(b ?Arras, c1470; d Blois, late 1511 or early 1512). French composer. A genealogy of the noble Févin family prepared in 1627 and published by de Puisieux after a now lost manuscript summarized the principal facts known about Antoine’s life: he was the second son of Pierre, squire, Lord of Graincourt and Garinet, and alderman of Arras, he was a priest and singer in the service of Louis XII, and he died at Blois. Although his family came from Febvin-Palfart near St Omer (Pas de Calais), they had settled in Arras by the late 14th century and Antoine was probably born there. Glarean called him ‘symphoneta aurelianensis’ (‘composer of Orléans’), but the reference is probably not to Févin’s birthplace but to his association with the French royal court, centred in Orléans as well as Blois.
On the basis of circumstantial evidence, Clinkscale suggested that Févin left his native town in the late 1480s or early 1490s. No documents have yet come to light that explain when and where he was ordained as a priest; nor is it clear that Guillaume Crétin’s reference to him as ‘maistre’ should be interpreted to mean that the composer had earned a master’s degree at a university. Févin’s association with the royal court dated at least from 1507. In that year Louis XII wrote from Italy to ask that a chanson by Févin and a portrait by Jean de Paris (Jean Perréal) be sent him so that he could impress the foreign ladies, who had nothing to equal them.
Crétin’s lament for another royal musician, Plainte sur le trespas de feu maistre Jehan Braconnier, dit Lourdault, also commemorated Févin, who had died shortly before. Since Braconnier was mortally ill in January 1512, Févin probably died late in 1511 or early in 1512. Jean Mouton, the composer’s colleague at court, wrote a déploration, Qui ne regrettoit le gentil Févin?, in his memory. He is mentioned as a distinguished musician by Jean Daniel, by Rabelais, and, along with his brother Robert, by Pierre Moulu in a motet that pays tribute to the most celebrated French musicians of the time.
Glarean described him as a follower of Josquin (‘felix Jodoci aemulator’). Whether or not his remark referred to a personal relationship between the two composers, it aptly characterizes Févin. His music is invariably distinguished by its clarity of texture and formal design. It is written entirely in the new style begun about 1490 in which all the voices are vocal in character and in which imitative sections are interspersed with chordal passages. He not only laid out his points of imitation in a transparent manner, relying heavily on paired imitation and fragments of dialogue between parts of the chorus, but he also frequently used duets to articulate the structure and to furnish contrast with the full sound. Like his contemporaries he took some pains to devise melodic lines that reflect the texts; yet wrong text accentuation abounds in his settings. Indeed, the purely musical design almost always takes precedence over any attempt to express the emotional power of the words.
The high regard of his contemporaries is reflected in the fact that Petrucci published a volume of his masses. The collection, however, called Misse Antonii de Fevin (Fossombrone, 1515), actually contains only three masses by Antoine, and one of them, the Missa ‘Sancta Trinitas’, is probably by Mouton. (The two remaining masses in Petrucci’s volume are by Robert de Févin and Pierre de La Rue, identified as ‘Pierzon’.) At least four of Févin’s ten surviving masses use parody technique. No model has yet been discovered for some of his masses, for example, the Missa super ‘O quam glorifica luce’. Some are based on Gregorian chants. In these he incorporated highly embellished paraphrases of the borrowed melody into all of the voices and reverted to the older cantus firmus technique of presenting a simple version of the chant in one voice only occasionally. The high proportion of parody masses and the relative absence of older scaffolding techniques identify Févin as a man of his time, abandoning old-fashioned principles in favour of the new compositional procedures introduced by Josquin and other composers of the previous generation. Similarly his motets make little use of cantus firmi, even though some of them paraphrase plainchants; their formal structure depends not on a borrowed melody but rather on an imaginative juxtaposition of imitative phrases and chordal passages.
Most of Févin’s chansons, on the other hand, incorporate a borrowed monophonic popular melody relatively unembellished in one voice, usually the tenor. Paradoxically, these three-part popular arrangements, making use of a kind of cantus firmus technique, are as much of their time as the structurally freer masses and motets, for urban entertainment music seems to have enjoyed a great vogue at the court of Louis XII. The charm of these pieces lies in the various ways the outer voices imitate and play against the pre-existent melody.
Conflicting attributions are especially numerous with regard to Févin. The situation is particularly serious in the largest works; of the ten masses possibly by Antoine de Févin, five are also attributed to other composers. Until some of these ambiguities can be resolved, it is not possible to obtain a clear picture of Févin's style. For example, the Missa ‘O quam glorifica luce’ ascribed to Févin in D-Mbs Mus.ms.7 and A-Wn 15497 is also transmitted in P-Cug 2 as Missa ‘Iste confessor Domini’ ascribed to La Rue. Superficially the Munich and Vienna ascriptions might appear to be reliable, but the manuscripts' readings are markedly deficient with regard to critical passages in the Sanctus, while the presentation in Coimbra is quite clear.
Incomplete source information in Collected Works; selected sources given here to indicate the patterns of distribution.
Edition: Collected Works of Antoine de Févin, ed. E. Clinkscale (Ottawa, 1980–96) [C]
masses, magnificat settings, lamentations
for 4 voices unless otherwise stated
Missa ‘Ave Maria’ (on Josquin's motet), 15151, 15161, 9 other MSS and 3 excerpts; C, ii, 1
Missa de feria, 5vv (canonic), 15161, 12 MSS and 1 excerpt (in E-Tc Res 23 the Credo seems to be ascribed to Gascogne); C ii, 80
Missa ‘Dictes moy toutes’ (on Compère's rondeau), I-Rvat C.S.16, Rvat C.G.XII.2 (ascribed to Divitis, but almost certainly by Févin), 5 other MSS; C ii, 37
Missa ‘Mente tota’ (on Josquin's motet), 15151, 15161, 7 MSS and 3 excerpts; C ii 139
Missa ‘O quam glorifica luce’, A-Wn 15497, D-Mbs Mus.ms.7, P-Cug 2 (as Missa ‘Iste confessor Domini’ascribed to attrib. La Rue), 3 other MSS; C i, 97
Missa parva (Missa ad placitum), A-Wn 4810, I-Rvat C.S.16, 4 other MSS and 4 excerpts
Missa pro fidelibus defunctis, 4–5vv, A-Wn 15497, 18832, B-Br IV.922 (ascribed ‘Antonius Divitis’, surely in error), D-Ju 5, E-Tc Res 23; C i, 1
Missa ‘Salve sancta parens’, D-Mbs Mus.ms.7; C, i, 33
Sancta Trinitas, 41 sources incl. ascriptions to Craen, Morales, Mouton, Costanzo Festa and Josquin; several contain a 6vv arr by Arnold von Bruck; the sources for the Févin ascription leave no possible doubt that it is by him; C iii, 112
Tempus meum est; C iii, 119
Textless motet, D-Mbs Mus.ms.3154; C iv, 68
O pulcherrima mulierum, A-Wn 15941 (‘Fevÿn’), I-Bc R142 (‘Co. Festa’), E-Bbc 454 (‘Johannes Mouton’), 15191 (‘Bauldeweyn’); C iv, 50
Salve regina, D-Mbs Mus.ms.3154 (ascribed ‘Ar.Fer’; on tenor of Du Fay's Le serviteur); ed. in EDM, lxxxi (1993)
Verbum bonum et suave (probably by Therache), GB-Cmc 1760 (ascribed to Févin in index but Therache above the music); ed. in MRM, iii–v (1968), no.12
for 3 voices unless otherwise stated, all ed. in C iii
Adieu solas tout plaisir; Chacun maudit ces jaleux, C; En amours n'a sinon que bien; Faulte d'argent c'est doleur; Fors seullement (over 20 sources, incl. 1 late source with ascription to Robert de Févin; apparently based on Pipelare's chanson); Fuyés regretz; Helas, je suis marry de ces jalloux; Il fait bon aymer l'oyselet; Il m'est advis que je voy perrichon (GB-Cmc 1760 attrib. Hilaire, D-HRD 9821 attrib. Fevin; almost certainly by Hilaire)
J'ayme bien mon amy de bonne amour, GB-Cmc 1760 (ascribed ‘de fevin’ in index but ‘N. le petiti’ above the music); J'ay veu la beauté; Je le lairray; Mauditz soient ces maryz jaleux; N'aymés jamais une villaine; On a mal dit de mon amy (9 MSS and 3 prints); Pardonnés moy se je foloye, 4vv (C lacks bassus which appears in CH-Zz 169 and D-HRD 9820); Petite camusette, 157816 (attrib. ‘Josquin’), GB-Cmc 1760 (ascribed ‘Anth. de Fevin’); Qui ne l'aymeroit la belle au corps gent, 1520, 4vv ex 2 canon (anon.), DK-Kk 1872, 8vv ex 4 canon (‘Antoine Fevin’); 8vv version ed. in Dania sonans, v (Copenhagen, 1986), 390, Tres douke dame debonnaire, C iii, 165