Antonio Gardano and the Primo libro of 1541: Confusion in Venice

In 1541, Antonio Gardano published a music book the title of which promised “by Constantio Festa the first book of madrigals for three voices, joined by forty madrigals of Jhan Gero, newly printed and with many corrections. Added as well thirty French chansons by Janequin.”[1] There are indeed forty madrigals by Jhan Gero in the book, and it could very well be that in these, “molti errori” have been corrected. However, the fact that there is only one madrigal by Festa in the collection, sandwiched in without further identification among the works by Gero, and that the vast majority of the pieces attributed to Janequin can be shown to be by other composers have caused people to wonder about this collection ever since.

Antonio Gardane (he Italianized his name to Gardano first in 1555) was born in the south of France in 1509, probably in the town of Gardanne, just outside Aix-en-Provence. In 1532, when Gardano was only twenty-three years old, a mass he composed was printed by the Lyonnais publisher Jacques Moderne,[2] suggesting that Gardano had a solid musical background and was also a young man of some energy. On the rather slim grounds that both were from southern France, and that Moderne published six of Gardano’s chansons (in 1538), it has been proposed that the young Gardano served as one of Moderne’s music editors for a time.[3] If he did so, it must have been well in advance of 1538, for in that year we find him in Venice, married to a member of a Venetian printing family, and busily producing both children and music books. Son Allesandro was born in 1539, and son Angelo in 1540; they would subsequently extend the family’s music printing fortunes well into the next century.

The fruits of Gardano’s first year as a music publisher were a book of twenty-five French chansons “borrowed” from Attaingnant, a “first book” of motets, and a book of madrigals by Verdelot. The following year, 1539, was extremely busy, with eight volumes of music appearing. Then, for some reason, in 1540 nothing at all appears with Gardano’s name on it. Mary Lewis has pointed out that the relationship between Gardano’s shop (which printed primarily music) and Girolamo Scotto’s shop (which printed other kinds of titles as well) was complex—they seem variously to have been intense competitors and close partners, and it is worth noting that while nothing appears from Gardano’s presses in 1540, Scotto found room in his production schedule for five volumes of music that year.

In 1541, Gardano is back, in spades: eight volumes appear, including 117 pieces by Arcadelt alone, and from that time on it would seem that the transplanted Frenchman thrived in Venice, making a significant contribution to the growth and spread of the Italian madrigal as well as prospering financially. While Gardano published a smattering of pieces by Janequin, works by Janequin were never a mainstay for the Gardano firm. In fact, if we put the occasional instrumental arrangements to one side, Gardano’s truck with Janequin is by and large limited to three projects: (1) a clump of four-voice chansons in one of Gardano’s very first prints, the Venticinque Canzoni Francese of 1538; (2) the three-voice edition of 1541 under consideration; and (3) a collection containing the ever-popular descriptive chansons in 1545.

That is not to say that Janequin never earned any money for his onetime countryman. The Venticinque Canzoni is a good example: in spite of the relaxed reliability of the collection’s attributions (ten pieces are credited to Janequin, although only six correctly), Gardano reprinted it twice, in 1548 and again in 1560.[4] This, according to Lewis, is consistent with what seems to have been Gardano’s general approach to profitable music printing—many small press runs, keeping overhead down, and not wasting that most valuable of the involved commodities, which was neither costs connected with the creative process nor the printing itself, but the paper.[5] This approach had the advantage of allowing for small adjustments underway, in which less popular or less successful items could be replaced, and new ones inserted, but the constant shuffling of individual pieces, attributions, and even title page information also apparently gave ample opportunities for confusion.

With this in mind, we return to the Primo libro of 1541, which in deference to the overwhelmingly misleading syntax of its title, can perhaps be referred to most conveniently by its RISM designation 154113. As mentioned, the title page and the contents don’t match; an unspecified number of madrigals by Constanzo Festa are promised, but in the end, there is only one, “Spiriti mieie,” about which the sneaking suspicion intrudes that this, sandwiched as it is in the midst of a sea of works by Gero, slipped in by mistake. The title then promises forty madrigals by Jhan Gero, and this promise is kept.[6] A companion piece to the sandwiched and unattributed Festa piece on page 31 is also included: “Ben Madonna a che siamo son pur,” identified on the page (page 30) as being by “Parabosco,” perhaps the Bolognese composer Domenico Ferrabosco (1513–1574). The claim is then made that the music has been purged of “molti errori,” and finally, almost as an afterthought, we are tempted with thirty French chansons that have been “similarly added.”

From where did Gardano gather these chansons? Eighteen of thirty would seem to have come straight from Attaingnant’s Trente et une chansons of 1535,[7] a repository of two- and three-voice chansons tinkered together for the “easy-to-sing” market. These build largely on four-voice chansons from Attaingnant’s previous editions, perhaps downsized by Pierre Regnes, who later served briefly as editor for Nicolas Du Chemin. Whether Gardano borrowed the remaining chansons in 154113 from another anthology or from disparate sources is not clear, but they are a mix of then-current names and pieces from the previous generation (Antoine de Févin and Ninot le Petit). None of the chansons appear to be “new,” except in the sense that they may have been “new to Venice.” Common to all is a conscious effort on the part of Gardano to keep the tessitura low. Of the eighteen pieces taken from Attaingnant’s 153516, sixteen have been transposed down a perfect fourth or a perfect fifth. Clearly, the musical offerings were meant to present as few challenges as possible to the potential user.

What inevitably attracts attention to the Primo libro is the circumstance that of the thirty chansons that are offered as the labor of Clément Janequin, concordances exist that link twenty-one of these works to other composers: eleven to Claudin de Sermisy, plus Le Heurteur, Gascogne, Gosse, Ysore, Févin, Ninot le Petit, Roquelay, Gero, and Cosson. No known source prior to 1541 attributes any of these chansons to Janequin, and most if not all post-1541 sources that do so can be traced back to 154113. This being the case, in 1959 François Lesure threw out the lot.[8]

Speculation about Gardano’s motives in attributing these pieces to Janequin has naturally arisen—was Gardano a crook, or wasn’t he? Lesure thought so. He called Gardano’s presentation of 154113 “a commercially fraudulent procedure” and made no secret what he thought of that.[9] Courtney Adams generally follows suit, referring to a deliberate misattribution designed to increase sales and bringing into the discussion certain requirements (“not previously published,” among others) incumbent in Venetian music printing privileges, which Gardano may thus have circumvented.[10] Chances are that Janequin’s name did have a certain allure in Venice in 1541, although just how much is an open question. When Valerio Dorico published Janequin’s “Chant des Oiseaux” in the Libro prima de la Serena in Rome in 1530, he listed the composer simply as “Clement J.” which would seem to indicate that the composer was either very well-known indeed in Rome, or else, so unfamiliar to Dorico’s typesetter that he was unsure which name he should highlight. Gardano himself must have been convinced of the commercial possibilities in Janequin’s name: his first major collection of chansons, Venticinque canzone a quattro di clement iannequin from 1538, features Janequin in pride of place both on the title page and in the index, where ten of twenty-five pieces are ascribed to him (six correctly).

Thomas W. Bridges nevertheless doubts that Gardano was guilty of consciously misrepresenting authorship for commercial gain.[11] Venice may have been a long way from Paris, but there was a lively traffic in music books between the two cities, not to mention contact between trained musicians, and a brazen ploy on this scale would have been simply too transparent. Giving Gardano the benefit of the doubt, and absolving him from blatant immorality and malice aforethought, the problem remains of what to say about the impressive list of downright bungling he and/or his staff achieved with the Primo libro. Looking for mitigating circumstances, we can consider that Gardano was relatively new to music publishing (at least as head man), that perhaps not all of his staff had mastered French, that he seems to have shared a rather complex business structure with his competitor and/or partner Girolamo Scotto, and finally, that his penchant for small but frequent press runs in order to keep overhead down led to a good deal of flexibility, but also to substitutions, duplications, omissions, and ordinary mistakes.

  1. Di Constantio Festa il primo libro de madrigali a tre voci, con la gionta de quaranta madrigali di Ihan Gero, novamente reistampato & da molti errori emendato. Aggiuntoui similmente trenta canzoni francese di Ianequin (RISM 154113). Modern edition in Courtney S. Adams, ed., French Chansons for Three Voices (ca. 1550), 2 vols., Recent Researches in the Music of the Renaissance (A-R Editions, 1982).
  2. In the Liber decem missarum (RISM 15328).
  3. On Gardano’s possible connections with Moderne, see Pogue, Jacques Moderne, 73, and Lewis, Antonio Gardano, Venetian Music Printer, 1538–1569, 20.
  4. RISM 153819, 15485, and 15608, respectively.
  5. Lewis, Antonio Gardano, Venetian Music Printer, 1538–1569, 87–88.
  6. How many of Gero’s works are original compositions and how many are arrangements of previously existing works is unclear, but Gero filled an entire volume with two-voice pieces in this same year, many of which were arrangements of earlier works presumably aimed at the “pedagogical” market. This applies to Jhan Gero Madrigali italiani et canzoni francese a due voci, printed by Gardano (RISM 154114) but perhaps assembled (the collection also includes pieces by Willært and Festa) by Scotto, who signed the dedication. See Iain Fenlon and James Haar, The Italian Madrigal in the Early Sixteenth Century: Sources and Interpretation (Cambridge University Press, 1988).
  7. Trente et une chansons musicales a troys parties. (Only the Primus Superius partbook survives, in Lausanne, Switzerland.)
  8. François Lesure, “Les Chansons à trois voix de Clément Janequin,” Revue de musicologie, 1959, 193–98.
  9. Lesure, “Les Chansons à trois voix”, 194.
  10. Courtney S. Adams, “The Three-Part Chanson during the Sixteenth Century: Changes in Its Style and Importance. (Volumes I and II)” (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1974), 131–42; and Adams, French Chansons for Three Voices (ca. 1550), ix.
  11. Cited in Adams, French Chansons for Three Voices (ca. 1550), xvi, note 6.