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Pierre ATTAINGNANT (1494-1552)
Auprès de vous
Pierre Gallon and Freddy Eichelberger (claviorganum and virginal); Thomas Dunford (lute)
Track details below
Recording details not given
ENCELADE ECL1301 [65.54]

There has often been a question in my mind as to whether Pierre Attaingnant was ever a composer at all, or if he was really an arranger or simply the in-between man. This CD goes a little way towards throwing light upon his achievements and his publications. In addition we are introduced to a curious and enticing instrument called the claviorganum.

The late winter and spring of 1531 was an extraordinary period for Attaingnant and his printing press and ultimately in the history of music. As the interesting and detailed booklet notes by Pierre Gallon tell us, no fewer than seven publications appeared in the first half of 1531. This recording is concerned with only four of them but allow me to list all seven.

The first came out in January, then three in February and two in March and one in April. In the case of the first four these were entablatured settings of secular pieces for “Orgues, espinettes et manicordians”. The others were of sacred works, ‘Magnificats’, a ‘Te Deum’ or three and Preludes. This CD is almost entirely made up of secular pieces with a few preludes from the last publication.

The chansons have been set for keyboard and as with all of the music here are not allotted a composer. That said, some like Tant que vivray and Secourez moy were popular chansons by Sermisy as also is Don't vient cela. The Preludes could have been composed by the organists who may also have transcribed the dances. These organists were likely locals from the Paris region. Indeed the names of Jehan Regnault, organist of Notre Dame until 1527, and Pierre Mouton are mentioned in dispatches. Whilst possibly not the first of their kind these books were an exciting new commodity.

The first volumes were quite slim but make up over seventy pieces. From these a selection of twenty-five chansons and dances and three preludes have been recorded. It’s interesting that Pierre Gallon has placed them in uneven sets with longer gaps after each. I show these groupings in the list below. Three start with a Prelude and two with a Pavane. One can see this as a beginning to the burgeoning concept, later in the century, of a dance suite. In each case here a Pavan is followed by a Galliard — or as here, a Gaillarde — possibly based on similar material.

That brings us to the instruments. The claviorganum has been known about since the early sixteenth century. It's a two manual affair. The lower keyboard, which is pumped creates the sound of a chamber organ; the upper one sounds as a spinet, virginal or harpsichord. Clearly the spinet/harpsichord sound dies away but the chamber organ sustains. This works very well in the Basse Dance where the organ acts as a drone. In addition Gallon plays it on occasion in combination with other instruments.

Track 7, a Gaillarde, is given to the lute and virginal as is the Tant que vivray in which the lute plays the original which is mainly homophonic. The virginal elaborates around it as was the improvisatory style of the day. On the repeat the lute contributes its own more modest decorations. Track 13, also another Gaillarde, and Track 17 a Branle, is given to two virginals, with Freddy Eichelberger playing the basic harmonic structure and the other elaborating around it. For the setting of Malgré moy the organ has the simple homophonic chanson and the virginal decorates it: attractive combinations. There are also several tracks played by the virginal alone. The close recording balance is ideal as it is also for the single lute solo, a Prelude from a published collection of 1529. The lute is played by Thomas Dunford. What a pity that he features on only three tracks.

The CD is given the subtitle Auprès de vous. I like the translation as “through you”. One could say that this music has become available only ‘through’ the publishing efforts of Attaingnant. The more usual translation of Auprès de vous, as given in the notes, is ‘close to you’ which is the title of one of the popular songs set for the keyboard.

As well as the essay mentioned above and well translated by Nick Halliwell there are the French texts of five of the chansons used by Attaingnant. I normally complain when these are not supplied and here we are even supplied with texts which are not even sung. Anyway 'bravo' to all concerned. There are also photographs, a list of the instrument makers and artist biographies.

Gary Higginson

Track details
Prélude [3.24]
A mes ennuis [2.09]
Pavane [1.39]
Longtemps y a [1.54]
Pavane [3.10]
Gaillarde [1.26]
Gaillarde [1.25]
Tant que vivray [2.49]
Mon cueur en vous [3.27]
Prélude [1.06]
Secourez moy [2.21]
Branle commun & Branle gay [2.21]
Gaillarde [2.59]
Don’t vient cela [1.52]
Gaillarde [1.34]
Gaillarde [1.34]
Branles [2.51]
Prélude sur chacun ton [1.39]
Pavane [3.09]
Pavane [2.00]
Contre raison [3.43]
Auprès de vous [4.22]
Pavane [1.39]
Gaillarde [1.46]
Basse dance [1.54]
Malgré moy [2.11]
Languir me fais [1.16]
Gaillardes [2.08]