About this work
In Josquin's Mille regretz, the dramatic and expressive potential of the polyphonic chanson, which will emerge so fruitfully in the hands of Clément Janequin and Orlando di Lasso, is already becoming evident. The rigidity of the venerable formes fixes, which had been codified in the 1300s, had allowed composers of these elegant poetic texts to complement the text with music which was beautiful, but often quite subordinate. The ideals of the coming sixteenth century, however, would seek music which more directly reflected the sense of its text. Anticipating the future here as clearly as he ever did, Josquin set the tender anguish of this love song with fittingly affecting music.
The entire chanson is in the Phrygian mode, always evocative of solemnity or mourning due to its prominent half-step motion; the principal vertical progression is plagal (like the "Amen" of a hymn), which also carried sorrowful connotations in Josquin's time. Though moments of imitative counterpoint punctuate the music (as at "Qu'on me verra"), the textures generally retain a stark simplicity. Contrasts in texture heighten the affect of the text: observe the power of the simultaneous singing of "J'ay si grand deuil," followed by pathetic duos on "et peine douloureuse." The final chordal repetitions of "brief mes jours definer" bespeaks the poetic speaker's reluctance to admit the inevitable numbering of his days without the Beloved.