Pierre Passereau was not merely another pretty musical face in the middle of the sixteenth century. He was one of only two composers to whom French Royal printer Pierre Attaignant devoted a solo printed collection, the other being Clément Janequin. Passereau's music was enjoyed not only in Paris, but also in London and Venice, and Rabelais apparently approved of his work. Though he frequently declined to contribute to the more serious and lyrical genre of the hip "Parisian" chanson (as championed by Sermisy), Passereau demonstrated no less skill in the more upbeat style of Janequin; he favored the popular rustic -- and often bawdy -- texts. His best-known chanson in our own time is the four-voiced "Il est bel et bon, commère, mon mari," which exemplifies the pacing, the prurience, and the patter found in the best of Passereau's music, and that of his contemporaries.
Passereau's unassuming little text echoes the gossip of a pair of French peasant women. The speaker claims that her husband is fine and gives her no trouble: he doesn't annoy her or beat her, he does the housework and she is free to pursue and enjoy her own pleasures...Passereau chooses an extremely light, and even dancelike, musical style to set this rustic dialogue. Despite the imitative entries of the first melody (faint echoes of the earlier "Netherlandish" chanson style), the music proceeds in bouncy phrases, simultaneously echoing the patter of the peasants' discourse, and the evening dances at which they may flirt. The first textual mention of the two women is left to the two highest voices (twice), and their gossip speeds along until the one word "pleasures" rings out clearly. After the wife's true reason for contentment is in the open, the text continues to discuss the clucking of barnyard hens, and Passereau mimics it by allowing the voices to reiterate the first syllable of "coquette"; not only are the singers presenting a clear onomatopoeia for the birdsong, as with so many French chansons of the day, they are letting the birds give their own ribald commentary on rustic sexual morals (or the lack thereof).