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Pierre Certon

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Pierre Certon (c1510-1520 – 23 February 1572) was a French composer of the Renaissance. He was a representative of the generation after Josquin Desprez and Jean Mouton, and was influential in the late development of the French chanson.

Most likely he was born in Melun, but he lived most of his life in Paris. The earliest records of his life date from 1527, where he was in the service of the king. In 1530 he was charged with playing ball at Notre Dame Cathedral as well as refusing to go to a service, both dangerous irreverences which almost cost him prison time — but he was young enough to be forgiven. From this event a birthdate between 1510 and 1520 can be inferred. In 1536 he became a master of choristers at the Sainte-Chapelle, and he remained at this post, with a few additional benefices, for the rest of his life.

Another post he held late in his life — concurrently with his activity in Paris — was as canon at the cathedral in Melun. He seems to have helped organize many grand entertainments, and doubtless composed many of his works for them. Most likely he was a close friend of the more famous composer Claudin de Sermisy, as evidenced by his dedications, notes, and the poignant lament he wrote for his death in 1562 which was closely modeled on the similar work by Josquin for the death of Johannes Ockeghem.

Certon wrote eight masses which survive, motets, psalm settings, “chansons spirituelles” (chansons with religious texts, related to the Italian “madrigali spirituali”), and numerous secular chansons.

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