En doulz chastel de Pavie/ Ferrara Ensemble
Chansons la cour des Visconti, 1400


Harmonia Mundi "Documenta" 905241
junio de 1997
église catholique de Seewen, CH

01 - Philipoctus de CASERTA. De ma doulour   [8:41]
Mod., f.26v
02 - Johannes CICONIA. La fiamma del to amor (instrumental)   [2:31]
Lucca, f.54v

03 - Jacob SENLECHES. La harpe de mélodie   [4:12]
Chic., f.10
04 - Istanpitta Isabella (instrumental)   [7:19]
Lo., f.56v-57

05 - Philipoctus de CASERTA. En remirant   [10:53]
Mod., f.34v-35
06 - Johannes CICONIA. Le ray au soleyl   [1:30]
Perugia, f.83
07 - Chançoneta tedescha (instrumental)   [2:25]
Lo., f.74 (tenor; superius, R. Cook)

08 - Johannes CICONIA. Sus une fontayne   [8:15]
Mod., f.27v-28
09 - Constantia (instrumental)   [3:18]
Fa., f.62v-63
10 - Chançoneta tedescha (instrumental)   [2:20]
Lo., f.74 (tenor; superius, C. Young)

11 - Philipoctus de CASERTA. En attendant souffrir   [9:10]
Mod., f.20

#1, 5, 8, 11: Modena, Biblioteca Estense, MS a. M. 5. 24
#2: Lucca, Archivio di Stato, MS 184
#3: Chicago, Newberry Library, MS 54.1
#4, 7, 10: London, British Library, MS Add. 29987
#6: Perugia, Biblioteca Comunale "Augusta", MS 3065
#9: Faenza, Biblioteca Comunale, MS 117.


Crawford Young

Lena Susanne Norin, alto
Eric Mentzel, tenor
Stephen Grant, baryton
Randall Cook, viola d'arco
Crawford Young, guiterne
Marion Fourquier, harp

· · ·

discografí del Ferrara Ensemble

The music from the milieu of the Visconti residences, one of which - Pavia - was flatteringly described by Eustache Deschamps in 1391 as a"sweet castle", is molded by the style of the late fourteenth century, a style which skillfully and calculatedly attempted to surpass that of the last great poet-musician Guillaume de Machaut (d.1377). The Italian composers of this ars subtilior indulged in a virtuoso manner in both the Italian and French musical styles and languages. The subject of the songs of praise which comprise the greater part of the present program was Giangaleazzo Visconti, the famous "Count of Virtu (Virtue)". His father Galeazzo II built the "sweet castle" of Pavia when Giangaleazzo, knighted at age four, was still a boy. In 1385 Giangaleazzo became the sole ruler of the powerful and ambitious archduchy of Milan. He was not only interested in furthering his power, but also in literature and the fine arts, as his significant library attests to. In the radiance of Giangaleazzo's heraldic sun (of patronage) basked numerous composers and poets, and the ruler also commissioned precious manuscripts.

It may be assumed that Philopoctus de Caserta resided from time to time at the Pavian court during the 1370s and 1380s. The first line of the ballade En attendant souffrir m'estuet contains the motto of Giangaleazzo's uncle, Bernabo Visconti (souffrir m'estuet "I must suffer"), who was poisoned in 1385. The Northerner Johannes Ciconia apparently knew Philipoctus' songs praising the Visconti, for his virelai Sus une fontaine, containing musical-poetical quotations from the ballades En remirant, En attendant souffrir and De ma doulour, can be understood as honoring the works of his older colleague. The canon Le ray au soleyl uses both of the heraldic devices of Giangaleazzo, a sun and a turtledove, as well as his motto a bon droyt ("by right", "with good reason"). The unique manuscript source for this work has the word Tortorelle (turtledove) set off with a capital initial letter, which can be understood as a subtle allusion to Giangaleazzo. All of the present recording's vocally-performed works, with the exception of La harpe de mélodie, make more or less direct reference in their texts to the Visconti. To a certain extent, they exhibit common musical material. Including the numerous references to the ducal house, the texts of  these songs employ constructs well-known to the fourteenth century. Just how deep this ars subtilior is anchored in the subtle art of the previous generation is demonstrated with the images of the mirroring fountain in Sus une fontaine (recalling the Narcissus scene from the Romance of the Rose) or the lyric formulations of En remirant vo douce pourtraiture (echoing the "Pygmalion Ballade" of Machaut). Allegorical figures such as Bel Acueil (Fair Welcome), Dous Regart (Sweet Glance) or Deport (Delight) are found here, as well as the formal elegance and word play of the amour courtois lyric.

As an example, De ma doulour of Philipoctus may be considered. If the first line of each strophe is read consecutively, a coherent formulation is produced:

De ma doulour ne puis trouver confort
Hé, dous Regart, tu m'as mis a mort
Or n'est-il nulz, hélas, qui me confort
(I can find no relief for my suffering
O, Sweet Glance, you have killed me
Alas, there is nothing that soothes me

Correspondingly, each fourth line, taken together, reads:

Qu'a mon vouloir ne m'en puis pas retrayre
Hélas, ne scay, certes, que doye feyre
Car il n'est riens, certes, qui me puist plaire
(As I am not able to obey my own will,
woe! I know not what 1 should do,
for there is surely nothing which can please me

Here it is worth mentioning that in the first example there is a repetition of the word confort, and in the second the word certes is repeated. The lines which occur at the same metrical points within the different strophes thus consciously form a connection with each other. The middle line of the second strophe expresses the helplessness of the poet regarding the situation that he is facing. All forces are revealed as enemies, especially Fortune, as is shown in the first two lines of each of the first two strophes. The unfortunate predicament is highlighted, in a manner approaching satire, by the use of the verbs crier and braire (Strophe III, Line 5). Braire in modern French refers to the braying of a donkey, whereas in older usage it refers to loud screeching or screaming which could come from a person, a roaring lion, or a sqeaky wagon wheel. In the golden age of amour courtois, other verbs might well have been chosen, however this exaggerated use of amour courtois clichés is typical for the lyric poetry of the fifteenth century. In the poetry of the ars subtilior, the use of this poetic device defines a phase of evolution. On the one hand, the ars subtilior poems are bound to the images and ideals of the past (Narcissus, Pygmalion, the world of allegory, the negative personification of fortune: images which assume a central position in the works of Machaut), while on the other hand they look ahead, citing the ideals of amour courtois with a wry wink of the eye. Even in grand songs of praise, such a subtle wink may be present. Ciconia's position concerning the Visconti, for example, is extremely ambiguous, and thus praise may also be read as bitter opposition, according to the interpretation.

The canonic virelai La harpe de mélodie of Jacob Senleches was known in Italy among circles of educated listeners and mentioned in this context by Simone Prudenzani in his Saporetto of 1420. This work shows a concrete connection to the Visconti court inasmuch as it is known from two sources (the Italian manuscript Chantilly and Chicago, Newberry Library MS 54.1), one of which, a theory manuscript now in the Newberry Library, was copied at least partially in Pavia. In addition, the works of Senleches appear in other italian manuscripts of the early fifteenth century which come from the same cultural environment. As a footnote to this work, Giangaleazzo's daughter Valentina was an accomplished harp player, and court poet Francesco di Vannozzo praised this instrument in a sonnet of 1389. In the Chicago manuscript, La harpe de mélodie is notated in the form of a harp, with performance instructions in the form of a rondeau given on a cloth band wound around the front pillar of the instrument. A tuning key (a piece of wood carved in the form of a hand holding a tuning key) is tied with a string to the harp. The realistically depicted harp contains the notation of the piece 'within it' (upon its strings) and this in itself corresponds to the text of the virelai. The fifth line talks about, among other things, "seeing" the harmony, and a bit later the poet remarks that he will complete the song "dedans li" within the harp, a formulation which has a decided spatial character to it. All of the notes are written on staves of nine or ten lines (= harp strings); none are written on the spaces between the lines / strings (and thus a kind of harp tablature is presented).

Despite the obvious connection of the virelai with the harp, Prudenzani mentions a performance of La harpe de mélodie on the organetto, thus indicating the possibility of instrumental performance of a vocal piece with relative freedom in the choice of instruments. La fiamma del to amor of Ciconia is performed instrumentally, in similar spirit, on the present recording. Pieces such as Constantia from the Faenza Codex or the istampita Isabella (possibly to be associated with the wedding of Giangaleazzo Visconti and Isabelle de France) are surely to be understood as instrumental works, as are the two Chansoneta tedescha tenore with their similarity to the later bassadanza. Here the term tedescha may perhaps be taken as a hint that German instrumentalists, especially wind players, were performing this style of early bassadanza in the later fourteenth century.

Unas palabras de ánimo de medieval.org:

This program consists of works connected to the Visconti court in Pavia. It is particularly well-suited as an introduction to the Ars Subtilior repertory for those who might otherwise be intimidated by it, as the program is not too dense and the interpretations are relatively straight-forward.