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Aime qui vouldra 3v · Anonymous

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Dijon ff. 141v-142 »Aime qui vouldra« 3v  PDF · Facsimile

*Leuven ff. 18v-19 »Aime qui vouldra« 3v PDF · Facsimile

Other sources:

Kraków 40098 ff. B3/B2/B5 »O lux luminis / Der Fochss schwantz« 3v · Facsimile
*Sevilla 5-1-43 ff. 94v-95 »Fuyh schwamz« 3v PDF

Related compositions: See Fallows 1999 pp. 79 and 422.

Text: Rondeau cinquain by Jean Molinet; full text in Dijon and Leuven; also found in Berlin 78.B.17 f. 195, ed.: Löpelmann 1923, p. 383; Paris 1721 f. 26v: Molinet; Paris 1722 f. 26; Jardin 1501 f. 84.

After Dijon and Leuven:

Aime qui vouldra
le mieulx qu'il pourra,
ce n'est que soussi;
car jamais sans sy
amours ne sera.

Qui plus amera,
plus se trouvera
subget a mercy,

aime qui vouldra
le mieulx qu'il pourra,
ce n'est que soussi.

Ou danger mourra,
ou tousiours sera
cela ou cecy;
la chose est ainsi,
d'amours ainsi va:

Aime qui vouldra
le mieulx qu'il pourra,
ce n'est que soussi;
car jamais sans sy
amours ne sera.

Make love who wants to
as well as he can,
it is nothing but worry;
because without it
there will be no love.

Who will love more
soon find himself
completely at mercy,

make love who wants to
as well as he can,
it is nothing but worry.

In mortal danger
or living forever will
make no difference;
It is like this,
love works in this way:

Make love who wants to
as well as he can,
it is nothing but worry;
because without it
there will be no love.

Some small differences in spelling.

Evaluation of the sources:

The Dijon scribe copied this rondeau into his own manuscript at a late stage of his work on the Dijon chansonnier. He used an exemplar, which was very similar to the one used by the Leuven scribe for his chansonnier. The few differences between their versions consist in the Dijon scribe ignoring the mensuration signs and the obvious key signature of one flat in the contratenor, and in some decorative notes (S bb. 5.2-6.1; T b. 36.2; C b. 10), ligatures (S bb. 43.2-44.1; T bb. 30, 40-41.1 and 50-53; C bb. 24-27) and coloration (S b. 48.1).

None of their exemplars contained signs to mark the end of the rondeau’s repeating first section, and this has resulted in different interpretations from the two scribes. Their underlay of text in the highest voice is very clear, probably much clearer than in their exemplars: The Dijon scribe placed the first three words (line 1) below bars 1-9; the 2nd line supplied words for bars 10-21, and the 3rd from bar 23 until the first beat in bar 28 with the 4th line following directly on the second semibrevis of the bar and cadencing on the dotted longa occupying bars 33-35. The fifth line, the “punch line”, offers its three words for the remaining 18 bars. This distribution produces a rondeau, which begins on a F-triad and ends its first section on C with the two sections having nearly equal lengths (28+27 bars). The Leuven scribe just as clearly put the seven words of the two first lines below bars 1-9, and placed the third line below bars 10-21. The scribes agree on the widely spaced words of the last line, but the Leuven scribe lets the 4th line take care of bars 23-28 cadencing on C followed by a long melisma on “si” (bars 28.2-35). His perception of the rondeau has a compact first section beginning and ending on F (bars 1-21) followed by a longer second section with long passages without much text.

Both versions are musically possible. The Leuven version forces the singer of the contratenor part to subdivide the first two breves,which is not needed in the Dijon version; on the other hand, Leuven is quite effective in its delivery of the text. The Dijon interpretation is unusual by its avoidance of any accentuation the middle cadence, but so is the Leuven’s middle cadence on the song’s finalis, even if the next song in Leuven »Puis qu'a vous servir me suis mis«, ff. 19v-20, for equal voices does exactly the same.

In the slightly younger French-Italian chansonnier in Sevilla, Biblioteca Capitular y Colombina, MS 5-1-43, the piece appears without any text except for the cryptic words in all voices “Fuyh schwamz”, and it is notated without any key signatures. The words are obviously a garbling of the German title “Der fochss schwantz” that stands above the music in the set of part-books known as the Glogauer Liederbuch (Kraków 40098), which is roughly contemporary with Sevilla 5-I-43. Except for a few differences in ligatures, coloration and decorative notes Sevilla 5-I-43 has the same music as in Dijon and Leuven. The most notable differences come in bar 25 where the contratenor has a brevis rest instead of the dissonant note g, and in bars 43-45 where the rising scale in the superius contains two syncopated notes only, while Dijon and Leuven have a series of four syncopated semibreves (cf. the edition). Glogauer Liederbuch agrees with Sevilla 5-I-43 on these points, but it is generally more generous with decorative notes, has a writing error in the tenor bars 9-12, which has been corrected by changing a note in the contratenor, and like Leuven it has a key signature of one flat in the contratenor. In addition to the German title, this piece has after its copying been provided in all three voices with a Latin text “O lux luminis splendor eterni syderis ...”. (1)

A notational error in the Dijon version shows that his exemplar or a manuscript earlier in the chain of transmission had been closer to the “Fox tail” versions: The first semibrevis of the ligature bars 44.2-45.2 in the superius is dotted. If the semibrevis f’ just before it was a minima, the passage would be identical to the one in Sevilla 5-I-43 and Glogauer Liederbuch with only two syncopated notes. It is easy to imagine that a scribe just overlooked the stem on the minima andthereby produced what we find in Dijon. In a later copy of the piece the superfluous dot was omitted and the four syncopated semibreves were notated as two c.o.p.-ligatures – the Leuven version. It appears credible that an early version of the piece contained the dissonant bar 25 as well as only two syncopes in bars 43-45, and that revisions appeared in different traditions of transmission.

The “Fox tail”-piece had at an early stage functioned as the model for a longer instrumental fantasy titled “Der fochs swantcz” and “Coda di volpa” in German and Italian areas, first appearing in the Trento MS 89 around 1470 (see further the edition).

Why this charming song exists as a French rondeau and as an instrumental piece in non-French sources we do not know. But a cavalier notation of the text early in its career, which caused the ambiguity in formal layout that we find in Dijon and Leuven, may have caused foreign scribes to disregard it entirely – and in stead present it as “The Fox tail”. Or could it be the other way round?

Comments on text and music:

An elegant, light-hearted rondeau about love and the inevitable worry it brings. It is written in short lines of five syllables only, and the author is the Burgundian court chronicler Jean Molinet (1435-1507) according to the 16th century French poetry manuscript fonds français 1721 in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, which contains a whole section of light rondeaux attributed to Molinet.

The setting consists of a structural duet for voices an octave apart in quite high tessitura, f-f’’, accompanied by a slightly lower contratenor, c-f’, which mostly keeps below the tenor. It opens with a short octave canon between tenor and superius on the F-triad, five notes each, which gives the piece its own striking signature. The remainder of the first section – if we follow the Leuven interpretation – is in free polyphony. The second section opens with a new octave imitation on an ascending scale segment exploring the F-scale’s upper fourth cadencing first to C then to A. The last line is prolonged by a three-part canonic imitation built on the main tones of the F-hexachord, starting with the contratenor followed by the tenor in unison and the superius an octave higher. This hexachordum molle supplemented by the high C-hexachord has evidently influenced the melodic contour of the tenor first and foremost, giving the setting an easy and improvisatory character.

As mentioned above, in spite of their care it was problematic for the scribes to unite the words and the music. The music really does not seem to fit a rondeau cinquain. It is unusual to have the middle cadence on the song’s finalis (Leuven) and just as unusual to ignore it (Dijon). If this music really was made for a French forme fixe poem, it looks more like a four-line refrain in a bergerette/virelai, which has lost its couplets ­– not an exceptional situation.

In his classic study of Sevilla 5-I-43 Dragan Plamenac wrote: “There can be little doubt that the form in which the Seville Fuih schwanz was originally written was the one in which it appears in the Dijon Chansonnier: as a French rondeau, with the text Ayme qui vouldra by Jehan Molinet. It would be difficult to claim that someone in France or Burgundy had borrowed the music of a German “fox dance” to adapt Molinet’s verse to it.” (2)

However, it does in fact look as if the French words were adapted to a piece of music, which did not start life as a rondeau. Obviously, the music was quite a bit older than its earliest sources, Dijon and Leuven. It probably had been known for some time in Central Europe under the title “Der Fochss schwantz” – during the late 1450s or early 1460s – before somebody modelled a longer instrumental piece with the same title upon it. This longer piece (»Der Fochs schwantcz« II) was then in the 1460s or a little later entered into the manuscript Trento 89 as a motet with a Latin text “Sancta genitrix”; and it like the first version it had a career without text in Italy.

The original textless version could in the same way have become known in Burgundian lands, and someone spotted the fit between the opening five notes and the short lines of Molinet’s poem and combined them into a somewhat uneasy rondeau, which then in the 1470s made its way into the Leuven and Dijon chansonniers. In this case the Leuven version might be the original French version. An alternative explanation could be that it started as a French song with a four-line text, which lost its original words and lived on in two different traditions: as a German “Fox tail” piece and combined with Molinet’s light-hearted poem – this seems a bit too convoluted.

PWCH December 2017


1) Paweł Gancarczyk, ‘The former ‘Glogauer Liederbuch’ and early partbooks. On the origin and function of a new type of musical codex’, Tijdschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis 44 (2014), pp. 30-46, at p. p. 39; see also the edition in Ringmann 1936, I, p. 82.

2) Dragan Plamenac, ‘A Reconstruction of the French Chansonnier in the Biblioteca Colombina, Sevilla’, The Musical Quarterly 1951 pp. 501-542, 1952 pp. 85-117 and pp. 245-277, at p. 528 (1951).