Medieval Monodies / La Romanesca, Australia
Vox Australis VST 005-2

Martin CODAX. Cantigas de amigo

1. Ondas do mar de Vigo  [4:29]   ca  I
2. Mandad' ei comigo  [3:58]   ca  II
3. Miņa irmana fremosa iredes comigo  [3:16]   ca  III
4. Ay Deus, se sab' ora o meu amigo  [3:31]   ca  IV
5. <Quantas sabedes amar amigo  [2:03]   ca  V
6. Eno sagrado en Vigo  [3:07]   ca  VI
7. Ay ondas que eu vin ver  [2:19]   ca  VII

8. MARCABRU. L'autrier jost' una sebissa  [5:09]

9. Istanpitta Gaetta  [5:56]

10. MARCABRU. Bel m'es quant son li fruit madur  [9:17]

11. Saltarello  [3:47]

Hartley Newnham — countertenor, percussion
Ruth Wilkinson — vielle, recorder
Ros Bandt — recorder, flute, psaltery, percussion
John Griffiths — lute, guitarra morisca
Move MD 3044


1. Istanpitta Gaetta  [8:52]

2. Lo vers comenssa  [6:44]
3. Lo vers comens can vei del fau  [5:15]

4. Saltarello  [4:16]

5. L'autrier jost' una sebissa  [5:04]
6. Bel m'es quant son li fruit madur  [9:15]

7. Istanpitta Palamento  [7:40]

Martin CODAX. Cantigas de amigo

8. Ondas do mar de Vigo  [4:29]   ca  I
9. Mandad' ei comigo  [3:58]   ca  II
10. Miņa irmana fremosa iredes comigo  [3:16]   ca  III
11. Ay Deus, se sab' ora o meu amigo  [3:31]   ca  IV
12. <Quantas sabedes amar amigo  [2:03]   ca  V
13. Eno sagrado en Vigo  [3:07]   ca  VI
14. Ay ondas que eu vin ver  [2:19]   ca  VII

· 15-18 February, 1982 – Ormond College Chapel, University of Melbourne (#5, 6, 8-14)
· Move Records Studio, 2005 (#1-4, 7)
Engineer: Andrew Earle, Martin Wright, Vaughan McAlley
Copyright: © 1982 Move Records
Phonogram: Ⓟ 1982, 2005 Move Records

THE POET-MUSICIANS Marcabru and Martin Codax occupy important places in the history of medieval secular song. Marcabru is the earliest Provencal troubadour whose music survives, and Martin Codax's songs are the oldest relics of Spanish secular music. More than a thousand kilometres and perhaps a hundred years separate them, yet their works are branches of the same tree. Each poet is an articulate observer of his own world, a commentator on social values, and a deft painter of human character and emotion.

Martin Codax is known to us only by his seven Cantigas de amigo. Composed in Gallician-Portuguese, the literary language of medieval Spain, the songs are set in the town of Vigo on the north-west coast, possibly Codax's home. They probably date from the first part of the thirteenth century. Cantigas de amigo express women's love and are a feature of Gallician-Portuguese repertory. They belong to the family of European courtly love poetry, but are strongly influenced by native Spanish popular verse. They use refrains and a system of paired stanzas where the second line of each pair becomes the first line of the next pair. This technique produces economical poetry, unified by a subtle transmutation and development of ideas. Although nearly 1700 Spanish love lyrics are extant, the melodies of six of Codax's seven songs are the sole survivors of the entire musical tradition. The Codax manuscript was discovered in Madrid early this century used as a flyleaf in an eighteenth-century binding of a fourteenth-century Cicero manuscript.

The Cantigas de amigo of Codax are undoubtedly among the most beautiful of the Gallician-Portuguese repertory. They are also typical of it: they are cast in conventional forms and draw on conventional vocabulary and imagery. Their persistent reference to the sea reflects the maritime life of the region, and adds a dimension of unknowable eternity. They deal with a woman's loneliness, her frustration by the absence of her lover, and place her sensual love in a religious setting. She waits at the church in Vigo overlooking the sea, asking the unceasing waves if they bring news of her absent lover. Her tragedy is left unsaid.

The songs make up a symetrically constructed cycle depicting the girl's love from different angles. Songs 1, 4 and 7 lament her loneliness and desperation. No. 2 is optimistic, while no. 6 is a bailada or dance song. In songs 3 and 5 our lover engages others to help share her anxiety. Within this context, the various performance options are determined, including the choice of rhythmic or free treatment of the melodies, instrumentation, and the style of the improvised accompaniments. These are strongly intuitive realisations firmly guided by historical research. The melody used for the sixth song is adapted from one of the Cantigas de Santa Maria of Alfonso X, 'the Wise' (r. 1252-84). The practice of contrafactum, the adaptation of an existing melody to a new text, has been shown to apply to cantigas de amigo and other medieval Spanish song.

Marcabru was active between 1129 and 1150. Of the two biographical vidas included in troubadour manuscripts, one describes him as a Gascon, the son of a poor woman, the other calls him a foundling. He was widely travelled, having enjoyed the patronage of royalty and nobility throughout southern France and Spain. Four of his melodies and more than forty poems survive written in Occitans, the troubadour language.

The dream world of courtly love is not Marcabru's world. The writers of the vidas point to his terse and merciless poetry, to its moralistic tone. Above all, Marcabru is a critic of falseness, particularly of false love. Uncompromising are his attacks on the false lovers who debase the integrity of true love. Undisguised is his criticism of the excesses of the nobility whom he served. Such is his venom that one of his biographers comments that 'he scorns women and love'. Marcabru is a realist, constantly measuring his idealism against social reality. L'autrier jost' una sebissa makes mockery of the events which typify the troubadour pastorela. Set in the characteristic manner of a dialogue between a knight and shepherdess meeting in a pastoral setting 'besides a hedge', Marcabru's shepherdess turns the tables on the knight whose amorous advances would customarily lead to a successful seduction. She is not an innocent, idyllic lover but a strong, real character who 'with grim humour and stabbing shrewdness demolishes her lover's Arcadian fantasy as a romantic falsehood'. In the performance, the dialogue is accentuated by the alternation of baritone and countertenor registers of voice. The melody has been interpreted rhythmically according to the character of the text, although the troubadour manuscripts give no indication of rhythm in their notation. Vielle and psaltery improvise a heterophonic web around the vocal line. Bel m'es quant son li fruit madur is characteristic of Marcabru's moral love songs. His rapturous opening, his sharp-tongued attack on false lovers, and his evocative imagery are the hallmarks of its brilliance. The song is interpreted in a rhythmically free, declamatory style. It is accompanied by a long-necked lute identified in contemporary Spanish writings as a guitarra morisca. The incisive tone of its wire strings is an apt accompaniment to the biting poetry.

The two instrumental dances which complement Marcabru's songs are among the relatively small number of surviving medieval instrumental pieces. They are found in a fourteenth-century manuscript of Italian origin, now in London (Brit. Mus. 29987), and are part of the most elaborately composed collection of instrumental monophony known. Both are composed in the manner of the estampie, as a number of sections with a long repeated refrain. The Saltarello is performed in unison on vielle, recorder and lute, while the Istanpitta Gaetta uses percussion and lute to accompany the solo recorder.

John Griffiths