Je ne veux plus que chanter
François Roussel (c1525-c1580)
Treziesme Livre de Chansons … , Le Roy & Ballard 1559
One of the earlier prints to include a Ronsard text, Le Roy & Ballard’s 13th book features one by Roussel. We shall meet Roussel again a couple of decades later when another of his songs is collected in a late edition of their 9th book; and with 2 songs from a book dedicated to his works, the “Chansons nouvelles …” of 1577, of which the full set of partbooks have come to light both in Madrid and Moscow. Roussel was in fact very prolific and dozens of songs, motets and masses by him exist. But he worked mainly in Rome (as Francesco Rosselli), apparently being taken there by Arcadelt as a boy soprano, so much of his work is in Italian forms such as the madrigal.
Having said that, this early work is hardly promising. It is chordal throughout, there is little variety in the voices, and I particularly dislike the way he sets “autrement” – it’s almost as if he’d counted two syllables, realised too late that he needed three, and simply split one of the notes. This gives him a dotted rhythm but exactly the same chord repeated in all voices: hardly an imaginative gesture. On the positive side, he maintains the triple rhythm but adjusts the speed of the piece in the second half by writing in shorter note-values, which works well.
He sets 4 lines of verse. Ronsard’s ode consists of 21 4-line stanzas. It’s hard to imagine singers maintaining their interest through 21 repetitions of this!
Others perhaps may feel differently. Apparently this was one of only 4 sixteenth-century songs chosen for performance at a ‘Ronsard concert’ in 1958 at the Maison Française in New York! (The others were Goudimel’s “Errant par les champs“, Costeley’s “Las, je n’eusse jamais“, and (perhaps inevitably) “Bonjour mon coeur” in the setting by Lassus.)
No commercial recording exists of the piece, though I believe the Flemish ensemble Zefiro Torna included it in some programmes and their performance may have been broadcast.