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Tart ara mon cueur sa plaisance 4v · Molinet

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Copenhagen ff. 7v-9 »Tart ara mon cueur sa plaisance« 4v PDF · Facsimile

*Dijon ff. 85v-87 »Tart ara mon cueur sa plaisance« 4v PDF · Facsimile

*Laborde ff. 138v-139 »Tart ara mon cueur sa plaisance« 4v PDF · Facsimile

*Nivelle ff. 78v-79 »Tart aura mon cuer sa plaisance« 4v PDF · Facsimile

Other musical sources:

Florence 178 ff. 50v-51 »Tartara mon cuer« 3v
Florence 2356 ff. 75v-76 »Tart ara mon cor« 3v
Montecassino 871 pp. 414-415 »Tart ara mon« 3v
*Paris 15123 ff. 66v-67 »Tart ara mon cuer la plaisance« 3v PDF · Facsimile
*Paris 4379 ff. 7v-8 »Tart ara mon cuer sa plasance« 3v PDF
*Petrucci 1504/3 ff. 123v-124 »Tart ara mon cor« 4v Molinet PDF
*Rome 2856 ff. 106v-107 »Tart ara mon cuer sa plasanse« 3v Molinet PDF · Facsimile
Rome XIII.27 ff. 93v-94 »Tart hara mon cuer« 3v · Facsimile

Citations, and use of material see Fallows 1999 p. 383.

Editions: Jeppesen 1927 no. 8 (Copenhagen); Droz 1924 p. 60 (Laborde); Goldberg 1997 p. 513 (Laborde).

Text: Rondeau cinquain; full text in Copenhagen, Dijon, Laborde, Nivelle, and Paris 4379; corrupt version in Jardin 1501 f. 83 (no. 231). The poem according to Dijon and Copenhagen:

Tart ara mon cueur sa plaisance, (1)
tart ara mon bien sa naissance,
tart ara mon heur son venir,
tart ara de moi souvenir
celle qui sur moy a puissance.

Tart ara mon corps son aisance, (2)
tart ara plaine joyssance
de celle ou ne peut avenir.

Tart ara mon cueur sa plaisance,
tart ara mon bien sa naissance,
tart ara mon heur son venir.

Tart ara mon mal allegence,
tart ara mon bruit son avence, (3)
tart ara mon vueil son desir,
tart ara ma dame loisir
de guerir ma dure grevance.

Tart ara mon cueur sa plaisance,
tart ara mon bien sa naissance,
tart ara mon heur son venir,
tart ara de moi souvenir
celle qui sur moy a puissance.

Late will my heart have pleasure,
late will my joy break through,
late will my hour come,
late will I be remembered
by her who has me in her power.

Late will my body find relief,
late will it have full joy
of her to whom it cannot reach.

Late will my heart have pleasure,
late will my joy break through,
late will my hour come.

Late will my pain be relieved,
late will my fame be advanced,
late will my will have its desire,
late will my lady have leisure
to heal my bitter grief.

Late will my heart have pleasure,
late will my joy break through,
late will my hour come,
late will I be remembered
by her who has me in her power.

1) Nivelle, lines 1-4, 5-6 etc., “Tant aura …”
2) Laborde, line 6, “… son avence”
3) Laborde, line 13, “… son aisance”
Some small differences in spelling.

Evaluation of the sources:

The preserved versions of “Tart ara mon cueur sa plaisance” display great variation in their sound images, but it is a variation that only sparingly infringes on the individual characteristics of the song! It appears as an early four-part chanson in the “Loire Valley Chansonniers” and in Petrucci’s print Canti C of 1504; as a three-part song with two different contratenors in Italian sources from the 1480s and later; and it is found with any combination of key signatures from two flats in all voices to versions without any key signatures at all. This creates an extremely complex situation where the picture drawn by the sources seems to shimmer, where treads in the transmission cross and where not only some intermediate stages but also versions close to the song’s origin seem to be missing. Moreover, doubts concerning the identity of the composer cannot be dispelled.

The version, which probably can be pointed out as coming closest at representing the song’s original shape, is the copy made by the Laborde scribe. The other three sources among the “Loire Valley Chansonniers”, Dijon, Copenhagen and Nivelle, apparently transmit a reworking of the song and they probably all rely on the same exemplar.

In Laborde the ranges of voices a fifth apart are mirrored by the key signatures: Superius is without flats, contratenor altus and tenor in the same range have one flat each, and the low contratenor has two flats. During the first line (bb. 1-8) the contratenor bassus keeps away from any Es, and the song can open in free canonic imitation at the fifth between superius and tenor and with a sound dominated by major thirds and E- and A-naturals, but the melodic development and the tenor’s shift to its lower fifth (see below) slowly drags the sound towards the flat side. This change in tonal colour is underscored by the accidental flat in the superius in bar 10, which apparently is important and pulls the second line (bb. 10-18) completely into the two-flat realm. For the remainder of the setting it might be difficult for performers to decide how to interpret the tonal quality of the music, as Laborde does not convey any more accidentals. The two-flat signature in the low contratenor may be the decisive factor in the working out of a solution, but several tryouts were probably necessary before a performance (in the interpretation shown in the edition it is impossible not to be influenced by the accidentals in other sources).

Two details show that the Laborde version was the point of departure for the later three-part versions: the superius’ unadorned leap of a fourth in bar 2, and the low contratenor’s text declamation on the same note in bars 14-15 below the long notes in the tenor.

The exemplar used by the Dijon scribe presumably presented a revision of the version appearing in Laborde. The most important changes are: In bar 2 the leap of a fourth in the superius has been filled in by a dotted figure; in bars 5-6 the ligatures in the contratenor altus have been replaced by embellishments derived from the upper voice, and in bar 19.3 decorative fusae have been introduced; several perfect breves have been broken up in shorter values (e.g. T bb. 20 and 33, CB bb. 11-12); and the text recitation of the contratenor bassus in bars 14-15 has been replaced by a single longa.

Dijon, Copenhagen and Nivelle all transmit this version of the song. They probably depended on the same or two very similar exemplars; all of them transmit the same error in the contratenor altus, where the last note in bar 38 is c’ in stead of d’, and all has the rather dissonant c’ in bar 28.1 in stead of b-flat. Dijon shows a curious variant in the contratenor altus in bars 3-4: Where all other sources has two minimae d’-e’ as the last and first notes in these bars, Dijon has four semiminimae – quite dissonant. The scribe probably made a mistake, in stead of writing two minimae d’-e’ he wrote f’-e’, and not wanting to harm the page by scratching out a note he just changed them into shorter values by filling out the heads and added two more before resuming copying the voice. He did not repeat the exercise in Copenhagen.

His exemplar probably had key signatures of one flat in all four voices. This was supplemented by E-flats in the superius in bars 7 (controlling the remainder of the staff until bar 16) and 33 (influencing bb. 33-37) and in the contratenor altus bar 22. This clarified the tonal interpretation somewhat. But in his next copy of the exemplar he wanted the notation to be still more precise. Therefore the tenor in Copenhagen has a two-flat signature, unequivocally demanding an E-flat in this voice (then the singer has to remember to inflect this step in the medial cadence). And he added E-flats in the contratenors in bars 12 and 28 (altus) and in bars 28 and 36 (bassus). When copying Copenhagen he as usual used much less coloration at dotted figures, and he could not resist creating a dotted rhythm all through bar 20 in the contratenor bassus. The version in Copenhagen looks like the scribe’s finished work on this song. Now the notation dispels any doubt on what he wanted to hear.

A later hand (Nivelle C) added this version at the end of the Nivelle chansonnier. Except for some writing errors (see the edition; a tone repetition in S b. 14.1-2 and d’ in stead of c’ in CA b. 14.1 may also be errors) the most important difference between Nivelle and the Dijon scribe’s work is the consistent use of the alternative form of the future tense “aura” in Nivelle’s text. This close relationship between the Dijon scribe’s material and Nivelle at a later stage is interesting for the localisation of the manuscript. But this describes the situation as it was when “Tart aura” was copied into Nivelle. Some time later all key signatures were erased. Staff lines have been broken by erasures and in some instances redrawn, but it is obvious that at least one flat originally was present in every voice. The erasure probably happened when a lot of other music was erased in the MS, (1) but most of this operation concerned deletion of pieces, while the changes in “Tart aura” represent a revision. Why it was done, is difficult to know.

The three-part version of the song also appears without any signatures in the Florentine chansonniers Florence 2356 and Paris 15123. As the edition of the latter shows, the tonal identity of the song is upheld even if it lacks key signatures, because the superius has kept the essential E-flats in bars 7, 10, and 33 in place, so if anything the tonal contrasts within the song is strengthened by this procedure. Maybe the person who erased the key signatures in Nivelle had the same idea.

Canti C of 1504 (Petrucci 1504/3) goes in the opposite direction and simply applies two flats to every voice. Thereby the tonal shimmering of the setting is stamped out. But of course it does not influence the strong identity of the rhythmical patterns brought about by the words. Canti C shares many traits with the Laborde version, most important the fourth leap in bar 2, but it also has many of the details we know from the Dijon/Copenhagen versions, e.g. the embellished contratenor altus (bb. 5-6 and 19) and the single longa in contratenor bassus bars 14-15. Versions intermingling the two versions transmitted by the “Loire Valley Chansonniers” must have been in circulation during the generations between the 1460s and Petrucci. The idea of prescribing two flats in all parts was already current in the 1480s as testified by the textless version in MS Roma 2856, which also prescribes a flat before a’ in the superius bar 2 (in addition to displaying the over-zealous a-flat in the tenor b. 39.3 also found in Copenhagen and Nivelle; see the edition).

The three-part versions of the song retain the superius and tenor parts of four-part song unaltered, but none of them uses the original low contratenor, a blend of the high and the low contratenors makes up the new contratenor. It comes in two different shapes: Montecassino 871 and Paris 4379 have a version in which the contratenor supports the opening superius entry like in the four-part song (see the edition of Paris 4379), while five other sources underscore the imitative effect of the contratenor bassus by replacing the old-fashioned long supporting note with rests (see the editions of Paris 15123 and Rome 2856), but in all version the bassus declamation of bars 14-15 is carefully retained in different shapes.

The two versions with two-flat signatures, Rome 1856 and Petrucci 1504/3, that is versions which distort the tonal refinement of the setting and therefore not the most credible witnesses, ascribe the song to “Molinet”. In his careful discussion of the questions, which an ascription to the famous Burgundian poet and court chronicler, Jean Molinet (1435-1507) rises, Allan Atlas convincingly argues against the view that Molinet could be the author of the words only, but has to leave the question of the composer open (see further below). (2)

Comments on text and music:

This song is a masterly conception of a fusion between words and music; the rhythmical pattern provoked by the questioning words “Tart ara”, which opens every line of the poem except the final punch lines of the refrain and tierce, governs everything. The powerfully constructed tenor of wide range and quite slow movement keeps the extended setting together, and the two contratenors help to maintain its fullness of sound and rhythmical activity. The contratenor altus in the same range as the tenor could look like a later added “si placet” voice at it often lies above the superius and tends to obscure its line (bb. 2, 3, 6, 12-14, 21-22, 33-34), but the sources clearly point to the four-part song as the earliest preserved, and the later three-part versions were forced to invent new contratenors and were not simply excluding the high contratenor. Moreover, the high contratenor seems conceived more in support of the tenor, which also crosses above the superius (bb. 12-13), than with attention to the upper voice. In bars 33-34 black and white notes give the singer a choice of filling out the harmony above the superius or below the tenor.

The tenor is constructed in distinctive intervallic units: The first line strongly delineates first the fifth c’-f (bb. 2-5)then the fifth g-c (bb. 6-9). In the same way the second line moves from the high fifth c’-g’ (bb. 10-14) to the fifth d’-g (bb. 16-18). This play of fifths is crucial to the changing harmonic colour of the first section. The middle part of the song moves primarily within the scale built by the fourth g-d (bb. 19-26) combined with the fifth d’-g (bb. 27-37) thus spanning the song’s medial cadence on D and providing the tonal contrast needed for the rondeau form. The tenor speeds up in the final line as it descends from d’ to d, rises again to c’/e’ and descends to the final c – all in rhythmically active sequential patterns.

This rather monumental tenor forms a duet with the more agile superius, which opens with a bit of free canonic imitation at the fifth (bb. 1-4). A brilliant trait is its descending line in syncopated dotted figures that appears just before the end of the first section (bb. 23-25); it reappears in diminution during the complex final line (bb. 35-36) helping the tenor in building up the tension before the final cadence.

The two contratenors contribute massively to the unmistakable sonority of the setting. The low contra supplies many fundamentals, but it also at cadences jumps to the fifth above the tenor. Both contratenors participate in restarting the dotted “Tart ara” pattern at new lines (bb. 18 and 26), and they keep up the rhythmical activity; see e.g. the declamation of the text in bb. 14-15 in the contratenor bassus in the Laborde version – a touch of fear of empty spaces may crop up here.

As mentioned above a vital characteristic of the song in all versions except the ones with two flats in the signature (Petrucci 1504/3 and Rome 2856) is the changes of sonority created by contrasts between the E-naturals at the song’s opening and the E-flats introduced later in the first line, and some degree of alternation between them hereafter. (3) Many sources expressly demands flats in the superius in bars 10 (and/or 7) and 33. The development in sound unfolds quite calmly in the first section of the rondeau, while the second part speed up with what sounds like a compressed repetition of the 2nd and 3rd lines (bb. 10-26) in bars 33-37 signalled by the fast declamation of the first words of the final line.

The ingenious musical construction and development of the limited material irresistibly brings Busnoys to mind. Especially the start in imitation supported by a single longa in the contratenor points in his direction (cf. his »Vous marchez du bout du pie« 4v; and my remarks on ‘The restoration of Antoine Busnoys’ four-part Flemish song “In mijnen sijn”’). This rondeau could be a result of his experiments with settings in four parts of popular tunes. Two Italian sources (both transmitting the corrupt two-flat key signatures) ascribe it to “Molinet”. It is difficult to believe that the later famous court poet Jean Molinet should have been able to create this song in his youth. It is apparently a product of an accomplished musician and not of a single shot composer, however close relations he had with musicians like Busnoys, Compere and Ockeghem. It is most probable that the ascription cropping up over the three-part setting in Rome 2856 about ten years after its inclusion in the “Loire Valley Chansonniers” is erroneous, maybe confusing one Burgundian personality with another – or the “Molinet” mentioned among the musicians in Loyset Compere’s motet “Omnium bonorum plena” was in fact a far more productive composer than the preserved sources hint at.

The setting is long and dense, and its first line (bb. 1-9) is clearly conceived as a unit cadencing just like the final line, so it is very probable that it was performed with a shortened refrain, which gives a very satisfactory shape to the couplets (and it could possibly also be performed following the tierce). The editions of the texted four-part versions contain these alternatives.

PWCH June 2010

1) Cf. the facsimile edition commented by Paula Higgins (ed.): Chansonnier Nivelle de la Chaussée (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Rés. Vmc. ms. 57, ca. 1460), Genève 1984.

2) Atlas 1975, Vol. I, p. 195, note 8.

3) The song’s tonal shadings resound in the unique four-part Missa Tart ara in Verona, Biblioteca Capitolare Ms. DCCLV, ff. 70v-85, especially in Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus (cf. the edition by Agostino Magro at Also the opening of the superius is openly quoted in the mass as it is in Heinrich Isaac’s three-part reworking of the tenor (cf. Isaac 1907, p. 107).