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MS Florence 2794


Le bien fait 3v · Anonymous


Florence 229 ff. 27v-28 3v (prima pars only)

*Sevilla 5-1-43 ff. 22v-23 »Le bien fet« 3v PDF

Edition: Brown 1983 no. 28 (1a pars after Florence 229; 2a pars after Sevilla 5-1-43).

Text: Bergerette; incipit only in Sevilla 5-1-43.

Evaluation of the sources:

Sevilla 5-1-43 contains a faultless copy with text incipits only. The textless version in Florence 229 transmits only the first section of the chanson.

Comments on text and music:

A setting of a now missing bergerette poem which apparently consisted of a refrain/tierce of four verse lines and with two lines in the couplets – all lines of eight syllables. In the music for the second line of the couplets (lines 6 and 8), the first line of Binchois’ rondeau »Je ne vis oncques la paraille« is quoted by all three voices. Bars 42-48 reproduce the opening music of Binchois’ chanson literally as it is found in its earliest source, the MS Trento 90 (see the edition of Trento 90). The use of this quote seems to be a counterpart to the quote in Basiron’s bergerette »Nul ne l’a telle, sa maistresse«, which is constructed in exactly the same way as regards form and placement of the quote. In fact, it is easy to fit the poem, probably written be Basiron himself, as text for this bergerette as it is shown in the supplementary transcription of the music (see the edition). The text incipit “Le bien fait” (the good deed) probably did not belong with the music originally, or it could be the opening words of a new variation of the courtly praise of female virtues boosted by the image of the Virgin Mary.

The use of the quotation is not the only trait pointing at Basiron. The setting systematically uses canonic imitation at the octave between tenor and superius. All lines are treated in this way with the core voices taking turns in leading the imitations – with one exception: the quote from Binchois, which stands out in its simultaneous declamation of the words (the opposite happened in “Nul ne l’a telle”!). The systematic use of canonic imitation and of sequencing motives is characteristic of the majority of Basiron’s songs, see »De m’esjouir plus n’ay puissance«, »Je le scay bien ce qui m’avint« and »Tant fort me tarde ta venue«. His setting of “Nul ne l’a telle” is quite old-fashioned with the lower voices occupying the same range and the use of fauxbourdon-effects, while this one, like “De m’esjouir” or Binchois’ “Je ne vis oncques”, adopts a low-range contratenor. Generally, this setting seems more inspired by the melodic style of “Je ne vis oncques” than is the case with “Nul ne l’a telle”. While the second couplet in “Nul ne l’a telle” ended in a glittering raising sequence in all voices, the anonymous setting speeds up the action by introducing proportio duplum in the contratenor, maybe in order to avoid the use of dotted semiminimae and fusae.

As a bergerette this song is quite atypical by avoiding a musical contrast between the refrain/tierce and the couplets. It here looks as if the music was conceived mainly to highlight the quote. All this could point at that the song should be regarded as an early attempt at the theme of “Nul ne l’a telle” by Basiron. This, however, may be a bit far-fetched. A more credible explanation of the peculiarities of “Le bien fet” may be that the relative success of “Nul ne l’a telle” inspired a colleague to try his hand at something similar.

See also the article ‘The chansons of Basiron’s youth and the dating of the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers’.

PWCH May 2013