Japart: Secular Music

Le Maitre de "Fricasée"
Secular Music of Jean Japart
Les Flamboyants - Michael Form
Christophorus 77353

Little is known of Japart other than his prominent inclusion in Petrucci's early collections. However, this program offers a first opportunity to get a real sense of his style as a composer, particularly his ability to combine and transform preexisting melodies. The talent is obvious here, making this a very welcome program, and a place to hear some of the most distinctive secular music of the era. Japart's dense combinations of melodies almost take on the character of the 13th century motet at times, but are also clearly of his own era.

The performance is of good quality, reflecting the latest developments in technique for secular music of the late 15th century, and showing a strong sense for the music. Sonically, it's a bit understated, so doesn't leap out at the listener, but overall the result is satisfying, particularly the combinations with recorder.

That said, I don't think starting out with the standard L'homme armé theme does this program any favors, as overplayed as it is, but thankfully it quickly shifts into more interesting material. Indeed, Japart has a way with such ubiquitous material, including L'homme armé, which is the main point of interest for his music. Still, I'd've skipped right to the substance instead of opening with the raw material.

I'll also add that this sort of combination of other contemporary composers' material into something new & interesting is exactly one sort of thing prevented by modern ideas on copyright. Reusing material is one of the glories of the era, leading as it does to a web of musical possibility.

To renaissance secular list

Todd M. McComb
Updated: 20 December 2011