The Kennedy Center

Lheritier Jean


French composer Jean Lheritier was born in the Pas d'Calais region in 1480.  Little is known about his early life.  A contemporary, Giovanthomaso Cimello, called him a disciple of Josquin Des Prez. Perhaps they met during Josquin's brief association with musicians of the royal French court in the early 1500s.
Compositions attributed to Lheritier survive in at least 66 manuscripts and 45 printed collections of the 16th century. The majority originated in Italy, but France, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Austria, and even Poland and Bohemia are also represented. His Missa ‘On a mal dit de mon amy' is of the type that began to be cultivated by Mouton and Févin around 1500 and is aptly designated ad imitationem.
At the focal point of Lhéritier's compositional activity was the motet. For texts he favored antiphons, psalms, responsories and devotional verse, but he drew on other Latin sources as well, including an erotic secular poem, Johannes Pontanus's Cum rides mihi. Slightly more than half of his motets are in a single section; the remainding are divided into two partes. This is done most consistently in the responsory settings where the return to the music of the respond in the liturgy is retained in the polyphony. The only chanson with a reliable attribution to him, Jan, petit Jan, is in the light, declamatory style that was becoming current in France in the 1520s.
The compositional procedure basic to all of Lhéritier's works is syntactic imitation, alternating with homophonic writing where needed for textual or formal reasons, or simply for variety. The entries of the separate voices tend to be more closely and evenly spaced in the later works, resulting in a generally fuller texture. Lhéritier was clearly one of the important northern masters who, like Mouton, anticipated essential characteristics of the style associated with Palestrina. His historical significance derives in large measure from the role he played not only in the shaping of those stylistic norms, but also in their dissemination throughout the rest of Europe, especially on the Italian peninsula.  He is thought to have died around 1551.