Jean Maillard, Ascendo ad Patrem

October 22, 2011

I’ve said it before, but I feel honoured to be in a position to be exploring the voices/viols literature. As instrumentalists it’s easy for us to shut ourselves in with instrumental versions of choral music. With a lot of ingenuity it’s possible to underlay the Main Singing Part under the remaining parts as well for a whole new experience of optional singing while playing.

I’m currently following up a line of enquiry originating with the Dow Partbooks (Christ Church, Mus, MSS 984-88). Viol players with any experience will be familiar, in one way or another, with the works by the English composers represented in the collection. Given the importance of the anthology, many have probably played the pieces without knowing their origin – just about all have been published in modern editions. The Dow Partbooks are renowned for the clarity of the calligraphy and are an excellent introduction in playing direct from partbooks in terms of the Tudor repertoire; some of us have gained similar insights in playing from facsimiles of the early printed editions of English songs.

I can’t say I’m quite ready to play in consort direct from the Dow partbooks. so I’m leaning on modern editions to give me a context. I was intrigued by the 10% or so of the pieces in the parbooks from Continental Europe: a small number of pieces by Orlando di Lasso, Philippe Van Wilder, Giacomo Fogliano and Vincenzo Ruffo.  There’s also a five-park work (the partbooks are an a5 collection) by an unknown French composer by the name of Jean Maillard or Maillart. Not surprisingly, there are several by this name in France at the time. We have though a picture of a widely-published composer, certainly by the French musical publishing companies of the day (Moderne in Lyons and Attaignant in Paris); his work was also copied out in ultra-Catholic Spain after the French had published him. About a third of his extant motets are for five voices, thus linking him in terms of texture to the Dow partbooks; flourishing about 1538 to 1570 puts him a little before the Dow partbooks were written out in 1551-1588 – the latter date being the time of the Spanish Armada. I’m not confident about why his Ascendo might have ended up in the Dow partbooks, but having looked at Allen Garvin’s modern edition, newly uploaded to Werner Icking’s Music Archive, I like the part writing and I like to think the players of the period would have appreciated the tumbling, rolling happiness of the piece. There is a certain deftness in the use of tied notes and the extended ending, the final bars, fits into a conception of English style. it starts well for English players enamoured of church bells, and ends well: those two things already put in a preferred class of music. In order to get greater familiarity with the musical conventions used by Dow, I have to know compare Garvin’s edition with the original partbook.

Regarding the text of Ascendo in Patrem (the Dow partbooks are textless), I’ve found that used by Palestrina in 1609:

Ascendo ad patrem meum et patrem vestrum, alleluia.

Deum meum et Deum vestrum, alleluia.

Et dum assumptus fuero a vobis mittam vobis Spiritum veritatis

et gaudebit et gaudebit cor vestrum, alleluia.

Ego rogabo Patrem et alium Paracletum dabit vobis

Spiritum veritatis et gaudebit et gaudebit cor vestrum, alleluia.

The Maillard piece certainly reflects the joy of this text. Harmonically it’s not overly brave, but the interplay of parts, the solid part-writing is fetching.


In me transierunt, a4

One of my next tasks is to look at this four-part work by Mailalrd, edited in a modern edition from a German anthology (they seemed to have liked Maillard beyond France). The edition has text underly for all the parts:

Dignare me laudare te

Domine salvum fac

In me transierunt

Praeparate corda vestra.


Missa Je suis desheritee

Also, in a rather different vein, I’ve looked today at one of his masses, this one mainly in four parts (though some sections it drops to two). The Agnus Dei starts in four parts (section 1) but finishes in six (an extra bass is added, for example, and there’s a lot of imitation between the two bass parts). Judging from the Rosenstock edition, Institute of Mediaeval Studies (Ottawa, Canada), if the music was put up on a music stand with no indication that it came from a Mass 9e.g. with the original French text underlay of the chanson from which it was developed), players would think it merely a somewhat elaborate song. It needs to go at a sunny, reasonably brisk pace. I need to have a look at the Kyrie. Different commentators point to different sections of this mass as close to the original chanson, leaving me a bit confused. The Agnus Dei has however left me with a clear notion of the melodic line of the original song. I need to look at more chanson-derived Masses – the music certainly seems to be more “popular” than “religious”.

The text of the original chanson goes as follows:

             Je suis déshéritée,

Puisque j’ai perdu mon ami.

Seullet’ il m’a laissée,

Pleine de pleurs et de souci.

Rossignol du bois joli,

Sans point faire demeurée,

Va t‘en dire à mon ami

Que pour lui suis tourmentée.

And here’s an English translation by Dick Wursten,

I’m broke,

because I lost my friend.

He left me, now I’m alone,

full of tears and sorrow.

Nightingale in the woods

go immediately

and tell my friend’

tha I’m tormented for his sake.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: