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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

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À Paris sur petit pont

Pierre Guédron

Source : ‘Un grand bal à la cour d’Henri IV’; Doulce Mémoire; dir. Denis Raisin-Dadre; K617 186 (2005).


Although Guédron, with his airs de cour, one of the main protagonists of an increasingly refined secular music, he did not forget the popular origins of this type of music. The gently unrefined text for this piece no doubt came from a popular ditty, which Guédron rendered in polyphony in 1602 – testimony to the vitality of the period. In his Journal, Jean Héroard, physician to the future doctor Louis XIII, mentions having heard the young Dauphin singing this song at the age of four (24 September 1605).


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)

A Paris sur petit pont,
Le pont du coil, le coil du pon :
On y fait bastir maison,
Le pon du coil le coil du pon :
O le joly petit pon,
Le pon du coil le coil du pont.

Les charpentiers qui la font,
Le pon du coil le coil du pont
Ilz m’ont demandé mon nom,
Le pon du coil le coil du pon.
O le joly…

Marguerite cest mon nom,
Le pon du coil le coil du pon.
Qu’à tu la en ton giron,
Le pon du coil le coil du pon.
O le joly…

Cest ung pasté de Pigeons,
Le pon du coil le coil du pon.
Assi-toy la & le mangeons,
Le pon du coil le coil du pon.
O le joly…

Elle s’assit de si grand son,
Le pon du coil le coil du pon.
Qu’elle à fait trembler le buisson,
Le pon du coil le coil du pon.
O le joly…

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