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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

Listen to the the music tracks

Victorieux guerrier

Eustache Du Caurroy

Source : ‘Henri IV et Marie de Médicis: Messe de mariage’; Doulce Mémoire; dir. Denis Raisin-Dadre; Astrée-Naïve E 8808 (2000).


In France, as in Italy, the royal marriage provided inspiration for a number of works filled with mythological, allegorical and historical references. Among them were two vers mesurés à l’antique by Nicolas Rapin, which were set to music by Eustache Du Caurroy, sous-maître de la Musique de la Chapelle du roi.
The warlike themes of this initial piece, Victorieux guerrier, sung to celebrate the glory of a king who, having fought the House of Savoy (an allusion to the recent victory over Montmélian in November 1600), links France and Italy by a new victory – an amorous one this time.


Eustache Du Caurroy


Eustache Du Caurroy was born in 1549 in Gerberoy, at the borders of Picardy, Normandy and the Ile de France. He is considered to be the last great masters of Renaissance polyphony. He probably entered royal service (as a countertenor in the king's chapel) in 1575, the same year he won a musical competition in the town of Evreux, the Puy de Sainte Cécile, with a composition for four voices, Rosette pour un peu d’absence. He won the same competition the following year, with a motet for five voices (Tribularer si nescirem, now lost), and again in 1583 with a song, Beaux yeux dont le pouvoir, also for five voices.

In 1578, his name appears in the court account-books, still listed as a countertenor, but also as sous-maître de la Chapelle du roi, one of the most prestigious musical posts in the kingdom. He was also a member of the Chapelle of the queen mother Catherine de Médicis (1585 and 1587) and appeared to have been part of the circle around Marguerite de Valois who, starting in 1605, gathered around her the finest artists at her townhouse in Rue des Augustins (where the École des Beaux-Arts now stands).

Starting in 1594, Henri IV set Du Caurroy apart from other musicians. In 1595, Henri named him Compositeur de la Musique de la Chambre – a post he shared with Claude Le Jeune – and Compositeur de la Musique de la Chapelle five years later in 1599. This royal favour was accompanied by a number of ecclesiastical benefits that ensured him a comfortable life. He died in 1609 as he was preparing to publish his works, having signed an agreement with Pierre Ballard, "music printer to the king". He barely lived to see the completion of the project.

Most of his surviving works have come down to us in five collections, published starting in 1609. There are two volumes of Preces ecclesiasticæ (1609), dedicated to Henri IV and Marguerite de Valois, which contain fifty-three motets for between three and seven voices; forty-two Fantasies a III, IV, V et VI parties (1610); one volume of Melanges (1610), which contain secular and sacred polyphonic works sung in French; a Missa pro defunctis for five voices. This last was written around 1590, but the only surviving source for it is a re-edition by Ballard from 1636. It was sung at the funeral service for Henri IV, and tradition made it the funeral mass for the kings of France. Three other masses for four voices that he wrote are now lost.

Transcription (in French)

Victorieux guerrier, que tu fais de miracles en un coup !
En réparant de la France et le dommage et l’honneur.
Tu conjoins à la gloire de Mars le triomphe de Junon,
Et d’un mesme dessein fais et la guerre et l’amour.
En recouvrant ton bien, tu punis de ton hoste* le parjur.
Tout l’univers te réclame, et te chérit, et te craint.
Au seul bruit de ta voix le sommet des Alpes a tremblé,
Et les monts aplanis, t’ont fait un ample chemin.
Montmelian, l’orgueil de Savoye, et d’Italie le rempart,
Indomptable de force, en te voyant te reçoit.
Victorieux guerrier, que tu fais de miracles en un coup !
En réparant de la France et le dommage et l’honneur.

* = Charles-Emmanuel Ier, duc de Savoie.

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