Nell' Autunno di Bisanzio / Theodora Baka · Ex Silentio · Arkys
Guillaume Du FAY zwischen Orient und Okzident

Raumklang, Talanton TAL 90001

Johannes LEGRANT (fl. ca. 1420-1440)
1. Se liesse est de ma partie   [5:00]
Rondeau, Ms. Can. Misc. 213, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Guillaume Du FAY (ca. 1397-1474)
2. Ce jour de l'an   [2:13]
Rondeau, Ms. Can. Misc. 213, Bodleian Library, Oxford
3. Seigneur Leon   [2:14]
Rondeau, Ms. Pix., Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
4. Vassilissa ergo gaude   [2:47]
Motette, Ms. Can. Misc. 213, Bodleian Library Oxford

Beltram FERAGUT (ca. 1385-ca. 1450)
5. Francorum nobilitati   [3:24]
Motette, Ms. Can. Misc. 213, Bodleian Library, Oxford
6. Ave maria (instr.)   [2:26]
Ms. Can. Misc. 213, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Guillaume Du FAY
7. C'est bien raison   [12:53]
Ballade, Ms. Can. Misc. 213, Bodleian Library Oxford

Ebreo da PESARO (ca. 1420 - 1484)
8. Falla con misuras (instr.)   [1:34]
Ms. 431, Biblioteca Comunale, Perugia

Guillaume Du FAY
9. Las que feray?   [4:26]
Rondeau, Ms. Can. Misc. 213, Bodleian Library Oxford
10. Lamentatio sanctae matris ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae   [3:20]
Motette, Ms. Riccardiana 2794, Florenz

Manuel CHRYSAFES (15. Jh.)
11. Threnos   [9:50]
Ms. 1120, Kloster Iviron


Theodora Baka · Gesang

Dimitris Kountouras · Blockflöte & Leitung
Elektra Miliadou · Fidel
Andreas Linos · Fidel
Markellos Chryssikopoulos · Orgel

Giorgos Kyriakakis · Leitung & Gesang
Sophia Baltatzi, Angelina Kartsaki, Oliver Leege, Makis Tsamallkos, Panagiotis Zacharakis · Gesang

Produktion: Dimitris Kountouras
Tonaufnahme /Schnitt: Sebastian Pank
Aufgenommen: 4.-7. Februar 2010 in der Andreaskirche in Berlin/Wannsee



MONOΣΤΙΧΟN ΕΙΣ ΤΗΝ ΣEΛΗΝΗΝ · Νυκτερινούς άκτίνας ές ήμáς πέμπε, σελήνη
MONOSTICO ALLA LUNA · Mandaci, luna, i tuoi notturni raggi

Angelo Poliziano, Epigrammata Graeca

In many ways the quattrocento must have been an exciting century for Italy as well as for the rest of Europe. Radical changes were taking place in every field, from politics and religion to the structure and outlook of intellectual life. It was also a century of contrasts and upheaval. The Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) was still raging while the Council of Constance (1414-18) was bringing an end to the schism within the Catholic Church.

Italian humanism in the arts and intellectual life in general was displacing the centuries old schools of scholastic philosophy. The humanists themselves couldn't wait to read the ancient writers in their original languages. It was the kind of demand that was soon met by the scores of Greek scholars fleeing to and taking up residence in Italy from the weakened Byzantine empire. The momentous contact between the Greek East and the Roman West occurred during the long Council of Ferrara/Florence (1438-39). From a narrowly doctrinal and political viewpoint the council may have achieved nothing, but scholars from the two convening sides discovered a shared interest in matters linguistic, literary, and even aesthetic.

The fall of Constantinople in 1453 to Mohammed II forced large numbers of learned exiles to seek refuge mostly in the north of the Italian peninsula where they received prestigious teaching positions in places such as Mantua, Padua, Pavia, Milan and Florence, to mention but a few. The manuscripts - rare copies of authors only dreamed of in the West - the visitors brought with them to their Italian home instantly found the eager readerships of the humanists whose researches in the spirit of both the Judaeo-Christian and the Greco-Roman past received an unprecedented boost. The related fields of history, archaeology and philology could now be based on primary sources that also facilitated cross-insemination and textual confirmation. While medieval pastourelles and carmina bucolica, to take an isolated example, were already known even before the time of Dante and Boccaccio; access to the newly discovered idylls of Theocritus injected strikingly fertile ideas about form into the arts in general and, eventually, into the creative institutions that would, in time, be known as the "arcadian" communities across all Europe. Latin language writers like Cicero, Ovid and Virgil were re-read and commented on a new basis, to be sure, but the earth-shaking change was the discovery of Greek, the original language of Homer, the dramatists, and the rhetoricians. Greek ushered in fresh ways of looking at the self and nature through the eyes particularly of Aristotle, the Corpus Hermeticum, Plato and the Neo-Platonists. The Neoplatonic academy was founded in Florence by Marsilio Ficino soon after meeting the Greek philosopher Georgios Gemistos Plethon who was lecturing on Plato during the Council of Ferrara. Ficino is credited with the translation of the whole oeuvre of Plato into Latin, the lingua franca of Western Europe at the time. The poet and Hellenist Angelo Poliziano wrote the first Greek epigrams of his time, in admiration and appreciation of the language and the style of the Greek authors. Poliziano's epigrams are no mere imitations. They are critical thought that both engages the models and also moves beyond them.

Together with an enduring classical revival in architecture and the visual arts, and of equal importance, we must add, is the emerging study of ancient rhetoric. It was a field of analysis and application that helped the humanists to better conceptualize the relationship between music and the "grammatical" arts in the familiar "trivium" of the liberal arts.


The Music

From a sociological standpoint, fifteenth-century Italy was practically overrun by Franco-Flemish musicians who popularized their brand of polyphony and who worked as singers and composers in all the key musical centers of the country.

And although the humanist rhetoricians' approach was to imitate the ancient prototypes that gave precedence to the semantic, or "affective" dimension of a particular text, the prevalent style of northern polyphony still embodied the medieval ideal of a musical composition as a solid organization intended to be admired primarily as an abstract construct.

Most representative among the "northern" composers of the early quattrocento is without doubt Guillaume Du Fay. Since his first arrival in Italy around the 1420s, he experienced the humanistic spirit of Italian courts such as the Malatesta's in Rimini and, later, the Este's in Ferrara and the Medici's in Florence. This well-traveled cosmopolita composer also came to know the face and culture of late Byzantium. He traveled to Patras and the Peloponnesus around 1425 and wrote a motet for the marriage of a Malatesta princess with the prince of Morea, as the Peloponnesus was then called. Finally, also, by way of grieving over the fate of the Eastern Orthodox Church he wrote a lament for it.

The present recording includes Du Fay's and his contemporaries' secular music dealing with two important historical events regarding Byzantium: the council of Ferrara/Florence mentioned earlier, and the fall of Constantinople (1453) to the Ottoman Turks.

The Lamentatio sanctae matris ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae is the only surviving lament of a cycle of four pieces written for the fall of Constantinople and of the Eastern Church. It is difficult to classify this French style chanson-motet with a Latin text in the tenor, apparently patterned after the biblical Lamentations of Jeremiah. Musical historians have used different names for it like "Latin chanson" ("cantio latina", Besseler), "motet-cantilena" (Planchart), even "French work of unusual form" (Fallows).

The Byzantine Threnos (θρήνος, lament) was written for the same purpose by Manuel Chrysafes. He was a Greek composer and music theorist at the service of the Basilica of Hagia Sophia as lampadarios (first singer of the left choir) and singer at the imperial court in Constantinople around the years of the fall in the 1450s. The text is borrowed from the Psalm of David no. 79 (according to the Greek numbering no.78) verses 1-8.

Du Fay's C'est bien raison was dedicated to Niccoló d'Este III, prince of Ferrara, and composed probably around 1433. To the same patron was addressed the chanson Francorum nobilitati by the Franco-Flemish composer and former organist of the cathedral of Milan Beltram Feragut. Niccoló d'Este was the host of the Council of Ferrara in 1438 that was later moved to Florence. Both chansons come out of the Oxford MS 213 together with the Ave Maria by the same composer, performed here in an instrumental version. The other instrumental piece on this recording, Falla con misuras, is by the dance master Magister Guglielmo also known as Ebreo da Pesaro, and is a written down improvisation on a given tenor.

Most of Du Fay's secular music was composed during his first and middle composing periods. The two rondeaux, Ce jour de l'an and Las que feray, are set on French texts like most of his chansons. The former celebrates the New Year's Eve, while the latter is a strongly "affective," desperate love song.

We know very little about the life of Johannes Legrant. The rondeau Se liesse est de ma partie is one of his five surviving secular pieces. The Seigneur Leon comes from Du Fay's "opera dubbia". Attributed to Du Fay by Prof. Dragan Plamenac, this piece was possibly „destined" or addressed to Leonard of Chios, the Archbishop of Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos in 1444, but may also have been composed for the 1442 coronation of Leonello d'Este in Ferrara. Vasilissa Ergo gaude, probably Du Fay's earliest motet, was composed in 1420 for the marriage of Theodore of Morea, son of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Palaiologos to the princess of Rimini, Cleofe Malatesta.

Dimitris Kountoura


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