Elektra Nonesuch 7559-79240-22
1. En avril au tens pascour [4:47]
Anon. Trouvère pastorale — ensemble
2. La seconde Estampie Royale [3:09]
Paris, Bib. Nat. MS f.fr.844 — Fulton, Higginson, Maund, Whelden
3. S'onques nuls hoem [2:12]
Anglo-norman crusade song | Brit. Lib., Harley MS 3775 — Morris
4. Flos pudicitie [4:58]
Cantus de domina post cantum Aaliz, Latin-Norman Lai | Arundel MS 248 — Morris, Fulton
5. DS 11.11 [7:17]
Instrumental arr. Fulton/Kammen — Fulton, Kammen, Maund
6. Danse Royale I [2:15]
Paris, Bib. Nat. MS f.fr.844 — Fulton, Kammen, Whelden
7. Si tost c'amis [2:02]
Renault de HOILANDE. Anglo-norman song | PRO E163/22/1/2 — Morris
8. Danse Royale II [1:32]
Paris, Bib. Nat. MS f.fr.844 — Fulton, Kammen, Whelden
9. El tens d'iver [2:24]
Anon. Anglo-norman song | Cambridge, Pembroke Coll., MS 113 — Morris, Kammen, Maund
10. Retrove [4:47]
Robertsbridge codex, London, Brit., Mus., add. 28550 — Fulton, Kammen, Maund
11. Espris d'ire et d'amour [6:30]
Guillaume LE VINIER. Trouvère lai | arr. Fulton, Wheldon — Morris, Fulton
12. La prime Estampie Royal [4:05]
Paris, Bib. Nat. MS f.fr.844 — Fulton, Maund, Whelden
13. La ultime Estampie Real - La septime Estampie Real [2:33]
Paris, Bib. Nat. MS f.fr.844 — Fulton, Higginson, Kammen, Maund
14. Trop est mes maris jalos [3:31]
Étienne de MEAUX. Chanson de la mal-mariée — Morris, Kammen, Maund, Whelden
Susan Rode Morris, soprano
Cheryl Ann Fulton, medieval harps
Kit Higginson, recorders and psaltery
Shira Kammen, vielle and rebec
Peter Maund, percussion
with guest artist Roy Whelden, vielle
Ensemble Alcatraz ("alcatraz" being an early Iberian word for "pelican," itself an early religious symbol) specializes in medieval and Renaissance music from Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy. Based in the San Francisco Bay area, the group performed throughout the United States, Canada and Europe until 1987 as La Corte Musical.
Produced by Peter Clancy
Recorded at Stewart Chapel, San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo, July 1989
Engineer: Jack Vad
Editing: Jack Vad on Studer Dyaxis
Editing assistant: Kit Higginson
Mastering: Robert C. Ludwig
Design: John Helden
Cover Art: L'Offrande du Coeur, tapestry, Arras, 15th cent.
Musée Cluny, Paris © Photo R.M.N., reproduced by permission
gothic arp, psaltery: David Brooks
cithara anglica: Rainer Thurau
vielles: Fabrizio Reginato
rebec: John Fleagle
Ganassi recorder: Peter Kobliczek
The French text of "Espris d'ire et d'amour" is based on the version in Les Poésies de Guillaume Le Vinier, Ed. Phillippe Ménard (Geneva: Droz, 1983).
The French texts of "En Avril au tens pascour" and "Trop est mes maris jalos" are from Chanter m'estuet: Songs of the Trouvères,
Ed. Samuel N. Rosenberg and Hans Tischler (Bloomington, Ind: Indiana University Press, 1981)
French text translations — Nos. 1, 11, 14 — by Prof. S.N. Rosenberg (Indiana University)
Latin and Anglo.Norman text tranlations — Nos. 3, 4, 7, 9 — by Prof. John Stevens (Magdalene College, Cambridge)
Special thanks to: John Stevens, Samuel N. Rosenbert, Lawrence Rosenwald, Daniel Drasin, Gerry Kearby, Hera Erdissiere, Adele Anthony and Melvin Jahn
℗ & © Electra Entertainment / WEA International
The repertory recorded on this album comprises thirteenth-century song and dance of French and Anglo-Norman origin, a repertory very distant from us. To fully savor this music, it is useful to note some pertinent facts of cultural history.
To begin with, we need a sense of what "courtly love" was, especially in connection with the French songs on the album. "Courtly love" is itself a modern term, not a medieval one; the standard medieval term is fin amors, "refined love". But "courtly" is a useful term because it suggests the importance of social status: by definition, you could not enjoy this experience unless your social status was very high. "For a farmer", writes one medieval writer, "hard labor and the uninterrupted solaces of plough and mattock are sufficient, lest while they are devoting themselves to conduct that which is not natural to them, the kindly farms... may through lack of cultivation prove useless to us". Again, one of the earliest troubadours writes that "he whom noble Love singles out lives gay, courtly and wise". In the medieval England from which some of this repertory comes the term was "gentil lovying"; perhaps the term we want is "courteous love". In any case, the essence of the experience is refinement, and the refinement is social as well as personal. Through refinement the lover can reach his goal, or, as the refrain of "El tens d'iver" has it, "advance.., to the possession of certain joy".
We also have to understand what it meant for a medieval poet to write a poem, whether on the topic of courtly love or otherwise. We have to understand in particular that writing a poem was an act of craftsmanship. The texts of these poems are in many ways highly conventional, and one of the tasks of the medieval poet was to master the poetic conventions: the virtuosic rhyme-schemes, the elaborate periphrases for describing the beloved, the repeated use of a single word as a point of orientation for the poem as a whole. Poems are to be thought of, then, not principally as personal expression but as displays of artistic excellence.
Hence the particular interest of the Anglo-Norman chanson," Si tost c'amis". (It is heart warming to note, by the way, that this piece had been lost for over 150 years when a British scholar rediscovered ¡t in the Public Record Office in London). "Si tost c'amis" is a love-song in the high style, with all the musical features appropriate to that genre: a restrained and ceremonious melody, formally defined by a repeated short first section and subsequent longer section, moving syllable by syllable with notes sometimes single and sometimes slurred. But what makes this particular song unique in England is that above it on the page is a roughly-drawn crown, and that in the envoi the poet says that the song is on its way to the puy. A puy, of which there were many, was a society which existed to promote the twin arts of music and poetry; it held competitions at which the winning songs were "crowned" (as in Wagner's Die Meistersinger) and elaborate feasts were consumed, albeit only by men. We today do not send love-songs to competitions, and we have to understand what it meant to the medieval poet. Whatever else a medieval poem was in bourgeois society around 1300, it was also a work of conventionalized art with which one could hope to win a prize.
On the other hand, all of this does not mean that these compositions are coldly impersonal. Behind each genre of song, if not behind each individual song, is a real experience—an experience of falling in love, of love's private joys and public secrets, of the lover's manic succession of moods. So, for instance, "S'onques nuls hoem" concerns the uncertainties of a man departing for a crusade: should the lover please God or his lady? He cannot, after all, serve both his Master and a mistress. Or there is "Trop est mes maris jalos" depicting the plight of an unhappy young woman with a jealous old husband. As is characteristic of this genre, the wife turns her frustrations (which she doubts will last long) into light-hearted, mocking song. Sometimes the real experience behind the genre is as simple as the human sense of the changing seasons. It is nearly always spring in a medieval love song (e.g. "En avril au tens pascour") but winter serves the lover who wants to parade his miseries, as in "El tens diver".
We might combine the two previous points by saying that the love-songs of courts and noble-households can be thought of as part of a social fiction, and in particular of a social fiction that showed "how life on this earth, which orthodox theology taught men to despise, could be made a beautiful and worshipful thing" (Stevens).
The means for making secular life beautiful and worshipful were of course not only words and music. In one sense the most apt embodiment of the courtly life was dancing, and the numerous instrumental dances on the album reflect the courtly importance of that activity. Moreover, a good many genres of medieval song were probably performed in the context of a dance, such as pastourelles, poems recounting the speaker's journeying out one morning and meeting a shepherdess in the meadow. Of the repertory recorded here, "El tens d'iver" most resembles a dance-song, with its short phrases, catchy refrain, and repetitious melody. But dance may also have accompanied "En avril au tens pascour", which begins very much in the pastourelle tradition before diverging from it by having the poem's speaker encounter not a shepherdess but the God of Love.
All the preceding remarks have implications for performance, but it may be useful to add here some more direct comments concerning performance practice. The modern performer of early medieval songs and dances is faced with perplexing problems. The music notation in thirteenth-century manuscripts provided the relative pitches of the notes, the clef-signs, sometimes an accidental or two, perhaps an indication of a repeat, and, in the case of a song, the text. The manuscripts do not indicate tempo, dynamics, voice-category, instrumental accompaniment, or style; nor, in the great majority of songs, do they indicate rhythm, i.e. the durations of single notes or note-groups. So there is much room for interpretation. Recent scholars have suggested that rhythmic interpretation may be a matter of genre; dances and dance-songs should be in meter, while the high-style courtly chansons are better sung in a flexible rhythm according approximately equal time to each syllable. Genre may also be a key to the vexing question of instrumental accompaniment. The high-style chanson, with its demands for serious and sustained concentration from the listener, could be presented without accompaniment. Dance-songs and their near kin, on the other hand, may well have often been accompanied by a variety of instruments. Lais, like the Latin song "Flos pudicitie" and the trouvère song "Espris d'ire et d'amor". are often in epic poetry and romance associated especially with the harp. The members of Ensemble Alcatraz have of course done here what modern performers must do: investigated the scholarly findings and then, amidst the welter of uncertainties, made decisions which achieve a performance both historically plausible and musically authentic.
— JOHN STEVENS