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The Chansons of Orlando di Lasso: Music, Piety, and Print in Sixteenth-Century France. (Composers).

The Chansons of Orlando di Lasso: Music, Piety, and Print in Sixteenth-Century France. By Richard Freedman. (Eastman Studies in Music, 15.) Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2001. [xxiv, 259 p. ISBN 1-58046-075-5. $75.]

Richard Freedman points out at the beginning of this book that "Lasso's chansons were among the most widely circulated and beloved musical works of sixteenth-century Europe" (p. xiii). The book's subject, however, is not simply Lasso's chansons but also their reception by French Protestants. The Huguenots, like other listeners throughout Europe, found Lasso's music highly expressive and inspirational, but the worldly, even ribald texts set in some of his chansons disturbed them deeply. In order to reconcile the music with their own theology and make the chansons acceptable to pious ears, Protestant publishers issued collections of Lasso's chansons with many of the texts "purified" for their readers. Three of these collections of contrafacta are at the center of Freedman's study: Thomas Vautrollier's Receuil du mellange d'Orlande (London, 1570), Jean Pasquier's Mellange d'Orlande de Lassus (La Rochelle, 1575 and 1576), and Simon Goulart's Thresor de musique d'Orlande ([Geneva], 1576, 1582, and 1594). These co llections were based primarily on the anthologies of Lasso's chansons published in Paris by Le Roy & Ballard and authorized by the composer, the Mellange d'Orlande de Lassus (1570) and its expanded reissue, Les meslanges d'Orlande de Lassus (1576).

The core of Freedman's study is contained in chapters 2-6, in which he examines over twenty chansons in considerable detail, comparing Lasso's original versions to the contrafacta, for all of which he supplies full texts and translations. Most of the discussions are accompanied by scores of the chansons, either complete or in substantial excerpts. He transcribed the scores from Le Roy & Ballard's collections with the original note values halved and the poetic texts included in each voice part. The contrafacta texts are given only under the bassus parts, sometimes with two such texts stacked beneath the original. This is a convenient method of presentation that, as Freedman says, avoids cluttering the score while allowing direct comparison of the original and the contrafacta, since the placement of the latter in the other voices is clear enough from what is shown in the bassus. The scores are cleanly printed and carefully edited.

The discussions of the chansons themselves are very perceptive. Freedman notes to begin with that not every chanson text was altered in the Protestant editions. For instance, the themes of Lasso's nature picture, "La nuict froide et sombre," were congruent with Calvinist thought, so Freedman needs only to provide his lucid analysis of how Lasso responds to the text. Indeed, his comments on the Lasso chansons themselves are some of the best parts of the book. Through most of the study, however, his aim is to compare Lasso's originals to the contrafacta. This process highlights the differences among the Protestant editors. Simon Goulart appears to have been much more imaginative than the others in emending and reshaping the original poems into new versions that remained congruent with Lasso's musical rhetoric while at the same time expressing Protestant values. This emerges in almost every comparison of the chansons that both Goulart and Pasquier reset. One notable example of Goulart's greater sensitivity is i n Lasso's two settings of "Ardant amour" for four and five voices, respectively. Pasquier printed the same contrafactum with both settings, while Goulart made a new text for each, responding to the differences between Lasso's originals.

In these central chapters Freedman considers topics such as the tradition of courtly love, which could readily be shifted into a spiritual dimension, and the poetry of Clement Marot and Pierre de Ronsard, each of which presented different challenges to the revisers. He then examines the structure of the books in which both the originals and the contrafacta were printed. A main point of interest here is the question of modal ordering. The Parisian editions of Lasso's Meslanges organized their contents so as to represent the eight modes in numerical order, the 1576 edition more rigorously than that of 1570. Pasquier's two books largely retained this ordering and Vautrollier ignored it. Goulart's 1576 collection groups the pieces only by signature and cleffing, not by final, the third component necessary for modal representation; his 1584 and 1592 reissues expand the 1576 book and place their contents in modal order. The difference between Goulart's order and that of the Parisian books is that Lasso and Adrian Le Roy both considered pieces with A as final to stand outside the system of eight modes. Goulart, on the other hand, assimilated them to modes 3 and 4. I would dispute Freedman's suggestion that Goulart thereby presents "a musical scheme that refines in important ways those of the models from which its contents were drawn" (p. 163). I am not convinced that forcing pieces in A into the category of modes 3 and 4 is a refinement. In a later section of this chapter Freedman considers the possibility that the ordering of Goulart's 1584 and 1592 collections may have spiritual significance. He cites parallel examples of modal cycles with similar intentions in other Protestant publications and also the cyclical character of spiritual writings and exercises that was common in the sixteenth century. Assigning such a meaning to Goulart's collections of Lasso contrafacta remains speculative, it seems, as Freedman frames all of his suggestions to that effect in the conditional or subjunctive.

The very few outright errors that I observed in the book all have to do with motet publications and are thus peripheral to the main subject. For instance, note 10 on page 233 states that Lasso's Penitential Psalms were composed as a set of seven works, to which the psalm-motet "Laudate Dominum de caelis" was added only when the cycle was first published in 1584. The psalm-motet, however, is included in the earliest source for the Penitential Psalms, Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Ms. Mus. A. Such minor flaws do not detract from Freedman's achievement in this hook. It is a major contribution to the history of French Protestant music and of considerable interest to students of Orlando di Lasso, deserving of space in any serious research collection on those subjects. Admirers of Lasso may regret so much attention to what might easily be regarded as distortions of his music, but the cantrafacta have their place in history, and Freedman has provided what appears to be a definitive study of them. Perhaps we may hope that in the future he will give us a study simply of Lasso's chansons, about which he is so well informed and perceptive.
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Author:Bergquist, Peter
Publication:Notes
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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