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Soudainement mon cueur a pris 3v · Busnoys, Antoine

Appearance in the five chansonniers:

*Copenhagen ff. 27v-29 »Soudainement mon cueur a pris« 3v PDF - Facsimile

*Dijon ff. 121v-123 »Soudainement mon cueur a pris« 3v PDF · Facsimile

*Nivelle ff. 35v-37 »Soudainement mon cuer a pris« 3v Busnois PDF · Facsimile

Edition: Jeppesen 1927 no. 23 (Copenhagen).

Text: Bergerette; full text in all three sources; also in Berlin 78.B.17 f. 72v (no. 92), ed.: Löpelmann 1923, p. 97. After Copenhagen:

Soudainement mon cueur a pris
parti de douloureux affaire,
mais se bref ne s’en sçait deffaire,
pensez qu’il n’est point bien apris.

Car il ne peut rien conquerir
si non paine, mais savez quelle?

Il ne s’en fault ja enquerir,
onques n’en fut point veu de telle.

Je voi bien qu’il a entrepris (1)
de servir jusques a la mort traire;
si vous lui disiez du contraire,
vous le verriez de deul espris.

Soudainement mon cueur a pris
parti de douloureux affaire,
mais se bref ne s’en sçait deffaire,
pensez qu’il n’est point bien apris.

Suddenly my heart has decided
on a dolorous affair,
and if it does not care soon to disengage,
remember that it is not at all well informed.

For it can win nothing
but pain, and do you know which?

You do not have to enquire,
because until now no one has seen the like of it.

I understand that it has chosen
to serve until the advent of death;
if you will tell it the contrary,
you will se it beset by sorrow.

Suddenly my heart has decided
on a dolorous affair,
and if it does not care soon to disengage,
remember that it is not at all well informed.

1) Copenhagen and Dijon, line 9 “… a entepris”.
Also, there are some differences of spelling in the sources.

Evaluation of the sources:

The bergerette by Antoine Busnoys was copied by two scribes, Dijon and Nivelle. The two copies by the Dijon scribe in the Copenhagen and Dijon chansonniers are identical including errors (see bb. 7, 42 and 48-53), while the Nivelle version was copied from a slightly different exemplar, which may have contained small differences in cadential figures (S bb. 18.2-19 and 73.2-74.1), melodic details (S b. 12.2; T bb. 39.2-40.1), ligatures (T bb.21.2-23.1 and 69; C bb. 32-34), and coloration (S bb. 17.2-18.1; T b. 44.3; C b. 34) - all of them could be such variations as often are generated during the copying process.

The main difference between the sources lies in their use of key signatures: Copenhagen/Dijon has none, while Nivelle has flats in the lower parts. However, in performance this difference is only really audible in the last line of the refrain and tierce (bb. 31-40), where the punch lines of the poem suddenly changes to a coloring of minor thirds in the Nivelle version when the imitation between tenor and superius provokes b-flats in both voices. In the couplets (bb. 48 ff) the Nivelle scribe dropped the flat signature in the contratenor and thereby also imposed the use of a natural in the tenor (b. 51), all of which supports a tonal contrast with the end of the refrain. The critical flat affecting the b in the tenor in bar 19 would probably during a performance have been sung as a natural in view of the tenor’s circling around the note e’ during the preceding six bars.

The Dijon scribe’s exemplar could very well have been quite similar to the Nivelle scribe’s. In several cases we have concluded that the Dijon scribe often analyzed the music, heard it (for his inner ear?) and performed it in writing according to his own taste. Realizing that the flats are kind of optional in a piece in D-Dorian (only a visual guide to which choices within musica recta are proper) and that some of the song’s charm depended on a fluid state of the scale’s variable step, he decided not to put in key signatures – maybe in order to ensure a correct performance of the contrasting couplets (the cancellation of the b-flat in the contratenor could easily be overlooked). He did put in the important flat before B in the contratenor in bar 26, and the usual rules for choosing between high and low B’s would automatically produce the intended turn to the flat side at the end of the refrain. The resulting performance is completely predictable but slightly different from Nivelle’s without in any way changing the song’s identity.

Perhaps there in fact were flats in the Dijon scribe’s exemplar. He placed a one flat key signature in the second staff of the superius part, which does not make sense; maybe it came up inadvertently by looking at the B’s in his exemplar. Maybe he also inadvertently sang the voices, which participate in the three-part imitation at the beginning of the couplets,in triple time, something which the music nearly asks for, and then wrote the introductory rests as two and four brevis-bars, exactly what would be needed in tempus perfectum.

A signum in the tenor bar 44 in the Copenhagen version could represent some thoughts by the Dijon scribe on how to perform the end of the refrain considering that its music has to be sung three times: Maybe the final extension (bb. 44-47) is only appropriate for the last time?

Most likely the two chansons by Busnoys in Copenhagen nos. 23-24 also were placed close to each other in the Dijon scribe’s exemplar because they appear in the Dijon chansonnier as nos. 100 and 98. Between them stands the anonymous three-part bergerette »S’il vous plaist [bien] que je vous tiegne« (no. 99), which Leeman L. Perkins proposes as a possible chanson by Busnoys (cf. comments and edition in Perkins 1999 pp. 334 ff) - this chanson is also found in Nivelle (as no. 10).

Comments on text and music:

Antoine Busnoys’ setting of a quite conventional bergerette about a sudden, hopeless infatuation is masterly done in flexible alternation between declamation in parallel movement, free flowing polyphony and imitation between the voices, and in its timing of the words. See for example the slowing down of the text delivery at the start of the couplets where the three-part imitation in octaves is played out to the words “Car il / Il ne” and creates a tension, which is intensified by the continuation in staggered declamation. This ends without any cadential gestures but leads into the nexus of the sentences in imitation al unisono in tenor and superius “si non paine ... / onques n’en fut ...”. Another masterly choice is the concatenation of the poem’s first two lines into one thought also in the music. This produces a flow fitting for the more extended formal layout of the bergerette, in which the primary contrast is placed in the couplets, and which differentiates it from a rondeau. It is seldom heard as elegant as here in the declamation in parallel sixths in superius and tenor (bb. 8-11).

»Soudainement mon cueur a pris« seems closely related to the rondeau by Busnoys, which follows it in Copenhagen and is placed near it in Dijon. For a summary of their similarities, see »Quant vous me ferez plus de bien«.

The peculiarity, which most convincingly connects them, is the general pauses preceding the homorhythmical upbeat beginnings, which consist of a brevis rest and one or two semibrevis rests according to the mensuration. These general pauses probably do not have any function during a performance and seems to be devices meant to insure absolute notational clarity when a song starts with an upbeat in all voices. Something analogous appears in Michelet’s rondeau »S’il advient que mon dueil me tue«, which is placed near the two Busnoys chansons in the Copenhagen chansonnier (no. 26); see further my note ‘On chansons starting with a general pause’.

PWCH May 2009