Related sources

Other sources

by first line
   by composer



Papers and notes

General Index of music editions
by first line
   by composer


Editions and papers
on this site:

Complete Works of Gilles Mureau

Amiens MS 162 D

Sacred music of the 15th century

Uppsala MS 76a

Peter Woetmann Christoffersen

Papers on

Basiron’s chansons
Busnoys & scibes PDF
Chansons in Fa-clefs
Chansoner på nettet
Fede, Works
Dulot’s Ave Maria
Open access 15th c.
MS Florence 2794


Quant ce vendra au droit destaindre 3v · Busnoys, Antoine

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Dijon ff. 7v-8 »Quant ce vendra au droit destaindre« 3v Busnoys · Edition · Facsimile

*Laborde ff. 28v-29 »Quant se viendra au droit destraindre« 3v Busnoys · Edition · Facsimile

*Leuven ff. 70v-72 »Quant ce vendra au droit destraindre« 3v · Edition · Facsimile

*Nivelle ff. 6v-7 »Quant ce vendra au droit destraindre« 3v (erased) · Edition · Facsimile

*Wolfenbüttel ff. 32v-33 »Quant ce vendra au droit destraindre« 3v · Edition · Facsimile

Other musical sources:

Escorial IV.a.24 ff. 121v-122 »Quant ce vendra adroit destraindre« 3v hockengem · Facsimile (125)
Florence 176 ff. 69v-71 »Quant ce vendra« 3v
New Haven 91 ff. 20v-22 »Quant ce viendra au droit destraindre« 4v + Contra “Si placet” · Facsimile
Trento 88 f. 411 »Gaude mater misererum« 3v · Facsimile
Trento 91 ff. 70v-71 »Gaude mater misererum« 4v + Contra · Facsimile

This page with editions as a PDF

Citations and use in other compositions, see Fallows 1999, p. 336.

Editions: Droz 1927 no. 3 (Dijon), Gutiérrez-Denhoff 1988 no. 25 (Wolfenbüttel); Busnoys 2018 no. 50 (Laborde).

Text: Rondeau cinquain layé; full text in Dijon, Laborde, Leuven, Nivelle, Wolfenbüttel; also in Berlin 78.B.17 f. 157 (no. 458), ed.: Löpelmann 1923, p. 295. After Dijon. Laborde, Leuven and Wolfenbüttel:

Quant ce vendra au droit destraindre,
comment pourray mon veuil contraindre
et mon cueur faindre
a mon douloureux partement, 1)
mon loyal cueur et pensement, 2)
a qui nulle ne peut actaindre. 3)

Larmes et plours, gemir et plaindre,
feront mes yeulx palir et taindre 4)
sans riens enfaindre
et laisser tout esbatement.

Quant ce vendra au droit destraindre,
comment pourray mon veuil contraindre
et mon cueur faindre
a mon douloureux partement.

Souspirs angoisseux pour refraindre 5)
ma joye et ma plaisance estaindre,
ou les reffaindre, 6)
soudront en moi tant largement 7)
que ne pourray lors bonnement 8)
a grace et a mercy avaindre. 9)

Quant ce vendra au droit destraindre,
comment pourray mon veuil contraindre
et mon cueur faindre
a mon douloureux partement,
mon loyal cueur et pensement,
a qui nulle ne peut actaindre.

When it comes to real distress,
how can I make my will restrain
and my heart feign
at my painful departure,
my loyal heart and care,
who no one can capture.

Tears and crying, to moan and wail,
make my eyes pale and weak,
without feigning anything,
and renouncing all amusement.

When it comes to real distress,
how can I make my will restrain
and my heart feign
at my painful departure.

Anguished sighs to suppress
my joy and extinguish my pleasure,
or feign them,
will surge in me so abundantly
that I cannot now in any way
gain grace and mercy.

When it comes to real distress,
how can I make my will restrain
and my heart feign
at my painful departure,
my loyal heart and care,
who no one can capture.

1) Leuven, line 4, “...doloreux departement” (one syllable too much)
2) Dijon & Nivelle, line 5, “de vous, mon leal pensement”;
3) Dijon, line 6, “a qui nulluy ...”; Laborde & Nivelle, “a qui nul ne ...” (one syllable short)
4) Leuven, line 8, “feront mon cueur ...”
5) Dijon, line 15, “Sourrir angoisseulx ...”
6) Dijon, Nivelle  & Wolfenbüttel, line 17, “... refraindre”; Leuven, “sans les refraindre”
7) Laborde, line 18, ”saudront sur moy ...”; Wolfenbüttel. “... si largement”
8) Leuven, line 19, "que je ne pourroye bonnement  ”
9) Dijon & Wolfenböttel, line 20. “a gre et ...”
– many variations in spelling.

Evaluation of the sources:

The Dijon scribe decided to place the rondeau “Quant ce vendra” as one of the first in his new chansonnier – among the ‘hits’ certain to be attractive to a customer – and he confidently named Busnoys as its author. The Laborde scribe also included the song in his collection, but he did not mention the composer. When both chansonniers a few years later were lingering in the workshop of the scribe of MS Florence 2794, a later hand, the so-called “Index-Scribe 2”, added Busnoys’ name above the song, thus confirming the Dijon ascription (see further my paper ‘The French musical manuscript in Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, Ms. 2794, and the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers’). It appears among the late additions (middle 1470s) to the Italian song collection preserved in Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo del Escorial, Biblioteca y Archivo de Musica, MS IV.a.24, and “hockengem” is here given as the name of the composer. In view of the Dijon and Laborde chansonniers being located in the circles where Busnoys as well as Ockeghem worked, the ascription to Busnoys must have the higher credibility. It is obvious that the song had been widely circulated for many years before it reached the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers. If by Busnoys, it must be a work of his early career. As we shall see, it seems to be a work created by a young composer.

The five main scribes of the chansonniers used different exemplars for their copies of this song. They all transmit the same version but with many differences of details, in the use of coloration, of ligatures, especially in cadential decorations, and variants and errors in text and music accumulated during the years.

Dijon has a unique variant in the tenor’s second bar where the second note has been split into a tone repetition, which seems to detract from the smooth opening of the song. Likewise, Laborde is alone in inserting a dotted figure in the middle of the tenor’s bar 3, which does not add anything to the music.

The song has been erased in Nivelle at an early date leaving only the elegant initials for reuse with a new song – never entered. However, the ultraviolet photos of the pages published in the facsimile edition (Higgins 1984) make it possible to reconstruct the song with some confidence. Where the four chansonniers have signatures of one flat in all three voices, Nivelle has a signature of two flats in its contratenor. This somewhat superfluous extra flat can also be found in the Italian MSS Escorial IV.a.24 and in the four-part version in the Mellon chansonnier (New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Library, MS 91), and in the four-part mass on the song in MS Trento 89 (Trento, Castello del Buonconsiglio, Monumenti e Collezioni Provinciali, Ms. 89 (1376)).

A textual variant in the last line of the refrain in Dijon, where it has “nulluy” instead of the “nulle” in Leuven and Wolfenbüttel, is interesting. This turns the male voice of the poem into a female speaker. Maybe a possibility of a choice of gender in the poem lies behind the wording in Laborde and Nivelle that only has “nul”, which is one syllable short and may be interpreted as “nulle” or “nulluy”.

A small difference in spelling found in Laborde must be the original wording: In the short third line in the tierce (line 17) it has “ou les reffaindre” where all other sources have “... refraindre”. However, the word “refraindre” repeats the rime word of the first line in the tierce in a clumsy way, fails to give a clear meaning, and it breaks the carefully constructed pattern of rimes where the third lines in refrain and couplets ends in  “-faindre”.

The most conspicuous difference between them is that the introductory rests in all voices in Dijon, Leuven and Nivelle are notated as a brevis rest followed by two semibrevis rests, while they in Laborde and Wolfenbüttel consist of only two semibreves. Except for the Mellon chansonnier, which also has two semibreves only, all the other sources include the whole-bar general pause. Even if the general pause was not meant to be performed in the realized rondeau form (and therefore not counted in the editions), it seems to be an important part of the song’s identity as is underscored in the four-part mass building upon it.

This general pause appears in a few other songs in this repertory, among them in two songs by Busnoys, »Soudainement mon cueur a pris« and »Quant vous me ferez plus de bien«, which probably belong together and appear as nos. 23-24 in the Copenhagen chansonnier (ff. 27v-30). It seems to be a device meant to insure absolute notational clarity in the cases where a song starts with an upbeat in all voices, and the opening is homorhythmically designed (see further my note ‘On chansons starting with a general pause’).

The music of “Quant ce vendra” appears three times in the famous Trienter Codices in different disguises, which all include the introductory general pause. Its first appearance comes in Johannes Wiser’s collection MS Trento 88 as a three-part motet “Gaude mater misererum”. It is musically identical to the chanson but with the words replaced by verses from a Marian sequence. It was added by a later hand (Trento 88, hand D) on paper which can be dated to 1460-62. (1)

Ten years later Wiser copied the same motet into his MS Trento 91 in a four-part version. (2) This setting including its high contratenor may have been extracted from a four-part Missa Quant che vendra, which Wiser had copied into his MS Trento 89 on ff. 318v-330 around the middle of the 1460s – or a four-part version of the rondeau may have existed before the creation of the mass. The four-part song appears complete as “Et in spiritus sanctus” in the Credo on ff. 327v-328 with its text replaced and a duo between the superius and contratenor altus (four brevis-bars) inserted at the rondeau’s middle cadence. Superius and tenor start the section with rests consisting of a brevis and two semibreves, during which altus and tenor bassus perform a very short duo.

Missa Quant che vendra uses the song’s tenor as cantus firmus and the first phrase of its superius and tenor as a two-voice motto. In the long introductory duets in Gloria, Credo and Sanctus this motto includes the whole-bar general pause (the Agnus Dei is missing). The tenor part is notated as in the chanson including the general pause, but with rests inserted at its midpoint; the singers then had to augment the notes according to a set of instructions, which unfortunately are not transmitted by the MS. The mass is obviously dependent on Du Fay’s Missa Se la face ay pale from the years around 1450 in which the notes of the tenor including rests have to be proportionally augmented. (3) In Kyrie and Sanctus of Missa Quant che vendra the tenor must be sung in doubled values, in Gloria in tripled, and in Credo it is sung trice – just like in the Gloria and Credo of Missa Se la face ay pale – in tripled values, in doubled values and finally as written. It is in this last section the complete polyphonic song is heard.

Richard Taruskin included Missa Quant ce vendra as a possible work by Busnoys in his edition of the Latin-texted works; this proposed ascription is supported by the very detailed discussion of the mass by Robert Mitchell in his online edition of MS Trento 89. (4) The idea that the composer did construct a four-part tenor mass based on his own chanson can only be strengthened by the consistent use in the mass of the song’s introductory general pause – in the full-voiced Kyrie the rests are only in the tenor delaying its entrance. Who else but a young composer taking Du Fay’s use of his own chanson as model would have insisted on adhering so closely to the song’s original notation.

The song’s appearance in the Mellon chansonnier is curious. Its text is incomplete and corrupt and its exemplar must have been in some way related to the one used for the Laborde chansonnier. Laborde has errors in bar 22, where the first note in both tenor and contra are written as a brevis note in stead of a semibrevis. This prolongs the lower voices with a semibrevis and brings them out of synchronisation with the upper voice, which in bar 22 has the correct blackened brevis. In Mellon this brevis in the superius has been made white and perfect in order to fit the lower voices, and also the “si placet” contratenor, which is close to the high contratenor in Trento 89 and Trento 91, has been prolonged by two minimae in bar 22.  Someone in the line of transmission has certainly been busy. (5)

To sum up: It seems credible that Busnoys composed this song during the 1450s and that he reused his material for a four-part mass, which reached Johannes Wiser in the early 1460s. Furthermore, that it already then had been made into a contrafactum, a Marian motet, which later acquired a high contratenor lifted from the mass. How this fourth voice ended up in the Mellon version of the song is impossible to know. But it certainly shows that “Quant ce vendra” had circulated in a great many more variants and sources than the surviving evidence indicates.

Comments on text and music:

A sad song about separation of lovers. The poem is a rondeau cinquain layé with a short extra line inserted into the rondeau‘s first section, and the lines are in artful rimes léonines with touches of equivoque. It is set for two core voices of quite narrow ranges an octave apart (d'-d'' and d-d') supplemented by a low contratenor (F-a), which only twice crosses above the tenor (bb. 10.2 and 29.3).

The music is lyrical and insisting at the same time. It opens in smooth triple time underscored by the carefully notated upbeat. Soon, at the short line, canon at the octave between tenor and superius takes over (bb. 9-15). The rondeau’s second section is built in the same way, now with a short flexible stretch of canon with the uppper voice in the lead (bb. 17-22), before the strict canon reappears from bar 22 intoned by the contratenor. The construction is remarkably simple: except for two excursions down to d (bb. 9 and 20) the tenor keeps to the hexachord on f and forced by the canon the upper voice does the same. There is two beats between most of the canon entries, and the short phrases create a delightful tension between the canon’s melodic accents and the regular triple time.

It looks like a beginner’s exercise in canons built on a single hexachord, not far from improvised music. In performance its ostinato-like character and intensity is unforgettable, makes it appear as a miracle of musical economy. This could very well be one of Busnoys’ earliest hit songs.

PWCH October 2022

1) Concerning the dating of papers in the Trienter codices, see the overview in Peter Wright, ‘Johannes Wiser’s paper and the copying of his manuscripts’ in P. Wright (ed.), I codici musicali trentini: Nuove scoperte e nouvi orientamenti della ricerca: Atti del Convegno internationale The Trent Codices: New Findings and New Directions, Trento, Castello del Buonconsiglio, 24 settembre 1994. Trento 1996, pp. 31-53.

2) The three- and four-part motets are published in Busnoys 2018, nos. 50a and 50c.

3) Cf. Guillaume Du Fay, Missa Se la face ay pale. Edited with an introduction by Peter Woetmann Christoffersen (June 2018). (

4) Richard Taruskin (ed), Antoine Busnoys, Collected Works: The Latin-Texted Works (Masters and Monuments of the Renaissance 5) New York 1990, Part 2, pp. 208-258, (edition) and Part 3 (Commentary) pp. 94-100; Robert Mitchell, Trent 89 new series, Part 4 (2020) – no. 26 (edition) and Critical commentary, pp. 1052-1056.

5) Published in Perkins 1979, no. 18 and Busnoys 2018, no. 50b.