Early Music Recording Lists

Renaissance Secular Songs

The subject of this list is the secular music of the Renaissance. My appreciation is centered strongly in the 15th century, although there are some areas of the 16th century (and even somewhat beyond) that interest me.

This genre can be especially rich and poignant, although it was short-lived in its Franco-Flemish form. In some ways there's a natural progression from the medieval forms, but the Renaissance is marked (at least to the extent that it's marked here...) by the use of more compact thematic material. This continues to be some of my favorite musical material anywhere.

The sectional breakdowns & individual listings are arranged roughly chronologically, and intended to help clarify stylistic eras. Here, that contracted into a single section at some point. And I should note that my thinking regarding the transition from medieval to Renaissance has changed considerably over the 30 years of this project too, and if I were to do it again, I'd emphasize more continuity with later sections of the medieval listing....


Burgundian & Franco-Flemish Songs

This section begins with the beautiful songs of of Dufay & Binchois and the style that heralds the musical Renaissance (according to some traditional narratives, anyway). That resulting style continues into the early 16th century, where it reached its greatest formal complexity, and then disappeared in the face of more homophonic styles & national traditions. Songs are usually in French, although there's e.g. some Italian. This continues to be some of my favorite repertory, and I would be happy to list more recordings here. E.g. Busnoys is particularly neglected, given his stature, and some of these albums do also come to seem somewhat dated... but, unfortunately, with no newer (or more satisfying) efforts to replace them.

And now, after contracting to a single section, and then breaking that up into little groupings, I'm going to add subheadings....

Dufay

Dufay: Motets (**)
Cantica Symphonia - Giuseppe Maletto
Vol. 1: Glossa 31902
Vol. 2: Glossa 31904
The Dufay Spectacle (***)
Motets and chansons
Gothic Voices
Linn Records 568
Dufay: Complete Secular Music (*)
Medieval Ensemble of London - Peter & Timothy Davies
L'Oiseau Lyre 452 557 (5 CDs)
Dufay: Le prince d'amours (**)
Ensemble Gilles Binchois - Dominique Vellard
Evidence Classics 082

Binchois

Mon souverain desir (**)
Binchois: Chansons
Ensemble Gilles Binchois - Dominique Vellard
Virgin Veritas 45285
Joye (**)
Les plaints de Gilles de Bins dit Binchois
Ensemble Graindelavoix - Björn Schmelzer
Glossa "Platinum" 32102
Quinze (**)
Binchois / Ockeghem
Comet Musicke
Son an ero 13 [CDx2]

More from the 15th century... featuring Ockeghem!

Ockeghem's songs continue to be quite (relatively) popular, but there's actually voluminous material of high quality from this period, much of it awaiting (better) performance....

Arnold & Hugo de Lantins: Secular Works (*)
Le Miroir de Musique - Baptiste Romain
Ricercar 365
Straight from the Heart (***)
The Chansonnier Cordiforme
Ensemble Leones - Marc Lewon
Naxos 8.573325
Ockeghem: Complete Songs (****)
Blue Heron - Scott Metcalfe
Blue Heron 1010
Tinctoris: Secret Consolations (*)
Le Miroir de Musique - Baptiste Romain
Ricercar 380
Loyset Compère (*)
Orlando Consort
Hyperion 68069

Agricola & and into the 16th....

There's likewise more material to hear from the next generation (the break here being arbitrary) as well....

Cecus – Colours, blindness and memorial (***)
Alexander Agricola and his contemporaries
Graindelavoix - Björn Schmelzer
Glossa 32105
Colours in the Dark (***)
The Instrumental Music of Alexander Agricola
Ensemble Leones - Marc Lewon
Christophorus 77368
Le Maitre de "Fricasée" (*)
Secular Music of Jean Japart
Les Flamboyants - Michael Form
Christophorus 77353
Isaac: Ein frölich Wesen (*)
Secular and textless music
Les Flamboyants - Michael Form
Christophorus 77360

Josquin

And there's finally a good selection of Josquin's secular music available. These are three strong items, each with different interpretive orientations:

Les fantaisies de Josquin (***)
The Instrumental Music of Josquin Desprez
Ensemble Leones - Marc Lewon
Christophorus 77348
Se congie prens (*)
Chansons à cinq et six parties de Josquin Desprez
Ensemble Musica Nova - Lucien Kandel
Raum Klang 3201
Josquin the Undead (***)
Laments, deplorations and dances of death
Graindelavoix - Björn Schmelzer
Glossa 32117

La Rue, etc.

At this point, it's been a long while since a recording devoted to La Rue's chansons appeared....

Carnetz secretz (*)
Marguerite d'Autriche (1480-1530)
Les Jardins de Courtoisie - Anne Delafosse-Quentin
Ambronay 007
Pierre de la Rue (*)
Chansons from the Album of Marguerite of Austria
Corvina Consort - Zoltán Kalmanovits
Hungaroton 32018

Some items, particularly in later subsections above, are largely instrumental, but I've retained them for this list, where they closely overlap material with chansons of the era. The "instrumental list" is thus almost entirely later material.

And as already noted above, I don't really endorse my own way of dividing this page from the corresponding medieval page anymore. At this point, having them separate is more about the history here, or having each be a manageable size, I guess.


If a recording in this genre is not listed here, either I haven't been able to obtain a copy (perhaps out of print), I don't know about it at all, I felt that it is substantially duplicated by a recording I like better, or I didn't care for it enough to give it one star. Please feel free to inquire, especially if you know a recording I probably don't.

I will try to keep this page up to date as new releases appear.

To recommendation lists.

Todd M. McComb
Updated: 25 January 2022