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Esperant que mon bien vendra 3v · Barbingant

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Dijon ff. 100v-101 »Esperant que mon bien vendra« 3v Barbinguant · Edition · Facsimile

*Leuven ff. 41v-43 »Esperant que mon bien vendra« 3v · Edition · Facsimile

*Nivelle ff. 68v-69 »Esperant que mon bien vendra« 3v Barbingant · Edition · Facsimile

This page with editions as a PDF

Edition: Barbireau 1954 Vol. II p. 10 (Dijon).

Text: Rondeau quatrain; full text in all sources; also found in Berlin 78.B.17 f. 103v-104, Löpelmann 1923, p. 171.

After Leuven and Dijon:

Esperant que mon bien vendra
apres ma tres dure soufferte, 1)
leal seray pour quelque perte
ne meschef qui m’en advendra.

Or adviegne ce qu’il vouldra, 2)
j’atens ma lealle deserte

esperant que mon bien vendra.

Je ne scays comme il m’en prendra,
mais puis que j’ay ma foy offerte 3)
sans nulle fainctise couverte,
mon parfait veul se mainctendra

esperant que mon bien vendra.

Hoping that my joy will arrive
after my dire suffering,
I shall stay faithful despite any loss
or misery that will befall me.

Let happen what he wants,
I expect my reward for loyalty

hoping that my joy will arrive.

I do not know how he will blame me,
but because I have offered my faith
without any secret thoughts,
my true wish shall persist

hoping that my joy will arrive.

1) Nivelle, line 2 “... dure dessoufferte” – one syllable too many; Leuven, “tres longue soufferte”
2) Nivelle, line 5 “... pourra”
3) Nivelle, line , “mais puis j’ay ...” – one syllable too short

Evaluation of the sources:

The Dijon and Nivelle chansonniers name Barbingant as the composer of this song. It appears solely in three ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers and was probably quite old when it was copied. The scribes used different exemplars where divergent interpretations of hexachordal signatures make up the most important differences. Else we have the normal variations in the use of coloration and ligatures, quite few between Dijon and Nivelle, while Leuven has many variants. Characteristic is the tendency in the Leuven version to break down figures consisting of two syncopated semibreves in ligature into dotted decorations (S bb. 5, 18, 23 and 30, T b. 13). In the Leuven contratenor the dissonance in bar 11.1 is avoided by changing the dot on the preceding note into a rest, and bars 16-17 have been recomposed to avoid the tritone between the original’s e (in Leuven flattened by the signature) and a' in the upper voice. Furthermore, the Leuven scribe or his exemplar has subdivided the long notes in the tenor’s opening, probably intending to facilitate performing the text, but thereby to some degree destroying a strong identity marker.

Dijon shows up a normal disposition of the hexachordal signatures with an upper voice without any flats and one flat in each of the two lower voices, which in general are placed a fifth lower. This presents the singers with a situation where it is opportune to sing flats in the upper voice in bar 3 as well as in much of the second section of the rondeau, but also to sing naturals in several instances in tenor and contratenor in the first section.

In Nivelle the scribe has entered flats in the superius and tenor, while contra is without any hexachordal signature. This makes no difference for the first section, but in the second, the missing flat in the contra signals an interpretation coloured by C- and G-hexachords, turning away from the flat side. Where the Dijon version contrasted the rondeau’s second section with the first by going flat, implicit introducing e'-flats in superius and tenor (bb. 19-20) and hexachords on F and Bb, the Nivelle version invites the singers to naturalize many B-flats creating a completely different sound. Both versions work perfectly in performance, and it is not possible to decide which one was the original intention.

Leuven chansonnier removes the flexibility inherent in the traditions represented by Dijon and Nivelle. It starts like Nivelle with flats in superius and tenor and none in the contratenor. However, in the second section the contra’s signature changes into two flats (b and e), and in bar 19 an accidental flat before e' appears in the upper voice. This insistence on going to the flat side probably means that the E-flats colour the sound for a longer stretch than in the other versions, but all in all the Leuven version leaves less to the discretion of the singers. Obviously, much thought has gone into resolving the notational vagueness, which marked the song’s transmission. One may wonder, if “Esperant que mon bien vendra” like Barbingant’s »L'omme banny de sa plaisance« started life in a notation in fa-clefs, without a fixed pitch notation, even if the three sources have not retained any traces of it. (1)

Except for decorations there are no rhythmic differences between the sources. They are all quite clear on the song’s flexible relationship to the traditional pattern of melodic and cadential movement within the song’s triple time (see further below). That the middle cadence has to be perceived as displaced is marked in Nivelle, where the final note in the upper voice c' (b. 14.2-3) is a coloured brevis with a fermata; in Leuven the displaced perfection is emphasized by a white brevis shortened by a semibrevis rest followed by a punctus divisionis and another rest.

Comments on text and music:

A woman wonders about her uncertain situation in perfect rimes léonines. This highly literary rondeau quatrain demands a short refrain in order to play out its meaning, and the music is subservient the poetic structure.

The first line opens with a gesture clearly related to Barbingant’s »L'omme banny de sa plaisance«, long notes in the tenor and lively counter voices in hexachordal patterns reminiscent of improvised polyphony on a sacred cantus firmus – a female counterpart to the abandoned male lover. This line develops normally according to a conventional flow of tempus perfectum and cadences on the song’s finalis C. The superius starts in the second line an ascending sequence of cadential formulas whose continuation runs on too long and causes the middle cadence, also on C, to be postponed to the second beat in the perfection (b. 14), or rather, the whole rhythmic perfection has been moved. That this is a conscious strategy from the composer’s side is confirmed by the occurrence of the same procedure in the second section. The rhythmic vagueness seems to be conceived as a subtle illustration of the poem.

Line three opens with the superius and tenor in imitation, which underscores the feeling of double time. By the cadences to G and D in bars 19 and 24 the perfection of the triple time has be re-established. In parallel with the second line, the fourth line takes up the sequence of cadential formulas, now starting in the tenor (b. 24) and taken up by contra as well as superius – and in double time segments. The long final phrase effectively dispels any traces of triple time.

As mentioned the meaning of poem demands a short refrain consisting of the first line alone. This means that only bars 1-7 are repeated as refrain after the couplet and after the tierce. In this way the song in performance displays a regular alternation of musical lines in stable triple time and lines straggling by mixing in double time, ending, however, completely regular.

It is interesting that the tonal space and voice ranges of “Esperant que mon bien vendra”, which we only know in fixed-pitch notation, g-c'', B-e', c-d', are very similar to those of “L’omme banny”, if we listen to the version produced by a default reading of its fa-clef notation, a-d'', B-e', c-e'.

The ascending sequences of syncopated cadence formulas in this song, which disturbs the feeling of triple time, are obviously related to the similar effects in the second line of Ockeghem’s early bergerette »Ma maistresse et ma plus qu’autre amye«. This helps to date Barbingant’s song in the later 1450s.

PWCH November 2021

1) Cf. my articles ‘On chansons notated in fa-clefs – and the question of pitch in 15th century secular music’ or Prenez sur moi vostre exemple: The ‘clefless’ notation or the use of fa-clefs in chansons of the fifteenth century by Binchois, Barbingant, Ockeghem and Josquin’, Danish Yearbook of Musicology 37 (2009), pp. 13-38.