A Melancholy Mass
In addition to these two motets, it seems likely that Nicolas Gombert was also called upon to compose a work for the event, and indeed a five-voice mass published by the Scotto firm of Venice in 1542 is entitled “Missa a la incoronacion.” Gombert was in Charles’s employ at the time of the coronation, and the mass in question is securely attributed to Gombert in two printed sources. The assertion that this mass was at least composed for Charles’s imperial coronation is therefore widely accepted.
 Crowning of Charles V
A mass is a much larger undertaking than a motet. There is no question that Gombert’s mass is an impressive work, one fairly typical of the composer’s style. All voice parts move continuously, contain few rests, and are linked by imitation in which one voice repeats, recognizably if not literally, a portion of melody previously heard in another voice. This produces a style marked by grandezza and achieves a marvelous effect. It is likely that, despite the fact that Thiebault was senior to Gombert in the emperor’s musical hierarchy, Charles held his maître des enfants in higher regard than his choirmaster.
 Crowning of Charles V
The surviving accounts of the event mention a stretch of “prayers” after the singing of the gradual. A report by Hironimo Bontempo makes a specific reference to singers reciting the prayers: “His majesty having had all these [insignia], a number of prayers were sung by the singers while the emperor was kneeling, and he was that way for more than a quarter hour.” This is when the Laudes Regiæ were to be sung, and it seems plausible that the two motets and an abbreviated form of the Laudes could have been sung during this fifteen-minute period.
The mass may strike modern listeners as an odd choice for a coronation. A subsequent print of the work identifies it not as a mass for coronation, but as the Missa Sur tous regretz, the title referring to the fact that Sur tous regretz, a chanson by Jean Richafort, served as the mass’s model. The song is a decidedly sad one. Its text translates:
“Above all regrets, I cry most piteously for my own, heaving sighs piercing my weary heart. Since I have lost my amiable liqueur, I complain and will complain for a long time.”
 Crowning of Charles V
 Crowning of Charles V
The tone of the four-voice chanson, which is cast in the Dorian mode, matches the regret of the text, with a pervading imitative texture that Gombert thickens in his mass through the use of an additional voice and the continuous movement that Bartoli describes. Though much depends on the interpretation of the work in performance, its overall effect is unmistakably solemn and at least a little sad.
It is tempting, given the circumstances leading to the Sack of Rome three years prior to the coronation and Charles’s documented embarrassment about it, to attribute the character of this mass to Charles’s regret. Its basis of the regretful chanson could channel Charles’s general regret about the political situation and the Sack in particular.

A more likely explanation is a particular predilection for melancholic music on Charles’s part. In Luys de Narváez’s 1538 anthology of intabulations for the vihuela—versions of polyphonic works for a guitar-like instrument popular in Spain at the time—a version of Josquin des Prez’s Mille Regretz bears the title “La Canción del Emperador.” Mille Regretz was the model for a mass by Cristóbal de Morales that appeared in a print bearing Charles’s coat of arms. In a 1995 article on allusions to Josquin’s Mille Regretz, Owen Rees noted Charles’s likely familiarity with a manuscript owned by his aunt that contained a number of similar “regret” chansons. While it may be difficult for modern listeners to distinguish between expressions of sadness and solemnity in this style of polyphony, this particular occasion seems to express the latter by redeploying counterpoint originally meant to express the former.
Whether Gombert’s mass expresses Charles’s regret or simple solemnity will remain obscure. None of the surviving commentary on the coronation mentions the character of the music, and indeed only a single source mentions polyphonic performance at all. The accounts make clear that the large crowds made hearing the proceedings difficult, and we may well imagine that whatever meaning was drawn from any of the music—chant and polyphony alike—was reserved for those participants in the ceremony who could hear it. This exclusivity may have gone even further, since Gombert’s mass was originally published without reference to its model.
 Crowning of Charles V
 Crowning of Charles V
It is conceivable that Charles and Gombert were the only listeners who knew the model definitively during the coronation ceremony itself. What is clear is that Charles and Clement both made conscious choices about the repertory to be performed in the context of a highly prescribed ceremony and that the music was imbued with meaning that was meant to transcend the political circumstances of the day.
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