France Music From 15th to 17th Century

By | January 19, 2022

The song and the air. – The musical hegemony passes to Flanders, where the Flemish composers, who are influenced, among others, by the influence of the Chapel of the King of France and that of Burgundy, compose almost all their profane songs on French words. The French Antoine de Févin of Orléans, Carpentras, Gascogne, Moulu also belonged to the Flemish school. Also worth mentioning are Antoine Brumel, Loyset Compère, Clemens non Papa, Busnois, Pierre de la Rue, among the masters of the Franco-Flemish school. Most of these musicians, in addition to composing pages on sacred texts, illustrated the chanson française, which was also very popular in Italy, and in which the independence of the voices is achieved without damaging the overall effect and the vivacity of the rhythm. This genre, created by the masters of the North, reaches its apogee in Paris, in the mid-16th century, becoming descriptive, satirical, in a popular lyricism. The great master of French song is Clément Jannequin, whose wonderful vocal symphonies: The battle of Marignano ; The song of the birds ; The cries of Paris ; The chatter of women, had enormous success and were also imitated in Italy. These compositions, full of vivacity and panache, have pages of delicate sentiment and sometimes heroic accents, and are very characteristic of the French temperament. Other musicians who cultivated this kind are Claudin de Sermisy, delicious G. Costeley, from found surprising melodic, de Bussy, Antoine de Bertrand, J. Bony, Carton, G. Arcadelt, The Caves, Millot, Roussel, François Regnard, etc..

Under the influence of the humanist poets of the court, Ronsard and Baïf, and the Italian madrigalists, the French song became more learned and more valuable. Music and poetry were regarded as two sister arts, indispensable to each other; this aesthetic tendency led Antoine de Baïf to create the old-fashioned “measured music”, which faithfully followed the meters of the lines. In this new genre there were Claude le Jeune, famous for his psalms and his mass, Jacques Mauduit, France Du Caurroy, Thibault de Courville. This innovation had great influence on the further development of vocal music in France and aroused curiosity abroad. Monteverdi also imitated this genre in his musical Scherzi. In turn, the measured arias, accustoming the ear to freer rhythms, gradually led the musicians to the form of the so-called court aria (air de cour) lyrical melody mostly of a melancholic and elegiac character, which at the end of the sec. XVI becomes a true monody. Among the authors of this last form we can distinguish Jacques Mauduit, Gabriel Bataille, especially Guédron and Antoine Boisset, Moulinié, Louis de Rigaud, France de Chancy, Chevalier.

According to, the melodic form is often very beautiful; feature of these airs is then the rhythm instability that always oscillates between the 3 / 4, the 4 / 4, the 2 / 4, the 6 / 4 ; prosody and tonic accent are equally neglected, especially at the beginning of the century. XVII. Originally the court arias were for four voices, but they soon got into the habit of singing only the upper part, reducing the others for lute; and thus adapted they began to be published from 1571 by the Parisian publishers Adrien Le Roy and Robert: Ballard.

These same authors also wrote the récits (declaimed) for court ballets, a dramatic genre born in France in 1581 from the efforts made by humanists and poets to reconstruct the Greek tragedy. Rapidly developed, in the century. XVII it included a large number of monodic declamations, arias and choirs, combined with pantomimes and dances. Guédron wrote for Alcine (1609), the Délivrance de Renaud (1617), Tancrède dans la forêt enchanteePsyché, declaimed of great dramatic force. Another genre, no less characteristic, is the chanson à boire and the chanson à danser ; many, inspired by the rhythms and melodies of popular songs, composed Chancy, Sauvage, de Rosiers, Jean Boyer, Guillaume Michel, Louis de Mollier, etc. The last composers of court arias were Le Camus, Bénigne de Bacilly and Michel Lambert, who already announces Lulli in many parts; the fashion of chansons à boire continued throughout the century. XVII and XVIII.

Sacred music. – In comparison with the Flemish schools of the century. XV and Italian of the XVI, the French Renaissance school, with the exception of the brilliant work of the Orlando di Lasso valley, seems a bit poor; only now are the masses and motets of this school beginning to be published. Among the French masters we should mention: P. Cadeac, N. Gombert, Manchicourt, Mouton, Claudin de Sermisy, and then Claude Certon, P. Clereau, Jannequin, Claude le Jeune, and C. Goudimel, who harmonized the original melodies popular, on which the French Reformed sang the psalms in the poetic version of Clément Marot and Th. de Bèze. Claude le Jeune and P. Certon also composed psalms.

Instrumental music. – The French lutenists, disciples of the Italians Francesco da Milano and Alberto Rippe, first contented themselves with transcribing dances and vocal songs for lute. Guillaume Morlay, Varlet and then JB Bésard and Antoine Francisque published many of these transcriptions and some original pieces in their tablature: fantasies, preludes, branles, gagliarde, vaults, pavane, etc. The great lute school flourished in France between 1620 and 1680, and its production is characterized, as already in the court arias, by an elegiac, dreamy and melancholic sentiment. Except for some lively dance, the tablature of the century. XVII contain above all slow and grave preludes (without established measure and with unstable rhythms), tombeaux (funeral pieces), sarabandas, etc., already free from Italian dominion. The most famous French lutenists were the two Gautier, Pinel, Charles Mouton, Mésangeau; some of them also had fame abroad and Jacques Gautier settled in England. A little later, and especially during the first years of the reign of Louis XIV, the guitar was in vogue, in which De Visé and Ph. E. Lesage de Richée were highlighted.

Also for the organ and the harpsichord the French masters limited themselves at first to making transcriptions of polyphonic works, adorning them with flourishes; but in the sec. XVI there is a rapid development, above all for the perfection reached in the manufacture of the organs. The first great French organist is Jean Titelouze, born in Saint-Omer in 1563, organist of the cathedral of Rouen. His works are especially interesting for a very modern sense of modulation and for the nobility of sentiment. His successors were mostly inferior to him and cannot be compared with the great contemporary German and Italian masters. Worthy of mention are: Nicolas Boyvin, organist in Rouen from 1674 to 1706; France Roberday, Nicolas Gigault, both masters of Lulli; Antoine le Bègue (1630-1702), M. De la Barre, Buterne, G. Nivers, France Marchand, France Dandrieu, the latter known above all as harpsichordists. The harpsichord school only began around 1630, long after the English and Italian schools; in the sec. XVIII distinguished Louis Couperin, who still feels the influence of the lute style, but already highlights some particular possibilities of the instrument, and André Champion de Chambonnières (1602-1672), great virtuoso, creator of the French style of harpsichord, who contributes to the creation of theFrench suite, with four different dances: allemanda, current, sarabanda and giga. It remains to remember the music composed by the violinists of the great string orchestra so-called “dei Ventiquattro”.

Very little remains of the music performed in the feasts of the century. XVI from violins and wind instruments, but the danceries of Claude Gervaise, the Fantasie a quattro by France Du Caurroy and Claude le Jeune allow us to get an idea of ​​this somewhat decorative art. During the sec. XVII the orchestra of the Violons du roi includes valuable musicians, including Guillaume Dumanoir and Mazuel. Their dances, with a rather clumsy writing, and an irregular rhythm (which also informs the melody of itself) constitute an original genre typical of France, also appreciated in England and Germany, where French violinists such as Bocan and Louis Grabus were successful. The instrumental style of the Ventiquattro precedes the style of Lulli, in whose work all French music of the second half of the century is summarized. XVII.

France Music From 15th to 17th Century