Charles Tessier (ca. 1550-?, French)

Little is known of Charles Tessier. He was possibly the son of another composer of the name of Tessier, the Britton Guillaume, who in 1582 published (in Paris) a book of airs dedicated to the Queen of England. The traces left of Charles’ existence and musical activities date from the last years of the 16th century and early years of the 17th, including the publication of his two collections of “chansons & airs de court” (1597 in London, dedicated to Penelope Rich, sister of Robert Devereux duke of Essex) and “airs et villanelles” (1604, dedicated to Maurice/Moritz, landgrave of Hesse, reprinted in 1610, now with a dedication to Mathias, king of Hungary). There is also a manuscript of lute songs now kept at the Bodleian Library of Oxford, “the only such example of a French collection of that kind between those of Adrian Le Roy (1571) and Pierre Guédron (1608)”. Tessier was a well-traveled musician – he is known to have spent some time in England, in Lorraine (then an independent duchy), in Marburg the capital of the landgraviate (or duchy) of Hesse-Marburg, and himself, in the preface to the 1610 collection, claimed to have “sucked the sweet nectar of those learned virgins the Muses and to have been admitted to their most delicious orchards of France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Arabia”. It is very likely but not established with certainty that Tessier met and befriended Dowland, as they gravitated in the same circle of protectors in Paris, England and Germany. As in Dowland’s collections (his first Book of songs or ayres was published in 1597, the same year as Tessier’s first collection), nine of Tessier’s songs exist in both forms of polyphonic madrigals in the two published collections and airs for solo voice and lute in the Bodleian manuscript. His traces get lost after 1610.

Fine recital of his music by Le Poème Harmonique under Vincent Dumestre on the label Alpha, with excerpts from his two collections and manuscript of lute songs, and a few interspersed anonymous dances and pieces by Tessier’s contemporaries Maurice de Hesse, Leo Hassler and John Dowland.


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