passages, exploiting the contrasting colors that came with different pairings. Gombert’s music is thicker: he regularly scored for five, six, or more voices; his writing is tightly packed, each voice following close on the next, with new points of imitation beginning before the previous ones have ended (rare in Josquin). As theorists of his time observed, Gombert “avoids rests”—so while his music can be quite beautiful, it’s rather more difficult for the ear to follow than Josquin’s. The atmosphere generated by Gombert’s lament for Josqin is unusual, insofar as it features a prominent high voice that weaves above a background of lower ranges that perform in tight, imitative counterpoint, resulting in a gauzy, misty sound through which the soloist delivers a most touching description of the magnitude of music’s loss. The poem, ascribed by Sweertius to Gerardus Avidius of Nijmegen, compares the Flemish composer’s death to being in Hell. The aching, heartfelt feeling seems able to go as far as the composer wishes without the sound ever becoming cloying or feeling manipulative. Though the sentiment of loss has been expressed successfully in text and music repeatedly throughout history, few vocal works have combined them both in order to testify so well to the importance of a colleague.
Born in northern France, near Samer, Jean Mouton (ca. 1459–1522) was one of the most important motet composers of the early sixteenth century. Employed as a singer and teacher at the collegiate church of Notre Dame at Nesle, Mouton became maître de chapelle there in 1483. By 1500 he was at Amiens Cathedral and the following year at St. André in Grenoble, in both places with responsibility for the choristers, and in the latter holding a useful benefice, in absentia, after he had entered the service of Queen Anne of Brittany, possibly as early as 1502. He remained in the royal service under François I, providing music for royal occasions. He accompanied the King to the meeting with Pope Leo X in Bologna in 1515 and probably to that with Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. On both occasions the chapel choirs of the rulers played an important part in the elaborate ceremonies, the first earning Mouton papal favor. Mouton’s compositions include liturgical settings, a quantity of motets, and secular chansons.
The style of Mouton’s music has superficial similarities to that of Josquin des Prez, using paired imitation, canonic techniques, and equal-voiced polyphonic writing: yet Mouton tends to write rhythmically and texturally uniform music compared to Josquin, with all the voices singing, and with relatively little textural contrast. Glarean characterized Mouton’s melodic style with the phrase “his melody flows in a supple thread.” Around 1500, Mouton seems to have become more aware of chords and harmonic feeling, probably due to his encounter with Italian music. At any rate this was a period of transition between purely linear thinking in music, in which chords were incidental occurrences as a result of correct usage of intervals, and music in which the harmonic element was foremost (for example in lighter Italian forms such as the frottola, which are homophonic in texture and sometimes have frankly diatonic harmony).
Jean Richafort (ca. 1480–ca. 1547) seems to have been born in the Hainaut province of what is now Belgium. Later on, he took his clerical orders near Liège. By December 1507, he had been named maistre de chant at the collegiate church of St. Rombout, Mechelen; but for 10 years following his departure in 1509, there is no trace of him. No court records contain his name during that time, but his motet Cosolator captivorum suggests that he had built some strong ties with the French court by then; the text is an entreaty to St. Louis to use his influence to help strengthen Louis XII’s rule. In 1512, supplications were for benefices on behalf of three musicians, one of whom was Richafort. Since the other two, Gilles Charpentier and Jean Nolin, are known to have been in the service of Anne of Britany at the time, it is assumed that Richafort was as well; a dispensation written on January 30, 1516, in Bologna said he received the said benefices. In that document, he is referred to as the “rector of the parish church of Touches in the dioces of Nantes” and as a singer in the chapel of François I. The Pope’s visitation to François’ court in 1515/1516 was a windfall for a number of musicians there, including Richafort, who were granted dispensations that allowed them to hold incompatible benefices. Richafort seems to have been present as a member of the French royal in Rome at the time of Pope Leo’s election, in 1513; presumably, it was then that Richafort impressed the Pope with his abilities. Richafort slips below the radar again between the years of 1516 and 1542. No available source contains his name until July 1542, at which time he succeeded Jean Claes as the maistre de chapelle at the cathedral of St. Gilles, in Bruges. In 1548, Richafort’s position at St. Gilles is taken over by Jean Bart, after which time his name disappears from all records. It is usually assumed that he died in Bruges around that time.
Richafort’s music shows the very strong influence of Josquin, and he is generally understood as one of those who continued to explore the territory opened up by the great composer. A considerable amount of music survives by him, including chansons in many styles, motets, various sacred works, and three masses, but they are woefully under-performed today. Richafort’s chansons are customary for his generation, written in a fairly loose contrapuntal style, with long melismatic phrases and frequent reductions of texture.
Cristóbal de Morales (ca. 1500–1553) is generally regarded as the leading Spanish composer during the so-called Golden Age of Spain; his birth shortly after Columbus’ voyage presumably prompted the choice of name he was given. Born in Spain and active there as a young man, Morales eventually became a singer in the papal choir and published much of his music in Rome. From there and from Toledo, where he worked toward the end of his career, his music circulated widely, reaching choir books in Mexico City and Guatemala (as did Victoria’s). The polyphonic style was brought to Spain by the previous generation of composers led by Francisco de Peñalosa, and the mystical intensity of Iberian music reached its maximum influence in the following generation with Tomás Luis de Victoria’s tenure at Rome. Morales occupies the intermediate historical position between these two, along with the contemporary keyboard music of Antonio de Cabezón; his music shows some influence of earlier polyphony as well as looking forward to functional harmony. The restlessness of Morales’ career and the tone of the various admonishments he received indicate that, quite apart from his ill-health, he was a man who did not easily co-exist with mediocrities. It could not have escaped him that his skills as a composer were superior to those of virtually every one of his contemporaries. In his work he lays deliberate claim to be the true successor of Josquin and, while fully appreciated by the Andalusian nobility, he may well have struck the bureaucracy as imperious and arrogant.
Veni Domine, the Advent motet published by Morales in 1549, has a poignant, mystical quality, stemming from its use of the Aeolian mode, shapely descending phrases which represent the descent of God to earth, and an ostinato part in the first alto, which is repeated down a step each time.
Johannes Lupi (ca. 1506–1539) was Franco-Flemish composer, who is sometimes confused with several other personalities of the sixteenth century with similar names. From 1514 to 1521 Lupi was a choirboy at Notre Dame Cathedral in Cambrai. After attending school in Cambrai he received a fellowship from the cathedral chapter to study at the University of Leuven, where he enrolled in the faculty of philosophy in 1522. In 1526 he returned to the cathedral as a parvus vicarious; the following year he succeeded Johannes Remigii (Jean Rémy, dit Descaudin) as master of the choirboys. He was promoted to magnus vicarius in 1530 and shortly thereafter named sub-deacon. Lupi was repeatedly dismissed from his post, mainly because of his inability to keep discipline among the choirboys; he also had difficulty in balancing the budget. But he was held in such high esteem as a musician that he was always reinstated, upon his promise of emendation. He suffered from a chronic illness that caused him to leave his position from 1535 to 1537 and that was responsible for his early death. He never became a priest; it took the chapter’s special dispensation to fulfill his wish to be buried in the cathedral. Josquin Baston’s déploration, Eheu dolor, mourns the death of Lupi, “not a wolf but an innocent lamb.”
Lupi was among the foremost composers of his generation. He was gifted with an uncanny ability to weave five and six voices together in faultless imitative counterpoint. His melodies tend to be very melismatic, yet with an unusual sensitivity to text declamation. His works show a fine sense of harmonic planning, with a preference for the Dorian mode. Stylistically Lupi’s music was related to that of Nicolas Gombert, and showed the typical tendencies of the generation after Josquin with its densely textured polyphony and rich imitation, but Lupi remained extraordinarily sensitive to text-setting, being able to present clearly understandable words even in eight-part counterpoint. His chansons are particularly notable for their wide range of subject matter, from the serious to the bawdy.
In 1542 Attaingnant & Jullet published a book of motets entirely devoted to Lupi, containing 15 four- to eight-part motets. The collection is a retrospective one, containing early and late works, and was edited with exemplary care, particularly with regard to text underlay. Vous scavez bien, an early work, begins with a theme very similar to one in Josquin’s Mille regretz and has the same melancholy cast. Reviens vers moy, a lady’s plea to her lover, and its regretful response, Plus revenir, are characteristic of Lupi’s chanson style; nearly all phrases are set in close imitation, with little chordal motion.
While little is known about Jacques Arcadelt’s early life (ca. 1507–1568), a Flemish origin along with a French upbringing has been suggested from variations on the spelling of his name, and he may originally have been from the vicinity of Liège or Namur, in present-day Belgium. He moved to Italy as a young man, and was present in Florence by the late 1520s, therefore having an opportunity to meet or work with Philippe Verdelot, who wrote the earliest named madrigals. In or immediately before 1538 he moved to Rome where he obtained an appointment with the papal choir at St. Peter’s Basilica; many composers from the Netherlands served as singers there throughout this era, and it is even possible that he went to Rome before coming to Florence. Still in Rome in January 1539, he probably was made a member of the Julian Chapel. After some months there he became a member of the Sistine Chapel, where he was appointed magister puerorum (director of the boys choir) and remained there until 1551. The same year saw the publication of no less than four books of his madrigals. The first of these collections went through 45 editions, becoming the most widely-reprinted collection of madrigals of the time. He left Italy in 1551 to return to France, where he spent the remainder of his life; his numerous chansons date from this and subsequent years. In 1557 he published a book of masses, dedicated to his new employer, Charles de Guise, Cardinal of Lorraine (Arcadelt was his maître de chapelle). In this publication he was mentioned as a member of the royal chapel, and therefore must have served both Henry II (died 1559) and Charles IX during this late phase of his career. In Paris he employed the publishing house of Le Roy and Ballard, who printed his abundant chansons, masses and motets just as the Venetian printers had earlier printed his madrigals.
Arcadelt’s style is refined, pure, melodious, and simple, and his music was immensely popular in Italy and France for more than a hundred years. As with Josquin, an additional hint to Arcadelt’s popularity is the frequency with which anonymous compositions were attributed to him. Likely his popularity was due to his gift for capturing the Italian spirit and marrying it with the technical perfection of the Franco-Flemish harmonic and polyphonic style; he was possibly a pupil of Josquin, which could account for his fluency in this style.
Laissez la verde couleur, arguably the most successful poem by Mellin de Saint-Gelais, recounts Venus’ mourning at the death of Adonis. Printed numerous times and set to music by several composers associated with the French court, the text depicts a riveting portrayal of the discovery of the dead Adonis by Venus, who fills the valley with her grief; the blood stains upon the ground remain to teach a terrible lesson. Arcadelt knew Saint-Gelais and stood an excellent chance of having heard him perform the song; Arcadelt’s employer, Charles, the Cardinal of Lorraine, regularly included Saint-Gelais in his musical and literary salon. Arcadelt’s setting suggests a tableau vivant; the links between music and theatre—street and court—were drawing closer.
Claude Le Jeune (ca. 1528–1600) was born in Valenciennes some time in the 1530s and probably received his early music education in the vicinity, then part of the Imperial Low Countries. His name first appears in 1552 as the composer of four chansons in anthologies published at Leuven which also contain works by his older compatriots Clemens non Papa, Crecquillon, and Waelrant. He was a Protestant and from about 1560 enjoyed the protection of a group of Huguenot nobles that included William of Orange, Agrippa d’Aubigné, Henri de Turenne, Duke of Bouillon, and Henri of Navarre (later Henri IV). By 1564 he may have settled in Paris; his Dix pseaumes were published there, dedicated to two more Huguenot patrons, François de la Noue and Charles de Téligny. He participated in the Académie de Poésie et de Musique established by Baïf and Courville in 1570 and in the autumn of 1581 he collaborated with Baïf, d’Aubigné, and Ronsard in providing entertainments for the marriage of the Duke of Joyeuse to Marie de Lorraine, the queen’s half-sister. By January 1582 he had succeeded the lutenist Vaumesnil as maistre des enfants de musique at the court of François, Duke of Anjou, brother of Henri III. After the death of François in 1584 he made use of a royal privilege, granted by Henri III in January 1582, to publish his Livre de meslanges with Plantin at Antwerp; another edition appeared at Paris in 1586.
According to Mersenne, Le Jeune wrote a confession de foi hostile to the Catholic League and tried to flee Paris during the siege of 1590. His Dodecacorde and other manuscripts were saved from burning at the hands of the guards at the St. Denis gate only by the intercession of his Catholic friend Jacques Mauduit. He probably took refuge at La Rochelle, a Protestant stronghold, where the Dodecacorde was published in April 1598. According to a privilege granted by Henri IV in September 1596 he held the position of maistre compositeur ordinaire de la musique de nostre chambre. He was buried in the Protestant cemetery of La Trinité, Paris. Except for the printed collections mentioned above and a number of pieces in anthologies, his works remained in manuscript at the time of his death; eight collections were published posthumously between 1601 and 1612 by Pierre Ballard.
Le Jeune’s work shows the influences of both the school of Flemish composers following Josquin and the Parisian school which cultivated the harmonic air de cour with its lightly accompanied prosodic recitation embellished with melismas. He is best known today for his work with the Académie de Poésie et de Musique and his contributions to musique mesurée à l’antique, which is built on syllable count in agreement with metrical feet, on the inspiration of Greek prosody and the laws of the “good and aged music masters.” The members of the Académie were convinced that this new style would influence the relationship between word and music and exert a powerful influence on all sentiments. The chanson Monsieur l'Abbé et monsieur son valet is not composed with this method, but Le Jeune’s concern with prosody shows up in other ways, such as his treatment of syntax and dialogue.