Guillaume de MACHAUT. Chansons, vol. 2
Studio der frühen Musik
LP, 1973:   EMI Reflexe 1C 063-30109
CD, 1990:   EMI CDM 7 63424 2

1. Moult sui de bonne heure nee  [3:56]
virelai 37 | Mezzosopran, Laute

2. Quant Theseus, Hercules et Jazon  [7:10]
ballade 34 | Mezzosopran, Altus, Douçaine, Fiedel, Laute

3. Hoquetus David  [2:03]
hocket | Organetto, Blockflöte, Rebec

4. Doulz viaire gracieus  [1:41]
rondeau 1 | Altus, Harfe, Laute

5. Honte, paour, douptance  [5:52]
ballade 25 | Mezzosopran, Laute

6. Honte, paour, douptance  [2:57]
anon., Faenza No. 117 | Laute, Gambe

7. Fons tocius superbie  [1:57]
motet 9 | Mezzosopran, Altus, Douçaine

8. De toutes fleurs  [6:21]
ballade 31 | Altus, Harfe, Laute

9. De toutes fleurs  [2:23]
anon., Faenza No. 117 | Guittern, Harfe

10. Quant en moy ~ Amour et biaute  [2:19]
motet 1 | Mezzosopran, Altus, Lira

11. Comment puet on mieus ses maus dire  [3:56]
rondeau 11 | Mezzosopran, Laute

12. Dame, je suis cilz ~ Fins cuers dousz  [2:01]
motet 11 | Mezzosopran, Altus, Lira

Thomas Binkley

Andrea von Ramm, Mezzosopran, Harfe, Organetto
Richard Levitt, Altus
Sterling Jones, Fiedel, Lira, Rebec
Thomas Binkley, Laute, Guittern, Blockflöte, Douçaine


Ⓟ 1973 EMI Electrola GmbH, Köln
Digital reamastering Ⓟ 1990 by EMI Electrola GmbH
© 1990 by EMI Electrola GmbH

Aufgenommen: 19.-21.VI.1972, Bügerbrau, München

Produzent: Gerd Berg
Tonmeister: Johann Nikolaus Matthes

Gestaltung Titelseite: Roberto Patelli


«Qui de sentement ne fait
son dit et chant contrefait.»

(He, whose words and song lack true feeling, falsifies all.)

The spiritual center in the life of Guillaume de Machaut was the city of Reims in the Champagne. In the domain of this diocese he was born, possibly in the small borough of Machault a few miles away from Reims. About 1327 he became a prebendary of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Reims and seems to have lived in this town for the rest of his life until 1377. But he undertook long journeys.

As a young man, he was familiarus and secretary of Jean de Luxembourg King of Bohemia. He accompanied him on his various trips and campaigns throughout Europe between 1327 and 1337. We find him present during the siege of Znaim in Lithuania in December 1328. In January 1329 he was in Königsberg, visiting Breslau afterwards and taking part in the conquest of Poland and Silesia in March; in May he was at the king's court in Prague and in June already back in Paris preparing himself for a trip to the South, to Brescia, Bergamo, Cremona and Parma.

Later in his life, he retired from politics, settled and lived as a singer at Reims on a prebend, and continued to work various masters, among them Jean's daughter Bonne, the wife of Jean le Bon of France. Subsequent to her death in 1349, he worked occasionally for Charles II King of Navarre; for Jean Duc de Berry and probably also for Charles V of France. And it may have been for the coronation of this king that he wrote the Mass of Notre Dame in Reims in 1364. One of the last benefactors in his life was Pierre de Lusignan, King of Cyprus, between 1361 and 1369, and through him Machaut travelled as far as to Alexandria, possibly also to Cyprus.

It was also towards the end of his life that he fell in love with a noblewoman of the Champagne, Péronne d'Armentières. In 1360, he saw her for the first time when she was not yet 20 years old.

His poem Le Voir Dit, written between 1362 and 1365, contains 45 letters exchanged between them and more than 9000 lines of poetry telling of their relationship and containing interesting remarks on his work and her influence on him.
“Toutes mes choses ont été faites de vostre sentement, et pour vous especialement.. (All my works result from your sentiment and are especially for you.)

The works

Machaut wrote an enormous quantity of poetry; and more music is preserved by him than by any other composer of the fourteenth century. There are no fewer than six large manuscripts devoted to his work, several of them apparently compiled under his own direction:

1. New York, Wildenstein Collection, Vogüé manuscript, ca. 1369. The earliest and best manuscript. Very neatly written and lavishly illuminated.
2. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, 1584. 14th century. Includes fine illuminations among which are two portraits of G. de Machaut himself.
3. Paris, 22545 and 22546. Around the same date. This double volume includes a more complete collection of Machaut's works.
4. Paris 1585. Possibly ca. 1400. It seems to have been copied from No. 1; but is far less carefully written.
5. Paris 1586. ca. 1400.
6. Paris, 9221. ca. 1400. Probably compiled on commission for the Duc de Berry. The order of pieces departs from that of the more central Machaut manuscripts and many of the musical details differ. This is the most splendid of the set and is magnificently illuminated.

These manuscripts have been consulted in the preparation of two monumental editions of his music:

Leipzig, Breitkopf und Härtel.

1956 L'Oiseau-Lyre, Monaco.

Some of the more important longer poems of Machaut in these manuscripts include:

Le Dit du Vergier (very early)
Le Jugement du Roi de Behaigne (before 1346)
Le Jugement du Roi de Navarre (1349)
Le Remède de Fortune (Maybe as early as 1342. It includes music and describes many of his lyric forms).
Le Confort d'Ami (1357; sent to the King of Navarre while in prison)
La Fonteinne amoureuse (ca. 1362)
Le Voir Dit (1362-65). For Péronne d'Armentières
La Prise d'Alexandrie (ca. 1370). The presumption that Machaut visited Cyprus in addition to other locations in the Autre-mer is based on this work
La Louange des Dames

These works have been edited at various times and places - we cite the standard work:

Machaut's musical works are normally laid out in the manuscripts in the following order, and include:

18 Lais, plus 6 without music
1 Complainte and 1 Chanson Royale
24 polyphonic motets
La Messe de Notre Dame
Hoquetus David
42 polyphonic Ballades
22 polyphonic Rondeaux
33 Chansons Baladées of which 25 are monophonic.

Machaut - Chansons 2

This recording completes a two-volume portrait in sound of that remarkable contemporary of Chaucer and Petrarch, Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377), which we began with monophonic works (CDM 7 63142 2) and continue here with polyphonic works.

Often music is described in terms of its statistics, the keys, the cadences, the imitations, the number of parts, and so forth. We find this sterile and misleading, because it invariably disguises the important musical issues.

We would rather draw the listener's attention to the essential characteristics of two different worlds of Machaut's music, suggesting the general musical (not historic) aims and attributes of each.

In characterizing his monophonic works, we search for words and expressions that refer predominantly to emotional qualities and responses rather than to intellectual content, while the description of his polyphonic works requires terms which stress the intellectual and formalistic side of his art (of course, some of both is present in almost all music). This contrast is to be found within the work of many composers - consider for example Schönberg's Verklärte Nacht in contrast to his Variationen für Orchester. The first reveals a concentration on the emotional meaning while the other places the emphasis on structural ordering. Neither the one nor the other can
claim to be better, or more advanced, because it is the demands of a compositional discipline which govern the relationship between emotional and intellectual response.

To focus on this problem in the music of Machaut requires an understanding of the inherent differences between monophonic and polyphonic music. Polyphonic music consists of more than one composed musical line, which, taken together, constitute the piece of music.

Monophonic music has but one composed musical line, on which the musicians elaborate in performance, and for which an accompaniment frequently is devised by the players. Monophonic music is not completed by the composer but by the players themselves in performance. Polyphonic music is complete when it leaves the composer's pen.

Thus, a player might devise an accompaniment for a monophonic chanson in accordance to the characteristics of his favorite instrument, whereas in the performance of a polyphonic piece, he will select the instrument according to the range and character of the already written part. Different performances of a polyphonic piece will tend to be somewhat similar, those of a monophonic piece, very dissimilar.

The 14th-century composer controlled the performance of a polyphonic piece in much the same way as today a composer of electronic music works himself into the performance by minimizing the creative contribution of the performer. The composer, then as now, can justify this intrusion only by making the parts and the parts of parts dependent upon his own thinking, his own organization. He can for example (and Machaut did, Rondeau 14) write a piece that is the same played forwards or backwards (one recalls organizational features in Webern's opus 18 and many other places), an intellectualism which never could come about in the improvisatory player-dominated performance of monophonic music.

Clearly, the composer goes about his work quite differently in these two camps. And so should the performer.

The polyphonic music is carefully constructed, yet Machaut never fails to be aware of the emotional aims. He selects formal structures not by chance but according to inherent features of the structure which - to some extent through tradition - designate the underlying affect of the composition. Generally speaking, he employs four forms in polyphonic compositions: (In the following diagrams, capital letter indicates the repetition of a line of text with its music, a lower case letter indicates a new text line to that music.)

1. Virelai. AbbaAbbaA... This form is light and simple. It derives from the monophonic form and from danced song. It is never employed for complicated and intricate compositional manoeuvres.

2. Rondeau. ABaAabAB... This form is complicated, frequently involving chromatic experiments and serious, expressive lines. It is not light, but it has moving qualities.

3. Ballade. a a b... Structurally very simple, having no refrain line, yet it is a form employed for the most complicated intellectual constructions. The relationships between the parts are highly organized (several are in four parts).

4. Motet isorhythmic. Whereas the forms mentioned above all contain two distinct musical parts (a and b), the motet is organized by the repetition of the lower part, with free composed upper parts overriding these repetitions. The lowest part is instrumental (there is one exception), and the upper parts contain a different text in each part, sung together.
This form gains in meaning as the subtle sense of the seeming disorder becomes clear to the listener. It is the shortest structure.

A word must be brought about the instrumental pieces in this recording. There are three, one of which - the David hocket - is all Machaut's, being a singular composition not unlike the earlier hockets of French province which one Italian early theorist said were written for flutes.

They constitute an instrumental equivalent of the motet. The other two are arrangements of two of his ballads preserved in an Italian manuscript now in the library of Faenza.

The instruments: Lyra, lute, vielle, harp.

The lyra, a small, pear-shaped instrument with three chords which was played in a vertical position. It has a burdoun chord between the two melody-chords.

The vielle is the best-known of instruments of this time. It had between three and five chords and was mainly played from the shoulder.

The 13th-century lute is similar to the Arabic 'ud of our day. Its typically occidental characteristics appeared  as late as in the 15th century when the neck grew broader and the distance between the chords was changed etc. at which time they began plucking the instrument with fingers instead of a plectrum.

The medieval harp was diatonically tuned and was provided with between 21 and 26 chords.

© Thomas Binkley, 1973