LP, 1974: EMI Reflexe 1C 063-30124
CD, 1990: EMI Reflexe CDM 7 63426 2
1. Bon jour, bon moys, bo·e sepmayne [3:07]
2. Helas mon dueil, a ce cop sui ie mort [3:04]
3. Pour l'amour de ma doulce amye [3:41]
4. Ce moys de may [2:22]
5. Se la face ay pale [3:25]
6. J'atendray [1:51]
7. Craindre vous vueil [4:38]
8. Ce jour de l'an [1:45]
9. Adieu m'amour [6:04]
10. Vergene belle [3:50]
11. Quel fronte signorille in paradiso [2:49]
12. Mirandas parit haec urbs florentina puellas [3:40]
13. Magnanimae [4:05]
14. O gemma, lux et speculum [3:15]
15. Christe, redemptor omnium [4:27]
STUDIO DER FRÜHEN MUSIK
Thomas Binkley – Laute, Citol, Douçaine, Flöte, Gittern
Sterling Jones – Rebec, Fidel, Citol, Douçaine, Regal
Andrea von Ramm – Gesang, Harfe, Organetto
unter Mitworking von:
David Kehoe – Gesang
Ⓟ 1974 EMI Electrola GmbH
Digital reamastering © 1990 by EMI Electrola GmbH
Aufgenommen: 1.-3.V.1973 & 14.-17.VI.1974,
Bügerbräu, Munchen & Münstermuseum, Basel
Produzent: Gerd Berg
Tonmeister: Johann-Nikolaus Matthes
© 1990 EMI Electrola GmbH, D-5000 Köln
Gestaltung Titelseite: Roberto Patelli
„Die Bootsfahrt" Miniatur aus Brügge, 15. Jh. (Brit. Museum, London)
CHANSONS AND MOTETS
No other priest ever wrote so many love songs as did Guillaume Dufay. Who was he? Why does he capture our attention?
There are a few creative artists in the course of the last several centuries, who seem to have a special significance. Everyone has heard of Dante, not everyone has heard of Sacchetti. The reason is not simply that Dante is a better poet, it is that he became the symbol of a period in literary history, the one whose works are considered the main event of the period.
Such an artist is Dufay, whose name is far better known than his works. Dufay is the composer we are led to associate with the Burgundian court in the 15th century, a lavish court with a glamorous history, a court often held to play the central cultural role in the period (c.f. Huizinga, Waning of the Middle Ages), a court with which more than ten composers were intimely associated, including some very well known, such as Binchois, Hayne and Busnois.
Dufay was born in France about the year 1400, and by the time he was 20 he was in Italy, writing music for the Malatestas. Three pieces for this family are dated 1420, 1423 and 1426.
1427 he was in Bologna, and in that city the following year he was ordained a priest. He then spent some years as a singer in the Papal choir in Rome. 1437 he worked in Ferrara, and the next year he went to work at the court of Savoy. In his will Dufay mentions that he spent some seven years in their service that would be from 1438-1445. That makes him about 45 years old. The following year a document naming him as a canon at St. Wandru in Mons gives him for the first time the title of Burgundian chapelmaster, clearly an honorary title for thus far in his career he has been busy elsewhere. From 1451 on he lived in Cambrai and travelled a great deal. He died then 1474, leaving behind over 200 compositions in the sacred and secular spheres. We see that the Burgundian court plays very little role in his biography.
We see also that our song-writing priest was clearly a composer by profession, becoming a priest much as some composers today acquire academic status - only as a matter of elegibility. As a composer he had such force as to become for music what Jan van Eyck, his contemporary, became for painting. There was no "collected work" edition of his music during his lifetime, as both Machaut and Wolkenstein before him had seen realized. However, his name is omnipresent in the manuscript sources of the 15th century, both in the central Burgundian chansons and the peripheral sources from Italy, Austria and Germany, etc.
It is this presence in such an unusual number of sources from all over Europe, a presence thouroughly warranted by his reputation, that made him the symbol of 15th century music for us. And it is only human that we wish to associate this composer whose works were in the 15th century most widely disseminated, primarily with the large and most influencial and secular court of Burgundy, even if there is very little connection at all.
As we are dealing with a selection from a large repertory we cannot present a statistical representation of Dufay's over five-score secular songs and many other compositions. We decided to limit our selection to pieces designed for small ensemble, pieces generally of a solistic character, pieces which reflect some specific artistic attitude, pieces which themselves occupy some specific historical pitch.
No other chanson of Dufay is represented in as many sources, the runner-up is Se la face ay pale, also a very famous piece represented in nine sources. This last is a ballade équivoque, in which the last syllable of each line is the same, but has each time a different meaning. Dufay himself based a mass on this chanson. This is not the place for a detailed discussion of the works, although a word about the forms may aid the listener in grasping certain important aspects of the music. The motets, for example, frequently employ this structure:
1st section (with instrumental ¡so-rhythmic tenor)
2nd section (new pitches, same rhythm)
3rd section (the isorhythmic tenor is in smaller note-values, quickening the tempo by one third)
motets, of course, following the 13th-14th century tradition always
have two texts going on at once, and the melodic character of the vocal
lines is not song-like, but composed of rhythmic cells which together
present a sound-picture which is difficult to grasp. This is music which
progresses and moves forward, and does not look back. Not so with the
chansons. Here the structural principle is reiteration. Three structures
account for most of the chansons: (letters mean musical sections,
capital letters mean that section is sung with the very same text)
Virelai (the fewest): A b b a A
Ballade: a a b (with envoy in final strophe)
Rondeau (the most): A B a A a b A B
at the close of a ballade is simply a repeat of the last few musical
phrases with new text. The idea is to bring the work to a definite
close, similar to the conclusion of the rondeau or virelai. The virelai accomplishes this by repeating the first line of text and music, the rondeau the first two lines of text and music.
Within these fixed structures is a world of detail, of balances, of intriguing relationships, as disguised as the tiny birds in bushes of a Flemish landscape. The texts are not to be taken too seriously; they are seldom of the literary quality we expect from Machaut, the trouvères or the troubadours. The musical architecture has largely replaced the literary element here, so we must focus on musical detail.
The instruments employed are the instruments of the period:
Rebec: Eugen Springer, Frankfurt
Rebec: Fabrizio Reginato, Fonte Alto (Tv) Italy
Vielle: Fabrizio Reginato, Fonte Alto (Tv) Italy
Vielle: Fabrizio Reginato, Fonte Alto (Tv) Italy
Lute: maker unknown
Lute: Fabrizio Reginato, Fonte Alto (Tv) Italy
Harp: Franz Novy, Vienna
Gittern: Fabrizio Reginato, Fonte Alto (Tv) Italy
Psaltery: maker unknown
Douçaine: Günter Kürber, Berlin
Flute: (Recorder) von Huene, Boston, USA
Regal: Mads Kjersgaard, Upsala, Sweden
Organetto: Ahrend & Brunzema, Loga bei Leer, Germany
Tambourin: A.T. Camposarcone, London
It had been my intention to stop here, however recording reviews have been persistent in asking for a certain amount of specific information regarding the music. Although clearly it is illusionary to discuss at length any of the many important aspects of this music in the space available here, the following remarks may serve to stimulate the reader to further research.
Sources and Bibliography
The 15th century French chanson repertory is contained in a large number of parchment and paper manuscripts from many parts of Europe. These chansonniers generally contain only secular repertory, are small (30 cm x 20 cm) and sometimes ornate. The usual arrangement is to place the superius (with complete text) on the verso, with the contratenor and tenor parts on the adjacent recto. The most important of these sources are
- Escorial (V HI 24)
- Cordiforme (Paris, Bibl. Nat. Rothschild 2973)
- Seville (Seville, Bibl. Colombina 5-I-43 along with Paris Bibl. Nat. n.a.fr. 4379)
- Berlin (Kupferstich Kabinett 78 c 28)
- Canonici (Oxford Bod. Lib. Can. 213)
- Dijon (Bibl. Municipale 517)
- Riccardiana (Florence, Bibl. Riccardiana 2356)
- Kopenhagn (KgI. Bibl. Thott 291 8 )
- Monte Cassino (Arch. e Bibl. Abbazinale Ms. 871 N)
- Melon (Yale Univ. Lib.)
- Nivelle de la Chaussée (Private library of G. Thibault, Paris)
- Porto (Bibl. Munc. 714)
- Wolfenbüttel (Herzog August Bibl. 287 extrav.)
- Laborde (Washington Lib. of Congress M.2.1. L25 case)
and many more. The sources are all listed in the edition of the complete works of G. Dufay Opera Omnia, ed. Heinrich Besseler, in the series Corpus Mensurabilis Musicis I.
To be sure, the motet repertory as well as the masses and other
religious works are found in much less ornate and less specific sources
such as Bologna, Lic. Mus. Q 15, the Trent Codices, or Cambrai Ms. 6,
while the major source for the hymns is a late ms. in the Capella
Sixtina Cod. 15. These mss. tend to be larger in format, the longer
works requiring more than one page. Both Haberl and Charles van den
Borren have written Dufay biographies, although recent music lexicons
tend to be more up to date.
Singing and Singers
Much of what was written about singing before the 16th century was directed towards choir singing in the service. Coupling this information with general observations derived from the music and the commentaries about performances we can be only reasonably sure of the following points, much still remaining subjective:
- Both male and female singers were active: the notion that the chanson repertory was composed for countertenors is in light of pictorial and written evidence simply not tenable: see for example Paris Bibl. Nat. Latin 772, the Parfait du Paon, Appollonius, Francesco de Barbarino Del Reggimento... di Donna, Floire et Blancheflor, Perceforest, Thomas de Saluces' Chevalier errant, Paris Bibl. Nat. fr. 346, and many other sources. The suggestion of transvestism is
equally absurd: the daughter of Christine de Pisan (± 1397) was known as a fine singer, and was certainly no transvestite!
- The desired tone quality in the singing of art music was not nasal (Conrad of Zabern ridicules the nasal sound as that which the peasants employ in their folksongs).
- The chansons, having the characteristic of solo vocal melody plus accompanying instrumental parts, may have necessitated a modicum of throat vibrato to distinguish the vocal from the instrumental lines. Certainly, however, the vocal sound was more pitch oriented than colour oriented, stressing the ability to execute precise intervals including pitch shading rather than the belcanto pitch approximation superimposed upon a bed of harmony.
Rhythm and Accent
The most striking and unstudied characteristic of this music is its rhythm. Instead of being bound to a meter, a regular beat, the rhythm is composed by means of rhythmic cells which are joined together in one of three ways. The rhythm of the superius of Adieu m'amour, for example
involves only two cells:
There are two sections of music with a total of five phrases. Each phrase begins with a preparatory phrase not composed of rhythms from the cells. All other notes are either one of the cells, or a variation of a cell:
are cadence formulas or (in the second part) are a standard hemiola cliché.
All notes are accounted for:
I Preparatory (6)
cell 1 cell 2 cell 1 cell 1 cell 1
II Preparatory (6)
cell 1 cell 1 cell 1 cell 1
III Preparatory (6)
cell 1 cell 2 cell 1 cell 1
IV Preparatory (3)
Hemiola cell 1 cell 1 cell 1
V Preparatory (3)
Hemiola cell 1 cell 1 retrograde
In the motets the rhythmic element is employed to generate the sense of separate functions of the parts, an alternative in the case of equal parts to having them either paired of having one more dominant. Thus the triplum of the motet Magnanimae... offers the following typical combination at the opening:
(Bars added for clarity)
rhythmic flow carries the singers through odd groupings of notes - in
this case one part stays simply in 3/4 while the other employs groupings
of 4, 5 and 6, arriving together on a long note with the end of the
phrase. The more complex the rhythm the less songlike the lines, and the
less likely a listener can focus on a single part.
In the Hymn composition, of course, this is not the case at all. The Fauxbourdon style (2 parts sing in parallel 4th while another part moves at the 6th below) permits the complete co-operation of the voices, renders the text comprehensible and demands similar rhythm in all parts.
Clearly, then, we have three distinct sorts of music here.
one or two vocal parts with melodic characteristics accompanied by one or more instrumental lines of a contrasting character, whereby the dove-tailing of voice and instrument lines (voice stops, instrument continues) is a frequently employed technique. The chanson melodies frequently are built by means of a quick rise to some note, then a slow descent to the keynote of the scale.
lsorhythmic in one or in all parts, very complicate construction, seldom employing lines easily remembered melodiousness. Instead the lines tend to be fragmentary and elusive.
Fauxbourdon style, simple rhythm, melody of some part related to the chant which is sung in alternation with it.
© Thomas Binkley, 1974