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Saturday morning quotes 7.34: Fortune

January 25, 2020

Att 9vAtt 10We have written previously on the subject of Fortune in early music (or slightly less early), and we have also previously featured music from our CD survey of sixteenth-century French chansons.  Today we feature our unique interpretation of a particular chanson from a seminal publication printed a mere 491 years ago.

The publication is Tres breve et familiere introduction pour entendre & apprendre par soy mesmes a jouer toutes chansons reduictes en la tabulature du Lutz…, Pierre Attaingnant, 1529.  The collection was intended to serve as a guide for arranging part-music to be played on the lute, and most of the chansons included in the collection had some degree of popularity at the time.  In essence, the collection was sort of a “fakebook” that enabled the lutenist to sample popular music at home in the absence of a full complement of singers.

The idea was not new, and Attaingnant was emulating the Italian models published by Petrucci in 1509 and 1511, but with the notable difference of setting popular French chansons and employing French lute tablature.  The concept endures today with the direct parallel to our early lute books in the form of piano arrangements for more current pop songs.

The featured song is Fortune laissez moy la vie, text and translation below.

Puis que tu prins tous mes biens
Je te desclaire quíilz sont tiens.
Mets doncques fin ton envie.

Helas, níes t point assouvye
De tourmentier moy et les mien
Qui níont vers toy mesfaict en riens?
Míest doncques fin ton envie.

Helas, je fusse bien tíamye
Mais tu me traicte rudement
Et je te ayme parfaictement.
Par toy je fineray ma vie.

Fortune, let me have my life.
Since you want the delights
I declare them yours.
Put an end to your envy.

Alas, are you not yet satisfied
Having tormented me and mine
Who have not done you any harm?
Put an end to your envy.

Alas, I have been your friend
But you have treated me cruelly,
While I loved you completely.
Because of you I end my life.

The song was printed by Attaingnant in two forms, in lute tablature, as can be seen above, and with the texted superius.  Using the tablature as a guide, we ornament the vocal line on the second and third verses in a completely integrative and idiomatic manner that adheres to the mood and texture of the text and the music.  While there may have been extravagant virtuoso performers at the time who employed florid ornaments and basked in attention, we feel strongly that our interpretation is more typical of ornamentation rendered through the winning combination of excellent musicianship and good taste.

Our interpretation of the chanson may be heard here.

Taking an abrupt left turn, we move on to our quotes for the day that have nothing to do with music, but everything to do with leadership and current state of public scruples.  This is from Il Cortegiano by Baldasarre Castiglione (1478 – 1529), and given an English translation by Sir Thomas Hoby in 1561.  Since the 1561 English may be a little heavy going, we have taken the unusual step of modernizing the text to enhance clarity.

[Among many vices that we see nowadays in many of our Princes, the greatest are ignorance and self-liking: and the root of these two mischiefs is nothing else but lying, which vice is worthily abhorred of God and man, and more hurtful to Princes than any other, because they have more scarcity than of anything else, of that which they need to have more plenty of, than of any other thing: namely, of such as should tell them the truth and put them in mind of goodness: for enemies be not driven of love to do these offices, but they delight rather to have them live wickedly and never to amend: on the other side, they dare not rebuke them openly for fear they be punished.]

[As for friends, few of them have free passage to them, and those few have a respect to reprehend their vices so freely as they do private men: and many times to curry favor and to purchase good will, they give themselves to nothing else but to feed them with matters that may delight, and content their mind, though they be foul and dishonest.]

– Baldasarre Castiglione, Il Cortegiano, translated by Sir Thomas Hoby, 1561, further translated by RA

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