Jean Louys

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Aliases: Joannes Louuys; Joannes Louys; Jan Loys; Jhan de loys; Jhan de Louwys


Born: c1530

Died: Vienna, 15 Oct 1563


Flemish composer. The frequent occurrence of this name or its Flemish counterpart, Jan Loys, makes the composer difficult to identify. He cannot be identical with the singer Jan Loys who was active in the chapels of Philip the Fair and Charles V between 1506 and 1517, since in the dedications in his three volumes of Pseaulmes cinquante de David (Antwerp, 1555) he called himself a youth. These dedications are all addressed to Antwerp citizens. From 1 Feb 1558 until his death on 15 October 1563 a certain Jhan de Loys was a singer in the chapel of the Emperor Ferdinand I. Although the commonness of the name must again give pause, an indication that Louys may have moved from the Low Countries to the Habsburg court in about 1558 is provided by the anthologies in which his motets and psalms appeared. Between 1552 and 1556 they are found in volumes published at Leuven or Antwerp, but between 1556 and 1564 they appear in volumes published at Nuremberg; in 1568, moreover, four of his motets were included in the series Novi atque catholici thesauri musici, which was dedicated to the Emperor Maximilian II and consists of five books of motets by composers active in Habsburg chapels in Germany and Austria. If, then, as is likely, Jean Louys is to be identified with Jhan de Loys, he spent the last few years of his life in Vienna. Louys' compositions are squarely in the mid-century Dutch tradition of Crecquillon, Clemens non Papa and Gombert. Most of his motets and chansons, like all of the psalm settings, are for five voices. Motifs are often extended to form long, melismatic phrases, rather than being brief and declamatory as in the French style cultivated by Sermisy and Certon. They are overwhelmingly imitative, with thick textures. In his Pseaulmes cinquante de David he created successive points of imitation from each phrase of the Genevan melody. The psalms usually begin with longer points, which may use two phrases of the original melody simultaneously; subsequent points are generally shorter but often merge because of the absence of strong cadences between them. Psalm-derived material is all-pervasive. Although some settings open with clearly discernible counter-motifs, these are rare after the first point of imitation. As the psalm progressed, Louys tended to shape all voices after the tune. Some voices state the complete phrase, while others use only a few notes of the given melody before continuing in free counterpoint. Occasionally one voice may present the melody in breves, but this cantus-firmus style never lasts for more than a phrase. There is no pairing of voices and no expressive use of chordal writing, dissonance or chromaticism. This relentless polyphonic style reminiscent of Gombert permeates his motets and affects even his chansons, which were published in anthologies in Leuven and Antwerp.

View the Wikipedia article on Jean Louys.

List of choral works

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  • Pseaulmes cinquante de David composeez musicalement ensuyvant le chant vulgaire, 5vv (Antwerp, 1555).
  • 23 motets, mostly 5 - 6vv, published in several publications: Hortus musarum (155229); Ecclesiasticarum cantionum quinque vocum, liber 5 (155312), liber 8 (155315), liber 14 (155316), liber 9 (15549), and liber 11 (15559); Thesaurus Musicus (15643 and 15644); Novi thesauri musici (Pietro Giovannelli) (15682 and 15684); 12 ed. in SCMot, xv–xviii (1995–7)
  • 8 chansons, 3–6vv, published in: Quatriesme livre des chansons a quatre parties (Pierre Phalèse) (155214); Premier livre des chansons a cincq et six parties (Pierre Phalèse) (155324); Secund livre des chansons a cinq et six parties (Pierre Phalèse) (155325 - 155422 - 155522); 4 (3vv), ed. in SCC, ii (1992)


  • P.-A. Gaillard: ‘Essai sur le rapport des sources mélodiques des Pseaulmes Cinquantes de Iean Louis (Anvers, 1555) et des “Souterliedekens” (Anvers, 1540)’, IMSCR V: Utrecht 1952, 193–8
  • H.J. Slenk: The Huguenot Psalter in the Low Countries (diss., Ohio State U., 1965)
  • H. Vanhulst: Catalogue des éditions de musique publiées à Leuven par Pierre Phalèse et ses fils, 1545–1578 (Brussels, 1990)
  • R.L. Weaver: A Descriptive Bibliographical Catalog of the Music Printed by Hubert Waelrant and Jan de Laet (Warren, MI, 1994)

External links

Works by Jean Louys in the Petrucci Music Library (IMSLP)