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MS Florence 2794


Le souvenir de vous my tue 3v · Morton, Robert

Appearance in the group of related chansonniers:

*Copenhagen f. 25 »Le souvenir« 2v [3v] (Only T and C) PDF · Facsimile

*Dijon ff. 87v-88 »Le souvenir de vous me tue« 3v PDF · Facsimile

*Laborde ff. 55v-56 »Le souvenir de vous me tue« 3v PDF · Facsimile

*Leuven ff. 5v-6 »Le souvenir de vous me tue« 3v PDF

*Wolfenbüttel ff. 47v-48 »Le souvenir de vous me tue« 3v PDF · Facsimile

Other musical sources:

Bologna Q16 ff. 137v-138 »Le sovenir« 3v · Facsimile (Q016_282)
Cop 1848 p. 141 »Le souvenir de vous me tue« 3v
Florence 176 ff. 52v-53 »Le sovenir« 3v Mortom
Florence 2356 ff. 47v-48 »Le sovenir« 3v
Mantua 518 ff. 17v-18 »Le souvenir« 3v
Paris 15123 ff. 20v-21 »Le souvenir deus metue« 3v · Facsimile
Paris 2973 ff. 30v-31 »Le souvenir de vous me tue« 3v · Facsimile
Perugia 431 ff. 78v-79 »Le sovenir de vos me tue« 4v (4th voice is a later addition)
Uppsala 76a ff. 20v-21 »Le souvenir de vous me tue« 3v

Reworkings, citations, intabulations and use of material, see Fallows 1999 pp. 256-257.

Editions: Jeppesen 1927 no. 20 (Copenhagen); Gutiérrez-Denhoff 1988 no. 38 (Wolfenbüttel); Morton 1981 no. 4 (Wolfenbûttel).

Text: Rondeau quatrain; full text in Dijon, Laborde, Leuven, Wolfenbüttel, Paris 2973 and Uppsala 76a; also in Berlin 78.B.17 f. 68 (no. 66) ed.: Löpelmann 1923 p. 360, Jardin 1500 f. 68 (no. 66, only the first lines), Chasse 1509 f. Q4 (Tierce different). The poem according to Dijon:

Le souvenir de vous me tue,
mon seul bien, quant je ne vous voi; (1)
car je vous jure sur ma foy:
Sans vous ma leesse est perdue. (2)

Quant vous estes hors de ma veue,
je me plains et dis a par moi: (3)

Le souvenir de vous me tue,
mon seul bien, quant je ne vous voi

Seulle demeure despourveue,
d'ame nul confort ne reçoi, (4)
et si seuffre sans faire effroy (5)
jusques a vostre revenue.

Le souvenir de vous me tue,
mon seul bien, quant je ne vous voi;
car je vous jure sur ma foy:
Sans vous ma leesse est perdue.

The memory of you kills me,
my only joy, when I do not see you,
for I swear to you upon my faith,
without you my happiness is lost.

When you are out of my sight,
I grieve and say to myself:

The memory of you kills me,
my only joy, when I do not see you.

I remain alone and desolate,
I receive no confort from anyone,
and thus suffer quietly,
until your return.

The memory of you kills me,
my only joy, when I do not see you,
for I swear to you upon my faith,
without you my happiness is lost.

1) Leuven, line 2, “... puis que ne vous voy”
2) Leuven, line 4, “... ma joye est perdue”
3) Leuven, line 2, “je plains en disant tout par moy”
4) Laborde and Wolfenbüttel, line 10 “… ne reçay” 
5) Leuven, line 11, “ce dueil porter sans ...”; Laborde and Wolfenbüttel, “… faire effray”

Evaluation of the sources:

The existing literature has emphasized the relative stability of the musical content of this song as found in the sources. (1) In so doing, the confusion that the sources exhibit concerning the song’s mensuration and its use of key signatures has been downplayed too far, and the fact that the four (now five, including the Leuven chansonnier) oldest sources cannot be performed taken literally has been disguised.

The situation concerning the five related sources is quite straightforward. They are copies of three different exemplars (or of closely related versions of such exemplars), and they contain errors probably going back to the exemplars, which make them difficult or impossible to use in performance. The versions of the Laborde and Wolfenbüttel chansonnier fared worst.

Laborde and Wolfenbüttel are nearly identical copies of a faulty exemplar. The errors which make the version not performable are concentrated in bars 12-14: bars 12.3-13 in the upper voice are simply missing in both sources, and the minima B-flat in bar 14.3 in the Contra is notated as semibrevis, which dislocates the following notes; likewise both sources in the superius have bar 12.1-2 as a semibrevis followed by two minimae, while all other sources have the more consonant configuration of two minimae followed by a semibrevis. The Laborde scribe tried to compensate for the error in the Contra by deleting the minima rest in bar 15.3, which the Wolfenbüttel scribe left in place (the simple writing errors in Laborde, T, b. 14.3 and Wolfenbüttel, C, b. 12.3, are not interesting in this connection). Also some uncommon spellings in the text’s lines 10-11 (“reçay/ressay” and “effray”, see above) were probably taken over from the exemplar.

The exemplar moreover prescribed tempus perfectum and a liberal use of b-flat signatures, which both sources followed. Wolfenbüttel interpreted the song with no signature in the upper voice and one flat in both lower voices. The only occurrence of the note B in the superius where any insecurity in performance could be expected was clearly marked with a flat (S, b. 5.1). On his side the Laborde scribe chose to keep the one-flat signatures in the superius and Contra, but did not prescribe any signature in the Tenor, and thus accentuated the Lydian flavour of the song – especially in bars 1, 10 and 13.

Contrary to this the Dijon version (and probably the version of Copenhagen of which the folio containing the superius is missing) is written in tempus imperfectum and shows no key signatures. In both sources the scribe copied the Contratenor in a wrong clef a fifth too high – or he just followed his exemplar. The few divergences between the sources in Tenor and Contratenor (bb. 15.1 and 27.1) are within the habitual variances in the scribe’s work.

The ‘new source’, the Leuven chansonnier, presents a normalized version: It is notated in a ‘standard’ clef combination of C3/c2, C4 and F4 clefs in tempus perfectum with a key signature of one flat in each voice, and its musical notation uses coloration and ligatures relatively sparingly. Its text has a different wording of some lines (see above), which makes line 4 a syllable short. The music exhibits several dissonant errors, which probably go back to the exemplar, and they make it difficult to perform as it stands (see the edition). Thus the new source does not change much in the picture of the song’s transmission in the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers.

If we correct the wrong clef and the missing notes there will be only minimal differences in performances according to Dijon and Laborde. The three flats in Leuven and the flats in the lower voices in Wolfenbüttel make a greater difference in performance as they obliterate the tensions between b-natural and b-flat. In reality the key signatures of Laborde are superfluous, as the rules of melody will take care of most inflections, and the song functions just as well in double as in triple time (see the editions). The same confusion concerning mensuration and key signatures characterizes the other, younger sources for the song (the configurations of key signatures are given in parentheses): No mensuration, Copenhagen 1848 (-, -, -), Perugia 431 (b, b, b); in tempus perfectum, Bologna Q 16 (b, b, b), Florence 176 (-, b. -), Paris 2973 (-, -, -); in tempus imperfectum, Florence 2356 (-, -, bbb), Paris 15123 (b, b, b), Uppsala 76a (-, b, b).

The key to this flickering picture drawn by the sources can be found in the Contra voice of MS Florence 2356 in combination with the mistake in the Dijon chansonnier. The Contra of Florence 2356 shows a key signature of no less than three flats, a F4-clefs and flats before f, B and F. This is a clear indication that the song existed in “clefless” or fa-clef notation (see further ‘On chansons notated in fa-clefs’), that it originally was notated with a formation of interlocking fifths, which determined the relation between Tenor and Contratenor. And as very often seen in older sources there would be no indication of tempus perfectum. Example 1 shows how such a notation could have been designed. The scribe of Florence 2356 interpreted superius and tenor as C2 (moving the notes down) and F3 clefs disregarding the superfluous flats before Fs and Cs, but keeping the flats in the F4 clef (moving the notes down) as the flat on the B-line had a function. The Dijon scribe followed exactly the same procedure concerning the upper voices (C3 and F3), but as Tenor and Contratenor in this notation looks alike, he just repeated the F3 clef in the Contratenor and deleted all flats. In this way his mistake (or his exemplar’s) could be caused by a notation, which was en route to oblivion. The song’s original circulation in fa-clef notation may also be behind the many different attempts at re-interpreting it in standard notation by Italian and French copyists.

Example 1

The notation with a relationship of interlocking fifths between two of the voices is usually associated with Binchois and may have been used to indicate a performance a fifth higher than the default reading of the voices. In connection with Binchois’ »Comme femme desconfortee« such a reading transported a low range song in a female voice up into a more normal tessitura, but with an implied key signature of one sharp in the upper voice. Something similar could be the original intention here. The default reading of the fa-clefs in Example 1 would be C3, F3 and F5 with no flats in superius and Tenor and a single flat in the Contratenor. A ‘high clefs reading’ (cf. ‘On chansons notated in fa-clefs’) will produce a clef-combination of C1, C3 and F3 with a sharp in the upper voices and no signature in the Contratenor, and with an upper voice in the range c’-f” (total range c-f’’) – see the alternative edition of the Dijon version. In “Le souvenir” Binchois’ method of highlighting the superius also involves a melodically equal tenor, a seemingly original extension of the concept, probably caused by its more modern distribution of ranges in the voices. The high clefs reading is further supported by the second keyboard intabulation of the song in the Buxheimer Orgelbuch (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cim. 352b (Mus. Ms. 3726)) ff. 165-165v, “Lesovenir” (no. 256), which retains several of the sharps in the tenor. (2)

Only one source identifies the composer of the song with a name. Florence 176 ascribes it to “Mortom” alias the English singer Robert Morton, who served the Burgundian court as clerc and chappelain during the years 1457-1476. (3) If the idea of an original notation of “Le souvenir” in fa-clefs can be sustained, one can speculate further on the date of Morton’s association with the Burgundian court, which may have been earlier than indicated by archival documents. A song of this type is more likely to stem from the years around 1450, composed under the influence of Binchois, and possibly inspired by his masterpiece “Comme femme”.

Concerning the relationship between the versions of Florence 2356 and the ‘Loire Valley Chansonniers’, the details of melodic decoration in the superius of Florence 2356 wavers between those of Dijon and Wolfenbüttel, while the Tenor and Contra conform with Dijon/Copenhagen and add the needed flats before b bars 22-23 in the Tenor (bb. 14-15 in triple time) and before e bars 25-26 in the Contra (b. 17), but also containing some errors.

Comments on text and music:

A woman longs for the return of her lover. The poem is simple and direct, but the musical setting is a miracle of beauty and suppleness, and a paradigm of longing expressed in music with the utmost economy. The two upper voices are equal in melodic interest, with some interplay in their common range (bb. 6-9), but otherwise functioning as a superius-tenor duet in carefully calculated melodic arches. The low contratenor accompanies while insisting on constantly touching the octave F-f by leaps and delivers a sure foundation of the harmony; rhythmically it is indeterminate, thereby contributing much to the mood and stillness of the song, and to the divergent interpretations of its mensuration.

Even if the “Le souvenir” differs much from »Comme femme desconfortee« stylistically, first and foremost in its formal concentration and its vocal instrumentation in three distinct ranges, the songs have much in common in mood and feeling. In the versions without key signature in the Tenor the constant fluctuation of the Lydian fourth scale degree contributes to this feeling and to the affinity of “Le souvenir” with the music of Binchois. The traces of an original fa-clef notation in the song’s transmission (see above) can only support this affinity.

PWCH April 2010, revised April 2017

1) Cf. Thibault & Fallows 1991, p. CIII, and Allan Atlas in Morton 1981, p. 71 (I’m sorry to say that my sampling of the information in the last mentioned shows that the detailed commentary of this edition lacks credibility).

2) For editions see Fallows 1999, p. 256; Morton 1981, p. 20 offers a score transcription of the piece.

3) Cf. David Fallows, ‘Morton, Robert’ in Grove Music Online (April 2010).