TYLMAN SUSATO (1510 - 1570)
The birthplace or date of Tielman Susato is unknown, our clear knowledge of him starts in 1529 when he was working as a calligrapher in Antwerp Cathedral. As a trumpeter he is also listed as “a town player”, while he created the first music printing company in the Low Countries, and was in this business from 1541. He appears then to have moved this to be combined with a musical instrument business at his home in 1551. During his publishing career he was responsible for 25 books of chansons, 3 books of masses and 19 books of motets. He was also anxious to promote Flemish composers, and eventually published four books devoted to songs by national musicians. His efforts to find more did not succeed, and he was to compose many of his own works based on popular Flemish music of the time. The date of his death is unclear, but he passed on his publishing business to his son, Jacques, but he too was to die two or three years after his father in 1564.
Susato was not a great composer in the accepted sense of that term, but he does represent one of the few Flemish composers of the period, and as such is an important figure in relating the music of his region. How much was original we are unclear, as he was obviously compiling folk and popular music of the area. He was, nevertheless, an accomplished writer who was to capture, in his songs and instrumental music, the essence of the time. His melodic material is attractive, and is particularly strong in its rhythmic characteristics. Much of his music, and the music he collected, was in dance rhythm, with the general inference that this was music for the ‘street’ rather than for the aristocracy. The result is music of rugged attraction which avoids performing difficulties and allows it to be within the scope of the untrained singers of the era.