Mais voyez mon cher esmoy
George de la Hèle (1547-86)
Le Rossignol musical … , 1598, Phalèse
Another of my own transcriptions, and another 5-voice song. It’s the only Ronsard song we have from the pen of George de la Hèle – and indeed the ONLY song we have from his pen. De la Hèle was one of those unfortunate composers whose works have disappeared not just into obscurity but into ashes: he was a well-regarded pupil of Manchicourt, and became master of royal chapel of Philip II in Madrid in his early thirties, where most of his prolific output perished in the fire of 1734. What we are left with consists of a handful of scraps and a book of 8 Masses he commissioned Plantin to print (Plantin insisted de la Hèle buy 40 copies himself to make the project viable, though generously charged him only 16 florins a copy instead of 18!) The ‘scraps’ are 2 motets, and this song.
The song survives because it was printed by Phalèse in a small selection of Ronsard-song within his Rossignol musical – for which it was selected because of its fame after it won first prize at the prestigious Puy song-contest of Evreux (the ‘Puy de musique d’Evreux’) in 1576. The winner was named Prince of the Puy – and the event has been revived in recent years as the ‘Puy neuf d’Evreux’, with composers challenged to write a piece on a text used in the renaissance to win the title once again of Prince of the Puy.
The song itself is quite self-consciously sophisticated (and, as you can see, long!), but nonetheless attractive. Note the long notes on ‘angelicque face’, and the runs on ‘jouissance’ etc – madrigalian word-painting in the Italian style. Sadly, it has never been recorded by singers, though I have a recording of the first part only played by an ‘alta capella’ consort of ‘loud’ instruments such as might have entertained the crowds at the Puy d’Evreux. The extract runs from the top of p4 of the score (“vostre front et voz cheveux” in the contra) to around bar 43 at the foot of the next page.
A couple of other facts about the composer: after his early success he died young, before he was 40, for reasons unknown; but not before he had married a lady apparently named Madelena Guabaelaraoen (I imagine she was quite pleased to swap surnames…!)
For your reference and enjoyment, here are the original pages from the Rossignol musical, as made freely available by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France on its Gallica website.