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ClassicsOnline Home » Oh Flanders Free: Music of the Flemish Renaissance
The dominant position of Franco-Flemish composers in the musical world
of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is testimony not only to the cultural
climate of Northern France and the Low Countries in that period but also to the
example set by Burgundy. Established as a dukedom under Philip the Bold in
1363, the territory grew through inheritance and dynastic marriages to include
the most prosperous region of Europe, Flanders and Brabant, while the marriage
in 1477 of the Burgundian heiress Marie, after the death of her father Charles
the Bold, to Maximilian of Austria saw Burgundy revert to France and the Low
Countries to the Habsburgs, The court of Burgundy in its heyday set an example
of magnificence and luxury to the other courts of Europe, attracting artists of
the highest distinction, In England Henry VII, victorious in the War of the
Roses, was among those rulers who sought to emulate Burgundy, importing artists
of all kinds from the Low Countries, a tradition that continued under his
successor, while the states of Northern Italy fell under a similar influence.
The present album provides a brief conspectus of Franco-Flemish musical
influence in the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth. It
opens with the familiar Introit from the Gregorian Requiem. This
is followed by two excerpts from the Songbook of Zeghere van Male, copied
for the Bruges merchant of that name in 1542, an anonymous instrumental Preludium
and a polyphonic setting of the brief text for the living and the dead, Laus
Thomas Fabri was a pupil in Paris of the French composer Jean de Noyers,
otherwise known as Johannes Tapissier, who had served as a chamber musician to
Philip the Bold of Burgundy. In 1412 Fabri was appointed choirmaster at the
Cathedral of St Donatian in Bruges, a city then at the height of its
cosmopolitan prosperity. His Ach Vlaendere vrie (‘Oh Flanders free’) is
one of his two surviving three-voice secular songs.
A native of the northern French town of Busne, from which he takes his
name, Antoine Busnois may have been a pupil of Ockeghem in Paris. He was
subsequently in the service of Charles the Bold of Burgundy and, after the
latter's death in 1477, of the Duke's daughter, Marie of Burgundy, until her
death in Bruges five years later. Busnois died in 1492 in the same city, where
he was employed as master of choristers at the church of St Sauveur. His
four-voice Alleluya is largely harmonic in conception.
There follows an instrumental piece attributed to the Italian Jewish
composer Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro, a dancing-master whose writing on the art
is of considerable importance and enjoyed wide contemporary popularity for its
practical advice. The dance Falla con misuras has the alternative title Bassa
castiglia. It is a basse-danse, a court dance that, with its
succeeding mesures, reached its height of fashion at the Burgundian
Contemporaries coupled the name of Johannes Ockeghem with that of his
supposed pupil Busnois. Probably a native of Flanders, he served at Notre Dame
in Antwerp and was later employed at the court of Charles I, Duke of
Bourbon, the husband of Agnes of Burgundy, sister of Philip the Good. From the
early 1450s he was in the service of the French court under Charles VII and his
successor, Louis XI, rewarded him with a number of benefices. The tribute paid
to him on a visit to Bruges in 1484 suggests a possible earlier connection with
the city and with the composer in the service of the Dukes of Burgundy, Gilles
de Binche dit Binchois, to whom he expressed his debt. His chanson Ma
maistresse was regarded by his contemporaries as a model of its kind,
serving as the basis of a Mass setting by the composer himself and as a
familiar source for
The prosperous city of
Florence was a major cultural centre in Italy, particularly under the rule and
patronage of the Medici family, who became absolute rulers of the city and its
surrounding region in 1532. The musicians employed in Florence included
distinguished practitioners from Northern Europe, but Mattio Rampollini,
represented here by a light-hearted song in praise of Bacchus, god of wine, was
a native of the city, master of choristers at the cathedral and in the service
of the Medici family.
The greatest composer
of his day, Josquin des Prez is thought to have been a native of Picardy. The
first certain surviving reference to his career finds him employed as a singer
at Milan Cathedral and later in the service of the ruling Sforza family, in
association with which he became also a singer in the papal choir. For a time
at the French court, he returned to Italy, to Ferrara. There he was finally
succeeded by Obrecht, when he left in 1503 to return to Northern France, where
he died in 1521. El grillo (‘The Cricket’), a frottola, puns on
the name of the singer Carlo Grillo, employed by Galeazzo Maria Sforza, whose
musical establishment of forty singers included some score of French or Flemish
musicians. It suggests, in its setting, the song of the cricket.
It seems possible that
Josquin spent some time in Florence in the years 1487 and 1488, when his name
is missing from the list of singers in the papal chapel. Heinrich Isaac, a
native of Flanders, spent ten years or more in Florence under Lorenzo the
Magnificent, until the latter's death in 1492. In 1497 he became court composer
to the Emperor Maximilian I, in Vienna, enjoying a certain freedom of travel
that took him back to Florence, where he had married, and to various cities of
the Empire. He died in Florence in 1517. Isaac had been briefly in Innsbruck on
his first journey south to Italy in 1484 and he spent some time there in 1500
and 1501, when in the service of the imperial court. His well-known song Innsbruck,
ich muss dick lassen is unusual in its harmonic chorale-like setting.
The manuscript from
which the anonymous Sergonta Bergonta is taken was copied in 1502 by
Lodovico Milanese for use either in Ferrara or Mantua. The language of the text
is a mixture of Italian, French, Spanish and newly invented words.
Josquin's Mass known
as La sol fa re mi is based, it has been suggested, on the solmization
of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza's frequent postponement of payment to his musicians,
with the words Lascia fare mi (Let me see to it). Whatever the accuracy
of this attribution, the music itself is based on the sol-fa notes indicated, A
– G – F – D – E, in transposition. The light-hearted Guillaume se va chaufer
(Guillaume goes and warms himself) is attributed to Josquin through a
misinterpretation of Heinrich Glarean's Dodecachordon of 1547, where it
is included among the many musical examples given.
Marguerite of Austria,
daughter of Marie of Burgundy and Maximilian I, was three years old when, after
the death of her mother, she was betrothed to Charles, the Dauphin of France,
the first of her three husbands, none of whom were to live long. Subsequently,
as Regent of the Netherlands, she held court at Malines, where she continued to
encourage music and the arts. Collections of chansons made for her include the
anonymous Cueurs desolez (‘Sorrowful hearts’), suited to a court in
Two further settings
of D'ung aultre amer (‘To love another’) include an instrumental version
dated, from its manuscript source, to about 1430, followed by a further
version, making use of the well-known melody of L'homme armé and
attributed to the fifteenth-century composer Philippe Basiron, presumably a
musician of French origin. Here the upper part uses the melody from Ockeghem's
chanson, while L'homme armé appears in the tenor.
Henry VIII of England
had strong musical interests, as a singer, player and composer himself and his
court entertained a large number of musicians from the continent. His Pastime
with good company seems to be based on a French chanson of the period, to
which it bears some melodic resemblance.
Tielman Susato was
either born in Westphalia at Soest, from which his name is derived, or in
Antwerp into a family of similar origin. He served as a town musician in the
latter city, before turning also to publishing and to dealing in musical
instruments. His collection of popular dances was published in 1551. His Passe
& Medio or passamezzo is a duple metre dance, followed by
a triple metre Galliard.
Born at Verdelot in
Seine et Marne in the 1470s, Philippe Verdelot made his career largely in
Italy, working in Florence, in Rome and in Venice. He is of importance in the
development of the Italian madrigal, of which he was an early master, as
witnessed in his Ogn'hor per voi sospiro (‘Every hour I yearn for you’).
Much favoured by
Marguerite of Austria, the Flemish composer Pierre de La Rue was probably born
in Tournai and served in the Burgundian court musical establishment of
Maximilian and then of the latter's eldest son, Philip the Fair, until the
latter's death in Spain in 1506. In 1508 he returned to join the court of
Marguerite in Malines, before retiring finally to Courtrai, where he died in
1518. His Mijn hert altijt heeft verlanghen (‘My heart is always
desirous’) is included in the album of Marguerite of Austria. A four-part work,
it is based on an earlier anonymous three-voice setting which he recomposed.
dona eis Domine:
Et lux perpetua
Te decet hymnus
Deus in Sion,
Et tibi reddetur
votum in Jerusalem:
Ad te omnis caro veniet
Give them, Lord,
and let everlasting
light shine upon them.
I offer you, o Lord
in Zion, a song of praise,
for you the promise
in Jerusalem will be fulfilled:
hear my prayer,
to you comes all
Anon. (Cambrai, Bl. Municipale, Ms. 125-128,
Songbook of Zegbere van Male, 1542)
Pax vivos et
Praise be to God
Praise be to God,
peace to the living and
rest for the departed. Amen.
Ach Vlaendere vrie
vrie hedel aert
Zo ziis tu noch,
maer te di waert
menich fel serpent.
Du wes omtrent
werstu van herte
Vlaendre, wat let dy.
Oh Flanders Free
Oh Flanders free and
noble in nature,
You were famous in
and you are famous
though many an evil
snake bears you ill.
You have long been
wronged in so many ways,
Oh Flanders, what
Busnoys (c. 1430-1492)
Et habitavit in
The word was made
And it lived among
(Ebreo da Pesaro? c.
Falla con misuras
Johannes Ockeghem (c. 1410-1497)
Ma maistress et ma plus grant amye,
De man desir la martelle ennemye,
Parfaicte en biens s'onques maiz
le fut femme,
Celle seulle de qui court bruit fame
D'estre sans per, ne vous verray je mye?
Helas, de vous bien plaindre me devroie,
S'il ne vous plaist que brefvement voye,
M'amour, par qui d'aultre aymer n'ay puissance.
Car sans vous voir; en quelque part que soye,
Tout ce que voys me desplaist et ennoye,
Ne jusque'alors je n'auray souffisance
My mistress and best friend,
mortal enemy of my desires,
faultless in character if e'er woman was,
you the praised and glorified one,
you alone are beyond compare,
but may I not behold you?
Ah, I should have the right to complain
if you wish to see me but briefly,
my love, because of whom I can love no other
For if I cannot see you, anywhere
nothing pleases me.
No matter where I am, nothing moves me.
D'ung aultre amer
D'ung aultre amer man cuer s'abesseroit.
Il ne fault ja penser que je l'estrange,
Ne que pour rien de ce propos me change,
Car mon honneur en appeseroit.
Je l'aime tant
que jamais ne seroit
Possible à moi de
To love another
My heart would demean itself if it would love another.
It is unthinkable that I dismiss him from my heart
or that I should ever have a change of heart,
for my honour would be tarnished
I love him so dearly that it will never be possible
to allow a new love into my heart.
Bacco, Bacco e u
Bacchus, Bacchus e u
Josquin des Prez (c.
El grillo è buon
Che tiene longo
Dale bene grillo
El grillo, è buon
Ma non fa come
gli altri uccelli,
Come li han
cantato un poco,
Van' de fatto in
Sempre el grillo
sta pur saldo.
Quando la maggior
Alhor canta sol
The cricket is a
who keeps at it.
Sing the notes in
the cricket is a
But he is not like
for when they have
sung a little,
they move to a
but the cricket
always stands firm.
And at the hottest
time of day
he only sings for
the love of it.
Heinrich Isaac (c.
Innsbruck, ich muss
muss dich lassen,
ich far dahin
in fremde land
Mein freud ist
die ich nit weis
wo ich im elend
Gross leid muss
ich yetz tragen,
das ich allein
Ach lieb, nun
lass mich armen
im hertzen dein
das ich muss von
Mein trost ob
dein thu ich ewig
stet treu, der
nun muss dich
in aller tugendt
biss das ich
Innsbruck, I must
Innsbruck, I must
I am on my way
to foreign lands.
I am robbed of my
and I know not where
I shall find it
when I am so
Now I must mourn
and can only confide
in my dearest love.
Oh my love, have
on wretched me
for I must go away!
My comfort above all
I shall always be
ever loyal, ever
Now the Lord must
and preserve your
until I return!
Anon. (Paris, Bibl.
Nat., Ms. Rés Vm7, 676,1502)
Laputa ve sa che
Coma el mondo e ben
De madamas in
Che ne pieno il
Duchis conteses e
La gnao gnao.
De mi nobis
Io son fora de
Per lo infantos
E los contes de
De mia casa mi
Monami se vat
Man signor un ben
Non ne fa si base
Se meo fatis un
Nos faron la gnao
(This text is a
mixture of Italian. Spanish, French and coined words)
little shepherd, guardian sweet,
this little woman
knows what you desire;
for the world is
by women of
the world is full of
Dukes, counts and
all these gentlemen
make use of ladies
for their pleasure.
Sad am I without
my lady daughter
I had to leave my
because of the
Infantes of Castile.
And the counts of
chased me from my
My friend, if you
I will dance a
my lord, a good
does nothing but
If you gave me
we will enjoy
Josquin des Prez
Kyrie (Missa 'La sol fa re mi')
Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy
Josquin des Prez
Guillaume se va
Auprès de la
A ung petit
Qui ne fait point
Gllillaume goes and
Guillaume goes and
at the hearth
before a small fire
which does not
Roy. Libr., Ms. 288,
Album de Marguerite
d'Autriche, c. 1430)
par touttes nations,
Deul assamblez et
Plus ne querez
De' Orpheus pour
Ains vous plongez
Sorrowful hearts in
unite in wailing and
No longer choose
Orpheus's melodious lyre
because you are
but succumb to
(Sevilla, Bibl. Colombina, Ms, 5-1-43, c. 1430)
Philippe Basiron (15th century)
D'ung aultre amer/Lhome arme
Pastime with good
Pastime with good
I love and shall
unto I die;
Gruch so will but
So God be pleas'd
so live will I;
For my pastance,
Hunt, sing and
My heart is set,
to my comfort,
All goodly sport:
Who shall me let?
Youth must have
Of good or ill
Company me thinks
All thoughts and
fancies to digest,
Is chief mistress
Of vices all:
Then who can say
But mirth and
Is best of all?
is virtue, vice,
Company is good
But every man
hath his free will.
The best ensue
The worst eschew,
My mind shall be
Virtue to use,
Vice to refuse,
Thus shall I use
Tielman Susato (c,
Medio/Den iersten gallarde
Philippe Verdelot (1470/80-pre 1552)
Ogn'hor per voi sospiro
Ogn'hor per voi sospiro Donna,
poi ch'io non oso a discoprire
Mia fe e 'I mio martire,
Et so che voi scorgete
Ben mille volt' il giorn' il mio dolore
Ma pur cosi volete,
Che consumando vad' a poc' a poco
Tacendo in amoroso fuoco.
Every hour I yearn for yon
Every hour I yearn for you, Lady,
because I dare reveal nothing
of my loyalty and my torment.
And I know that although you discern
my pain a thousand times a day,
it is your wish
that it gradually burn away,
silenced in the fire of love.
Pierre de La Rue (c. 1460-1518)
Mijn hert altijt heeft verlangben
Mijn hert altijt heeft verlanghen
Naer u die alderliefste mijn.
U lifde heeft mij ontfanghen,
U eyghen vrij will ick zijn,
Voor alde weerelt ghemeente.
Soe wie dat hoort oft ziet,
Hebdy mijn herte alleene.
Daerom lief en begheeft mij niet.
My Heart is always desireous
My heart is always desireous
of you, my dearest.
Your love has accepted me,
your own I want to be,
for all the world.
So whoever hears or sees it,
you alone have my heart,
Therefore love me and leave me not.
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Oh Flanders Free: Music of the Flemish Renaissance