Amorosi pensieri

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Program: #14-29, Air Date: 07/14/14

The latest from Cinquecento looks at songs for the Hapsburg Court, including rarely recorded composers like Jean Guyot and Jacobus Vaet.

NOTE: All of the music on this program is from the recording Amorosi pensieri featuring the ensemble Cinquecento. It is on the Hyperion label and is CD CDA68053.

Philippe de Monte, Jean Guyot and Jacobus Vaet all belong to that generation of composers born around 1520, within a few years of Josquin’s death. Each illustrates in his own way how a successful career in the European musical world of the Renaissance could be achieved, and between them they established a path for future generations to follow, as did Jacob Regnart, born a couple of decades later. All four started their careers similarly, Monte in Mechelen, Vaet in Kortrijk, Guyot in the Principality of Liège, and Regnart in Douai—all benefited from a strong choir-based musical education that nurtured their talent. The four cantors could then have decided to remain in their homeland, where it would not have been difficult for them to have enjoyed the kind of professional success seen by Pierre de La Rue a generation before, and by their closer contemporaries Clemens non Papa and Thomas Crecquillon.

But the four composers had a choice: they could stay at home, travel and return, or leave their country to travel across Europe. Without any guarantee of getting a steady job, this latter option was risky. In the end, being endowed with the double talent of singing and composing created a good many opportunities for each to flourish, albeit within the limitations set by patrons and the Church—or even early death. Fate, personal decisions, chance encounters and political contingencies would, as it turned out, spin a web allowing our composers to share a degree of contact without, it would appear, necessarily meeting.

The death of Pieter Maessens (c1505–1562) opened the way for his compatriot Jean Guyot de Châtelet (c1512–1588) to apply in 1563 for the prestigious post of Kapellmeister to the court of Ferdinand I. Previously enjoying the enviable position of succentor at St Lambert’s Cathedral and already known for some of his motets and the thirteen songs published in Antwerp by Tylman Susato (with his name Latinized as ‘Castileti’), Guyot’s evident desire for a successful career in Vienna was to be disappointed; less than a year after his arrival he was paid-off from imperial service for the sum of fifty Florins. This coincided with the accession of Maximilian II, and the new Emperor placed his favourite musician, Jacobus Vaet, at the head of his chapel. Guyot returned to Liège where he spent the rest of his life teaching, supported by a benefice he had been able to retain.

Jacobus Vaet (c1529–1567) had been a chorister in his native Kortrijk in the mid-1540s and had first joined Maximilian II’s chapel in 1554. His name is mentioned amongst Charles V’s singers, but it is not known beyond this what he did between the end of his studies at Leuven University—Guyot had attended the same faculty—and his obtaining so sought-after a job in the circle of this illustrious prince. Ten years later the same patronage led to his being appointed ‘Obristen Kapellmeister der römisch-kaiserlichen Majestät’, the position previously held by Guyot under Ferdinand I. Maximilian clearly held his composer in deep affection, but Vaet’s successful career was to be suddenly cut off by his death in 1567.

Maximilian allowed the post held by Vaet to remain vacant for several years. But the emperor was also ambitious for his chapel: to raise its prestige, and presumably to guide it to new musical highs, Maximilian looked towards Italy, unsuccessfully approaching Palestrina himself. In the end, Maximilian was compelled by politics to modify his ambitions: the court already abounded in Italian musicians. The appointing of a Flemish Kapellmeister would afford him political consensus and support such as could never have been achieved by recruiting an Italian, however exceptional the latter might have been.

It had been clear since the recruitment of Vaet in 1554 that Maximilian was being well advised when it came to choosing his musicians. The chosen successor to Vaet was Flemish, had travelled extensively, and had mastered a variety of composing styles—from songs to madrigals, in the Flemish, Italian, French and German styles: Philippe de Monte (1521–1603) was to hold the position in Vienna for some thirty years. Already by the time of his arrival, Monte had built up a sound reputation and, unlike Guyot or Vaet, he was widely travelled, particularly in Italy, and had an impressive number of publications to his name. Under his direction the imperial court became the musical beacon of Europe in the last third of the sixteenth century, matching easily the chapels set up by Philipp II in Spain or by the dukes of Bavaria.

Jacob Regnart (c1540–1599) features prominently among the singers who contributed to the musical reputations of Vienna and Prague. He arrived at the imperial court perhaps as early as 1557 and may therefore have been witness to the succession of his countrymen at the helm of the chapel. It was a post he never held himself, having to be content with subordinate (though essential) positions. Perhaps this is what prompted him to accept occasional employment elsewhere, but he never forgot his first job and ended his career in Prague, working under Monte.

While these musicians’ careers have a common thread running through the imperial chapel, their compositions are clearly distinct in both style and genre. Jean Guyot devoted himself to writing motets and songs. The musical style of his songs is not so very different from that of his motets (some of which require many musicians and so were presumably composed for the imperial chapel), but they do demonstrate strong syllabic declamation, often enlivened by the vivid prosody. This is particularly evident in the ‘rustic’ songs like Je suis amoureux d’une fille. The overall rhythm slows down in the more melancholic songs, such as En lieux d’esbatz m’assault melancolie, but nothing interrupts the ruthlessly imitative counterpoint—which makes the text more or less unintelligible. This is a shame (although the modern listener benefits from the printed text), for the music abounds in highly ingenious and sometimes quite daring parallels between the text and its musical expression. A remarkable example occurs in the last verse, ‘Helas donnez vous à son cueur’, of Vous estes si doulce et benigne. As one might expect, the word ‘Helas’ brings about a distinctive harshness, but uses a ‘prohibited’ chord; to avoid this, an option is to flatten the bass note, something which causes a rather surprising, though not unattested in earlier examples, destabilization of the harmonic process, and this is what the singers here have chosen to employ. Similarly, other pieces show a liking for figuralism borrowed from Italian madrigalists. In L’arbre d’amour ung fruict d’amaritude, a strikingly original piece if only for being notated for four high voices, various harmonic false relations emphasize bitterness. The last two Guyot songs (Vous perdez temps and Tel en mesdict) comprise a Chanson–Response pairing, the first line of the one being the same as the last of the other. The Chanson takes its text from Clément Marot, and while the Response is by an anonymous author, the two parts are bonded into a homogeneous structure by common animated rhythms and are clearly inspired by the satirical mind of the ‘prince of French poets’.

—Anne Coeurdevey and Philippe Vendrix.

Philippe de Monte (1521–1603)
Jean Guyot (?1512–1588)
Jacobus Vaet (c1529–1567)
Jacob Regnart (c1540–1599)


Philippe De Monte

1 Amorosi pensieri [1'48]
2 Ombra son io [3'47]
3 Con che soavità [2'30]
4 Anima dolorosa [2'25]
5 O dolci sguardi [3'24]
6 Que me servent mes vers [2'40]
7 Susanne un jour [2'09]
8 Sortez regretz [2'11]

Jean Guyot

9 En lieux d’esbatz m’assault melancolie [2'23]
10 Je suis amoureux d’une fille [1'20]
11 Vous estes si doulce et benigne [2'08]
12 L’arbre d’amour ung fruict d’amaritude [2'40]
13 Vous perdez temps de me dire mal d’elle [3'06]
14 Tel en mesdict qui pour soy la desire [2'53]

Jacobus Vaet

15 Amour leal [2'00]
16 Sans vous ne puis [1'34]
17 En l’ombre d’ung buissonet [1'31]

Jacob Regnart

18 Ach weh der Zeit, die ich verzert [3'46]
19 Ein Lieb nit mehr hat [2'39]
20 Venus du und dein Kind [3'07]
21 Du hast mich sollen nemen [3'02]
22 Chi mi consolerà [2'15]
23 Amor, che debbo fare [2'02]
24 Vola vola pensier [1'40]
25 Alarm’, alarm’ o fidi miei pensieri [1'19]

Composer Info

Philippe de Monte (1521–1603), Jean Guyot (?1512–1588), Jacobus Vaet (c1529–1567), Jacob Regnart (c1540–1599).

CD Info