This is a ‘double-first’ post! It’s the very first setting ever published of a Ronsard poem; and it’s the very first time I’ve tried (I hope successfully) to transcribe my own ‘edition’ from the original 16th century part-books.
On 5th July 1552 Nicolas du Chemin published his 10th book of songs; among the settings by well-known names like Arcadelt, Janequin and Goudimel was one setting by “M.A.Muret” – whom we can probably quite safely identify with Ronsard’s friend, commentator and fellow-humanist Marc Antoine de Muret. This song therefore pre-dates the publication later in 1552 of the Amours with its musical supplement.
[Some writers have indicated that there is an even earlier setting, by Goudimel, from 1550: Comte & Laumonier’s late-19th century review of the sixteenth century Ronsard settings made reference to a setting in du Chemin’s 5th book. This has been picked up and repeated (even by a a writer of the quality of Gilbert Gadoffre in the late 1980s) without re-checking. Yet Tiersot, in the 1920s, sounded the warning note: he could not access all the incredibly-rare original books (mostly now available online!), but even while including the reference on the authority of Comte & Laumonier, he pointed out that he had tracked down another bibliography (by Robert Eitner), which mentioned a song in du Chemin’s 6th – not 5th – book by Goudimel on the text «Qui veult sçavoir qu’elle est m’amie», rather than the Ronsardian «Qui veut sçavoir Amour et sa nature». It is not unusual to find songs with openings that sound like Ronsard, but whose poems then diverge rapidly. With the internet at our service, it is simple to confirm that Tiersot’s intuition was right, that the 1550 Ronsard setting does not exist, and that Muret has priority.]
Below I have shown the original parts from the part-books and my transcription of them. It took me a long while to get the parts lined-up right in score – I struggle to imagine singers simply sight-reading their parts off the books and getting it right, but no doubt with practice I will get better too…
Ma petite colombelle
Marc Antoine de Muret (1526-1585)
Dixiesme livre, contenant xxvi. chansons nouvelles…, published by Nicolas du Chemin, 1552
Though an early setting and by a non-musician, Muret’s work shows the same level of skill as Bertrand or Boni – other humanist scholars, rather than professional musicians – would do later in the century. Indeed Gilbert Gadoffre, famous professor of French literature in general and Ronsard in particular, thought it “infinitely superior to those which Chardavoine and Claireau would later publish”.
Thankfully for a new editor, Muret steers clear of chromaticism! I’ve ventured only one editorial accidental and even that is probably not necessary as it’s a passing note.
The recording is a small extract from the middle of the piece; the Egidius Kwartet choose to open their CD with this setting, which I think is highly appropriate.
Here are the original parts – ‘snipped’ from the volume so helpfully published on the Gallica website. On each page, Muret’s song occupies the top half while another piece by Gervaise fills the second half of the page.