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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

Listen to the the music tracks

Si le parler et le silence

Pierre Guédron

Source : Doulce Mémoire; dir. Denis Raisin-Dadre; unpublished recording of a concert given at Versailles (Salon d’Hercule, 11 October 2003), within the context of a conference "Louis XIII musicien et les musiciens de Louis XIII", organised by the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles; recording: Thierry Géroux, Atelier d’Euterpe (Le Chesnay).


The airs de cour in the first two collections of Pierre Guédron (published in 1602 and 1608) were written in a full yet simple counterpoint, delicately modulated by short beats. The scansion of the poetic text is sober and always perfect, and does not shift; it is underscored by a rhythmic verticality in which one senses the still rather clear influence of the musique mesurée à l’antique championed by Claude Le Jeune, Guédron's predecessor as Compositeur de la Chambre du roi.


Pierre Guédron

(ca. 1565–1620)

Pierre Guédron was the youngest of the three composers at the court of Henri IV. He was born at Châteaudun in 1565 or 1567. In contrast to his older colleagues Claude Le Jeune and Eustache Du Caurroy, Guédron excelled only in the composition of secular music, and rapidly became a master of the genre.

His name appears in the historical record for the first time in 1583, when he was listed as one of five singers from the chapel of Louis II de Guise, cardinal de Lorraine, that had performed at the Puy de Musique d'Évreux that year. He is described as singing "countertenor in an excellent manner", despite being "of changing voice", i.e. between 15 and 18 years old. The date of his arrival at court is unknown. Perhaps he joined the singers of the Musique du Roi after the death of the cardinal de Lorraine in 1588. His name first appears in the royal accounts in 1599, as Maître des enfants de la Musique de la Chambre. By March 1601 at the latest, Guédron was appointed Compositeur de la Musique de la Chambre, replacing Claude Le Jeune, who had died the previous year. His career reached its apogee under Louis XIII, when in 1613 he was appointed Surintendant de la Musique de la Chambre du roi and Maître de la Musique de la reine mère Marie de Médicis, leaving the post of Maître des enfants to his son-in-law Antoine Boesset (1587–1643). Guédron rapidly made a name for himself by his masterful treatment of the air de cour, a secular genre in which he was unrivalled. After several of his pieces had been quietly published in anonymous anthologies (1595, 1596 and 1597), in 1602 Ballard published the first collection devoted exclusively to Guédron, which made the musician famous. Guédron also supplied airs and recitatives for the main ballets performed at the French court between 1598 and 1620, from Ballet des Étrangers to Ballet d’Alcine. He is considered the finest French craftsman of the accompanied solo song. He died in 1620, sometime around 9 July.

A total of 185 of his airs de cours and ballet music have come down to us, in versions for four or five voices, or for voice and lute. These were published in anthologies and collections starting in 1595. The lion's share of them were published in six polyphonic collections signed by the Guédron and published by Ballard, "music printer to the king", between 1602 and 1620.

Transcription (in French)

Si le parler & le silence
Nuit à nostre heur également,
Parlons donc ma chere esperance
Du cœur & des yeux seulement :
Amour ce petit dieu volage
Nous aprend ce muet langage.

Que le regard vole & revole
Messager des nos passions,
Et serve au lieu de la parole
Pour dire nos intentions.

Mais si quelque ame est offencée
De nous voir discourir des yeux,
Nous parlerons de la pensée
Comme les Anges dans les cieux.

Ainsi par un doux artifice
Nous tromperons les courtisans,
Et nous rirons de la malice
De mile facheux mesdisans,
Qui n’en sçauront pas d’avantage,
Ignorant ce muët langage.

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