Guyard, Crecquillon, and Willaert: Multiple Versions of “My levay par ung matin”

“My levay par ung matin” is not so much a chanson with conflicting attributions as it is a series of “conflicting versions” mixed together with a false attribution and a little confused scholarship. Altogether there seems to have been at least six different versions.

a. A Preexistent Popular Melody

The descending tenor line at the beginning of Janequin’s setting of 1529 (LM9) strikes one immediately as the kind of phrase that might have flourished in the oral tradition. It is not difficult to imagine that, if equipped with an appropriate rising melodic response and joined together as aabb, the branle-like result could have served for any number of danced or narrative verses. Indeed, the variety of textual variants for “My levay” that have survived suggest that both text and tune had a long and colorful history.[1]

b. Janequin’s Setting of 1529 (LM9)

Janequin’s setting is found in Attaingnant’s 1529 collection 31 Chansons[2] and begins with the text “My levay par ung matin, plus matin qu’a pris n’avoie.” Janequin states the first phrase of the pre-existing melody (if that is indeed what it is) twice in the tenor, with an accompaniment in the other voices that essentially respects the phrasing of the pre-existing melody. For a moment in measure 7 and measure 8 it sounds as if Janequin is going to furnish us with the answering “b” phrase of our hypothetical branle, and perhaps he has. If he has, however, that answer is masked by phrase extensions in the tenor and imitative entries in the other voices, which make it difficult to pin down the exact nature of what might have been Janequin’s popular inspiration. Finally, perhaps attracted by textual ironies (“Trop enquerre n’est pas bon” translates as “Asking too many questions is not a good thing”), Janequin abandons phrase regularity altogether and finishes the setting with his usual mix of imitative texture and repeated text fragments.

c. Jean Guyard’s Setting of 1534

The version attributed to Jean Guyard, about whom very little is known, appeared in Attaingnant’s 28 Chansons of March, 1534 (RISM 153411, no. 19, xiv). The text in this version begins “My levay par ung matin, Plus matin que l’alouette” and is generally a straightforward homophonic harmonization of the melodic material placed in the tenor. This tenor line has little, if anything, in common with the melodic material found in Janequin’s 1529 setting, and aside from the opening phrase, it has no textual correlation. If the two versions respond to elements from the same oral tradition, then we must grant this tradition a maximum of textual and melodic variety in its transmission.[3]

d. The Pseudo-Janequin Setting in Gardano’s Venticinque canzone

Antonio Gardano published a collection of chansons in 1538 (largely purloined from Pierre Attaingnant) with the title Twenty-five French Chansons for Four Voices by Clement Iannequin and Other Excellent Composers.[4] Of the ten pieces in this anthology credited to Janequin, only six are in fact by him. Two of the others belong to Fresneau,[5] one to Mathieu Sohier,[6] and one is a setting attributed to Janequin beginning with the text “My levay par ung matin ne pouvay dormir seullette.”

This setting, as Howard Brown has correctly pointed out, is an elaboration and expansion of the melodic material in the 1534 Guyard setting, in which Guyard’s generally homophonic texture is replaced by an imitative treatment of the theme as found in the tenor.[7] Brown’s discussion, however, gives credence to Gardano’s attribution to Janequin, an attribution Lesure rejects, pointing to the general unreliability of the 1538 edition.

e. Crecquillon

“Cricquillon” is credited with a three-voice setting of “Mi levay” in Wælreant and Laet’s Jardin Musical of 1556 (RISM 155619 no. 20, fol. xxiiij). The text of this setting is similar, although not identical, to the text used by Janequin in 1529. The musical settings, however, share no common features. Texturally quite different, Janequin’s composition scans the opening syllables long-short-long in a falling pattern, while Crecquillon’s opens with short-short-long in a rising pattern.[8]

f. Willært

A three-voice setting by Adrian Willært of a related text shows up in the late English manuscript London 29380.[9] The setting is melodically and rhythmically unrelated to Janequin’s version.

In sum: Janequin set an attractive text in 1529. Guyard made a setting of a different text, but it began with the relatively generic “I woke up one morning” and was printed by Attaingnant in 1534. Guyard’s version was expanded by an unknown composer and printed by Antonio Gardano in Venice in 1538. Crecquillon made his own setting of the text set by Janequin in 1529 that was printed by Wælrant in 1556. Finally, at some unknown juncture, Willært took a related text and set it for three voices, a setting ultimately preserved in the manuscript London 29380. Whether any of these versions (aside from the 1538 version that is clearly based on Guyard’s) used a pre-existing melody (or perhaps several) is an open question, but the settings by Janequin, Guyard, Willært, and Crecquillon are all musically independent. As such, there are really no conflicting attributions, and only one version belonging to Janequin—unless one is inclined to harbor the very unlikely prospect that having set the “My levay” text in 1529, Janequin later made an arrangement of another composer’s setting from 1534 (a process that has no corollary in Janequin’s works) and, subsequently ignoring his regular publisher, gave it to a printer in Italy with whom it cannot be shown that he ever had the slightest contact.

  1. A version (shorter by two lines) appeared in the Lotrain Sensuyt (1543). Modern edition in Brian Jeffery, ed., Chanson Verse of the Early Renaissance II, vol. 2 (London: Brian Jeffery, 1976), 350. Several noel texts using the longer version of the melody are listed in Block, The Early French Parody Noël, 163–65.
  2. RISM 15292, no. 3 fol. ii–v.
  3. Guyard’s version is edited in Howard Mayer Brown, Theatrical chansons of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries (Harvard University Press, 1963), 157 (no. 51).
  4. Venticinque canzoni francesi a quatro di Clement Iannequin e di altri eccellentissimi authori (RISM 153819). Gardano subsequently reprinted this collection three times, as 15485, 154942, and 15608.
  5. “Ung petit coup” and “Saincte barbe.” To weigh things up, Gardano wrongly attributes Janequin’s “Pourquoy voulez vous” (LM54) to Passereau.
  6. “Prenes le galland.”
  7. Howard Mayer Brown, Music in the French Secular Theater, 1400–1550 (Harvard University Press, 1963), 135–36.
  8. The Crecquillon original may be viewed online at “Jardin Musical, Contenant Plusieurs Belles Fleurs de Chansons a Quatre Parties, Livre 3. | Royal Holloway Repository,” accessed September 20, 2020, https://repository.royalholloway.ac.uk/items/f5b1f0c0-e189-c4ec-b50d-c1461721748a/1/.
  9. 27v–32r. London 29380 was copied in 1741 and contains no information about the date of Willært’s original version.