Pierre Passereau and Parallel Publication

Tantalizingly little is known of the life of Pierre Passereau. He has been connected with the church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie in Paris, with the chapel of the Duke of Angouleme (soon to become King Francis I), and with cathedral choirs in Cambrai and Bourges. Like Janequin, he was a priest, and again like Janequin, his interest in secular music seems to have taken precedence over sacred composition: twenty-six chansons by Passereau have survived, but only one sacred work, a motet. His light, rhythmic, and frequently saucy chansons were deservedly popular, and Rabelais makes place for Passereau among the “merry musicians” he mentions in his Fourth Book.

The similarities in style and temperament were not lost on Pierre Attaingnant. In 1536 he brought works by the two musicians together in an anthology entitled Book Three Containing Twenty-one Chansons in Four Parts Composed by Janequin and Passereau Selected from Previously Published Collections.[1] In this collection, ten chansons are clearly marked “Janequin” on the pages where they occur, five chansons are marked “Passereau” on the pages, one piece (“Pourquoi donc ne fringuerons”) is marked “Passereau” on the page and “Janequin” in the index, and six chansons were left unattributed. Of these seven ambiguous titles, six can be resolved by concordances with Attaingnant’s previously published collections.

“Pourquoy donc ne fringuerons,” given to Passereau on the page in RISM15366, is given to Passereau in both Attaingnant RISM15331 and in Gardano RISM153819, so the suggestion in the index that it is by Janequin can be dismissed as a simple compilation error.

“Ung petit coup m’amye” is attributed to Passereau in Attaignant RISM15331, and that publisher, his index error notwithstanding, must be judged several degrees more reliable than the frequently confused Antonio Gardano in Venice, who attributes it to Janequin[2] in RISM153819.

“Si d’ung petit” is attributed to Janequin in Attaingnant’s Vingt et quatre chansons … par maistre Clement Jennequin from April 1533 (RISM JJ443a).

“Ce sont galans” is attributed to Janequin in Attaingnant’s Vingt et huit chansons (RISM 153412).

“Pourquoy voulez vous” is likewise attributed to Janequin in Attaingnant’s Vingt et huit chansons RISM 153412, but it was subsequently published without attribution by Girolamo Scotto in 1568 (RISM 15682), and then by Gardano, with an attribution to Passereau in his error-riddled Venticinque canzone francese (RISM 153819). There seems to be no reason to doubt the attribution to Janequin provided by Attaingnant in the Vingt et huit chansons of 1534.

That leaves “Nostre dince” (folio 12verso) and “Et gentil, ma maréschal” (folio 29verso) unaccounted for.[3] “Nostre dince” is without attribution in the shared Janequin/Passereau publication of 1536, but it is attributed to Janequin in Gardano’s suspect Venticinque canzone in 1538, and to Jean Maillard by LeRoy & Ballard in their Premier receuil (RISM 155425). Some of the confusion evaporates when we realize that we are dealing with multiple incipits. This chanson first appears in Attaingnant’s Vingt & six chansons (RISM 15356, folio 7v), listed as “Saincte Barbe, mon con, mon compere,” which is the incipit for the superius and the tenor. A year later, when the joint Janequin/Passereau edition was being compiled, whoever was doing the index was looking at either the countertenor or bass part, both of which enter the fray only when the text being set has reached “Nostre dince.” Later editions used one or the other of the incipits, confusing the issue a bit, but not undermining the logic of respecting the composer attribution of “Saincte Barbe/Nostre dince” to Passereau, as it is recorded in the earliest known edition.

“Et gentil, ma maréschal” is not so compliant. Aside from its presence in RISM 15366 (where the title page informs us that the works in the collection are by Janequin and Passereau, but where no attribution of “Et gentil” appears either on the page or in the index), it appears in three other sources, all of which are anonymous.[4] The existence of variant texts (“Et gentil ma mareschal” in RISM 153412, RISM 15366, and Hague74, and “A Paris prez des billettes” in RISM 15331 and Lotrian) in what is essentially the same chanson, complicates the issue without contributing any further evidence as to a possible attribution.

Confronting this lacuna, Maurice Cauchie[5] and Adrienne Block[6] hedge their bets, giving the attribution to “Janequin or Passereau.” Daniel Heartz avoids the issue, simply leaving the attribution blank.[7] In the Groves article on Passereau, Isabelle Cazeaux opts for Passereau, but writes “also attributed to Janequin,” which, at least as far as the sixteenth century is concerned, is not strictly true. Georges Dottin, on the other hand, does not hesitate to place “Et gentil” in his edition of Passereau’s Opera Omnia[8], a decision that Lesure and Merritt seem to have embraced, perhaps due to the unusual scoring (four treble voices), the atypical structure of the piece, and some uncharacteristic text underlay.

In looking at the attribution questions posed by the Tierce livre, a circumstance can be noted that frequently occurs in printed collections for this period, but for which there is no known practical or theoretical confirmation. This is a tendency which, for lack of a better name, is referred to here as “the piece-after-practice.” This describes situations where unattributed chansons are later identified by means of concordances with other sources, and they turn out to have been written by the last preceding composer identified in a given collection. It is as if the printer expects the reader to understand that once an attribution is provided, that attribution pertains until a new one is provided. If we apply this “rule” (which to my knowledge has never been systematically investigated) to the joint Janequin/Passereau publication of 1536, we discover that where concordances are available, they do indeed behave consistently with the premises of the piece-after-practice: no. 7 is attributed to Passereau, while no. 8 is left open. Concordances attribute no. 8 to Passereau. no. 14 is attributed to Janequin, while nos. 15, 16, and 17 are left open; concordances attribute all three chansons to Janequin. No. 18 is attributed to Passereau, and nos. 19 and 20 are left open. Concordances attribute no. 19 to Passereau, and applying the logic of the piece-after-practice, the same attribution (Passereau) seems called for in the case of no. 20 “Et gentil ma mareschal.” And, if we go back to the first appearance of the chanson in Attaingnant’s Vingt et sept chansons of 1533, we notice that the alternately titled version of the same piece “A Paris prez des billettes,” for which the attribution at no. 5 is left open, follows immediately after a piece attributed to Passereau, no. 4 “Va mirelidrogue.” Certainly, by itself, the piece-after-practice is thin evidence on which to base secure attributions, and as such, we content ourselves only with noting that it contradicts the instincts of neither Dottin’s Passereau edition nor the Lesure/Merritt Janequin edition.

  1. Tiers livre contenant xxi. Chansons musicales a quatre parties composees par Jennequin & Passereau esleues de plusierurs livres par cy devant imprimez (RISM 15366, A72).
  2. Albert Seay may have been looking at the Gardano source when he attributed “Ung petit coup m’amye” to Janequin in Clément Janequin: 10 Chansons, ed. Albert Seay, Das chorwerk 73 (Wolfenbüttel: Möseler, 1959).
  3. Bernstein, Music Printing in Renaissance Venice, unintentionally presents “Je n’en diray” as yet another conflicting Janequin/Passereau attribution: footnote number 4 on page 412 should refer to the entry “10. IX Pourquoy voules vous” but has been mistakenly placed after the entry “9. VIII Je n’en diray.”
  4. These are as follows: Attaingnant Vingt et sept A42 RISM15331, with the incipit “A Paris prez des billettes”; Attaingnant A55 Vingt et huit RISM153412 (no. 10, fol. 6) and the mid-sixteenth century Dutch manuscript Hague 74 (no. 17, 17vo), with the incipit “Et gentilz (ma) mareschal/marichal.”
  5. Maurice Cauchie, ed., Quinze Chansons Françaises Du XVIe Siècle à Quatre et Cinq Voix (Paris: Rouart, 1926).
  6. Adrienne Fried Block, The Early French Parody Noël, Studies in Musicology, no. 36 (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1983).
  7. Heartz, Pierre Attaingnant, Royal Printer of Music, 287.
  8. Pierre Passereau, Opera omnia, ed. Georges Dottin (Rome: American Institute of Musicology, 1967).