“Qui la dira”

In 1605 the Venetian publisher Andrea Gardano brought out two books of keyboard music by Andrea Gabrieli (1533-1585) both of which include pieces which refer back to Clément Janequin. The first of these, Canzoni alla francese per sonar, sopra stromenti da tasti, tabulati dall’eccellentiss Andrea Gabrielli; gia organista in S. Marco di Veneti….Libro quinto (RISM 1605-18)[1] is unproblematic from the point of view of Janequin scholarship. Among the twelve virtuoso organ exercises in this “Fifth book” are two pieces based on Janequin’s chanson “Martin menoit” (LM60): nr. 3 is presented as “Martin menoit, Di Ianequin A4” (“Martin menoit” by Janequin for four voices) and nr. 4 is entered as “Ricercar sopra Martin menoit” (Ricercar based on “Martin menoit”.) Published as a chanson by Attaingnant first in 1535, Janequin’s frisky account of a pig and his peasants on their way to market was one of his more well-travelled efforts and in addition to multiple adaptations for lute was reprinted in chanson format by Antonio Gardano in Venice in 1538 and again in 1548.

Where Andrea Gabrieli got his hands on “Qui la dira” is much less clear. Pieces incorporating this title appear twice in the companion “Book Six” (Canzoni alla francese…Libro sesto e ultimo,RISM 1605-19). The first of the ten selections in this volume is presented as “Canzon: detta QUI LA DIRA Tabulata da Andrea Gabrieli” with no further elaboration on backgrounds. The seventh item in the collection, however, is quite specific, stating “Canzon frances detta QUI LA DIRA Di Clemens Janecquin, A cinque voci.” (“French chanson called ‘Qui la dira’ by Clemens Janecquin for five voices”.) There are two problems with this assertion: (1) Janequin rarely employed five-voice texture, and when he did, it was usually in large-scale works, which, judging by the form and scale of Gabrieli’s keyboard spin-off, was not here the case. (2) No record exists in any known manuscript or print source of a chanson setting by Janequin on this text, be it for 5 voices or any other combination.

This is not to say that “Qui la dira” was not a popular item among 15th and 16th century composers: Agricola had a “Qui la dira” setting for 3 voices, there is a Busnois setting à4 in the Odhecaton, settings by Heinrich Isaac show up in several manuscripts, a Willært setting for 3 voices was printed by Antico in Rome in 1536, there is a Crequillon setting in Cambrai 125-8 and another Willaert setting, this time for seven voices, appears in the LeRoy&Ballard Cinquiesme livre of 1560. Two strains of text variants color the “Qui la dira” heritage (“Qui la dira, dira” and “Qui la dira la peine”) and there is a strong possibility that some but perhaps not all of the melodic treatments selected by the various composers relate to melodic turns of long standing.[2] Where in this wealth of reworkings and renewal does Janequin fit in, if at all?

Given the large amounts of music that has disappeared without a trace, the possibility that Janequin composed a now lost five-voice setting of “Qui la dira” which reached Andrea Gabrieli in Venice cannot, of course, be totally discounted. However, given the large number of other culture-bearers associated with the “Qui la dira” legacy, it is tempting to consider that one of their versions lay at the base of Gabrieli’s contribution, and that Janequin’s name got connected by misunderstanding or mistake. Indeed, we are not even sure to whom credit for the assignation is due. It may have been Andrea Gabrieli himself, and when Giovanni Gabrieli was going about his editing twenty years after his uncle’s death, he faithfully transcribed exactly what he found on the page. There is, however, the possibility that Giovanni Gabrieli felt called upon to expand on the information provided by his uncle, or even that the publisher, Andrea Gardano, fleshed out the presentation prior to printing. Whatever the case, “Qui la dira” remains securely in the shadows.

  1. Modern edition Gabrieli, Andrea. Complete Keyboard Works (edited Giuseppe Clericetti), 6 Vol. + Critical Report, Wien 1997-99, Doblinger (Diletto Musicale 1141-46, 09671).
  2. Helen Hewitt provides an overview of “Qui la dira” settings in her online Odhecaton treatment.