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Composer : various
Author : various
Reference ACJ : ACJ 53 0080
Subtitle : 42 french chansons from Renaissance
Modern restitution : Jacques BARBIER
Instruments : a cappella
Number of pages : 198
Publication date : 08/2017
Code : A135300080

With over 10,000 printed or handwritten documents, the huge production of vocal polyphony turned the 16th century into the golden age of music, be it with madrigals and villanelle in Italy, carols in Spain, English Ayres, Lied in German-speaking countries, and of course polyphonic songs in the Francophone area.
Used by the main music printers in Lyons, Antwerp and Venice, the French language is predominant in both professional and amateur musical activities as well as in courts and town houses. In just a mere century, the old 15th century music kept evolving until the birth of the Air de Cour in the 17th century; a chronological and stylistic journey through French songs.
The volume is limited – a drastic choice to remain attractive – to 42 songs illustrating the many facets of the originality, creativity, and evolution of polyphonic French songs. 21 different authors, sometimes with different nationalities, are the creators of this repertoire. Roland de Lassus and Jacques Arcadet wrote secular pieces in German, Italian and Dutch. However, the Chanson Française still remains the most popular genre at the time, involving great masters like Claudin de Sermisy, Clement Janequin, Roland de Lassus, Antoine Bertrand, but also less renowned composers. Leaving some songs or composers aside despite their talent has always been a difficult decision. May the few examples given here encourage the readers to look into the complete editions of their works.

We have chosen to clean up the text according to modern spelling conventions (fi or je for fy or ie ; lit, puce or réveille for lict, pulce or resveille, etc.) to the extent that the original pronunciation is not changed. Some old words are deliberately kept (nouds for nœuds, avecque for avec) to keep the rhyme or the number of feet (ja for jadis, rais for rayons). Others like pelisson, pletz, gent, fame, duisant, etc. have no close equivalent sound (élonger or soulas instead of éloigner or plaisir), and thus remain in the text. This decision to transpose literally sometimes affects a group of words or phrases. We have been able to keep Il la prête et si la maine (21) as its special meaning "he holds her near and confines her home", like other words encountered in this corpus, are translated in the partition footer. The graphic variants of a same word depending on the voices were united in favor of a more plausible meaning, as in ma toute belle and ma tourterelle (No. 25), suivant for luisant (No. 26) or chambrière for chamberière (n 34), etc.
Punctuation and accentuation (legere becomes légère) were restored by today's uses and resolved abbreviations. Additions from the editor appear in brackets.

The performance would be enhanced by applying a few characteristics of the early 16th century French pronunciation, instead of pronouncing the words such as written under the scores.
- Diphtong vowels disappear: A-age or pa-y-san are pronounced age or pay-san. - oi as in bois or pouvoir is pronounced oué as in boué or pouvouére.
- Vowels followed by nasal consonants are nasalized. Montagne or Gascogne are pronounced montangne or Gascongne.
- The l consonant will be wet: il needs to sound like ille.
- The r is rolled like in Spanish or some provincial dialects. It tends to weaken or disappear before a final e: calendre can be written but is especially pronounced calende. Thus ardre rhymes with paillarde.
- When ending a word, t is generally silent and x is equivalent to ss. Paradoxe rhymes with fosse.
- In a group of consonants, the first one tends to become silent. Tournoi and saincte are pronounced tournoi or sainte. The s is silent:estoit and espée will be heard étoué and épé.
This coloring of the pronunciation is different from standard French and will be enhanced by dialectal differences that should be favored. Some will be attracted by the Gascon or Picard accents, the Parisian popular registry or that of the people from the Court. Others will be sensitive humanists's lessons from the Pleiades. Curious people can refer to books devoted exclusively to this matter (Une doulce parolle ) ; pronunciation is far from being a trend or an attitude turned to the past, it is a musical element to be considered to give these songs their fragrance, and their musical identity.

Université François-Rabelais de Tours, Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Renaissance

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