One of the reasons that French sacred music of this period is less well-known than in other countries is that the Counter-Reformation was particularly bloody here. Many of the leading composers were Protestant, and much of their work was lost or destroyed. Also, the basic tension inhibited the development of a typical style.
Two of the more influential composers in this repertory were Claude Le Jeune (c.1528-1600) and Eustache Du Caurroy (1549-1609). A recording devoted to each:
Very little of Le Jeune's music was published until after his death, but today he is generally acknowledged as the most technically intriguing composer of the group. Du Caurroy was composer to the King of France until his death.
Le Jeune was actually better known for his secular music, and so it is not surprising that Clément Janequin (c.1485-1560), the leading chanson composer of the era, also wrote some sacred music of modest scope. A fine recording:
Another very influential composer was Claude Goudimel (1520-1572). In fact, he is generally considered to be the most influential composer in the short-lived French sacred style emerging at that point. A recording featuring his Protestant music along with similar works by related composers of the period:
Goudimel was killed in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and more conservative composers like Du Caurroy went on to more significant court positions.
Other significant recordings by somewhat more obscure French composers of Latin music during the period:
Obviously, Ensemble Jacques Moderne has done a lot of good work toward uncovering this repertory.
Back to main Renaissance listTodd M. McComb