Evaluation of the repertory

Dating and function

Comments on Hand B’s last entries




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Comments on Hand B’s last entries

As mentioned in the discussion of the dating and function of the manuscript the last entries made by the three main scribes were some chansons (nos. 32-34 and 41-42), which Hand B copied after the contributions of Hand C. This small subsection of the MS is published in its entirety in the music edition. Some of the songs may be of Hand B’s own composition or products of the local milieu. Their compositional technique is quite simple but their sound probably accorded well with the most recent taste.

Three of the songs are in four parts. They are the very simple and effective setting of »Adieu Soulas« (no. 33), the tune of which is also found in the chansonnier in a three-part setting by Antoine de Fevin (c. 1470-1511/12; no. 38, ed. Brown 1963b, pp. 161-162), and the just as effective defamation of False Love and women, »Faulces Amours« (no. 32), in which the tune in the upper voice is for the most part accompanied by chord repetitions in the other voices – its text was recopied on the last pages of the MS by a later user of the MS. The double canon »Pourtant si mon amy« (no. 41) by Ninot le Petit (fl. c. 1500) is in its way just as simple; it consists of a four-part imitative opening, quite basic in construction, followed by two different continuations, which is repeated four times. Characteristic of all three settings is the restricted range of their melodic material. Especially nos. 32-33 seem to be closely related through their F major tunes rising to the third degree, turning around the fourth before cadencing on the final or an intermediate step.

The three-part »Helas madame« (no. 34) starts with a similar melodic formula in the voice copied into the position of the upper voice. The same is found in a previously entered composition with the same text incipit (no. 26, also copied by Hand B). These songs on the theme »Helas madame« may both to some degree be related to the two-part song »Dame venez moy secourir« (no. 42), which Hand B entered on ff. 42v-43. The first section of this song (bb. 1-17) sets a tune “Puisque de vous me fault partir”, which is preserved in the monophonic chansonnier, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, ms. 12744 (c. 1500, cf. Kraft 2009, p. 112), ff. 66v-67. In the two-part setting the upper voice presents the tune rather straightforward. However, the text is not the song's first stanza, but its third stanza according to Paris 15744, where it starts with the words “Dame veuillez moy obeir”. In a version of this poem, which was printed in the collection S'ensuivent plusieurs Belles chansons nouvelles. Et sont en nombre. iiii,xx, et dix, which Brian Jeffery dates to Paris early in the period 1512-25, most probably 1512-15 (cf. Jeffery 1971, pp. 39-40), this stanza appears as stanza 5 (lines 28-31, ed. Jeffery 1971, pp. 57-59 as no. 12 in the collection). Here the stanza is preceded by an interpolation, which does not appear in Paris 12744, “Helas, ma dame, tant me donnez de paine ...”; (lines 17-27). In the Uppsala two-voice setting the interpolation makes up the text in bars 17-57. A pre-existent tune may form the basis for this section too, freely paraphrased. It is easy to hear that the upper voice in bars 28-34 has a tune remarkably alike the formula in the songs mentioned above, here transposed to C.

It is highly remarkable to find a composition, which starts out as a setting of a strophic popular song, the format of the song in Paris 12744, turns out to be trough-composed setting of one of the song's stanzas expanded with a long interpolation published as an integral part of the poem in one of the earliest prints of popular verse, roughly contemporary with Hand B's last activities in the Uppsala MS.

The two settings bearing only the text incipit “Helas madame” are clearly vocal in concept (nos. 26 and 34), both exhibiting lots of note repetitions demanding a text. For no. 26 the four lines “Helas madame ... demeynent” from the second section of no. 42 fit the music perfectly, if the last line is repeated (see the edition). No. 34 is more difficult. The lines “Helas madame ... mourir” fit the first section bars 1-11 just as perfectly, and it is possible to fit words from the poem's continuation to the two next sections, but not in the same obvious way, and the text distrinution becomes rather uncertain. Moreover, in no. 34 the voice copied in the position of the tenor on the pages seems to be the principal voice in the composition, and it has a different tune, more like the tenor of no. 33 »Adieu Soulas«. The two upper voices are in the same tenor range with the “Tenor” as the highest sounding voice in most instances, but still the “Superius” has the most distinct melodic profile in the “Helas madame”-tradition.

The tradition of setting “Helas madame” has far older roots than these pieces, which probably were relatively recent when copied into Uppsala 76a. The chansonnier in Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, MS 2356 from 1480s contains a four-part “Helas madame” (ff. 80v-82, also with text incipit only in all sources). This song is in another Florentine source, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS Magl. 178, is ascribed to “Josquin Depres”, and it appears in a – probably original – three-part version (for a list of sources, see Fallows 1999, pp. 178-179). It is a very long composition in D Dorian (143 brevis-bars), which very well could paraphrase an older version of the melodic material of the younger settings. Especially the long section following bar 45 (cf. the edition in Brown 1983, Vol. 2, pp. 376-382) has a lot of interplay between the voices on short figures consisting of a semibrevis-rest followed by semibrevis- and brevis-notes, which demand many repeats of two-syllable words, and of course point to a possible relation to Uppsala 76a no. 26, bars 13-30, which exhibit similar figures matching the words “mille regrez” so well. (1)

1) David Fallows mentions in his recent Josquin book the attempt of Basil Smallman to text the Josquin setting with precisely the lines from »Dame venez moy secourir« (as printed in Jeffery 1971), cf. Fallows 2009, p. 48, n. 75 (I have not seen Smallman’s text). Fallows’ reservations concerning the use of this text may eventually be dispelled if a text could be informed by the »Helas madame” no. 26 in Uppsala 76a.