A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Genet, Eleazar

1504536A Dictionary of Music and Musicians — Genet, EleazarJames Robert Sterndale-Bennett

GENET, Eleazar, also called Carpentras, after the French town in which he was born, was priest, singer, and composer, attached to the papal court in the time of Leo X. He was made a bishop in 1518, and was soon afterwards sent by the Pope on a mission to Avignon, where he seems to have spent the rest of his life. He once revisited Rome, and during his stay there his 'Lamentations' for Holy Week were performed by his former colleagues. Struck by many defects, he made considerable alterations in his work, had a magnificent copy made, which is still preserved in the Pontifical Chapel, and wrote a dedication to Clement VII, who was Pope at the time. Of detached pieces by Genet in the various collections of the time, we know very few. Two motets from the 1st and 3rd books the 'Motetti della Corona' (Petrucci, Fossombrone, 1514), 2 psalms from the 'Psalmorum Selectonun Tom.II.' (Petreius, Nuremberg 1539), and a few two-part motets printed by Gardane in 1543, a slender legacy, if in truth these been all the works—and they were very nearly being all—that were to come to us; for Genet's position and the powerful patronage he enjoy made him independent of the usual collections and publishers, and enabled him to bring out his works in an exceptional way, which almost resulted in their being lost to posterity. It was only a few years ago that a copy, the only one known at present, of 4 splendid volumes, printed by De Channay for Genet at Avignon, was found in the Imperial Library at Vienna. These books are remarkable for being the first to introduce Briard's new types, in which the notes are round instead of square and diamond shaped, and, what is much more important, ligatures are abandoned, and the complicated system in which the same notes have different meanings at different times gives place to a simple method, such as we use at present, in which the notes bear at all times a fixed ratio to each other. This improvement, first introduced in the publication of Genet's works, may, we think, be fairly attributed to his suggestion. Of the 4 volumes the 1st contains 5 Masses—'Se mieulx ne vient,' 'A l'ombre d'un buissonet,' 'Le cœur fut mien,' 'Forseulement,' and 'Encore iray je jouer.' The 2nd volume contains Hymns for the principal church festivals of the year, the 3rd, Lamentations, and the 4th a collection of Magnificats. The composer, who cared so little for a wide popularity in his life-time, and wrote with the learned musicians of the Papal Chapel in his mind's eye rather than the general public, who scorned the popular editions and published his works for a chosen few, does not belie his character in the works themselves. We have in them music that appeals to serious and learned musicians alone. Solemn and dignified, the bishop-musician writes as if from his episcopal throne, unbending and severe in style, but appealing not in vain to the sympathy of his Roman colleagues, who indeed valued so highly and cherished so long the works he gave them, that 50 years after his death nothing less than the special command of Pope Sixtus IV could shake their firm adherence to the 'Lamentations' of Genet or cause them to recognise in place of them those of the popular Palestrina. Much of Genet's music was written in the short intervals of comparative health allowed him by an agonising complaint which attacked him in the ears and brain, was beyond the experience of his physicians, and embittered the last years of his life.