Sermisy/Fuenllana • Tant que vivray

Vihuela (3)The chanson Tant que vivray, first published in Pierre Attaignant’s first collection of Chansons Nouvelles (1528) is in some ways a perfect example of Claudin de Sermisy’s (c.1490-1562) so-called Parisian style. He actively sought the best and most refined of current French poetry to set; in this case, as in over 20 others, he chose verses by the estimable court poet Clément Marot (1496-1544).

Unlike the bulk of French love poetry, Tant que vivray describes not an unhappy love, but rather a fulfilled one. Sermisy’s setting, likewise, gracefully follows his best conventions: short phrases lead to obvious and clearcut cadences, simple homophonic textures obtain between the voices throughout and an elegant melody, one that easily lodges in the listener’s ear. Repetition of its final phrases closes the song on a satisfying note. Unlike the majority of Sermisy’s music, which was forgotten soon after his death, Tant que vivray lived on, being reprinted several times.

Vocal polyphony had a strong influence on the works of Spanish vihuelist Miguel de Fuenllana (c.1500-1579). He was probably the one that was most dedicated to the imitative style and counterpoint influenced by the Flemish masters. He admits that if there is a “certain air of composition” in his fantasias, it is only because he had known and played a great deal of works “by excellent composers”. Confirming this last statement, Fuenllana’s Orpénica Lyra (1554) contains the largest number of intabulaciones of the whole corpus of music for vihuela known today, with works by Flemish, French, Italian and Spanish composers. He was also a master in writing idiomatically for the instrument. This can be seen in his glosa of Sermisy’s Tant que vivray, where he transforms a vocal piece into and explicitly instrumental one through the use of ornamental scales.


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