Henry Fresneau and Similar Styles

After smugly accusing Jacques Moderne of any number of professional sins, while the noble house of Attaingnant has enjoyed blanket viability, it is time for a modest rehabilitation of the Lyon printer. This comes in connection with two chansons attributed to Janequin by Attaingnant, and (correctly, it seems to me) to Henry Fresneau by Moderne.

The general consensus about the life and career of Henry Fresneau is that he very likely had some connection with Lyon. This is based on literary references in his texts that can be connected to that city, and on the fact that a majority of his known works were printed first or exclusively there by Jacques Moderne.[1] Fresneau’s oeuvre is not huge: only one motet and twenty chansons have survived. Dobbins has suggested that Fresneau may have had a special interest or affinity for the theater: in particular, Fresneau’s “Fricasee” of 1538 demonstrates a comprehensive knowledge of popular tunes, more than a hundred of which are quoted in that work.

It would seem, as well, that Fresneau was an admirer of Janequin. Certainly, the light, narrative style Fresneau frequently chose for his works shares many features and techniques with that used by Janequin in his earthier efforts. More specifically, when Fresneau was casting about for a structure on which to base the catalogue of citations comprising his “Fricasee,” he chose the bottom voice of Janequin’s “Or vien cela” (LM41 from 1533) to serve—in its entirety— as his “bassus firmus.” Perhaps a computerized analysis of the two composers’ work would reveal mutually exclusive stylistic tendencies. That being as it may, it is not difficult to understand that someone in Attaingnant’s shop thought that “Le jeu m’ennuye” looked a lot like Janequin.

“Le jeu m’ennuye” (LM127) [sic]

Attribution RISM Cat. Publisher Collection Location
(a) Fresneau 154016 M26 Moderne Parangon…6 no. 5, fol. 9
(b) Janequin 154710 A146 Attaingnant Vingt trois… no. 8, fol. viii-v

The printing record, however, goes in Moderne’s favor. “Le jeu m’ennuye” was printed by Moderne in 1540, in the sixth book of the Parangon series. Two years earlier, Moderne had published Fresneau’s splashy “Fricasee,” and the memory of that experience, as well as the character and identity of its composer, must still have been fresh in the mind of the printer.

After 1540, seven years went by before Attaingnant published “Le jeu m’ennuye,” years that for the Parisian publisher were particularly difficult. He lost first his wife in 1543, then his partner and heir apparent, Hubert Jullet in 1544 or 1545, and both the quantity and quality of Attaingnant’s printing understandably suffered. In addition, Attaingnant and his staff seem to have been “less familiar” with Fresneau’s efforts; they confuse him with Sancerre in 154510 (no. 5 “Ung labourer” and no. 13 “Thenot estoit”) and with Guyon in 154513 (“Per toy amour”). Thus, it would seem that when the collection of ribald songs that became Vingt trois chansons was being assembled in Attaingnant’s shop, this lack of familiarity led to one of the two contributions belonging to Fresneau (the other being no. 12 “Qu’est la, c’est le beau pere”) straying into the Janequin pile.

Even more telling, as Annie Couerdevey has pointed out, are several examples of faulty text transmission in the Attaingnant version of 1547: the misunderstood colloquialism “o” (with roots in “au pres de”) in measure 15 gives “Jehan romps at…” instead of “Jehan romps with Jehanne”; the placement of the commas in the Attaingnant version confuses the dialogue separations; and a play on words in the Moderne version (mm. 22–23) involving the girl’s name and the verb ahaner (“to tire, to wear out”) is largely incomprehensible in the later version.[2] Attaingnant’s intention was perhaps to normalize a handful of Lyon colloquialisms, but the result is a text that is partly corrupt, and both priority and textual integrity argue for a Fresneau attribution for “Le jeu m’ennuye.”

LM114 “Quelque frappart” also has a checkered history. This chanson appears in three sources: first in Moderne’s first Difficile collection (RISM 15449); then in the two versions of Attaingnant’s 17e livre (RISM 154510); and finally in BolognaQ26 (BolQ26), a manuscript copied in the Low Countries some twenty years later, which in turn draws heavily on RISM 154510 for its content.

“Quelque frappart/Ung cordelier”

Attribution RISM Cat. Publisher Collection Location
(a) H. Eresneau [sic] 15449 M40 Moderne Le Difficile fol. 11
(b) Jannequin 154510 A126 Attaingnant 17e…2 vol. fol. vii-v
(c) Jannequin 154511 A127 Attaingnant 17e…1 vol. fol. xii-v
(d) (Anon.) BolQ26 (ca. 1570) no. 35

Moderne’s Difficile edition has thirteen attributions to Fresneau (or, sloppily on the part of Moderne, to “Eresneau”). Three of these, no. 4 “Ung cordelier,” no. 13 “Ung laboureux sa journée commancoit,” and no. 14 “Tenot estoit en son cloz resjouy” were borrowed (loaned, stolen, expropriated, given the honor of being reprinted, etc.) by Attaingnant. They appeared in 154510 as (1) no. 5 “Ung laboureux sa journée” with an attribution to Sanserre; (2) as no. 8 with a new incipit (in which for reasons unknown, “Ung cordelier” was changed to “Quelque frappart”) and an attribution to Janequin; and (3) as no. 13 “Thenot estoit en son cloz” with an attribution again to Sanserre.

Twenty years later, the Low Country compiler of Q26 supplied composer identification for forty-seven of sixty-one items, five of which are credited to Janequin, of which four are in fact correct. However, even though the compiler probably had Attaingnant’s 154510 attributions in front of him as he worked, when he came to no. 35 “Quelque frapart homme de bon,” something caused him to hesitate, and he left the appropriate space blank.

The chansons of Janequin and Fresneau are so similar stylistically that arguing for attributions on that basis is risky at best, but there are moments in “Quelque frapart” that nonetheless tempt. The passing tones in measures 3 and 18 give a fleeting dominant seventh taste feel not quite standard issue; the plagal cadence in E at the end of the piece feels like a completed modulation, and not a half cadence of the type Janequin occasionally employs, particularly to round off middle sections of cyclic pieces; and the quasi-Josquinian voice pairings in measures 8–10 also seem just a shade out of character. But for every suspected anomaly, there are a plethora of passages stylistically congruent with the kinds of solutions Janequin consistently employed, and the procedure is further complicated by the unending variety that colors Janequin’s complete works. Nevertheless, priority and proximity are again both clearly on the side of Jacques Moderne, and on that basis, it seems reasonable to give Henri Fresneau the privilege of retaining both “Le jeu m’ennuye” and “Quelque frapart/Ung cordelier” in his opera omnia.

  1. On Fresneau, see Frank Dobbins, Music in Renaissance Lyons, Oxford Monographs on Music (Oxford University Press, 1992), 189–191.
  2. Annie Coeurdevey, “Janequin vs Fresneau: Double Attribution, Double Version du ‘Joly Jeu,’” in Textes au corps: promenades et musardises sur les terres de Marie Madeleine Fontaine, ed. Didier Kahn et al., Travaux d’Humanisme et Renaissance (Genève: Librairie Droz S.A., 2015), 411–24.