Musical Talents in France and Spain in Sixteenth Century

  September 20, 2021   Read time 4 min
Musical Talents in France and Spain in Sixteenth Century
The 16th century was a stormy period in French history, made so at first by the craving of successive kings to widen their boundaries in the face of strong rivals, and later by the bitter contests between Catholics and Huguenots.

What notable musical life there was appeared in the Royal Chapel at Paris, to the advancelnent of which the ambitious Francis I. devoted special attention. The styles there most cultivated were those of the Netherland masters, with gradually more and more chansons and lute music. Originality in composition was almost wholly confined to writers born in the Netherlands. The chief kings (House of Valois) were Louis XII. (1498-1515), Francis I. (1515-47), who was the rival of Charles V., Henry II. (1547- 59), Charles IX. (1560-74) and Henry III. (1574-89). The latter's successor, Henry IV. (1589-1610), the first of the Bourbons, was of Huguenot sympathies.

Jean Mouton (d. 1522), born near Metz, studied with Des Pres, early entered the service of Louis XII., continuing under Francis I., and became canon of St. Quentin, where he died. His many works exhibit not only the utmost polyphonic facility, but an expressiveness singularly like his master's. They include some masses, Iuany motets and chansons (from 15°5). He was Willaert's teacher, and thus a link with the Venetian school.

Antoine de Riche [DivitisJ, a singer first at Bruges, then in the Burgundian Chapel, before 1515 in the Royal Chapel at Paris, is favorably known by a few works (from 1514). Claude de Sermisy (d. 1562) is still more famous as from 15°8 singer, then about 1532-60 choirmaster in the Chapel, and a strong writer (works from 1529). Pierre Colin, singer in the Chapel in 1532-6, was later choirmaster at Autun (masses and motets from 1541). Pierre Certon (d. 1572), a pupil of Des Pres, had the name of being one of the best writers of the day (works from 1540).

Clement Janequin, also a pupil of Des Pres, is entirely unknown except from his many striking chansons, over 200 in number (1529-59), many of which bear descriptive or pictorial titles like 'La bataille,' 'La chasse au cerf,' 'Le caquet des femmes,' 'L'alouette,' etc., introducing a new element of depiction into cornposition. Jacop Arcadelt (d. c. 1560), who. has already been noted at Rome (sec. 58), much more celebrated than the foregoing, spent the last years of his life at Paris as royal musician, leaving some motets and masses (1545-57).

Francois Eustache du Caurroy (d. 16°9), born near Beauvais in 1549, was in the Chapel from about 1568 for 40 years, perhaps as choirmaster throughout. His extant works (from 1569) are few and not equal to his reputation; they include a Requiem which for a century was the only one used for the kings of France. Claudin Lejeune (d. c. 1600) was court-composer toward the end of the century. 'It has been thought that he resigned on account of his Huguenot opinions, but this is uncertain. His works (from 1564) are mostly chansons and madrigals, except his settings of metrical Psalins, which are important in early Calvinistic music.

Lesser names are Jean Courtois, choirmaster at Cambrai in 1539 (works from 1529), Pierre Cadeac of Auch (works from 1556), and Guillaume Belin (d. 1568), singer in the Chapel about 1547 (chansons from 1539). Among the renowned lutists of the century who published music for their instrument were Orance Fine (d. 1555), with two books (1529-30); Alberto da Rippa (d. c. 1550), court-lutist from 1537 or earlier, with pieces from 1536 and two books (r 553, '62, each 6 parts); Guillaume Morlaye, with three books (1552-8); Adrien Le Roy (d. 1599), the publisher, with several books of his own, an instruction-book and very many valuable collections (from 1551); and Jean Antoine de Baif (d. 1589), a much-traveled Venetian who about 1566 gave popular concerts at Paris, with several books (1562-80).

The Swiss Reformation, beginning before 1520 at Zurich under Zwingli, won the adherence of the Frenchman Calvin before 1530 and about 1535 came under the latter's leadership at Geneva, which was thenceforth the fountainhead of Protestantism in western Europe. Before 1550, Calvinists or Huguenots became numerous in France. They increased in power so rapidly that from 1562 for thirty-five years civil war between them and the dominant Catholic party went on, including in 1572 the notorious Massacre of St. Bartholomew, and closing in 1598 with the granting of toleration by the Edict of Nantes. The musical influence 'of the Huguenot movement was confined to the encouragement of chorales, often finely harmonized. These were adopted into Scottish and English use to some extent after 1558.

Zwingli was a musical "amateur and not averse to music in church worship, but his party went far beyond him in antipathy to all existing usages. In their onslaughts upon churches they ruthlessly destroyed organs and choir collections. Calvin's influence was cast on the other side, especially in favor of congregational singing of the Psalms. Hence arose a demand for metrical versions of the latter and for practicable tunes.

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