Ten Songs from the Chansonnier de Jean de Montchenu
Julie Ryning voice and Katelyn Clark clavisimbalum
Chansonnier de Jean de Montchenu, c.1475 (Henri de Rothschild MS 2973, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris)
This program features ten stunning works taken from the fifteenth-century Chansonnier de Jean de Montchenu. The heart-shaped songbook was copied around 1475 and created for a priest named Jean de Montchenu, who was living in Geneva at this time. The beautifully adorned and carefully created manuscript sits in a cordiform (heart shape) filled with musical scores and lavish images. The book contains 43 songs and is not strictly a “chansonnier” as only 30 of the songs are in French. The remaining works are in Italian save for one Castilian example. Almost all of the songs from Montchenu’s collection have love as a predominant theme, not surprising in light of the book’s heart shape. Although most works are anonymous, popular composers such Dunstable and Dufay are also present within the collection. Our interpretation of the cordiform’s music includes both vocal interpretation with semi-improvised instrumental accompaniment and keyboard intabulations. Intabulating vocal music for instruments—such as lute or clavisimbalum—was common practice during the 1400s and suggests a different way in which this repertoire could have been performed and heard in and around court.