In my introduction to the musical settings of Ronsard, I mentioned in passing the voix-de-ville or vaudeville, the popular songs which used (or re-used) Ronsard’s poems in a simple melodic line. When performed, there was presumably an improvised accompaniment. This is probably as close as we can get to the sort of singing of his poems that Ronsard speaks of in his verse, the poet or reader singing the words while creating a (simple, improvised?) lute accompaniment.
I hadn’t intended to say much more about them; but then I found a few transcribed so I thought it would be interesting to put them beside the ‘art song’ settings.
Naturally enough, such popular settings rarely survive. But in the 1570s Jehan Chardavoine published a collection. Scholars have been divided on whether he collected genuine tunes (which puts him a century ahead of the antiquarians who sought out and recorded aspects of the world around them in danger of disappearing; and several centuries ahead of the 20th century folksong collectos like Bartok and Vaughan Williams); or whether he composed his own tunes in a ‘folk-like’ style. In some ways, it doesn’t matter: as long as these tunes sounded like contemporary popular tunes people might hear in the street, then they give us a good idea of what these Ronsard poems might have sounded like when sung.
[It is probable that the ‘art songs’ would also have been sung as melodies with a lute accompaniment – taking the ‘superius’ (top line) of the setting, and playing the other three parts as an accompaniment on the lute. The songs with large homophonic sections would fit this style of performance easily, but we know from contemporary lute intabulations that polyphonic songs by the ‘greats’, with complex interweaving melodies, were also very popular.]
In these settings I’ve just set out the tune; inevitably there would have been several ‘verses’ sung, with more of the original poems in them, but I have not reproduced those additional texts.
Mignonne allons voir; Ma petite colombelle; Quand j’estois libre; Quand ce beau printemps je voy; Douce maistresse; Le petit enfant Amour; Las, je n’eusse jamais pensée
unknown! Though it might just be Chardavoine himself …
Recueil des plus belles et excellentes chansons en forme de Voix-de-ville, tirées de divers autheurs tant anciens que modernes, auxquelles a été nouvellement adaptée la musique de leurs chants communs, afin que chacun les puisse chanter en quelque lieu qu’il se trouvera tant de voix que sur les instruments by Jehan Chardavoine, 1576
(texts on recmusic.org/lieder site as linked above)
(playable scores here)
(Image of original score here)
(recorded extracts here and here.
I have used Tiersot’s transcriptions for the first five. EDIT: since discovering that Henry Expert’s work is still in copyright, I’ve re-edited the last two myself from the original source – and added copies of the pages too.
The first recorded extract is from an old LP by Hugues Cuénod, called “French Troubadour Songs”(!) which I found here though I’ve also seen it on YouTube. It is a version of ‘Quand ce beau printemps’ whose metre follows Chardavoine closely but whose melody is a little different. The second extract is a realisation of ‘Mignonne allons voir’ from a CD which is centred around Chardavoine’s book, and which (delightfully) uses the talents of a range of youngsters on instruments and voice, supplementing the professionals who do most of the work, in a way that reflects what Chardavoine might have intended! The CD is called Mignonne … allons voir, by The Muses’ Fellows.