musica Dei donum

CD reviews

French secular music of the 16th century

[I] "La Bataille d'Amour - Tablatures and Chansons in the French Renaissance"
Alice Borciani, soprano; Dominique Vellard, tenor; Vincent Flückiger, lute; Maria Ferré, lute, guitar; Murat Coskun, percussion
rec: Oct 1 - 4, 2014, St. Pantaleon-Nuglar (CH), St. Pantaleon
Coviello Classics - COV 91507 (© 2015) (66'15")
Liner-notes: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Jacques ARCADELT (c1507-1568): Margot, labourez les vignes (arr. Adrian Le Roy); Filippo AZZAIOLO (fl 1557–69); Chi passa (arr. Pierre Phalèse); Pierre ATTAINGNANT (c1494-1551/52): Burato (arr. Pierre Phalèse); Gregoire BRAYSSING ( fl 1547–60): Fantasie des Grues; Pierre CERTON (c1510-1572): J'ay le rebours; Nicolas GOMBERT (c1495-1560): Plus oultre (arr. Pierre Phalèse); Simon GORLIER (fl 1550–84); Bataille de Janequin; JOSQUIN DESPREZ (c1440-1521): Allegez moy (arr. Pierre Phalèse); Nicolas de LA GROTTE (1530-c1600): J'ay bien mal choisi; Adrian LE ROY (c1520-1598): A mes peines et ennuis; L'ennuy qui me tourmente; Gaillarde J'ay du mal tant; Pavane & Gaillarde de la guerre; Pavane J'ay du mal tant; Pimontoyse; Une m'avoit promis; Guillaume de MORLAYE (c1510-c1558): Bransles de Poitou; Buffons; Hubert NAICH (c1513-1546): Canti di voi le ladi (arr. Pierre Phalèse); Pierre PHALÈSE (c1510-c1575): Fantasia; Albert DE RIPPE (c1500-1551): Fantasie II; Pierre SANDRIN (c1490-after 1561): Amour pense que je dorme; Puisque vivre en servitude (arr. Adrian Le Roy)

[II] "Chansonnettes, frisquettes, joliettes & godinettes"
Doulce Mémoire
Dir: Denis Raisin Dadre
rec: Nov 10 - 11, 2013, Fontevraud, Abbaye
ZigZag Territoires - ZZT339 (© 2013) (60'57")
Liner-notes: E/F; no lyrics
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: Mon mari est riche, et n'est qu'un vilain; Nous estions trois jeunes filles (arr. Claude Gervaise); Antonio BARGES (fl 1547–65): La mia gallina; Pascale BOQUET: Gaillarde; Nicolle DES CELLIERS D'HESDIN (?-1538): Ramonez-moy ma cheminée; Pierre CERTON (?-1572): J'ay le rebours de ce que je souhaite; Par un matin, la belle s'est levée; Jehan CHARDAVOINE (1538-c1580): Mignonne, alons voir si la rose; Nicolas DU CHEMIN (c1515-1576): Pavane lesquercade; Guillaume COSTELEY (c1530-1606): Mignonne, alons voir si la rose; Claude GERVAISE (fl 1540-1560): Bransle de champaigne; Clément JANEQUIN (c1485-1558): Ce beau coral; Il était une fillette; Jacques MANGEANT (?-c1633?): Jean de nivelle; Guillaume MORLAYE (c1510-?): Gaillarde; Pierre PHALÈSE (c1505/10-1573/76): Bransle de Poictou; Tilman SUSATO (c1510/15-1570 or later): Bransle gay; Das hoboecken-dans; Gaillarde Le tout; Pavane La gaiette; Etienne DU TERTRE (mid 16th C): Pavane; Philippe DE VUILDRE (Philip VAN WILDER) (c1500-1553): Je file quand dieu me donne de quoy; Trop penser; Adrian WILLAERT (1490?-1562): Allons, allons gay

Véronique Bourin, soprano; Hugues Primard, tenor; Elsa Frank, Denis Raisin Dadre, Johanne Maître, Jérémie Papasergio, recorder, oboe, bassoon, crumhorn; Pascale Boquet, Miguel Henry, lute, gittern; Bruno Caillat, percussion

In the renaissance sacred music was at the top of the hierarchy. Although it is impossible to know how much music was written between, say, 1400 and 1600, and a comprehensive list of the extant repertoire from that period does not exist, it is safe to say that the large majority of the latter is sacred. That is easy to explain: sacred music was needed for the daily services held in churches and convents and many special occasions of church and state. In comparison secular music was mostly written for entertainment. Much of such music was improvised, and as a result we only have a very limited picture of the music performed at the various courts across Europe and in the homes of the upper echelons of society. We know next to nothing about the music which was performed among the 'common people'. It was mostly not written down, let alone published. However, sometimes popular elements were incorporated into music enjoyed by the elites.

The two discs to be reviewed here focus on music as it was performed in France in the 16th century. The two ensembles perform secular music and shed special light on the connection between vocal and instrumental music. The former was considered most important. Relatively little original instrumental music was written before 1600, with the exception of keyboard music and music for plucked instruments. This explains that the largest part of the instrumental music performed here comprises arrangements of vocal pieces, in particular chansons. On the other hand we hear dances, the only genre of music specifically written for consort. That term generally refers to an ensemble of various instruments.

Maria Ferré, player of plucked instruments, put together a programme of pieces which are taken from the various collections printed since the early 16th century. The Venetian music printer Ottaviano Petrucci is considered the 'inventor' of music printing, and in the first decade of the 16th century a considerable number of collections of music came from the press in Venice. The technique disseminated in the next decades and Paris and Antwerp developed into two of the main centres of music printing. The largest part of the programme comprises intabulations of vocal music for a plucked instrument, with special attention to the guitar. In France the four-course guitar became especially popular from the middle of the century. The first edition of music for this instrument was the (lost) first book by the lutenist, editor and composer Guillaume Morlaye of 1550. In the next decade a whole bunch of books with pieces for guitar was printed, for instance by Adrian Le Roy, Albert de Rippe and the said Morlaye. Ferré and her colleagues play a number of these pieces in which one of the parts is sometimes sung. They also play arrangements for unspecified instruments, which are taken from collections put together and published by the likes of Attaingnant and Phalèse. Such pieces are usually performed with strings or winds, like in the recording by Doulce Mémoire. That makes the line-up in Ferré's recording particularly interesting as the role of the guitar in 16th-century France is known but not that well documented on disc. It is regrettable that it was also decided to add percussion in quite a number of pieces. I am not saying that percussion should be banned from such repertoire altogether; in some dances it may be appropriate. However, I believe its role in renaissance music is highly overstated. In particular in music making at court and bourgeois households it may have played a relatively insignificant role.

Doulce Mémoire's disc was released at the occasion of the ensemble's 25th anniversary. The programme not only includes 'learned' chansons on texts by "official poets", as Denis Raisin Dadre calls them - for instance Ronsard and Marot - but also 'rural' chansons that were "unambiguously popular in origin". His recording also sheds light on the connection between the two subgenres: "[See] how the poems of Ronsard, a famous writer feted at court, may be conveyed by melodies within everyone's reach, or set to music in more learned fashion by Costeley. Here is one of the characteristics of this repertory: its circulation between a scholarly universe and a popular one, where a craftsman can sing Ronsard's lines "Mignonne allons voir si la rose ..." while earning his living in his workshop." Compare the settings by Jehan Chardavoine - more an arranger and editor than a composer - and Guillaume Costeley, a charter member of Baïf’s académie and composer to the court of Charles IX. He also mentions the connection between the chanson and the dance: many chansons are in fact dances, such as bransles, allemandes or pavanes.

This disc is an ana attractive mixture of chansons and dances. Percussion is used here too but with more restraint. Moreover, percussion more naturally fits with an instrumental ensemble of winds than with plucked instruments where it tends to dominate. There is some fine singing but unfortunately the booklet omits the lyrics. There are three exceptions: the disc ends with instrumental versions of three chansons to which the listener can sing the lyrics. I haven't tried...

Despite the lack of lyrics I have enjoyed this disc. The same goes for the Coviello disc which does include the lyrics. The two singers deliver good performances and the playing of guitar and lute is excellent. If you are interested in French renaissance music these two discs are interesting and enjoyable additions to your collection.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

Relevant links:

Alice Borciani
Maria Ferré
Dominique Vellard
Doulce Mémoire

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