Notes from “A Military Recital on the Ukulele”

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Simon Gorlier (flourished 1550-84) was a musician and French composer and an active bookseller and printer in Lyon. He could not be linked to the Lyon consular family of Grolier. Most musical editions printed by Simon Gorlier are lost and reported only in bookseller catalogs or bibliographies of the time. His sole surviving works for guitar are in Troysieme livre de tabulature de guiterne (1551) which was published by Morlaye in Paris. In the dedication Gorlier wrote apologetically of the four-course guitar and his reasons for composing for an inferior instrument, saying that he wanted to show that it was as capable as larger instruments of reproducing music in two or three parts.  He also played the spinet.

La bataille de Marignan (The battle of Marignano) by Clément Janequin is a lengthy four-part chanson.  It is a showpiece impressively arranged by Gorlier for the four-course guitar.

The Battle of Marignano was the last major engagement of the War of the League of Cambrai and took place on 13-14 September 1515, near the town now called Melegnano, 16 km southeast of Milan. It pitted the French army, composed of the best heavy cavalry and artillery in Europe, led by Francis I, newly crowned King of France, against the Old Swiss Confederacy, whose mercenaries until that point were regarded as the best medieval infantry force in Europe. The battle was a decisive victory for Francis.

Gregoire Brayssing (flourished 1547-60) was born in Augsburg in Bavaria.  He left the after the victory of Charles V over Elector Johann Friedrich of Saxony at Mühlberg in 1547.  He was a lute and guitar player and composer active in France in the period 1547-1560.  His sole surviving works for guitar are in Quart livre de tabulature de guiterre (1553) which was published by Le Roy in Paris.  Little else is known about him.

La guerre, faitte à plaisir  is a lengthy program piece, with military and battle sounds and carries the rubric:

“Veldt schlacht Wieder loblicher Churfurst herzogk Johans Friderich von Sachsen vor Mulberg gefangen ist Worden”

“Pithched battle before Muhlberg in which the honorable elector Johans Friederich von Sachsen was taken prisoner”.

The battle, of course, was in 1547 and the cause of Brayssing’s need to leave Bavaria.

Adrian Le Roy (c.1520–1598) became an accomplished musician and entered the service of, first, Claude de Clermont, then, Jacques II (Baron de Semblançay and Viscount of Tours), both members of the aristocracy who had influence at court. Le Roy and his cousin Robert Ballard founded the printing firm “Le Roy & Ballard”, and in August 1551 obtained a royal privilege from Henry II to print music. Royal patronage was a major factor in the company’s success since it ensured both a ready supply of new music from the court musicians and a market for its publications. Over the following two decades other rival companies dropped out of the market and from the 1570s onwards Le Roy & Ballard enjoyed a virtual monopoly in music publishing. Le Roy achieved renown as a composer and arranger of songs and instrumentals, his published work including at least six books of tablature for the lute, five volumes for the guitar and arrangements for the cittern. Le Roy’s book L’Instruction pour la mandore gives modern historians hints as to the instrument’s origins and design.

Pavane et Gaillarde de la guerre is a pair of dance pieces with a military theme.  The pavane is a slow processional dance common in Europe during the 16th century.  It is often paired with a gaillarde, an athletic dance, characterised by leaps, jumps, hops and other similar figures in a series of choreographed patterns of steps.

François Couperin (1668-1733) was a French Baroque composer, organist and harpsichordist. Couperin was born into a prominent musical family, so he was known as Couperin le Grand (“Couperin the Great”) to distinguish him from other members of the  family.  His life and career were accompanied by good fortune. He obtained a 20-year royal privilege to publish in 1713 and used it immediately to issue the first volume (out of four) of his harpsichord works followed by other collections of keyboard and chamber music. In 1717 Couperin succeeded one of his most eminent colleagues, Jean-Henri d’Anglebert, as ordinaire de la musique de la chambre du roi pour le clavecin, one of the highest possible appointments for a court musician.

Les Barricades Mystérieuses (The Mysterious Barricades) is a piece of music composed for harpsichord in 1717. The work is in rondeau form. While the title reflects the musical structure, there are many suggested meanings of the title, including “impeding communication between people” or “between life and death”.  No one really knows.