Evaluation of the repertory

Dating and function

Comments on Hand B’s last entries




General Index of music editions
by first line
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Other editions and papers on this site:

Copenhagen Chansonnier

Complete Works of Gilles Mureau

Amiens MS 162 D

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen

Papers on

Basiron’s chansons
Busnoys & scibes PDF
Chansons in Fa-clefs
Chansoner på nettet
Fede, Works
Dulot’s Ave Maria
Open access 15th c.
MS Florence 2794


Evaluation of the repertory

In evaluating the contents of the manuscript we must confine ourselves to the entries of the three main scribes – Hands A, B and C. These make up a total of 62 compositions (nos. 1-57, 65-69 and possibly no. 71 – the incomplete superius part no. 51 is not counted). Three-part French chansons form a very large proportion of this repertory; no less than 42 compositions belong to this group. Only six chansons are in four parts (two canon chansons by Dufay and Ninot le Petit, nos. 5 and 41; two chansons of homage to the King, nos. 4 and 12; and two homorhythmic settings of popular tunes, nos. 32 and 33); one last chanson, no. 42, is in two parts. Not surprisingly, these 49 chansons can be divided by other criteria into two equally large groups: one group consisting of 23 songs in formes fixes: rondeaux (nos. 1-3, 5, 7-10, 14-18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 28, 31, 39 and 53) and bergerettes (nos. 6 and 67); and a second group consisting partly of settings of popular tunes and partly of songs which exhibit the freer formulation of this tradition. The repertory further includes one motet-chanson (no. 45), one Italian song (no. 46) and three compositions without text which are probably instrumental pieces (two in three parts, nos. 13 and 65, and the monophonic dance tune La gasquona, no. 71).

The Latin repertory does not take up much space in the manuscript; apart from the two small motets by Obrecht and Prioris, nos. 30 and 56, which appear frequently in chansonniers, it consists of a contrafactum, no. 11 – »Benedicite dominus nos« appears in the chansonnier Dijon, Bibliothèque Municipale, Ms. 517,ff. 52v-53 with a complete rondeau cinquain “La plus dolente qui soit née” as text –, three provincial three-part motets, nos. 54, 55 and 57, an incomplete copy without text of Brumel’s »Magnificat VI toni« for four voices (no. 40) and the very interesting two-part »Kirie-Langentibus in purgatorio« (no. 66), a simple, retrospective prayer for the deceased.

Of the original repertory’s 62 compositions, no less than 43, or 69%, can be identified either from concordances or with the aid of the information in the manuscript itself. The dominant composers are Loyset Compère, Hayne van Ghizeghem and Antoine de Févin, each of whom is represented by six pieces. Alexander Agricola and Robert Morton have two each, and a large number of composers appear with a single piece each: Dufay, Binchois, Caron, Josquin, Isaac, Obrecht, Brumel, Mouton, Ninon Le Petit, Prioris and Antoine Riche [Divitis], as well as the totally unknown Jehan Mire and Bride.

The pattern traced out by this information seems familiar from the slightly later French manuscript Cop 1848. In fact it greatly resembles a larger-scale version of the principles for the selected repertories, the ‘sales repertories’ in Cop 1848 (cf. Christoffersen 1994, Vol. I, Chapter 4.1). The emphasis on three-part chansons, more or less equally divided between songs in the courtly tradition and more popularly oriented songs, is characteristic, as is the inclusion, for the sake of variety, of a few items from other genres; only the two long Latin compositions, nos. 40 and 66, fall outside this pattern. The composer generations covered by the repertory are also the same as in the series in Cop 1848; they range from composers who were active in the mid-fifteenth century, like Dufay, Binchois and Caron, over the great names of the last quarter of the century, to composers active in the first decade of the sixteenth century, like Ninot Le Petit, Mouton and above all Antoine de Févin.

These remarks assume that one can see the original repertory in Uppsala 76a as a whole. If we look at the work of the individual main scribes, the picture is quite different. Only four compositions (nos. 1-4) are left in the fascicle that Hand A copied. These are three rondeaux from the period before 1490 and a »Vive le roy«, probably in four parts, which should probably be seen as much as a drinking song as a homage to the King. Hand B’s repertory is better preserved; he filled four whole fascicles (with nos. 5-34) and also entered the two long sacred compositions (no. 40 and no. 66) later in the manuscript. In the large unified group of 30 compositions entered by Hand B, the songs in formes fixes dominate as in Hand A’s section (18 chansons are of this type) and six other compositions – a popular song (no. 21), two free chansons (nos. 24 and 29; both are possibly based on a pre-existing melody), one contrafactum (no. 11), one motet (no. 30) and a textless piece (no. 13) – are closely related to this group. In Hand B’s work we find only two examples (nos. 26 and 27) of the three-part popular arrangements which were so widespread in the period around the turn of the century. Finally there are some very provincial settings of popular tunes (nos. 32-34) and a four-part »Vive le roy« (no. 12). Hand C’s work (nos. 35-39, 43-57, 65 and 67-69) fills the pages between Hand B’s entries. Among the 24 compositions he entered, the ratio of the courtly to the popular repertory is completely reversed. The three-part popular chansons and a simple strophic song make up a group of thirteen compositions. The songs in formes fixes are represented only by one motet-chanson and a bergerette by Compère (nos. 45 and 67) as well as two unusual items: No. 53 »Gardez vous bien de ce faveau« by Agricola is the only known example of as through-composed rondeau from the period just before 1500, and no. 39 »Pensez de faire garnison« must be one of the shortest rondeau settings ever – only sixteen brevis measures including repetition of the last phrase; and it sounds exactly like a popular arrangement. Beyond this, Hand C’s contribution consists of a frottola and an instrumental piece (nos. 46 and 65) and a series of four small motets (nos. 54-57). It is thus only the interplay of the three different copyists that makes the repertory of Uppsala 76a so resemble the repertory structure of the various parts of Cop 1848.