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Jacob Regnart (Composer)

Born: ca 1540 or 1545 - Douai, Holland
Died: October 16, 1599 - Prague (today Czech Republic)

Regnart is surname of a family of Flemish musicians who flourished towards the end of the 16th century. There were five brothers, one of whom, Augustin (not August, as given by Eitner, which would correspond to Augustus in Latin but not to Augustinus), was a canon of the Church of St. Peter, Lille (not Douai, as Eitner suggests in Quellen-Lexikon, forgetting the words of the dedication partly quoted by himself in his Bibliographie, p. 216).

In 1590 Regnart edited and published at Douai a Collection of thirty-nine Motets, a 4-6, composed by his four brothers Francis, Jacob, Paschasius and Charles Regnart. The work appropriately bears on its title-page the motto, 'Ecce quam bonum et quam jucundum fratres habitare in unum,' Psalm.132. The full title is:
'Novae Cantiones Sacrae, 4, 5 et 6 vocum turn Instrurnentorum cuivis generi turn vivas voci aptissimas, autboribus Francisco, Jaccbo, Pascasio, Carolo Regnart, fratribus germanis.'

Of the four brothers only two attained any real position or eminence as composers, Francis and Jacob. The other two are only represented by three motets apiece in this Collection, and of their careers nothing is known with any certainty.

Of Francus, Augustin tells us that he had pursued his studies at the University of Douai and the Cathedral of Tournai. Besides the twenty-four motets in the Collection above mentioned, Francis Regnart is chiefly known by a book of fifty chansons a 4-5, 'Poesies de Ronsard et autres,' originally published at Douai by Jean Bogaerd in 1575, and afterwards at Paris by Le Roy and Ballard in 1579. These chansons have now been republished in modern score by H. Expert in his collection 'Les Maîtres musiciens de la renaissance francaise.' Fetis mentions a book of Missae tres a 4-5, by Francis Regnart, published by Plantin in 1582, but there is no trace of such a publication in Goovaert's Bibliographie, and Eitner knows nothing of it.

Of the life and works of Jacob we have fuller information. He was early received as an Alumnus of the Imperial Chapel at Vienna and Prague. In 1564 he is designated as tenor singer in the chapel, and as a member of the chapel Irocompanied the Emperor to the Augsburg Diet of 1566. In 1573 he is mentioned as musical preceptor to the boys of the choir, and before 1579 became the vice-Kapellmeister. In 1580 he was offered by the Elector of Saxony the post of Kapellmeister at Dresden vacant by the death of Scandelli, but declined. In 1582, however, he left the imperial service to enter that of the Archduke Ferdinand at Innsbruck, where he remained as Kapellmeister till 1595. He then returned to Prague, where he died. Shortly before his death, in the dedication of a book of masses to the Emperor, Rudolf II, which, however, was not published till afterwards, he recommended to the care of the Emperor his wife and six children. The widow, a daughter of Hans Vischer, the famous bass singer in the Electoral Chapel at Munich under Orlando Lassus, returned to Munich, where she occupied herself in preparing for publication in 1602-1603 three volumes of her husband's masses, containing altogether 29 a 5, 6, 8 and 10, also a book of 'Sacrae cantiones,' a 4-12, 35 Nos. The other sacred works of Regnart which appeared during his lifetime were a book of 'Sacrae cantiones,' a 5-6, 1575, and one a 4, 1577; also one entitled Mariale, 1588, Marian motets composed by way of thanksgiving for recovery from severe illness.

He was, however, even more widely known by his secular works, which consist of (1) two books of 'Canzone italiane,' a 5 (1574-81), (2) two books entitled 'Threni Amorum,' German secular songs, a 5 (1595), and (3) several collections, a 3, 4, 5, entitled 'Kurtzweilige teutsche Lieder nach Art der Neapolitanen oder welschen Villanellen' (1576-1591). Of the latter, the collection of 67 a 3 was republished by Eitner in modern score in 1895. They are written in the simple melodious Italian canzonet style, without any artificiality of counterpoint. In some introductory lines of verse the composer apologises for his frequent intentional employment of consecutive fifths in the harmony as being in accordance with the simple popular character he wished to give these songs. The melody of one of them, 'Venus du und dein Kind,' has become, with a slight alteration in the first line, the Choral tune well-known later, 'Auf meinen lieben Gott.' Two of Regnart's other songs, a 5, which have something more of imitative counterpoint, have been reprinted in Commer's selection of 'Geistliche und weltliche Lieder aus der xvi-xvii Jahrh.' None of his Latin motets have been reprinted, with the exception of one which found admission into the Evangelical Gotha Cantional of 1655, whence it has been reproduced in Schöberlein's Schatz. His masses, several of them based on the themes of German popular songs, must have been popular in their day, judging from the manuscript. copies of them enumerated in Eitner as surviving in various church archives. A Passion according to St. Matthew, a 8, by Regnart survives only in manuscript, of which some account is given in Kade, Die altere Passionskompositionen, pp. 60-62.

Source: Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition, by Rev. J.R. Milne)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (September 2005)

Texts of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works


Chorale Texts used in Bach’s Vocal Works


Chorale Melodies used in Bach’s Vocal Works

Venus, du und dein Kind, Villanelle > Auf meinen lieben Gott > Wo soll ich fliehen hin / Auf meinen lieben Gott

Links to other Sites

Jacob Regnart: Venus, du und dein Kind, Villanelle


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