Francesco Canova da Milano (born probably in Monza, Italy, August 18, 1497; died January 2, 1543, location unknown) was one of the most celebrated musicians of the Italian Renaissance. He played and composed for the lute, and in reverence of his virtuosity, he became known as “Il Divino”, a nickname he shared with his illustrious elder contemporary, Michelangelo. His intabulation of the popular 16th century Parisian song Mon pere si ma Marie features some quite unusual meter changes and polyphonic interplay.
After being arrested as a boy for irreverently playing ball outside the cathedral of Notre Dame, Pierre Certon (born probably in Melun, France, c. 1510–1520; died in Paris, February 23,1572), later became deeply involved with the church throughout his adult life. He was also quite well-known for his motets and chansons spiritiuelles, but it was his secular chansons for which he gained popular acclaim. Je ne l’ose dire (one minute) is one of his most popular chansons. The title, “I shouldn’t tell you”, should be more like “I shouldn’t tell you, but I will anyway”, and portrays two women gossiping about a man who’s cheating on his wife.
During the 16th century, Josquin des Prez (born in the county of Hainaut, c. 1450; died in Condé-sur-l’Escaut [on border of France and Belgium], August 27, 1521) earned the reputation as the greatest composer of the age. With close to 400 works being attributed to him, Josquin composed both sacred and secular works that spanned all of the vocal forms, including masses, motets and chansons. Adieu mes Amours (Farewell my Loves) (Composed in 1480) was among his most popular secular chansons, and would be arranged and imitated by several of his contemporaries. Although the title may imply a love song, it is, actually, a song of despair and money woes, its lyrics bemoaning the fact that: “I have no more money. Shall I live on air, if the king’s money does not come more often?” Ah, the blues!
Pierre Passereau (flourished 1509–1547) was one of the most popular composers of "Parisian" chansons in the 1530s. Unlike Certon and Josquin, his output consisted almost exclusively of secular chansons, which were rustic in nature and frequently laden with obscenities. In his most popular song, Il est bel et bon (composed in 1534), two women chat and compare their husbands, and how they dutifully do their chores and feed the chickens, hence the rapid repeated notes imitating the clucking of chickens.
© 2016, William Kanengiser
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