Programme Music in the Last Four Centuries: A Contribution to the History of Musical Expression

By Frederick Niecks | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II.

FIRST PERIOD (16TH CENTURY): VOCAL PROGRAMHE MUSIC-- JANNEQUIN, GOMBERT, JOSQUIN DEPRÈS, LASSO, PALESTRINA, MARENZIO, ETC.

In connection with the history of Programme Music allusions are generally made to descriptive vocal compositions of the 16th century, but they are mostly inadequate and not infrequently incorrect. The number of works composed and the number of editions of many of them prove the great popularity enjoyed by this kind of music. CLÉMENT JANNEQUIN, of whose life we know next to nothing, was, as far as our knowledge goes, not only the most prolific and successful composer in this genre, but also one of the earliest. His works appeared in the second and third quarter of the 16th century. As we cannot be sure that we have the first editions of these works, and some editions do not bear the year of issue, it is inadvisable to be more explicit. The descriptive vocal pieces of Jannequin first published are La Guerre, or La Bataille, La Chasse du Lièvre, Le Chant des Oiseaux, and L'Alouette. Here we have at once the favourite subjects of the programme music of that age, and of all ages for a certain class of the public--namely, War, the Chase, and the imitation of Animal Voices, especially Bird Voices. Battle pieces, however, are so decidedly in the majority that the first subject must be recognized as the prime favourite.

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