Claudin de Sermisy

Claudin de Sermisy (c. 1490 – 13 October 1562) was a French composer of the Renaissance.[1] Along with Clément Janequin he was one of the most renowned composers of French chansons in the early 16th century; in addition he was a significant composer of sacred music. His music was both influential on, and influenced by, contemporary Italian styles.


Sermisy was most likely born either in Picardy, Burgundy, or Île-de-France, based on the similarity of his surname to place names there.[1] Sometime in his early life he may have studied with Josquin des Prez, if Pierre Ronsard is to be believed, but many musicologists consider the claim unreliable; at any rate he absorbed some of the older composer's musical ideas either early, or later, as he became acquainted with his music. Josquin was possibly at the French court between 1501 and about 1503, though this has never been definitely established, so a master-pupil relationship would have been possible then; Sermisy's whereabouts before 1508 are not known, but presence at the Royal Chapel was certainly possible.

In 1508 the young Sermisy was appointed as a singer in the Royal Chapel of Louis XII, where he was also a cleric.[2] His birthdate is inferred from the date he joined the royal chapel; 18 was about the right age for such an appointment. In 1515 he went to Italy with Francis I, and in 1520 he was part of the musical festivities arranged by Francis I and Henry VIII of England at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, directed by Jean Mouton, where he was almost certainly a singer.[2] He may have been a composer of some of the music there as well. In 1532 he also participated in the similar meeting between the kings at Boulogne, for which he wrote a ceremonial motet.

For a while in the early 1520s Sermisy was a canon at Notre-Dame-de-la-Rotonde in Rouen, but he left there in 1524 to take a similar position in Amiens. By 1532 he was music director of the Royal Chapel, still under Francis I, who reigned until 1547. At this post he was expected to teach and care for the boys of the choir, as well as find talented singers to recruit. In 1533, in addition to his post at the Royal Chapel, he became a canon of the Sainte-Chapelle, which would have required him to live in Paris. He acquired a large house there, large enough to shelter refugees from the church in St Quentin when the Spanish sacked their city in 1559. In 1554 he also was given a prebend at Ste Catherine in Troyes. Few biographical details are available about his last years, but he seems to have been active as a composer up to the end of his life based on publication dates of works. He was buried in the Sainte-Chapelle.[1]


Sacred music

Sermisy wrote both sacred music and secular music, and all of it is for voices. Of his sacred music, 12 complete masses have survived, including a Requiem mass, as well as approximately 100 motets, some magnificats and a set of Lamentations. Unlike many of his contemporaries writing sacred music in France, there is no evidence he had any Huguenot sympathies; he seemed to remain a faithful Catholic all his life.

His interest in the sacred genres increased steadily throughout his life, corresponding to a decline in interest in secular forms, using the publication dates as a guide (actual dates on compositions are extremely difficult to establish for composers of this period, unless a work happened to be composed for a specific occasion). Since the prevailing style of polyphony among contemporary composers during his late career was dense, seamless, with pervasive imitation, as typified in the music of Mouton and Gombert, it is significant that he tended to avoid this style, preferring clearer textures and short phrases: a style more akin to the chansons he wrote earlier in his career. In addition he varied the texture in his composition by alternating polyphonic passages with homorhythmic, chordal ones, much like the texture found in his secular music.

Sermisy wrote two of the few polyphonic settings of the Passion found in French music of the period; the musical setting is simple, compared to his masses and motets, and he strove to make the words clearly understandable. The gospels chosen were those of St. Matthew and St. John. Sermisy's settings were published in the 10th volume of Motets published by Pierre Attaignant.


By far Sermisy's most famous contribution to music literature is his output of chansons, of which there are approximately 175. They are similar to those of Janequin, although less programmatic; his style in these works has also been described as more graceful and polished than that of the rival composer.[3] Typically Sermisy's chansons are chordal and syllabic, shunning the more ostentatious polyphony of composers from the Netherlands, striving for lightness and grace instead. Sermisy was fond of quick repeated notes, which give the texture an overall lightness and dance-like quality. Another stylistic trait seen in many of Sermisy's chansons is an initial rhythmic figure consisting of long-short-short (minim-crotchet-crotchet, or half-quarter-quarter), a figure which was to become the defining characteristic of the canzona later in the century.

The texts Sermisy chose were usually from contemporary poets, such as Clément Marot (he set more verse by Marot than any other composer). Typical topics were unrequited love, nature, and drinking. Several of his songs are on the topic of an unhappy young woman stuck with an unattractive and unvirile old man, a sentiment not unique to his age.[1]

Most of his chansons are for four voices, though he wrote some for three early in his career, before four-voice writing became the norm. Influence from the Italian frottola is evident, and Sermisy's chansons themselves influenced Italian composers, since his music was reprinted numerous times both in France and in other parts of Europe.


Sermisy was well known throughout western Europe, and copies of his music are found in Italy, Spain, Portugal, England and elsewhere. Rabelais mentioned him in Gargantua and Pantagruel (Book 4) along with several other contemporary composers. Sermisy's music was transcribed numerous times for instruments, including viols and lute as well as organ and other keyboard instruments, by performers from Italy, Germany, and Poland in addition to France. Even though Sermisy was a Catholic, many of his tunes were appropriated by Protestant musicians in the next generation: even a Lutheran chorale tune (Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit) is based on a chanson by Sermisy (Il me suffit de tous mes maulx).[1]



  • Au joly boys
  • Aupres de vous secretement (two parts)
  • C'est une dure departie
  • Changeons propos, c'est trop chante d'amours
  • Content desir, qui cause ma douleur
  • En entrant en ung jardin (publ. 1529)
  • Languir me fais
  • Si mon malheur my continue
  • Si vous m'aimez
  • Tant que vivray (publ. 1527)
  • Tu disais que j'en mourrais
  • Vignon, vignon, vignon, vignette
  • Vive la serpe


  • Aspice, Domine


  1. ^ a b c d e Isabelle Cazeaux, "Claudin d Sermisy", "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians", ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. (London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980).
  2. ^ a b Gustave Reese, "Music in the Renaissance". (New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1954)
  3. ^ Harold Gleason and Warren Becker, Music in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Music Literature Outlines Series I), p. 112. Bloomington, Indiana. Frangipani Press, 1986. ISBN 0-89917-034-X

Sources and further reading

  • Isabelle Cazeaux, "Claudin de Sermisy", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980. ISBN 1-56159-174-2
  • Gustave Reese, Music in the Renaissance. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1954. ISBN 0-393-09530-4

External links


Year 1562 (MDLXII) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

1562 in France

Events from the year 1562 in France

Alles nur nach Gottes Willen, BWV 72

Alles nur nach Gottes Willen (Everything according to God's will alone), BWV 72, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig in 1726 for the third Sunday after Epiphany and first performed it on 27 January 1726. Bach used the opening chorus for the Gloria of his Missa in G minor, BWV 235.

Chapelle royale

The chapelle royale (chapel royal) was the musical establishment attached to the royal chapel of the French kings. The term may also be applied to the chapel buildings, the Chapelle royale de Versailles.

The establishment included a choir, organist and instrumentalists and was separate from the musique du chambre which performed secular music.

Claude (given name)

Claude is a relatively common French given name for males originating from the Latin name Claudius, itself deriving from 'claudicatio' meaning "limping" or "stuttering". It can also be an uncommon given name for females or a family name.

Clément Janequin

Clément Janequin (c. 1485 – 1558) was a French composer of the Renaissance. He was one of the most famous composers of popular chansons of the entire Renaissance, and along with Claudin de Sermisy, was hugely influential in the development of the Parisian chanson, especially the programmatic type. The wide spread of his fame was made possible by the concurrent development of music printing.

Cornelius Canis

Cornelius Canis (also de Hondt, d'Hondt) (between 1500 and 1510 – 15 February 1562) was a Franco-Flemish composer, singer, and choir director of the Renaissance, active for much of his life in the Grande Chapelle, the imperial Habsburg music establishment during the reign of Emperor Charles V. He brought the compositional style of the mid-16th century Franco-Flemish school, with its elaborate imitative polyphony, together with the lightness and clarity of the Parisian chanson, and he was one of the few composers of the time to write chansons in both the French and Franco-Flemish idioms.

Gdańsk Tablature

The Gdańsk Tablature (pol.: Tabulatura Gdańska; Ger.: Danziger Tabulatur) is the common name used to refer to the collection of 42 keyboard pieces contained within a manuscript in the State Archive in Gdańsk dating back to 1591. The music is frequently presumed to be the work of Cajus Schmiedtlein. Some of the compositions in the manuscript are based on vocal works by Pierre Regnault Sandrin, Orlando di Lasso, Baldassare Donato, Jacob Clemens non Papa, Johann Walter, Claudin de Sermisy, Thomas Crecquillon, Domenico Ferrabosco, Jean de Latre, Jacquet de Berchem, Jakob Meiland, Alexander Utendal, Giaches de Wert and Germano Pallavicino.

Guillaume de Morlaye

Guillaume de Morlaye (c.1510–c.1558) was a French Renaissance era lutenist, composer and music publisher. He was a pupil of Albert de Rippe and lived and worked in Paris. In 1552 he received a ten-year license to publish music from Henry II, and between 1553 and 1558 published four lute collections in cooperation with Michel Fezandat and six lute collections compiled by Albert de Rippe. He also published three books of his own four-course Renaissance guitar compositions during 1552–53, including fantasies and dances, and also lute arrangements of Pierre Certon and Claudin de Sermisy. Besides his music publishing activities, Morlaye was reported to have engaged in the slave trade.

Hans Gerle

Hans Gerle (c.1500, Nuremberg - 1570, Nuremberg) was a German lutenist and arranger of the Renaissance.

Little concrete information is available regarding Gerle's life. His father was probably Conrad Gerle (died 1521), one of the city's better-known lute makers. Gerle likely spent his entire life in Nuremberg.

Gerle published three volumes of lute music through Hieronymus Formschneider, a Nuremberg publisher. The first two were issued in 1532-33, and the last in 1552; this third volume refers to Gerle as "the elder" on the title page, so it is presumed that Gerle had either a son or another relative with the same name. The first publication contains an introduction to the performance of lute, viola da gamba (Grossgeigen), and rebec (Kleingeigen), as well as an explanation of musical notation, and is a significant source of information on performance practice. The book is primarily made up of intabulations of German composers such as Ludwig Senfl, Johann Walter, Heinrich Isaac, Thomas Stoltzer, and Paul Hofhaimer.

His second volume, for solo lute, features works from many older composers, such as Hayne van Ghizeghem, Josquin des Prez, Isaac, and Jacob Obrecht, as well as popular contemporaries such as Claudin de Sermisy, Adrian Willaert, Jean Mouton, and Senfl. The third volume was a transcription into German tablature of pieces previously only available in Italian tablature, including works of Giovanni Maria da Crema, Domenico Bianchini, Simon Gintzler, Francesco Canova da Milano, Pietro Paolo Borrono, and Alberto da Ripa.

Jan z Lublina

Jan z Lublina, or Joannis de Lublin, was a Polish composer and organist who lived in the first half of the 16th century. Not much is known about his life - he was a member of the Order of Canons Regular of the Lateran, circa 1540 he was possibly the organist at the convent in Kraśnik, near Lublin. Perhaps he is identical to one of the two Jans, the first of which received his master's degree in artibus et philosophia in 1499, and the second his baccalariatus in artibus in 1508 in the Kazimierz Academy in Krakow. From 1537 to 1548, he created the famous organ tablature, whose title is Tabulatura Ioannis de Lyublyn Canonic[orum] Reg[u]lariu[m] de Crasnyk. This is the largest organ tablature in the world (more than 350 compositions and a theoretical treatise) and one of the earliest. It contains several compositions by Nicolaus Cracoviensis, as well as numerous intabulations of works written by Josquin, Heinrich Finck, Janequin, Ludwig Senfl, Claudin de Sermisy, Philippe Verdelot, Johann Walter, etc.

Jan of Lublin was probably the first owner of the organ tablature manuscript now kept in the PAN Library (Academy of Sciences Library) under the signature Ms. 1716.

List of French composers

This is an alphabetical list of composers from France.

List of compositions by Tielman Susato

A list of compositions by the Renaissance composer, publisher, and instrumentalist, Tielman Susato.

Marc Honegger

Marc Honegger (17 May 1926 – 8 September 2003) was a French musicologist and choirmaster.

Sainte-Chapelle (choir)

The Sainte-Chapelle was the name for the chapelle, the men of the clerical and musical institution which attached to the building, the Sainte-Chapelle (built 1243-1249), in Paris.

The establishment of the Sainte-Chapelle royale consisted of a treasurer, canons, and college - the members of which may have overlapped with the choir and instrumentalists. However, following the dissolution of the musical establishment in the French Revolution, the term Sainte-Chapelle after 1803 applies only to the building.


For the early 19th-century Italian motoring and aviation pioneer known as Sandrin, see Alessandro Cagno.Sandrin (Pierre Regnault) (c. 1490 – after 1561) was a French composer of the Renaissance. He was a prolific composer of chansons in the middle of the 16th century, some of which were extremely popular and widely distributed.

Sebastiano Festa

Sebastiano Festa (ca. 1490–1495 – 31 July 1524) was an Italian composer of the Renaissance, active mainly in Rome. While his musical output was small, he was one of the earliest composers of madrigals, and was influential on other early composers of madrigals, such as Philippe Verdelot. He may have been related to his more famous contemporary Costanzo Festa, another early madrigal composer.

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