Pierre Certon/Guillaume Morlaye

Pierre Certon

Life & work

(? ca. 1510 - Paris, 23 Feb 1572). Certon was a  clerk (first at Notre Dame, then at the Ste Chapelle). In 1536 he was appointed Master of the Choristers. He held that post, adding to it benefices within the diocese, until his death. In a document of 1567 he is accorded the title ‘chantre de la chapelle du Roy’, a honorary title of great importance (only Pierre Sandrin and Clément Janequin are known to have received this title as well). Without abandoning his duties at the Ste Chapelle, Certon took part in other activities towards the end of his life. Certon wrote  masses, motets, Psalms, chansons spirituelles, and numerous secular chansons. He was skilled at varying texture between homophonic and polyphonic passages, changing the number and register of voices singing at any time, and - with regard to works of greater length - with a keen eye on the coherence. His chanson settings were famous, and influential in assisting the transformation of the chanson from the previous light, dance-like, four-part texture to the late-century style of careful text setting, emotionalism, greater vocal range, and larger number of voices. Cross-influence with the contemporary Italian form of the madrigal was obvious, but chansons such as those by Certon retained a lightness and a rhythmic element characteristic of the French language itself. In the final stage of his life, he returned to  contrapunctal and polyphonic intricacy.
[source: shortened version of Grove's dictionary. Frank Dobbins]


Already in 1545/6 Pierre Certon published 31 Psalm settings, in a duo publication with Antoine (de) Morable. In 1555 Certon completed the Psalter, publishing Cinquante Pseaulmes de David... dedicated to Diane de Poitiers. Only the Tenor partbook survives. In 1554 Guillaume Morlaye, lutenist/composer/music-editor published a selection of Certon's Psalms intavolated for lute. An  example how that sounds, when a tenor sings the tune (NB: not as an ecclesial (liturgical) Psalmsong, but as a true 'chanson spirituel', in Parisian style, for which Certon and De Sermisy are  famous). What you hear is the famous penitential Psalm 'De profundis' rendered into French verse by Clément Marot: Du fond de ma pensée  (performed  by Chant1450). Below an image of the tabulature.

Ps. 130

Psalm 130 Certon/Morlaye
The first two pages of Psalm 130 (Du fond de ma pensée). The melody/tune (similar but not identical to the Geneva tune) is written separately above the lute-tabulature.
The image is copied from the 1554 edition.

Lute intavolations

Guillaume Morlaye (ca. 1510 - ca. 1558 ) was a pupil of Albert Rippe. Next to composing lute-music himself, he became active (and successfull) in editing and publishing music of others (intavolations or adaptations for lute, guitar, cither). He did not compose Psalmsettings himself, but adapted  Psalm settings, composed by Pierre Certon for lute. 

- Premier livre de [13] psalmes … reduitz en tabulature de leut par Maistre Guillaume Morlaye... dessus qui est notée pour chanter en jouant  (Michel Fezandat, Paris, 1554).

Premier livre Certon/Morlaye
Page 16 of 19