A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Jannequin, Clement

1519151A Dictionary of Music and Musicians — Jannequin, ClementJames Robert Sterndale-Bennett

JANNEQUIN, Clement, composer of the 16th century, by tradition a Frenchman, and one of the most distinguished followers, if not actually a pupil, of Josquin Després. There is no musician of the time of whose life we know less. No mention is made of his holding any court appointment or of his being connected with any church. We may perhaps guess that, like many other artists, he went in early life to Rome, and was attached to the Papal Chapel; for some of his MS. masses are said to be still preserved there, while they are unknown elsewhere. But he must soon have abandoned writing for the church, for among his published works two masses, 'L'aveugle Dieu' and 'La Bataille,' and a single motet 'Congregati sunt,' seem almost nothing by the side of more than 200 secular compositions. Later in life, it is true, he writes again with sacred words, but in a far different style, setting to music 82 psalms of David, and 'The Proverbs of Solomon' (selon la verité Hébraique), leading us to conjecture that he may have become, like Goudimel, a convert to the reformed church, as Fétis thinks, or that he had never been a Christian at all, but was of Jewish origin and had only written a few masses as the inevitable trials of his contrapuntal skill. But apart from these vague speculations, it is certain that Jannequin trod a very different path from his contemporaries. Practically confining himself to secular music, he exhibited great originality in the choice and treatment of his subjects. He was the follower of Gombert in the art of writing descriptive music, and made it his speciality. Among his works of this class are 'La Bataille,' written to commemorate and describe the battle of Marignan, fought between the French and Swiss in 1515, to which composition Burney has directed particular attention in his History, and which he has copied in his Musical Extracts (Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 11,588), 'Le chant des Oyseaux,' 'Le caquet des Femmes,' 'La chasse de liévre, Le chant du Rossignol,' and one containing imitations of the street cries of Paris—'Voulez ouyr les cris de Paris.' To those who would know how far it may be possible to reproduce these compositions at the present day, it will be a fact of interest that the first three of them were sung in Paris in 1828 under the direction of M. Choron and 'produced a surprising effect.' The Bataille was sung by pupils of the Conservatoire in a course of historical lectures by M. Bourgault Ducoudray, Dec. 26, 1878.

A second edition of some of Jannequin's works was published in Paris (according to Fétis) in the year 1559, and the composer must have been living at that time, for they were 'reveuz et corrigez par lui meme.'

In the same year, according to the same authority, Jannequin published his music to 82 psalms, with a dedication to the Queen of France, in which he speaks of his poverty and age. Old indeed he must have been, for the year after, 1560, Ronsard the poet, an amateur of music and intimately connected with the musicians of his time, in writing a preface for a book of chansons published by Le Roy & Ballard at Paris, speaks of Jannequin with reverence enough as one of Josquin's celebrated disciples, but evidently regards him as a composer of a bygone age.