Tag Archive | French music

Cardinal Richelieu—the Musical Hymns, Carols, and Popular Music in “His Red Eminence.”

“C’est un rempart que notre Dieu, une invincible armure. Notre délivrance en tout lieu, notre défense sûre. Satan, notre ennemi, en fureur s’est promis. D’user de son pouvoir. Pour vaincre et décevoir. Sur terre il n’y a plus d’abri,” sang Anne Rochefeuille as she played the harpsichord in the main drawing room of the Palais Cardinal, Cardinal Richelieu’s grand palace built just north of the Louvre and bequeathed to King Louis XIII upon his death on the 4th of December 1642. Though Americans rarely hear it in French, the first verse of the above hymn is well-known by Protestants around the world as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther.  It is, like so many songs in this latest biography, an unusual choice for the story of France’s greatest and most transformative first minister.

Armand-Jean Richelieu 1 small

Jean-Armand du Plessis, cardinal and duc de Richelieu transformed France into the first truly modern and secular state of the western world. Still essentially a collection of feudal states owing nominal loyalty to the king of France when he took up the bishopric of Luçon in 1608, the cardinal’s ability to put aside religious considerations in favour of complete subordination of the French people and its institutions to the king had inevitable cultural implications as well. Carefully patronizing writers, poets, dramatists, painters, sculptors, architects, composers, musicians, and other artisans, regardless of his personal opinions about their creations, his patient efforts carefully moved French culture into the celebrated baroque era we associate with King Louis XIV.

Red Eminence webIn my new biography, “His Red Eminence, Jean-Armand du Plessis de Richelieu,” I celebrate the cardinal’s life through music. Eight songs in French, Latin, and English fill these pages, helping the story to come alive. Given my habit for setting scenes during the Christmas holiday season, there are of course Christmas carols, more than any other book so far. 15th century French carol “Noël Nouvelet” makes an appearance, as does “Adeste Fideles” which was originally written by French monks in the medieval era but not translated to English as “O Come All Ye Faithful” until Victorian times.

Two decidedly English songs make an appearance: the 16th century English “Coventry Carol” is heard for the first time in one of my books as does the medieval version of the popular song “Quoth John to Joan.”

Popular French music arrives in the form of Pierre Guédon’s “Aux plaisirs, aux délices.”  Guédon’s music is very special because it’s one of the few surviving songs we have specific to King Louis XIII’s reign instead of dating to either the Valois dynasty or Louis XIV’s reign.

Aux plaisirs, aux délices, bergères,

Il faut ètre du temps ménagères,

Car il s’écoule et se perd d’heure en heure;

Et le regret seulement en demeure.

A l’àmour, aux plaisirs, au bocage

Employez les beaux jours de votre àge.

But perhaps the most poignant of the two popular music pieces in this book is also the most familiar.  “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie” by Thoinot Arbeau is a love song written at the end of the 16th century. Popular with re-enactors, it is slow, stately and full of quiet passion. Just the sort of song that rises to the many diverse occasions found in not only this beautiful biography, but many of the Legendary Women of World History biographies as well.

We first encounter “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie” in 1618 during Armand-Jean’s exile in Avignon when best friend Anne Rochefeuille sings the first two verses. Then, in 1628, facing the horrors of war and missing home and the love waiting for him in Paris, Armand-Jean sings verses three through eight for us, allowing us to hear the song in full. Drama arises when his song is overheard by Father Joseph, his “grey eminence” as history remembers him. For one of the most consistent sources of drama in this biography is the constant question by those around the good cardinal as to whether or not, and if so who, is he taking to his bed as his lover.

Historically, the question is never proven either way but rather is a matter of persistent rumour spanning his entire adult life.

My belief is that he did have a lover, a woman whom he loved and faithfully took to bed for over twenty years. But more than a vessel for his sexual appetites, she was best friend, confidant, nurse, and intellectual equal.  She was everything for Armand-Jean du Plessis that Katharina von Bora was for Martin Luther almost a century before—except of course that du Plessis could not marry her in the church without stepping down from the priesthood and his only means of supporting himself. Even after becoming a cardinal in 1622 and first minister of France in 1624, Richelieu’s economic survival depended on him keeping secret what the true nature of his relationship with his Anne really was. If the truth were ever discovered, the scandal stood to cost him not only his position (and the money he depended on to live), but his life as well.

 

With this dramatic context in mind, I invite you to enter King Louis XIII’s court with all its music and dance and courtly romance and intrigues to meet the real man you never knew from reading Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers.”

 

 

Lyrics: Noël Nouvelet/Christmas Comes Anew (15th Century French)

Red Eminence webThe fifth song that appears in “His Red Eminence is another Christmas carol. This time we are going back to 15th century France for Noël Nouvelet which you can hear at the end of Christmas mass at the Louvre in chapter ten, “Confessions.”

 

Noël Nouvelet/Christmas Comes Anew (15th Century French)

 

French:

Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons icy;

Dévotes gens‚ rendons à Dieu merci;

Chantons Noël pour le Roi nouvelet;

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

En Bethléem‚ Marie et Joseph vy‚

L’asne et le boeuf‚ l’Enfant couché parmy;

La crèche était au lieu d’un bercelet.

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

L’estoile vint qui le jour esclaircy‚

Et la vy bien d’où j’etois départy

En Bethléem les trois roys conduisaient.

Noël nouvelet!

Noël chantons icy!

 

English:

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

Glory to God! Now let your praises swell!

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

Angels did say, “O shepherds come and see,

Born in Bethlehem, a blessed Lamb for thee.”

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

In the manger bed, the shepherds found the child;

Joseph was there, and the Mother Mary mild.

Sing we Noel for Christ, the new-born King,

Christmas comes anew, O let us sing Noel!

 

https://lyricstranslate.com/en/no%C3%ABl-nouvelet-christmas-comes-anew.html

Lyrics: Aux plaisirs, aux délices (Pierre Guédon, 1566 to 1620)

Red Eminence webThe next song to appear in “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” is “Aux plaisirs, aux delices” by Pierre Guedon, one of the most popular song writers of King Louis XIII’s reign. In the book Anne Rochefeuille sings it as she plays it on the harpsichord, but you will most often hear recordings of it performed with baroque guitar.

 

Aux plaisirs, aux délices (Pierre Guédon, 1566 to 1620)

French:

Aux plaisirs, aux délices, bergères,

Il faut ètre du temps ménagères,

Car il s’écoule et se perd d’heure en heure;

Et le regret seulement en demeure.

A l’àmour, aux plaisirs, au bocage

Employez les beaux jours de votre àge

 

Les ruisseaux vont aux plaines fleuries,

Cajolant et baisant les prairies,

Le doux zéphir parle d’amour à Flore,

Et les oiseaux en parlent à l’aurore

 

Maintenant la saison vous convie

De passer, en aimant, votre vie.

Déjà la terre a pris sa robe verte,

D’herbe et de fleurs la campagne est couverte.

 

Ce qui vit, qui se meut qui respire,

D’amour parle, ou murmure, ou soupire;

Aussi le coeur qui n’en sent la peinture,

S’il est vivant, il est contre nature.

 

http://www.lieder.net/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=103608

Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie Lyrics

Red Eminence web

At long last it’s here! “His Red Eminence, Armand-Jean du Plessis de Richelieu” is the latest biography by Legendary Women of World History historian Laurel A. Rockefeller. Eight songs appear in this epic tale of the most influential politician of modern France.  Here is the first song you hear, “Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie” by Thoinot Arbeau.

 

Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie (Thoinot Arbeau)

French

Belle qui tiens ma vie

Captive dans tes yeux,

Qui m’as l’ame ravie

D’un souris gracieux,

Viens tôt me secourir

Ou me faudra mourir.

Viens tôt me secourir

Ou me faudra mourir.

 

Pourquoi fuis-tu, mignarde,

Si je suis près de toi?

Quand tes yeux je regarde

Je me perds dedans moi,

Car tes perfections

Changent mes actions

Car tes perfections

Changent mes actions

 

Tes beautés et ta grâce

Et tes divins propos

Ont échauffe la glace

Qui me gelait les os,

Et ont rempli mon coeur

D’une amoureuse ardeur.

Et ont rempli mon coeur

D’une amoureuse ardeur.

 

Mon ame voulait être

Libre de passion,

Mais l’amour s’est fait maitre

De mes affections

Et a mis sous sa loi

Et mon coeur et ma foi.

Et a mis sous sa loi

Et mon coeur et ma foi.

 

Approche donc ma belle,

Approche-toi mon bien,

Ne me sois plus rebelle

Puisque mon coeur est tien,

Pour mon mal apaiser

Donne-moi un baiser.

Pour mon mal apaiser

Donne-moi un baiser.

 

Je meurs mon angelette,

Je meurs en te baisant.

Ta bouche tant doucette

Va mon bien ravissant.

À ce coup mes esprits

Sont tous d’amour épris

À ce coup mes esprits

Sont tous d’amour épris

 

Plutôt on verra l’onde

Contremont reculer,

Et plutôt l’œil du monde

Cessera de bruler,

Que l’amour qui m’époint

Décroisse d’un seul point.

Que l’amour qui m’époint

Décroisse d’un seul point.

 

English

Beautiful one who holds my life

Captive in your eyes,

Who has ravished my soul

With a gracious smile?

Come to my aid

Or I must die.

 

Why do you flee, dainty one,

If I am near you?

When I behold your eyes

I am lost inside myself

Because your perfection

 

Your beauty and your grace

And your divine ways

Have melted the ice

Which was freezing my bones

And have filled my heart

With a loving ardour.

 

My soul wanted to be

Free of passion,

But love became master

Of my affections

And put under its law

My heart and my faith.

 

Come near, my lovely one,

Come near, my [dear one],

Do not resist me further

For my heart is yours,

To relieve my ills

Give me a kiss.

 

I die, my Little Angel,

I die when kissing

Your mouth so sweet.

My very lovely one,

With that touch my spirits

Are completely lifted in love.

 

Sooner will waves

Flow backwards

And sooner will the moon

Cease to shine

Before the love which conquered me

Wanes a single iota.

 

http://www.users.on.net/~algernon/bellequitiens/translation.html