||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (March 2013)|
Jacobus Barbireau (also Barbirianus) (1455 – 7 August 1491) was a Franco-Flemish Renaissance composer from Antwerp. He was considered to be a superlative composer both by his contemporaries and by modern scholars; however, his surviving output is small, and he died young.
Until the 1960s, he was confused with another somewhat older composer named Barbingant; sources of the period often use variant spellings or omit first names of composers, making such confusion common. Barbireau was probably born in Antwerp, and both of his parents were citizens there. By 1482, he had attained the title of Master of Arts, so he likely went to university in the 1470s. He wanted to study with the humanist and musician Rodolphus Agricola, who was active at Ferrara in the 1470s and later Heidelberg, and several letters written by Agricola to Barbireau have survived; one of them gives useful clues about Barbireau's life. According to it, Barbireau was already active as a composer by 1484, and implies that his fame had not yet spread outside of his native Antwerp.
In 1484, Barbireau acquired the post of choirmaster at the cathedral in Antwerp, a position he was to keep until his death. Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, evidently held him in high regard, and when Barbireau went to Buda in Hungary in 1490, Queen Beatrix also spoke highly of him. Evidently his health was weak for about the last nine years of his life. He died in Antwerp, not long after returning from Hungary.
The library of the cathedral in Antwerp was destroyed by religious fanatics in 1556, probably destroying most of Barbireau's music. Some, however, has survived, mostly in foreign sources, including the Chigi Codex, and that which has survived is of outstanding quality. Writing in the 2001 The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Rob Wegman notes "Barbireau shows a degree of contrapuntal polish and melodic-harmonic resourcefulness that puts him firmly on a par with such composers as Isaac and Obrecht." Indeed his style is closely related to that of Heinrich Isaac, another Netherlander who spent much of his life working in German-speaking areas.
Two masses have survived, one for four and one for five voices, as well as a Kyrie for the Easter season, and a famous motet based on the Song of Solomon, Osculetur me, for four voices. The mass for five voices has an unusual arrangement where the voices have divisi parts, indicating that at least ten actual voices would be required to sing it. In this composition the textural contrasts are high, with homophonic passages alternating with polyphonic, and with fast-moving parts weaving around the slower-moving parts. The motet Osculetur me uses low voice tessituras reminiscent of Ockeghem.
Of his secular music, the song "Een vroylic wesen", for three voices, became a "hit" song all over Europe, appearing in numerous arrangements from places as far apart as Spain, Italy and England; Heinrich Isaac used it as the basis for his own Missa Frölich wesen. Indeed, all three of his surviving secular songs were used as the basis for masses, both by Isaac and Jacob Obrecht.
Masses and mass movements
- Missa Faulx perverse (4 voices)
- Missa virgo parens Christi (5 voices)
- Kyrie paschale (4 voices)
- Osculetur me (4 voices)
- Een vroylic wesen (3 voices)
- Gracioulx et biaulx (3 voices)
- Scon lief (3 voices)
All the three chansons may be found at http://home.planet.nl/~teuli049/petrucciblad.html#bar
- Wegman, Rob C. L. Macy, ed. Jacobus Barbireau. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 28 October 2010. (subscription required)
- Fox, Charles Warren (1980). "Jacobus Barbireau". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London: Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 1-56159-174-2. (Note: contains some material not found in the online Grove, but includes some of the old confusion between Barbireau and at least one other composer.)
- Reese, Gustave (1954). Music in the Renaissance. New York City: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-09530-4.