Rondeau (music)

Rondeau (music)

The rondeau (French; plural form "rondeaux") was a Medieval and early Renaissance musical form, based on a popular contemporary poetic form (see rondeau (poetry)). It is distinct from the 18th century rondo, though the terms are likely related. With the virelai and the ballade, it is one of the three formes fixes of French music and poetry in the 14th and 15th centuries.

The rondeau form calls for a rigid pattern of repetition of verse and refrain, following the evolving rhyme-scheme of the poetic form, ranging from eight lines to as many as 21. The most commonly used form is ABaAabAB, where capital letters refer to repetition of the (two-part) refrain text and music while lowercase letters refer to repetition of music alone with a new text. Early rondeaux are usually found as interpolations in longer narrative poems, and separate monophonic musical settings survive. While early poetic rondeaux are often in mixed meter, this is rare in later rondeaux set to music.

The earliest surviving polyphonic rondeaux are by the trouvère Adam de la Halle. Later, Guillaume de Machaut, Guillaume Dufay and other prominent composers were prolific in the form.

Although far rarer than the French usage, the Italian equivalent, the "rondello" was occasionally composed and listed among the Italian forms of poetry for music. A single rondello appears in the Rossi Codex. In addition, several rondeaux in French appear entirely in sources originating in Italy, the Low Countries, and Germany, suggesting that these works (including "Esperance, qui en mon cuer") may not have a purely French provenance.

Later, in the Baroque era, the label "rondeau" (or the adjectival phrase "en rendeau") was applied to dance movements in simple refrain form by such composers as Jean-Baptiste Lully and Louis Couperin.

Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire sets 21 poems by Albert Giraud, each of which is a 13-lined poetic rondeau.


* Randel, Don, ed. (1986). "The New Harvard Dictionary of Music". (pp. 716-717). Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-61525-5
* Cuthbert, Michael. "Esperance" and the French song in Foreign Sources". "Studi Musicali" 35.2, 2007.

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