Clément Janequin

(c.1485 - 1558)

French composer. Janequin early entered sacred orders. Antico included three of his pieces in the Chansons a troys of 1520, and Attaingnant printed a whole collection of Janequin in 1528. (He was to devote two other prints to the composer subsequently and one to Janequin and Passereau together.) Active at Bordeaux in 1529; in one of his pieces, Chantons, sonnons, trompetes, he provided a welcome-song for the occasion when, in 1530, Francis I's sons returned to France from Spain, where they had been held as pledges of their father's fidelity to the treaty of Madrid. Beginning shortly thereafter, Janequin held successive posts in Anjou, including that of maître of the choir school of the Cathedral of Angers. Subsequently he enjoyed the protection of the first Cardinal of Lorraine, Jean de Guise (d. 1550)—the too worldly but generous patron of Erasmus, Marot, and Rabelais. By 1548, apparently owing to the good offices of Charles de Ronsard, brother of the poet, Janequin had become curate of Unverre (near Chartres), but he lived in Paris. From ca. 1555 he was also under the protection of François, Duke of Guise, nephew of the Cardinal mentioned above. In certain works, Janequin celebrates victories of the duke. In 1555, the composer is described as "singer in ordinary of the King's Chapel," and thereafter he became "composer in ordinary" to the king, apparently being the first musician to hold this title in France. In 1559 he mourns, in a dedication, his "age and Poverty"; he died ca. 1560. Whether he was poor or not, his fame and popularity were extraordinarily widespread. This is attested to by the numerous imitations and instrumental transcriptions of his chansons that appear in contemporary French, German, and Italian publications, notably of La Guerre (= La Bataille de Marignan). Susato, in his Dixiesme Livre (1545), published a version with a fifth part added by Verdelot. Janequin's program music is by no means limited to martial activities, as is shown by such titles as Le Chant des oiseaux, Le Caquet des femmes, La Chasse, Les Cris de Paris, etc.

The Renaissance liking for realistic tone-painting, evident in varying degrees of naiveté and effectiveness in both vocal and instrumental music, appears in a distinctive manner in the program chansons of Clément Janequin. However, while recognizing the boldness of Janequin's "magnifique fresque sonore," we should remember that programmatic effects were not really new to music; nor did they fail to be present, though perhaps to a less striking degree, in other works of the period.

Janequin's large chanson production—286 examples survive—was not limited to program pieces or even to the chordal type. In fact, he treated many phases of the chanson and has left us numerous graceful works in more conventional style, such as Si j'ai esté vostre amy (which contains a canon, almost throughout, between superius and tenor), Qu'est-ce d'amour (one of several settings of poems by Fran¸ois I himself), Tu as tout seul (with text by Marot), Pour quoy tournés vous vos yeux (with text by Ronsard; in this work binary rhythm is delightfully varied by short passages in ternary rhythm), Ce moys de mai, and Au joly jeu. Of all Attaingnant's composers, Janequin is the only one who not only set an Italian text but did so in madrigal style.

A Partial Clément Janequin Discography | IVI: The French Chanson