Jean Loys

(b c1530; d Vienna, 15 Oct 1563). Flemish composer. The frequent occurrence of this name or its Flemish counterpart, Jan Loys, makes the composer difficult to identify. In the dedications in his three volumes of Pseaulmes cinquante de David (Antwerp, 1555) he calles himself a youth. These dedications are all addressed to Antwerp citizens and refer to a ‘collegium musicum’ in which they participate (or which they support). From 1 Feb 1558 until his death on 15 October 1563 a certain Jhan de Loys was a singer in the chapel of the Emperor Ferdinand I. If this is the same person, this suggests that Louys may have moved from the Low Countries to the Habsburg court. His motets and psalms appeared in several anthologies. Between 1552 and 1556:  Leuven or Antwerp; between 1556 and 1564: Nuremberg. Four of his motets were included in the series Novi atque catholici thesauri musici (Vienna, 1568)  dedicated to the Emperor Maximilian II, consisting of five books of motets by composers active in Habsburg chapels in Germany and Austria. If Jean Louys is to be identified with Jhan de Loys, he spent the last few years of his life in Vienna.

Louys’ compositions are squarely in the mid-century Dutch tradition of Crecquillon, Clemens non Papa and Gombert. Most of his motets and chansons, like all of the psalm settings, are for five voices. Motifs are often extended to form long, melismatic phrases, rather than being brief and declamatory as in the French style cultivated by Sermisy and Certon. They are overwhelmingly imitative, with thick textures. In his Pseaulmes cinquante de David he created successive points of imitation from each phrase of the Genevan melody. The psalms usually begin with longer points, which may use two phrases of the original melody simultaneously; subsequent points are generally shorter but often merge because of the absence of strong cadences between them. Psalm-derived material is all-pervasive. Although some settings open with clearly discernible counter-motifs, these are rare after the first point of imitation. As the psalm progressed, Louys tended to shape all voices after the tune. Some voices state the complete phrase, while others use only a few notes of the given melody before continuing in free counterpoint. Occasionally one voice may present the melody in breves, but this cantus-firmus style never lasts for more than a phrase. There is no pairing of voices and no expressive use of chordal writing, dissonance or chromaticism. This relentless polyphonic style reminiscent of Gombert permeates his motets and affects even his chansons, which were published in anthologies in Leuven and Antwerp.

The Psalms in this database all are transcribed from Pseaulmes cinquante de David composeez musicalement ensuyvant le chant vulgaire, 5vv (Antwerp, 1555) (3 volumes,  published in a swift succession, if not at the same time). 
[Dick Wursten: The author of this Grove’s article, Howard Slenk, should be credited for the re-valuation of this composer. His Psalm compositions testify to the strong leaning towards ‘calvinist’ culture in Antwerp mid 16th Century]. see below the dedications.

The first volume of the Cinquante Pseaumes is dedicated to the Mayor of Atwerp, Gerard Gramaye (illulstration: A tresprudent  & vertueulx seigneur Geraerdt Grammeye, recepveur de la ville Danvers), the second to the famous merchant Jean Cocquiel. These kind of music books belong to a culture of music-making and singing as practiced by the Bourgeoisie (including merchants: singing among Friends, über dem Tisch): Pastime and good company…  No surprise thus that the third book is dedicated to that ‘collegium musicum’, to which he probably belonged himself, or even more likely: of which he was one of the chief animators: Aux Loiaulx conferedez Du College Musical, estant an la ville Danvers…

Below the three dedications with translation and at the end of this page: two pages of one of the partbooks, to admire the beautiful engraving !

The complete partbooks are digitized by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München.

Dedication Book 1: Geraerdt Grammaye

To the very wise and virtuous Sr. Gerardt Grammaye, treasurer of the City of Antwerp, Jean Louys his humble servant: happiness and health.

Remembering, most dear Sir, the good will you have always borne me, I wanted to be Sure to recognize it, in order not to be found ungrateful for the benefit received. So as a slight recompense, I dedicate to you this first book of Psalms of David, which, to the best of my power, I set to musio in five parts a short time ago. And although your goodness is deserving of something more profound, 1 beg of you to remember this and to consider that 1 am still a youth, who will continue to practice with diligence in order to create something of greater experience and knowledge in the future

Dedication Book 2: Jean Cocquiel

To the honorable and wise Sr. Jean Cocquiel, Merchant in the City of Antwerp, Jean Louys his servant and friend, Hail and prosperity.

I am certain (my well-loved Sir) that some time ago when 1 presented you with certain Psalms of David which I had set to music, the pleasure that you received did not continue, due to my negligence, for, taking them back in order to correct some mistakes made by the copyist, I was not able to return them to you, because they had been stolen from me, and 1 did not recover them until much later. For which I pray you to impute the fault to the thief and not to me, who in all things wishes to offer you service and friendship. So it is that in due time, wishing to tollow and believe the advice of some of my good friends, I decided to have the Psalms printed, which I have done, and which are in three books. Of which (my good sir) I dedicate and present the second to you, which I pray you to accept in good faith and to pardon the crime committed by another. Realizing also that it is a juvenile work and of little importance, I hope in the future, by labor and diligent work, to augment this and always to make you a participant in it.

Dedication Book 3: Antwerp Collegium Musicum

To the loyal confederates of the Musical College, that exists in the City of Atnwerp, Jean Louys service and prosperity.

[partial translation]: In order to avoid, my good Sirs, sowing the slightest bit of ingratitude between us, Reason has moved me to make you participants in my juvenile labor which I have done in musical composition: certain Psalms of David that I have recently brought to light…. If the gift does not correspond as much as the words to what is your due… please do not impute its imperfections to anything but youth.
In the concluding poem (a dizain) the poet, printer and musicians are called upon to do their best to praise Gods glory.

Psalms 114-115 (Superius)

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