Polyphonies sacrées de la Péninsule Ibérique – XIIIe siècle

2002   |   Jade 198 988 2





Ma 107   Hu 83       1 - Motet. Alta bovi et leoni ~ Domino
Bible: Apocalypse 20-7,8
Codex de Madrid (duplum seul sans teneur) · Codex de Las Huelgas (trois voix)

Ma 85       2 - Conductus. Ave maris stella
Codex de Madrid

Hu 36       3 - Conductus. Benedicamus. Hic est enim precursor
Trope de Benedicamus Domino
Codex de Las Huelgas

Ma 93       4 - Conductus. Parit preter morem
Codex de Madrid

Ma 123       5 - Conductus. Novus miles sequitur
Texte en l'honneur de St Thomas de Canterbury
Codex de Madrid

E-TO 135       6 - Celesti preconium
Trope de Hosanna
Tortosa, Codex 135

E-TO 97       7 - Motet. Gaudeat devotio fidelium ~ Nostrum omnium
Texte pour la Nativité
Tortosa, Codex 97

Hu 8       8 - Conductus. Alleluia. Salve virgo
Codex de Las Huelgas

Hu 53       9 - Prosa. Salve, sancta Christi parens
Codex de Las Huelgas

Hu 19       10 - Conductus. Ave verum
Séquence pour l'élévation
"In festo corporis et sanguinis Domini nostri Jesu Christi sequentia"
Codex de Las Huelgas

Ma 104   E-TO 97       11 - Conductus. Veri floris sub figura
Codex de Madrid · Tortosa, Codex 97

Ma 77       12 - Motet. Ave Maria fons letitie
Bible: Isaïe, 53
Codex de Madrid (sans teneur)

Hu 103       13 - Motet. O Maria virgo ~ Organica cantica ~ Amen
Codex de Las Huelgas

Ma 78   Hu 98       14 - Motet. Ad celi sublimia ~ Ta
Codex de Madrid (sans teneur) · Codex de Las Huelgas

Ma 76       15 - Motet. Mors morsu ~ Mors
Codex de Madrid

Ma 105   E-TO 97       16 - Conductus. Isayas cecinit
Le texte aux tournures bibliques, s'appuie sur des références recherchées:
Partant de l'image classique qui compare la Vierge à la fleur du bâton de Jessé chanté par le prophète Isaïe (11. 1, 10), il associe cette image à la hampe de l'étendard au serpent d'airain de Moïse – (Les nombres 21. 4-10). Il évoque aussi la générosité du berger Tityre, personnage des "Bucoliques" de Virgile.
Codex de Madrid · Tortosa, Codex 97

Hu 4       17 - Conductus. Kyrie IV.
Codex de Las Huelgas

Hu 6       18 - Conductus. Gloria ~ Spiritus et alme
Trope de Gloria
Codex de Las Huelgas

E-Boc 1 #11       19 - Sanctus. Clemens et benigna
Trope de Sanctus
Codex de la Cartuja de la Scala Dei (Tarragona)

F-PN 5132       20 - Virelai. Cedit frigus hiemale
Chant pour le jour de Pâques
Manuscrit du monastère de Ripoll, Paris Bibliothèque Nationale, Lat 5132

Ma 73       21 - Conductus. Adveniam perveniam
Référence à la parabole des vierges sages et des vierges folles (Matthieu 25-, 13)
Codex de Madrid

Hu 123       22 - Motet. Psallat chorus ~ Eximie Pater ~ Aptatur
Codex de Las Huelgas

IMAGEN juillet 2002
Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud

Voix de femmes "a capella"
Katia Caré

Florence Blanc · voix (#1-11, 13-18, 20-22)
Ysé Blanchelande · voix (#1-11, 13-18, 20-22)
Katia Caré · voix (#1-11, 13, 15-22)
Florence Carpentier · voix (#1-11, 13, 15-22)
Estelle Filer · voix (#1-11, 13-18, 21-22)
Déborah Flornoy · voix (#1-11, 13-18, 20-22)
Blandine Folio · voix (#1-11, 13-18, 20-22)
Bénédicte Lamusse · voix (#1-11, 13-18, 20-22)
Caroline Montier · voix (#1-22)
Laure Pierredon · voix (#1-11, 13-18, 20-22)
Véronique Tartavel · voix (#1-11, 13-22)


Eight hundred years ago the Iberian peninsula was divided into several kingdoms, some Christian, some Muslim, which over time became the modern states of Spain and Portugal. More exactly, Spain was created at the end of the 15th century when Castile-León and Navarre united with the crowns of Catalonia and Aragon and the Nasrid kingdom of Grenada. This union resulted in the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon to Isabelle of Castile who then together reconquered Grenada, the last Muslim enclave of the Peninsula, thus closing a very important chapter of its history.

Muslim presence in Spain, which lasted roughly eight centuries, had a distinct influence on the evolution of both its sacred and profane music, which throughout the Middle Ages was largely characterised by oral transmission. Sacred music of the Christian kingdoms of Spain was not however influenced by Muslim music, inexistent in that domain, but did undergo a particular evolution, as its liturgy did not unify with Roman liturgy as rapidly as in other regions. It was not until 1080, during the reign of Alphonse VI in Castile-León, that the territories under his rule gave up the old Hispano-Mozarabic liturgy for the Roman liturgy. In Aragon the change had taken place only nine years earlier. In fact, only Catalonia experienced the change as early as the late 8th century – early 9th century under defeat by the Frankish crown. And so it was only from the end of the 11th century, when in Catalonia all liturgical books containing musical notation had long followed the Roman rites, that in Castile-León, Aragon and Navarre, they all were changed. This process, not to be achieved overnight, actually took more than a century to be completed.

In the case which here interests us, it is important to note that in the Hispano-Mozarabic liturgy, nothing indicates that polyphony was practiced, compared to Roman liturgy which contains significant evidence of such practice from at least the 11th century. Consequently, when dealing with as important a manuscript as the Madrid Codex (Biblioteca Nacional, Ms. 20486), it is extremely difficult to determine historical context, especially considering that when it was copied, toward the middle of the 13th century, we know that polyphonic practice was in its infancy in the kingdom of Castile-León.

In importance, the Madrid Codex is the fourth of those of the School of Notre Dame, after the Codex of Florence (Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana, Pluteus 29.I), which is the most complete, and the two Wolfenbüttel codices (Herzog-August Bibliothek Ms. 677 and Ms. 1099). It had been in the possession of the cathedral of Toledo until 1869 at which time it was placed in its current location. Although not certain, it is possible that this codex is in fact the « librete pequeñuelo de canto de órgano » (book of figured chant) whose existence is referred to in an inventory of the cathedral of Toledo dating from the first half of the 14th century. Divided into six sections, it contains sixty conductus for two voices, one for three voices, thirty-three motets, four organa (of which the famous Viderunt et Sederunt of Perotin), one clausula, the oldest copy of the hoquet In speculum, and several voices without text. The text appears to be French, however the ornaments of its initials suggest a manuscript of Spanish origin, copied perhaps by a French hand at the request of the Chapter of Toledo. If the question of its origin remains difficult to elucidate, the inscription « tenura de Mors Morsu » which accompanies the tenor voice of one of the motets does allow at least the confirmation that this document known today as the Madrid Codex was used in Spain.

Added to the significance of the examples already cited, the sheer number of conductus attracts attention. Polyphonic pieces of a syllabic nature (the text sung in declamatory style) represent sixty percent of the entire codex, a percentage overwhelmingly greater than that of the other three great codices of the School of Notre Dame, which are overall larger collections. This may be due to the secondary origin of the codex, but the view that the Madrid Codex compiles a conscious selection of pieces easier to teach and interpret than the more complicated Parisian organa cannot be dismissed. This recording contains a selection of six of these conductus and four motets, which, after the conductus, is the most favored genre of the copyist of the Madrid Codex. One of the characteristics of these motets is the reduction in the number of voices compared to other known copies, notably the tenor voice, which must be added, as it is rarely reproduced in the text. The repertoire of the Madrid Codex is almost entirely known through several other international sources, especially the Florence Codex already mentioned. The codex of Las Huelgas, however, the most important of all the medieval polyphonic codices in Spain, presents a greater originality. It was created at the beginning of the 14th century for the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria la Real near Burgos, known more widely as Las Huelgas and serving as a country residence to members of the Castilian royal family, several of whom were knighted or buried there.


The repertoire of the Las Huelgas Codex is written completely in Latin and presents the same sacred character as the Madrid Codex. It contains forty-five monodic pieces and one hundred and forty-one polyphonic pieces. The monodic pieces are tropes of the benedicamus, prosae and conductus, however the polyphonic pieces are motets (fifty-nine altogether), conductus (fewer in number), fragments of the Ordinary of the Mass (mostly tropes), fragments of the gradual, two alleluias, an offertory trope, twenty-one benedicamus and eleven prosae. This repertoire, which must have fulfilled liturgical requirements of the monastery, was sung by nuns specialised in chant. There is also a "solfege" which itself constitutes an « unicum » (work found only in one source), and is also used in forty percent of the repertoire of the codex from which several of our selections have been chosen.

Certain fragments, such as the conductus "Novus miles sequitur", match texts from the Madrid Codex. Others, such as Gloria – Spiritus et alme match fragments found in other Castilian manuscripts, notably one from the cathedral of Burgos, and can be dated from c.1250, apparently the oldest manuscript containing polyphony of all those conserved from the old kingdom of Castile-León.

Curiously, the manuscript containing the earliest examples of polyphony attributed to Catalonia dates from the same period, although it is quite certain that the art of polyphony had been cultivated there from at least the mid-11th century. The manuscript we refer to, today held in the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris (Ms. Lat. 5132), originates from the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll (Gerona) and contains another unicum, the virelai: Cedit frigus hiemale. One of the Catalan codices, codex 97 from the cathedral of Tortosa in Tarragone, is more well-known, and is perhaps related to the School of Notre Dame. It contains several of the conductus, such as Veri floris sub figura or Isayas cecinit, which are also known from the Madrid Codex. As a point of interest, in motets such as Gaudeat devotio fidelium / Nostrum, taken from Tortosa, the tenor voice is absent in this manuscript as well as in the Castilian source.

Among the Catalan sources whose polyphony predates Ars Nova, the most important codex is at the Library of Orfeo Catala (Ms.1) in Barcelona. It comes from the Carthusian convent of Scala Dei in Tarragone, having been acquired from the nearby Cistercian monastery of Santes Creus where an early form of polyphony was practiced in the training of singers for the royal chapel of Catalonia and Aragon. This codex, dating from the same period as Las Huelgas, contains a collection of monodic prosae and a collection of tropes of the Ordinary of the Mass, 2-voice anthems and exceptionally, 3-voice anthems, some of the most remarkable examples of early Catalan polyphony. The trope on the Sanctus Clemens et benigna, a fragment from the Tarragone manuscript with no other similar sources, is an outstanding illustration.

Maricarmen Gómez
(Translation: Déborah Flornoy)


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