Ein frölich wesen / Les Flamboyants
Secular & textless music of Henrich ISAAC

Christophorus CHR 77360



1. Palle palle a4  [1:45]
Capella Giulia Chansonnier, Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, C.G.XIII.27

2. Tart ara a3  [2:13]
Ottaviano Petrucci: Canti C N° Cento Cinquanta (Venice, 1503/04)

3. J'ay pris amours a3  [3:49]
Codex Cordiforme, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Rés. Vmc., Ms 57

4. J'ay pris amours a3  [0:59]
Firenze, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Ms. Magliabecchi XIX 59

5. Jay pris amours a4  [1:56]
Ottaviano Petrucci: Canti C N° Cento Cinquanta (Venice, 1503/04)

6. La Spagna a3  [1:22]
Agnus Dei II from Missa La Spagna

7. Et je boi d'autant a4  [0:54]
Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS Banco Rari 229

8. In meinem Sinn a4  [1:21]
München, Bibliothek der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, SS 80 328-331

9. [Textless composition] a3  [1:39]
Wilphlingseder: Erotemata musices practicae (Nürnberg, 1563)

10. De tous biens playne / Et qui lui dira a2  [1:37]
Segovia, Archivo Capitular de la Catedral, MS s.s.

11. Mon père m'a donné mari a4  [1:14]

12. [Textless composition] a3  [1:26]
Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, MS Banco Rari 229

13. Een vrolic wesen a3  [1:16]
Segovia, Archivo Capitular de la Catedral, MS s.s.

14. En vrölic wessen a2 & a3  [2:14]
Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS 18832
Terza Pars from Missa Ein fröhlich wesen, Pleni sunt coeli, RISM 1539

15. Ain frelich Wesen a4  [1:20]
Pernner-Codex, Regensburg, Proske-Bibliothek, MS C120

GUILLAUME DUFAY (c.1400-1474)
16. Le serviteur hault guerdonné a3 Rondeau  [4:36]
Porto, Biblioteca Municipal, Cod. 714

17. Le serviteur a3  [1:56]
Florence, Bibl. Nazionale Centrale, MS Banco Rari 229

18. Tristitia vestra a3  [1:22]

19. Der Hundt: Das Kind lag in der Wiegen / Secunda Pars a3  [6:32]

20. Benedictus qui venit a3  [1:54]
Hieronymus Formschneyder: Trium vocum carmina (Nürnberg, 1538)

21. Fortuna in mi (Intabulierung)  [2:29]
Hans Kotter: Deutsche Orgeltabulatur 1532

JUAN DE URREDE (c.1430-after 1482)
22. Nunqua fue pena maior  [5:06]
Ottaviano Petrucci: Harmonice Musices Odhecaton A (Venice, 1501)

23. Numqua fue pena maior  [2:32]

24. Par ung iour de matinee a4  [1:28]
Ottaviano Petrucci: Canti C N° Cento Cinquanta (Venice, 1503/04)

ANTOINE BUSNOYS (?) (c.1430-1492)
25. Fortuna desperata a3  [1:21]
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Dép. des Manuscrits, MS 4379

26. Fortuna desperata a3  [1:25]
Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Ms. Magliabecchi XIX 121

27. Sanctus a4 (Fortuna desperata)  [1:40]
Bologna, Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale MS 017

28. Bruder konrad  [0:34]
Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Mus.-Ms. Z.98

29.  [1:23]
Frater conradus in fa a4
Agnus Dei III from Missa Carminum, Kleber-Tabulatur (1524)
Exemplum a4, cantus firmus Bruder Conrad
Christe from Missa Paschalis

30. Fortuna / Bruder Conrat a4  [1:19]
Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek MS 18810

31. Fortuna disperata / Sancte Petre / Ora pro nobis a5  [1:32]
Segovia, Archivo Capitular de la Catedral MS s.s.

Les Flamboyants

Els Janssens-Vanmunster, chant
Michael Feyfar, chant

Wolf-Eckart Dietrich, clavicytherium
Margret Görner, flute
Rogerio Gonçalves, dulcian & percussion
Irene Klein, viola da gamba & viola d'arco
Isabel Lehmann, flute
Marc Lewon, lute, gittern, Renaissance guitar, viola d'arco & chant
Romina Lischka, viola da gamba
Giovanna Pessi, harp
Baptiste Romain, vielle & Renaissance violin
Silvia Tecardi, vielle & viola d'arco

Michael Form
flute & direction


Vielle • Maurizio Marcelli, 1997, nach Fresko im Cappellone (San Nicola da Tolentino, Italien 14. Jh.)
Vielle • Judith Kraft, Paris, Frankreich 2007, Vorlage Italien (ca. 1400)
Viola d'arco • Richard Earle, Basel, Schweiz 2009, nach Gemälde Lorenzo Costa (1497, San Giovanni in Monte, Bologna)
Viola d'arco • Robert Foster, Wiveliscombe, Großbritannien 2010, nach Gemälde Lorenzo Costa (1497, San Giovanni in Monte, Bologna)
Renaissance-Violine • Richard Earle, Basel, Schweiz 2008, Vorlage Anonymus (Italien ca. 1530)
Diskantgambe & Altgambe • Robert Foster, Wiveliscombe, Großbritannien 2001, nach Gemälde „Allegorie der Musik“ (Anonymus, Süddeutschland ca. 1540, Musikmuseum Basel)
Bassgambe • Richard Earle, Basel, Schweiz 1990, nach Gemälde „Bankett der Nymphen“ Jacopo Tintoreno (Gemäldegalerie Dresden)
Plektrum-Laute • Stephen Gottlieb, London, Großbritannien 2001, nach Gerard David (1450-1523)
Quiterne • George Philip Stevens, Lydd, Großbritannien 2004, nach „Wartburg-Quinterne“ (1450) und Lyversberger Passion" (1465-70)
Renaissance-Gitarre • Julian Behr, Wyhlen, Deutschland 2005, nach Belchior Dias (Lissabon 1581) Gotische Harfe Erich Kleinmann, Rangendingen, Deutschland 2002, nach Anonymus (ca. 1430-1440)
Clavicytherium • Volker Platte, Remscheid, Deutschland 1990, Vorlage Donaldson Collection (Royal College of Music, London)
Renaissance-Blockflöte in c' • Peter van der Poel, Nieuwegein, Niederlande 1991 nach Silvestro Ganassi (Venedig 1535)
Renaissance-Blockflöten in f & g' • Monika Musch, Konstanz 1996/Freiburg i. Br., Deutschland 2010, nach Silvestro Ganassi (Venedig 1535)
Zylindrische Blockflöten in c", g' & f' • Bob Marvin, Eustis, U.S.A., 1998
Consort-Blockflöte in e' • Peter van der Poel, Bunnik, Niederlande 1999, nach Arzasius Schnitzer (1557) Consort-Blockflöte in f • Walter Meili, Teufen, Schweiz 1999
Consort-Blockflöten in e' & d' • Monika Musch, Freiburg i. Br., Deutschland 2010, nach Arzasius Schnitzer (1557) Consort-Blockflöte in c • Bob Marvin, Eustis, U.S.A., 1995)
Dulzian • Guntram Wolf, Kronach, Deutschland 2009, Vorlage 16. Jh. (Landesfürstliche Burg Meran) Pandereta nach spanischem Gemälde (Anfang 16. Jh.)
Grosse Trommel • Rogerio Gonçalves, La Sagne, Schweiz 2005, nach Gravur (Deutschland Ende 15. Jh.)

Executive producer DRS 2: Annelise Alder
Executive producer note 1 music: Joachim Berenbold
Recording: 23.-29. June 2010, Temple St. Jean, Mulhouse (France)
Recording producer & digital editing: Michaela Wiesbeck
Editor & layout: Joachim Berenbold
Cover picture: Agnolo di Cosimo ("Il Bronzino") "Portrait of Bia de' Medici" (c. 1542), Uffizi, Florence
Artist photo: Gabriele Lewon
Ⓟ + © 2012 note 1 music gmbh, Heidelberg, Germany

Henricus Isaac • Ein fröhlich wesen
by Michael Form

I must inform your lordship that the singer lsach has been in Ferrara and has written a motet on a fantasy entitled La mi la sol la sol la mi, which is very good, and he wrote it in two days. From this one can only judge that he is very rapid in the art of composition; besides he is good-natured and easy to get along with [...] he has taken the period of one month to reply as to whether he will serve or not.  [...] To me he seems well suited to serve your lordship, more so than Josquin, because he is of a better disposition among his companions, and he will compose new works more often. It is true that Josquin composes better, but he composes when he wants to, and not when one wants him to, and he is asking 200 ducats in salary while Isach will come for 120. (1)

This famous passage comes from a letter written by the courtier Gian di Artiganova to his lord Ercole I d'Este on September 2nd, 1502. The letter recommends Heinricus Isaac to be appointed to the position of maestro di cappella at the court of Ferrara and reveals to us Isaac's likeable character; he was known by his contemporaries for being good natured and amenable. During a stay in Ferrara, he had presented the court with a sample of his art by composing a motet upon a given musical subject in a very short time. He then appears to have provided an enjoyable working atmosphere while rehearsing and performing the piece with the singers of the court chapel. But, even though Isaac's composition was very well received, Ercole I ultimately decided to hire Josquin instead.

Henricus Isaac therefore remained faithful to Florence, remaining there where he had spent most of his professional life. The first reference to Isaac's presence in this city on the river Arno dates from July 1, 1485. At this time he was a member of the cantori di S. Giovanni, who were in charge of singing mensural polyphony on behalf of the Medici family at the cathedral, at the baptistery, and at the SS. Annunziata church. On April 8, 1492, however, the death of Lorenzo "il Magnifico" was to seal the decline of this noble family for many years to come. The arrival of decadence in Florence and increasing disruption of its economy provided excellent opportunity to the priest Savonarola, a preacher of repentance, to incense the population against the Medici—a task he was to find rather easy. The political developments that followed spelled grave consequences for Isaac: on April 1, 1493 the chapel of the cantori was disbanded. Isaac stayed in the private service of Piero de' Medici for several months until the entire Medici family was driven out of Florence in November 1494, depriving Isaac of his patrons and protectors. Savonarola's reign of terror began, coming to an abrupt end only with his public execution on May 23, 1498 on the Piazza della Signoria. During this dark period in the artistic and musical history of Florence, Isaac was able to depend on the contact he had previously made with the Habsburg court to provide him with future employment.

It appears that Isaac had made a lengthy stop at the court of Duke Sigismund der Münzreiche ("the rich in coin") in Innsbruck while travelling from Flanders to Tuscany for the first time, making his first contact with the Habsburg dynasty there. Kaiser Maximilian I, who had been present in Northern Italy during the political upheaval in Florence, sent Isaac and his wife to Vienna, where he was appointed composer and servant to the court of Innsbruck in November 1496. From 1502 onwards—perhaps after a "guest performance" in Ferrara (which did not result in the anticipated permanent position)—Isaac seems to have visited Florence more frequently. In 1512 at the latest, he settled there permanently so that he could live out his last years in his adopted home town. In 1513 Giovanni de' Medici was enthroned as Pope Leo X and granted his former private teacher a generous pension connected to the honorary title of prepositus capelle cantus figuratus ("provost of the chapel for polyphonic singing"). He was granted comparable benefits by Kaiser Maximilian after he had made what appears to be his last journey to Innsbruck. These pensions are notable in that they provide a measure of how highly esteemed this musician and servant was—he who was prepared to compose when it was expected of him and who, with his obliging demeanour, was able to befriend the powerful rulers of his era.


Henricus Isaac was one of the most famous and most highly regarded composers of his time; his music was so popular that it was still being printed in 1555, thirty-eight years after his death, by Hieronymus Formschneyder in Nuremberg. Thanks mainly to the efforts of Guido Adler, the young field of musicology at the beginning of the twentieth century applied itself to making a case for Isaac. Prompted by Adler, Anton Webern wrote his dissertation at Vienna University on the second part of Isaac's Choralis Constantinus in 1909. It is no great surprise that general interest focused on Isaac's monumental oeuvre of sacred music—no other composer of the Renaissance wrote a greater number of mass cycles. His secular songs could not but appear pale in comparison despite the fact that precisely some of these songs, such as Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen ("Innsbruck, I must part from thee") were held in unparalleled regard. Unfortunately, Isaac's music became increasingly marginalised in the course of the second half of the twentieth century and is currently—and unduly—neglected, as reflected by the lack of a complete edition of his work. Aside from some performing editions and anthologies, his secular works in particular are only available in an edition by Johannes Wolf (Vienna, 1907), which is in dire need of a revision.

At the centre of this recording lies a group of ten compositions, each of which is based on pre-existing musical material (2). With these Isaac joins the long line of composers who have paid reverence to their elder colleagues, such as Guillaume Dufay, Hayne van Ghizeghem, and Jacques Barbireau. Most of these pieces are untexted but can usually be unambiguously identified with their models by their text incipits. Fortuna disperata / Sancte Petre / Ora pro nobis was apparently Isaac's contribution to a compositional competition—there exist similar pieces by Jean Japart as well as by an anonymous composer. The compositional task seems to have comprised of taking a well known chanson melody and combining it with the invocation and response formulas of the Gregorian Litany of the Saints, distributed antiphonally between tenor primus and tenor secundus. Isaac's setting is completed by two freely composed accompanying voices to form a five-voiced piece (3). In De tous biens playne / Qui lui dira, Isaac set the beginnings of no fewer than sixteen different chansons against the melody of the most famous chanson of the fifteenth century, De tous biens playne (4). This dense quodlibet is nothing but a brilliant tour de force: while at first it seems that the arrangement of text fragments is dictated by the limited possibilities in combining their melodies and that of De tous biens playne, on closer inspection, they appear be arranged in a narrative in which the protagonist is the parrot of Margaret of Austria, in the midst of escaping.

In stark contrast to the saturation of quotations in De tous biens playne / Qui lui dira stand two arrangements of J'ai pris amours. Each version involves only one short subject, which is repeated in ostinato-like fashion up to nineteen times and in every contrapuntally conceivable position. In the first, the subject is the beginning of the chanson melody, while in the second it is a plaintive semi-tonal figure.

Isaac's experiment to estrange the melody of Fortuna desperata through semitone transposition is entirely without precedent—the resulting distortions of its Phrygian-mode cadences create a special challenge. Other examples of Isaac's ingenuity include Tart ara, which gives the illusion of containing a proportion canon; Le serviteur, which displays the greatest possible heterogeneity of the added voices; Ain frelich wesen, which takes the the lowest voice of the original composition (the contratenor bassus) and uses it in a higher one (as contratenor altus) in the new setting; and Fortuna desperata, which in a similar exchange of voices transposes the tenor voice up a fifth to become the superius, all while maintaining the original key of the piece. The musical discourse of proximity and distance from the model composition to newly composed voices which runs through all these pieces is precisely what fascinated Webern and others at the beginning of the twentieth century.

To these ten masterpieces we chose to add an eleventh, Numqua fue pena maior, whose authorship is unknown. While surely Isaac would have known the original villancico, Nunca fue pena mayor, by his Flemish compatriot Johann Vreede (who after moving to Spain called himself Juan de Urrede), because it was copied into Florentine manuscripts around 1500, the inclusion of this arrangement of the piece in the programme is not to suggest that it might have been composed by Isaac. Rather, we decided to include it because it shows a treatment of material similar to that of Isaac: its original tenor line, moving in a slow triple metre (tempus perfectum prolatio minor), is surrounded by three newly-composed voices in alla breve time (tempus imperfectum diminutum), which add new layers of ornamental figures in clear contrast to the reference material of the pre-existing voice.

While zooming in on Isaac's "derivative compositions," Les Flamboyants have also attempted to include performances of the models—though we have not done so slavishly. In addition, we chose secular compositions from a wide range of styles, including German songs and French chansons among others, in order to honour Isaac's unique versatility.

Our final piece, Palle palle, is especially puzzling. It probably is a tribute to the traditional battle cry of the Medici, referring to the red spheres in the family's coat of arms and to the partisans of the Medici family who, after these spheres, were called "Palleschi" by the Florentine republicans during their frequent feuds. It is possible that Isaac's tenor line paraphrases this battle cry, or that its division into 5+3 long notes is supposed to signify the eight spheres in the coat of arms of the Medici, which can still be admired today, rendered in a painting on the ceiling of the Sagrestia Vecchia of San Lorenzo in Florence.

Translation: Marc Lewon & Catherine Motuz

1  quoted from David Fallows: Joaquin, Turnhout (Brepols Publishers), 2009, pp. 236-237.

2  Ain frelich wesen, De tous biens playne / Et qui lui dira, Fortuna desperata, Fortuna in mi, Fortuna / Bruder Conrat, Fortuna disperata / Sancte Petre / Ora pro nobis, J'ai pris amours I & II, Le serviteur, Tart ara.

3  Jean Japart's version of Vray dieu d'amours / Sancte Joannes baptista / Ora pro nobis can be found in: Le Maître de Fricassée. Secular Music of Jean Japart, Les Flamboyants (Christophorus CHR 77353, 2011).

4  After some intensive comparative research, we were able to identify all sixteen chanson beginnings in order to allow a performance of the piece.