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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

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Muse honorons de ta chanson

Claude Le Jeune

Source : ‘Claude Le Jeune: Muze honorons l’illustre & grand Henry’; Les Pages & les Chantres du Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles; dir. Olivier Schneebeli; Alpha ‘Ut pictura musica’ 032 (2002).


As for the lion's share of important events, the chroniclers of the era do not mention what music was sung for the coronation of Henri IV. The best we can do, based on a few surviving pieces of information, is to make hypotheses about what music might have been associated – if not with the event itself – with this type of celebration. This is the case of a work by the composer Claude Le Jeune, the text of which (by either Agrippa d’Aubigné or Odet de La Noue) fits the circumstances perfectly. Published in the same year as the coronation, this short piece for six voices in rhymed vers mesurés à l’antique may correspond to the "Vive le Roy" that was sung "in music" at Chartres on 27 February 1594 during the coronation ceremony, according to l’Offrande. Whether or not this is the case, the date of the initial publication of this piece and of its text – which sings the praises of a peaceable prince who is a defender of the arts, and expresses the hope for an heir – clearly point to a link with the accession of Henri IV to the throne.


Claude Le Jeune

(ca. 1530–1600)

"Claudin" Le Jeune was born in Valenciennes. Sometime prior to 1564 he settled in Paris, where he quickly attracted the patronage of several Protestant seigneurs, including François de La Noue and Charles de Téligny (son-in-law of the admiral de Coligny). Later, starting in the 1570s, he received the support of Henri de La Tour d’Auvergne, vicomte de Turenne and future duc de Bouillon.

He played an active role in the humanist project of the Académie de Musique et de Poésie, which had been founded in 1570, and was one of the principal architects of musique mesurée à l’antique, in which French words were set to ancient metric forms in order to recreate the "effects" that ancient music was reputed to produce. He barely escaped being killed in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre on 24 August 1572, and became "maistre de la Musique" of François de Valois – brother of Charles IX, the future Henri III and of Marguerite de Valois – and remained in the duc's service until the death of François in 1584. It was likely that Le Jeune met the king of Navarre, the future Henri IV, when François de Valois and his retinue stopped at Nérac in September 1580.

In the autumn of 1581, Le Jeune's composed several vocal pieces for the Balet comique de la Royne, which was performed at the festivities organised for the marriage of the duc de Joyeuse to Marguerite de Lorraine-Vaudémont. In 1590, he fled Paris to escape persecution by the Holy League. He found refuge in La Rochelle, where he rubbed shoulders with the great Huguenot poets of the era, including Jacques de Constans, Odet de La Noue, Agrippa d’Aubigné – some of whose texts he set to music. He also frequented Nicolas Rapin who, although Catholic, had abandoned the Holy League and sided with Navarre.

As soon as he acceded to the throne of France, Henri IV made Le Jeune one of his favourite musicians, and created the post of Maître Compositeur ordinaire de la Musique de la Chambre du roi just for him. But Le Jeune had little time to benefit from the king's largesse, as he died in September 1600.

His rich and varied opus (more than 600 pieces) was published between 1552 and 1612, most of it posthumously, at his sister's behest. It consists of many songs and airs, a number of which are set in "antique" metres, a dozen Latin motets that appear at the end of the two books of Mélanges, collections of Protestant songs in both simple and florid counterpoint and in "antique" metre, one authenticated mass (Missa Ad Placitum) and one of more dubious authenticity (the so-called "Savoie manuscript") and three instrumental fantasies.

Transcription (in French)

Muze honorons de ta chanson,
L’illustre et grand Henry soulas de nos maus,
C’est luy qui seul nou’ donne en la saizon,
Le dous loyer de nos travaus.
Sans le guerdon l’art perit,
Muze chante celuy que tes labeurs cherit.

Chante afin qu’apres mil ans acomplis,
Son nom soit celebré, cogneu jusqu’au bout.
Comme d’un Prince qui par tout
Se fait voir le suport et secours plus exquis,
Des ouvriers mieux vétus
Des sciences et vertus.

Vive l’illustre Henry,
Long temps soit il parmy nous tous
Puisse de luy quelque heritier
Ainsi brave estre nourry
Laissant de tels jetons apres nous
Pleins d’heurs et de grandeurs
Recompense de leurs valeurs

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