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Crequillon wrote some sixteen Masses, 116 motets, 192 chansons, five French psalms and Lamentations. Though some of his chansons are in the light and witty French style, which was created in the 1520s in Paris (introducing transparancy, repetitive structure and a melodious upper voice) most are still in the contrapunt-imitative Flemish style (as Gombert and Clemens non Papa’s), mostly more serious in tone and written in flowing, imitative 5-part polyphony sometimes involving canon; in this they hark back to the late chansons of Josquin Desprez, whose expressivity — relating text and musical structure — is not his forte (rather balancing syllabics and melismatics), but he masterly adds some of the modern “French” rhythmic liveliness to the traditional “Flemish” imitative contrapunct. His hit chanson “Ung gay bergier” (“a gay sheperd”), one of the most erotic in the genre, was arranged for keyboard by Andrea Gabrieli in Venice and Antonio de Cabezon in Spain, and even used for a parody mass by the Slovene Jacobus Handl (alias Gallus).
In sacred music Crequillon often matched musical to verbal expression, using harsh dissonance to create tension (the 5-part set of Lamentations shows this well, despite its major mode), but his smooth vocal line and command of sonority are equally impressive.
His Missa “Pis ne me peult venir” is a typical parody mass: named after the polyphonous Motet it’s based on, keeping the chanson’s structure at hebeginning of each part of the mass — in varying numbers of parts — but then referring to it or completely diverting. His Motets follow the example of Gombert, the market leader in the genre and also at the imperial court: trough-imitation on either freely composed melodies (e.g. “Factus est repente”) or paraphrases on Gregorian ones such as the Pentecost hymn “Veni creator”. In 1548 he co-authored with Cornelius Canis, Nicolas Payen (who in 1556 became the first of 7 Flemish masters of the Capilla flamenca at Madrid) and the organist Jean Lestainnier a collection of Motets, entitled “Cantiones selectissimae”, published in Augsburg and dedicated to their common employer, emperor Charles V. In 1576 Phalesius published in Leuven (Louvain) a collection of 61 of his Motets, joined to six volumes by Clemens Non Papa. He also wrote Motets of state, notably “Carole, magnus erat” and “Quis te victorem dicat” in honor of Emperor Charles V.
Crecquillon, Mort m’a privé 1. Oeil eagaré; 2. Missa Mort m’a privé; 3. Mort m’a privé à 5; 4. Caesaris auspiciis; 5. Mort m’a privé à 4; 6. Cur Fernande pater; 7. Le monde est tel; 8. Praemia pro validis; 9. Congratulamini mihi, recorded by The Brabant Ensemble directed by Stephen Rice, for the Hyperion label, numbered CDA67596
One or more works are also on several other non-composer-specific recordings, see link below.
This Franco-Flemish composer belongs to the Fourth generation of the Flemish Polyphony, championed by Adriaen Willaert in Venice and Nicolaas Gombert at the Habsburg court. He became singer (1541?) in and later director of music to Charles V’s chapel at Brussels in about 1544–47 till 1548, and was later a prebendary (i.e. held a Catholic clergy appointment) in various “Flemish” towns — Leuven (Louvain), Namur, Dendermonde (Termonde) and finally in 1555 Béthune (birthplace of Pierre de Manchicourt, another contemporary Chanson master in between the “Parisian” and “Flemish” style) where he died. Highly regarded in his own day (much of his music circulated widely in print; at least one of his Motets became the basis for a parody mass, by Georges de la Hèle), he is most distinguished as a chanson composer.
Contribution endebted to KULeuven’s musicology professor I. Bossuyt’s book “De Vlaamse Polyfonie” and the HOASM-site linking below.