Jakub Reys (Jacques le Polonois)

b Poland c 1540 - d Paris c 1605

Polish lutenist and composer active in France. From archival documents and printed references it is now established that Jakub Reys and Jacques le Polonois were the same person. In 1574 he went to France in the retinue of Henri III, remaining there as lutenist and valet de chambre ordinaire du roi until his death.
He was married in 1585 to the daughter of a merchant of Blois. In many contemporary references he is praised as one of the foremost lutenists of the period; his invention of a new style of playing is often alluded to, although precisely what this style was is not known.
Reys´s skill as a performer is reflected in the many technical difficulties in his extant works. Some long passages and even whole compositions show the emergent major-minor tonal system, for example the fantasias in Besard´s Thesaurus harmonicus.Even in largely imitative polyphonic compositions, the leading melodic line is clearly shaped by considerations of harmony and colour.
He created interesting dissonances through the use of suspensions and retardations of melodic notes, especially at cadences. Many of his fantasias are clearly variational ricercares; interestingly, they appeared in the Thesaurus harmonicus at about the same time as Frescobaldi´s variational ricercares, showing that the form appeared in both lute and keyboard music simultaneously.
Rey´s galliards (of which only four are extant) were especially admired by his contemporaries. They show virtually no trace of modality, and three exhibit the two- or three section structure which was to be the principle of construction for the next two centuries: in the major keys, modulation to the dominant, and in the minor keys modulation to the relative major.
According to Praetorius, two types of courante were designated by the names of their composers, the "Courante de Perrichon", and the "duret"; the latter may have taken its name from a variant form of Reys´s name du Ret. His one sarabande, consisting of a theme and seven variation, is particularly interesting; it is the earliest known example of this dance of French provenance.

Piotr Pozniak
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