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Claudin de Sermisy
c.1490 - 1562
C. de Sermisy
Claudin (Claude) de Sermisy (ca.1490 - 13/10/1562), a French singer and composer, born in Paris. Claudin de Sermisy (born circa 1490) passed away on the 13th of October 1562. Together with Clément Janequin, his friend and also rival for the affections of the art-loving King François I of France and for his popularity, he was one of the most important and famed composers of French chansons in the High Renaissance era in the first half of the 16th century. Sermisy also composed sacred music which both influenced and was influenced by Flemish and Italian styles.
We know little about his early life. Sermisy could have studied with Josquin des Prez, if we choose to believe the Memoirs of Pierre Ronsard (a famous French poet whom his own generation in France called a ‘prince of poets’). Anyway, Sermisy was well acquainted with Josquin’s music. According to contemporary sources, the young man was singing the Royal Chapel in 1505-1508, praised by both King Louis XII of France and his wife, Anne de Bretagne (Anne of Brittany).
After Louis XII’s death in 1515, Claudine de Sermisy became patronized by King François I of France, and the young monarch took him to the Duchy of Milan, where François won the Battle of Marignano of 1515. In 1520, Claudine de Sermisy also contributed to the grand musical pageant and festivities during the extravagant Field of the Cloth of Gold, although on the French part the project was ruled by Jean Mouton (a French composer of the Renaissance notable for his motets). Sermisy worked as a singer in Calais and deserved praises from both King François I of France and King Henry VIII of England. Sermisy composed some special chansons for this event. Years later, Sermisy composed a ceremonial motet and performed a chanson during the meetings of these two monarchs in Calais, where Henry VIII with Anne Boleyn in October 1532. The Saint-Chapelle built by Louis IX of France, Paris, France Claudine was a friend to King François, and he was also loved by the monarch’s relatives – Louise de Savoy, the Queen Mother, and Queen Marguerite of Navarre, the king’s sister. By 1532, Sermisy was music director of the Royal Chapel, which position he obtained thanks to his talents and François’ friendly attitude to him. At this post, Sermisy’s responsibility was to teach and care for the boys of the choir, as well as recruit talented singers and groom them for a musical career. In 1533, he was also appointed a canon of the Sainte-Chapelle and moved to Paris, where he rented a large and comfortable mansion. Already after François I’s death, Sermisy gained a prebend at Ste Catherine in Troyes. Little information is available about Sermisy’s life in the 1550s, but he was active as a composer until his death, given the number of his published works in these years.
Sermisy composed both sacred and secular music, and each of his works was for voices. Of his sacred music, 12 complete Masses have survived, including a famous Requiem mass, as well as approximately 100 motets, which François I and Marguerite de Navarre often listened to as they summoned Sermisy to the king’s private chambers to play for them until the composer’s move to Paris. There are also some magnificats: the Magnificat is a common part of Christian worship, for instance traditionally included in vespers, evensong, or matins. Sermisy’s set of Lamentations was performed by his followers during the funeral of King François in 1547 and the funeral of King Henri II in 1559. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Sermisy was a staunch Catholic and was never interested in religious reform, so all of his religious projects were purely Catholic.
The older Sermisy was getting, the more interested he was in sacred music instead of secular one. So, his appointment in the Sainte-Chapelle was suitable to his evolving character and tastes. Sermisy composed 2 of the few polyphonic settings of the Passion, which we can find in French music of the time, and the musical setting is simple and easy to understand, compared to his Masses and motets. Sermisy’s settings appeared in the 10th volume of Motets, which was published by Pierre Attaignant. Sermisy’s output of chansons was tremendous: he wrote more than 200 chansons in total, but now we have about 175 of them. The texts Sermisy chose were from contemporary poets, especially Clément Marot, who was Sermisy’s friend. Sermisy actively used verses by Marot for his musical projects, making him the main supplier of poems for his chansons. The main topics included unrequited love, friendship, nature, merrymaking, and drinking.
Claudin de Sermisy ( born c.1490-1562 died in Paris) French compuser was presumably a choirboy in The Sainte Chapelle de Palais. In 1508 he served in the chapel of Louis XII. In 1515 he travelled to Italy and some later in 1520 he went to England. In 1532 he served as a Sous-maître at The Sainte Chapelle de Palais and from 1547 as Maître. He left a large oeuvre, including numerous chansons which owing him his reputation, like Janequin before.
Contributor:Wim Goossens
Pierre Certon wrote Déploration sur la mort de Claudin de Sermisy
Si bona suscepimus
Period:Early Renaissance
Composed in:1520
Musical form:Motet a 4 vocibus
Text/libretto:Latin from a Responsorium de Officium Defunctorum
Psalmus PSAL 015

♫ Si bona suscepimus
© Psalmus PSAL 015
This Si bona suscepimus is an old Responsorium. There are about 138 Responsoria de Officium Defunctorum Responds from Office of the Dead known and used during centuries in the Office of the Dead. They are all well-ordered, this is number 87. One of the two corresponding Versicle from the Office of the Dead “ Nudus egressus” number 156 is used among others by Jacobus Clement (1515-1556), Gombert (c.1495-c.1557), Jacquet de Mantua (1483-1559), Lassus (1532-1594), Lechner (1553-1606), Ivo de Vento (c.1544-1575), Giovanni Mateo Asola (1528-1609), Gioseffo Zarlino (c.1517-1590), Thomas Verdelot (c.1475-1552), Claudin de Sermisy (1490-1562) and Thomas Selle (1599-1663). The other belonging Versicle is number 307 “Gloria Patri”. On the other hand Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) used only the Respond version without the Versicle-part so did Constanzo Porta (1529-1601) as we will see. Another third version is seen with the Versicle “In omnibus” Job Chapter 1, Vers 22 and is even produced in very old sources. And finally there is a fourth version with the Versicle “Testa saniem radebat Job.” It is known the use of Responds and Versicles of The Office of the Dead vary per region all over Europe.
This particularly Respond (87) is used and found in the series of Deventer Holland and preserved in the University of Amsterdam. And the more general type (Respond-Type 25) to which this Respond belongs is spread in the area under the Ottonian and Salian emperors the counties of Lower Lorraine, of Flanders, Champagne and the northern part of Holland. In general the text is coming out of the Book Job, chapter 1 verse 21 and chapter 2 verse 10. The choice of texts especially the use of the Versicle and the order in which they occur in the sources all around Europe vary according to local uses. This text setting is found in Deventer in a source out of 1516 and this Respond is sung at the end of the third nocturne.
This setting of this Respond - consisting out of 91 bars – is written by Claudin de Sermisy for four voices (CATB). Most of the melodic phrases are set by De Sermisy in paired imitation. From the beginning of this motet Cantus and Altus start in a two part counterpoint phrase which is repeated or answered by Tenor and Basus together in paired imitation. This was a beloved technique in that time among others developed by Josquin Desprez (c. 1450 -1521) and Loyset Compère (c.1445-1518) both belonging to the South Netherlandish composer out of the third Generation. This paired imitation is interrupted with a first mournful homophonic phrase “Dominus dedit, Dominus abstulit / The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away” ( Ms 33-38) to underline the imposing mournfully sentiments of those words. The paired imitation continues (Ms 37-48) and is interrupted by another homophonic phrase at the closing of the Respond “Sit nomen Domine benedictum / Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Ms 49-55). In measure 56 starts De Sermisy with the belonging Versicle to this Respond “Nudus egressus sum / naked came I out” in paired imitation. As from measure 69 De Sermisy starts with the repetition of the usual part of the Respond. This is normal according plainchant practises. The “Dominus dedit, Dominus abstulit” is repeated in the same moving homophonic expression as we saw here before. This Respond will be closed after a short paired imitation (Ms 74-85) similar to which we saw before and with the same mournful homophonic closure “ Sit nomen Domine benedictum.” Remarkable are the created pauses (a rest) between “Dominus Dedit” and “Dominus abstulit” (Ms 35 and Ms 71) to underline the mourning feeling and the poignancy to the suffering of Job seen this Respond-text. This Respond is set in G-Dorian. This motet is the basis to the excellent Missa si bona suscepimus by Dominique Phinot (c.1510 - c.1556) belonging too to the distinguished South Netherlandish composers of the third generation. This setting is published in Liber tertius decimus, treize livres de motets parus chez Pierre Attaingnant vol 11 en 1534 et 1535, Paris.
Author:Wim Goossens
Text Si bona suscepimus:
R.Si bona suscepimus de manu domine, mala autem quare non sustineamus?
Dominus dedit dominus abstulit sicut domino placuit ita factum est. Sit nomen domini benedictum.
V. Nudus egressus sum de utero matris meae, nudus revertar illuc.
R. Dominus dedit dominus abstulit sicut domino placuit ita factum est. Sit nomen domini benedictum.

R. If we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not endure evil?
The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away: as it has pleased the Lord, so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
V. Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.
R. The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away: as it has pleased the Lord, so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Contributor:Wim Goossens
Missa pro defunctis
Period:Early Renaissance
Composed in:1532
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
In 1532 Attaignant issued seven volumes of masses by various composers. These included the following by De Sermisy for four voices:
Liber I: Secunda est Philomena praevia
Liber II: Secunda est Missa IX lectionum
Liber III: Prima est Missa plurium motetarum
Liber IV: Secunda est Missa pro defunctis
Liber VII: Prima est Domine est terra
Source:Grove's dictionary of music and musicians
This mass is an non-Roman setting of the requiem mass à 4 vocum. Sermisy uses the customary/normal liturgical chorale melody as a Cantus Firmus in the Bassus Primus, and sections of it in the other parts. This requiem contains:
01. Introitus
02. Kyrie
03. Graduale "Si Ambulem"
04. Tractus "Virga tua"
05. Offertorium "Domine Jesu Christe"
06. Sanctus
07. Benedictus
08. Agnus Dei
09. Communio "Lux Aeterna"
Contributor:Wim Goossens