Musique des Trouvères et Troubadours
Les Musiciens de Provence | English notes
Arion ARN 68064
CD compilation 1988

Since its creation in 1970, the «MUSICIENS DE PROVENCE» ensemble, has continued to broaden its activities, extending them to all popular instruments of Provence whose richness of timbre was worthy of preserving. The use of these instruments had become more or less lost down through the centuries.

Members of the ensemble also undertook a detailed reconstitution of documents, iconography and instruments still preserved in museums. The universality of their instruments — fifty in number — (instruments of French folklore are the relics of those played in Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance) allows them to play — quite apart from seventeenth and eighteenth century traditional Provençal music which they like so much and play on flutet, tabor, Provençal timbale, timbalons, cymbalettes — all European music, with preference given to pieces retaining the popular character to which the ensemble is so attached: songs and dances of the Middle Ages, Provençal Noels and Renaissance dances. Recordings by the «MUSICIENS DE PROVENCE» meet with immediate success as soon as they are issued.


· The psaltery. A T-shaped soundboard over which strings are stretched. (Reconstitution M. Fabre).
· The hurdy-gurdy. The bow is here replaced by a wheel. The model used is diatonic.
· The mandora. A kind of small, four-stringed lute. A lower pitched example is also used.
· The harp. Fifteenth century, small sized model.
· The marine trumpet. A one-stringed instrument playing harmonics. It is shown in two different sizes (1m and 1m.60). (Reconstitution M. Fabre).
· The rebec. A kind of small-sized, piriform violin with three strings. It has a dry, rather sharp sound.

· The flutets. Three-holed recorder playing with an interval of a twelfth, accompanied by the tabor. Three models: Provençal small flute or «galoubet» (25cm long approximately), soprano flute (45cm), bass flute (70cm). (Reconstitution M. Fabre).
· The recorders. Six sizes (small sopranino, sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, bass).
· The flageolet. A six-holed reed recorder, very simple.
· The fresteu. Provençal panpipe, whose pipes are simple reeds.

· The chalumeau. A kind or primitive, reed clarinet.
· The crumhorns. Curved instruments with a cupped double reed. Three models: soprano, alto, tenor.
· The cupped oboe. Also called the «hautbois de Poitou», it has the shape of an oboe but has a cupped mouthpiece, like the crumhorn. Two models: sopranino, soprano.

· The sackbut. Forerunner of the trombone. Two models: alto, tenor.

· The string tabor. Still played in Bearn, this drum is composed of a soundbox over which strings are stretched and struck with sticks.
· The tabor (of Provence). Indispensable companion to the flute, it is played with one hand only with the help of a stick. Unlike the Provençal tabor, the tabor of the Middle Ages is small in size (approximately 40cm high).
· The Medieval tabor. Held vertically against the stomach, beaten on both sides with drumsticks.
· The Provencal timbale (kettledrum)
Often found in the company of the traditional tabor, the timbale is a small tabor, without timbre, made of two thick skins held in position by iron circles. The sound is muffled and short, quite different from the sustained vibrations of the tabor. Formerly, it was the prerogative of the chief of the «band of tabors».
· The timbalons. Two small pottery timbales, traditional in Provence.
· The darabuka. A pottery drum.
· The guimbarde. The guimbarde or Jew's harp works on the principle of a flexible, metal strip which, when struck by the right index finger, produces a fundamental note. Depending on the position of the lips, tongue and jaw, five to ten harmonics can be obtained.
· The cymbalette. Small brass cymbals.
· The cliquettes. Very primitive castanets consisting of two small blocks knocked together.
· The carillon. A collection of bells, rung by hand, very much in favour in the high Middle Ages. In this recording there is a carillon of twelve bells.
· The rossignol (nightingale). A terracotta instrument, manufactured close to Marseilles, which imitates the sound of the nightingale by means of water contained within the instrument.

(Anonymous, XIII c.)
According to the theoretician, Jean de Grouchy, the ductia was a dance which, more than any other called for the rhythm of percussion instruments. The ductia recorded here comes from an English manuscript, at the British Museum. Its having been written for two voices is a quite unusual refinement in instrumental music of the end of the XIII century. The instruments used are essentially «Hlauts Instruments» («High» Instruments), that is to say «plain air» instruments:
«Hautbois à capsule» (cupped oboe or pirouette), chalumeau (shepherd's pipe), sackbut, to which are added, «vielle à roue» (hurdy gurdy), piccolo, «cymbalettes» (small cymbals) and tabor.

(Anonymous, XIII c.)
If courtly love dominates songs in popular languages of the Middle Ages, it later gave precedence to religious inspiration and poet-composers willingly used their talent in the service of religion. The later troubadours were to provide fine examples of this in southern France (the Midi) and Spain. It seemed quite natural then to celebrate divine love in the same terms as those used for courtly love. «Agniau dous...», an anonymous virelay written in the French language, probably dates from the XIII century. Its subject is the lamenting of the Virgin at the foot of the cross; lamenting with which the poet associates himself:

«Gentle lamb, kind lamb, spotless lamb,
Lamb who, for us, was born in a crib,...
I bear more grief for you this day
Than ever I felt before...»

The instruments playing this version are: harp, recorders, mandora, psaltery, side drum and «timbalons»

(Anonymous, XIII c.)
One knows to what extent the troubadours liked to evoke nature and the spring in their compositions. The anonymous trouvere who composed Au renouviau in the XIII century begins his story, as he should, in the springtime. To a music reminiscent of a light-hearted dance, two ladies debate this important question: should one prefer a young, handsome, brave lover — although poor — to one less young, but rich...
One hears in turn: flutes, soprano flutes, crumhorn, piccolo, hurdy-gurdy, chalumeau accompanied by the side drum and «timbalons».

(Alfonso X, «El Sabio», 1221-1284)
Towards the middle of the XIII century, the art of the troubadour straddled frontiers and found new life in Spain. Alfonso X, «El Sabio» (the learned), King of Castille and Leon from 1252 to 1284, was to become the undisputed master of this Iberian school. He has rightly been called «El Sabio» (the learned): apart from his interest in the sciences, he was also a renowned troubadour in the Galician language. His works, dedicated exclusively to the Virgin, are collected in the Cantigas de Santa Maria manuscripts, whose illuminated riches provide us with precious information about XIII century instruments. The song, «Quem a omagen...» tells of a miracle which took place in a monastery. According to legend, the statue of Christ appeared to a saintly child, inviting him to a heavenly meal: «Whosoever honours the image of the Virgin and her son shall be honoured by them in their kingdom unlike any other. I will tell you, if you would seeks nothing but our well-being...»
Chalumeau and recorder take it in turn to play this beautiful melody.

(Anonymous, XII c.)
The troubadours do not seem to have concerned themselves much with songs to dance to. This would explain why the Queen of April ballad enjoyed such success, the more so since the melody is particularly rousing. It appears that this is the first song in ballad form written to be danced to. Its melody poses serious problems of transcription for musicologists. In quite classical opposition, often used by the troubadours, the text describes the merry society surrounding the Queen of April and the Jealous Husband, that is the husband who does not accept the conventions of courtly love. The verses are punctuated by the vigorous exclamation of «Eia!», and the refrain, «A la via» (be off with you!) is particularly significant.

When the fine weather doth appear,
Let joy recommence
And to annoy the Jealous Husband,
The Queen doth show
How much she ¡s in love.

Be off with you, be off with you Jealous Husband,
Leave us to dance amongst ourselves.

She has summoned everyone
From far and wide.
Their is neither maiden nor youth
Who will not come to dance
In this merry dance.

Seeing her dancing
As her soft body sways,
One can say in truth
That she has no equal in the world
The joyous Queen.

Voice, flutets, rebec, marine trumpet, hurdy-gurdy, side-drum, percussion instruments.

(Moniot de Paris, XIII c.)
Nothing is known about the life of the trouvere Jehan Moniot of Paris, except that he was active at the beginning of the XIII century. Only nine of his songs in very lively style survive, with life in Paris and the countryside as their setting. These songs seem to have been extremely popular as there exist no less than twenty eight musical versions. The theme of the pastourelle «A une ajornée...», is one much used by the trouveres, that of a knight courting a shepherdess.

One day at break of day
I was riding my horse
In a valley
Not far from my path
I found a shepherdess
Grazing her sheep...

Instruments: hurdy-gurdy, side drum, flutets, recorders and percussion instruments.

(Beatrice de Die, XII c.)
The Plang (Lament) of the Countess Beatrice de Die is, without question, one of the most moving creations of Provençal lyrics of the XII century, as much from the literary as from the musical point of view.

«I must sing that which I do not wish to, I am so saddened by the object of my love, for I love him more than anything, but neither my grace, nor my beauty, nor my worthiness, nor my spirit counts in his eyes, and I am cheated and betrayed as if I were contemptible...»

It is in these terms that the Countess, as passionate lover, addresses herself to Count Raimbaud of Orange who has deserted her. She lived most probably between 1135 and 1189 and was, perhaps the daughter of Guigues IV, Dauphin de Viennois, or of Guillaume the First of Poitiers, Count of Valentinois.
This plang is played on the transverse reed flute and side drum.

(Anonymous, XII century)
The pieces discovered and published by Aubry under the title Estampies et Danses Royales constitute the earliest example of purely instrumental music. These anonymous works which can be dated approximately between the XII and XIII centuries, are without words and of an aspect that suggests without any doubt instrumental style. They are all modelled on the same form: a formula-refrain is inserted in between the different «points» which take the place of verses. One estampie may contain between four and seven «points». It should be remembered that the estampie — a term whose origin remains obscure, probably comes from the Provençal «estampir» — to tap the foot — and refers to a dance no one now knows how to perform, or perhaps merely a piece of instrumental music.
The Quinte estampie reale is played by flutets, recorders, piccolo, crumhorn, side drum and darabuka (Arabic drum).

(Gautier de Coincy, 1177-1236)
The monk-trouvere Gautier de Coincy, born at Coincy l'Abbaye, was well known for his devotion to the Virgin. A skilled trouvere but essentially a man of the Church, he was not only renowned as a musician, but as a writer too. His major narrative in verse on the Miracles of Notre Dame is interspersed with songs among them, «Ma vièle viéler veut un beau son...» (My old vielle longs to make a fine sound...) which is played here on recorders and the side drum.

(Adam de la Halle, 1245/50-1285/88)
With his famous Jeu de Robin et Marion, Adam de la Halle created, as early as the XIII century, a form of profane, sung theatre. Developing the theme of the pastourelle, dear to trouveres, that of the shepherdess being courted by a knight, he wrote a veritable comedy sprinkled with short songs.
Extremely interesting for the light it throws on the history of theatre in the Middle Ages, the work of Adam de la Halle is also of great value to musicians. Indeed, the songs are written on «timbres», that is to say familiar tunes which have thus survived to the present day. Often they were tunes to dance to as in Marion's spiritual song, «Robin m'aime», whose «timbre» is heard here in an instrumental version. The «plein air» melody is used for the knight's song, in the form of an introduction, and in contrast.
Instruments: pipes of Pan, guimbard (Jew's harp).

(Bernard de Ventadour, C. 1150-1200)
Bernard de Ventadour, of humble origin, was born in the Castle of Ventadour in the Limousin. He was considered, during his lifetime, as the finest example of a troubadour, one of the most inspired, if not the most scholarly. His talent was held to be perfectly balanced for he excelled as much at writing verses as composing music to accompany them. Typical of his art is the melody of the song,

«Quand l'erba fresc...»: «When the fresh grass and leaves appear, when the blossom flowers in the orchard and the nightingale raises his voice loud and clear in song, he and the blossom fill me with joy, I am happy for myself, but even more for my Lady, I am surrounded by joy, but that which comes to me from Her surpasses all others».

Instruments: psaltery, side drum.

(Guillaume de Machault, c. 1300-1377)
Born in 1300, died around 1377, Guillaume de Machault was canon of Rheims. He is best known as the greatest exponent of a new polyphonic style in the XIV century, Ars Nova, particularly scholarly and complicated. But it is less well known that he was also one of the greatest and last trouveres, poet and musician at the same time. Lays, virelais and roundeaux, before becoming polyphonic compositions were also written for one voice.
«Douce Dame Jolie...» is one of these monodic virelais, particularly renowned when played on the psaltery, a stringed instrument related to the zither, chosen here for the poetry of its sound quality.

(Rambaud de Vacqueiras, c.1155-c.1205)
Legend has it that the celebrated troubadour, Rambaud de, Vacqueiras on hearing jongleurs perform an estampie, improvised a song in honour of his Lady on the music of that dance. This melody is played on popular instruments of the Middle Ages.

«Neither May festivals, nor the leaves of the beech, nor the song of birds, nor the gladiola, nothing can charm me, beautiful Lady, until I have received a messenger from you...»

Instruments: Chalumeau, rebec, flageolet, side drum.

(Guiraud Riquier, c.1230-c.1292)
Born at Narbonne, Guiraud Riquier is considered to be one of the last troubadours. Adept at writing polished poetry, he wrote in every genre notably religious song, modelled on those of Alfonso X of Castille, who was his protector for a time. Jhesu-Crist, filh de Diu viu dates from 1275:

«Jesus Christ, son of the living God, who was born of the Virgin, Lord despised and betrayed, I beg you to give me such good counsel that I may know the better how to love, to hate sin and live according to your will».

Instruments: psaltery and hurdy-gurdy.

(Anonymous trouvere, XIII c.)
The pastourelle is a kind of song widespread among troubadours and in particular the troubadours of northern France. It developed, as far as the words are concerned, along the classic pattern of a chevalier who courts a shepherdess only to be cheated in the end, suggesting a popular origin. It is thought the genre was taken up by trouveres anxious to preserve the picturesque while adapting their songs to more aristocratic audiences. The music of the pastourelles, despite this skilful «reprocessing» is generally fresher, more spontaneous and with a more clearly marked rhythm than other songs by trouveres.
«Dehors lonc pré...» attributed to Jehan Erars or Gillebert de Berneville, is played on the hurdy-gurdy and flutets, accompanied by a side drum and percussion instruments, while at the repeat, the piccolo freely improvises variations.

(Alfonso X «El Sabio»)
His works have come down to us thanks to a collection decorated with precious miniatures, the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a collection which includes Madre de Deus. The miniatures often show Christian and Muslim musicians fraternizing and playing together (or enjoying some poetical-musical jousting). One should not be surprised therefore at the oriental aspect of this prayer to the Virgin, a prayer in which mystical love is expressed in the vocabulary of courtly love.
It is played on the chalumeau, recorders and percussion instruments (darabuka, timbale).

(Anonymous, XII - XIII c.)
The Septime estampie reale (Seventh royal estampie) forms part of a set of dances which constitute the oldest example of music specifically instrumental. These dances date most probably from the end of the XII century. As for the term «reale» (royal), this is generally taken as being an allusion to the «King» of the minstrels, head of the guild, rather than suggesting a courtly dance.
Instruments: flageolet and a Medieval type drum, beaten alternately by two drumsticks of different sizes.

(Gautier de Coincy)
Most of his songs — «exclusively religious» — are placed between the different books of an immense narrative in verse: «Les Miracles de Notre Dame» (Our Lady's miracles). Nevertheless, the song «Las, las par grand délit...» is exceptional and is set in a special cycle which refers to an «event» of 1219: at Vic, thieves had stolen the relics of Saint Leocade, and Gautier here expresses his indignation.
The psaltery, an instrument considered at this period as a particularly religious one, plays this song as a solo, accompanied by the side drum.

«Voulez-vous que je vous chant...» (Anonymous, XIII c.)
«Quand il rossignols...» (Anonymous, XIII c.)
«Chanson de Mai» (Moniot d'Arras)
These songs, all three inspired by the Spring, figure among the most elegant and the most famous of the genre. They are attributed to trouveres of the XIII century, the first two being anonymous. Moniot d'Arras is known as being among the most prolific poet-musicians of his time.
The songs are played on flutets soprano, piccolo, flutes, flageolet and marine trumpet.

«Plang de Nosto Demo» (XIV c.)
«La nourrico dòu rei»
«La cansoun de Mau-Gouvèr» (end XIV c.)
This very beautiful Plang de Nosto Damo) (Our Lady's lament) has been preserved in a manuscript in the Méjanes library of Aix-en-Provence. It is difficult to know what to admire most; the dramatic intensity of the poem — The Virgin at the foot of the cross — or the perfection of the melodic line. Instruments include recorders and mandora.
«La nourriço dòu rei» (The king's nurse) has come down to us through popular folklore and cannot be dated with any accuracy. It is a cradle song which tells the story of a miracle: the poisoned child revived, proves his nurse's innocence and accuses his murderers. It is played on the frestèu (panpipes).
The cansoun de Mau-Gouvèr (the song of «Bad Government»): in Provençal «Mau-Gouvèr» is a mythical personage, symbol of social disorder and administrative abuse. The cansoun de Mau-Gouvèr forms part of a group of vicious satirical songs: the songs of Carrateyron (the little carter). They were written at Aix-en-Provence towards the end of the XV century, probably for the Fête Dieu (Corpus Christi). During this huge festival — as much pagan as religious — which lasted for several days, performances of the «Farce de Momus» by clerks was used as an excuse for voicing protests, or denouncing abuses. This resulted finally in their being banned in 1670. A rustic chalumeau plays this song with a side drum for accompaniment.

21. «OR LA TRUIX...» (Anonymous trouvere)
«QUAND JE VOY IVER RETORNER...» (Colin Muset, c. 1200-1230)
Distinction is made — a little artificially perhaps — between troubadours and trouveres on the one hand, jongleurs and minstrels on the other. If the former were author-composers, the latter were more public entertainers, and had rather the role of performer. All the same, some of them were able to take part in meetings, as did Colin Muset, a «popular» trouvere whose songs tell of the wandering life, often humorously, thereby prefiguring our modern singer-composers. In the song, «Quand je voy ¡ver retorner...», he dreams of finding a host who will give him «pork, beef and mutton, duck, pheasant and venison...»
It is played by flutets, recorders, hurdy-gurdy and rustic chalumeau.
In the instrumentation of the song, «Or la truix...» composed by an anonymous trouvere, notice the use of a marine trumpet to play the bourdon.

(Bernard de Ventadour)
«Quan vei l'alauzeta...» is definitely one of his most famous songs and rightly so for the beauty of its melody, played here on flutet, side drum and small marine trumpet.

23. ROSAS DAS ROSAS (Alfonso X «El Sabio.)
In this song to the Virgin, King Alfonso the Learned has employed all the refinement of courtly vocabulary in the service of mystical love:

«Rose of all roses, flower of all flowers,
Lady of all ladies, sovereign among sovereigns,
Rose of beauty and majesty,
Flower of lightness and pleasure,
Lady who succours, who removes wounds and pain...»

The melody — transcribed by H. Anglès — is remarkable for its purity and its refined simplicity. In this recording it is played by an ancient transverse flute, recorders an a side drum.

(Anonymous XIII and XVI c.)
Two pieces of instrumental music which remain close to their popular origins. The first is music for jongleurs, which one can easily imagine being played by the flutet-tabor ensemble so widespread and useful for dances in the Middle Ages and XVI century. The Ungaresca, whose title reveals its origins (its theme is still extremely popular in Hungary), is quite difficult to date. It was published in the XVI century by Pierre Phalèse but is certainly much older.
Instruments: flutets soprano, piccolo, flageolet, recorder side drum and tabor.

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