Troubadours & Trouvères
Studio der frühen Musik
1981: Teldec "Das Alte Werk" 6.35519 DX (2 LPs)
1985: Teldec "Das Alte Werk" 8.35519 ZA (2 CDs)

Chansons der Troubadours
Lieder und Spielmusik aus dem 12. Jahrhundert

Peire VIDAL (um 1160—um 1205?)
1. Baron, de mon dan covit  [9:52]
Countertenor, Lira

Giraut de BORNELH (um 1138—um 1215)
2. Leu chansonet' e vil  [4:22]
Tenor, Chitarra saracenica

3. Saltarello  [3:12]  Instrumentalstück, anonymus
Teil I: Schnabelflöte, Lira, Glocken, Timbrel (Schellen), Trommel
Teil II: Flöte (Querflöte), Schalmei, Vielle (Fidel), Rebec, Timbrel (Schellen), Trommel, Laute

Bernart de VENTADORN (um 1125—um 1295)
4. Can vei la lauzeta mover  [6:32]
Tenor (solo)

5. Veris ad imperia  [1:04]  anonymus
Mezzosoprano, Countertenor, Tenor

6. A l'entrada del temps clar  [2:14]  anonymus
Mezzosoprano, Countertenor, Tenor
Flöte, Schalmei, Vielle (Fidel), Lira, Nakir (Kl. Trommel), Laute

Raimbaut de VAQUEIRAS (um 1155-1207?)
7. Kalenda maia  [7:14]
Countertenor, 2 Fideln

Comtessa de DIA (um 1160)
8. A chantar m'er de so qu'eu no volria  [11:52]
Mezzosoprano, Lira, Laute, Timbrel (Schellen)

Wissenschaftliche Ausarbeitung und Überwachung der Texte: Dr. André de Mandach

Thomas Binkley

Andrea von Ramm, Mezzosopran
Richard Levitt, Countertenor
Sterling Jones, Lira, Vielle (Fidel), Rebec
Thomas Binkley, Laute, Chitarra saracenica


Nigel Rogers, Tenor
Johannes Fink, Vielle (Fidel)
Max Hecker, Flöte
Robert Eliscu, Schalmei
David Fallows, Schlagzeug (Nakir)

Chansons der Trouvères
Lieder des 13. Jahrhunderts aus Nordfrankreich

Jacques de CAMBRAI (vor 1260—nach 1290)
1. Retrowange novelle  [6:23]
Raynaud 602 | Text: unbekannt

Guiot de DIJON (vor 1200—nach 1230)
2. Chanterai por mon coraige  [11:30]
Raynaud 21 | Text: unbekannt

3. Lasse, pour quoi refusai  [6:49]  anonymous
Raynaud 100 | Text: unbekannt

Gillebert de BERNEVILLE (vor 1250—nach 1280)
4. De moi doleros vos chant  [5:58]
Raynaud 317 | Text: unbekannt

Gace BRULÉ (um 1159—nach 1212/ 1213)
5. Biaus m'est estez  [8:55]
Raynaud 317 | Text: Gace Brulé

Etienne de MEAUX (fl c1250)
6. Trop est mes maris jalos  [4:48]
Raynaud 2045 | Text: unbekannt

7. Li joliz temps d'estey  [6:07]  anonymous
Raynaud 452 | Text: unbekannt

Thomas Binkley

Andrea von Ramm, Mezzosopran, Organetto, Psalterium, Harfe
Richard Levitt, Tenor, Nakir
Thomas Binkley, Flöte, Dulzian, Laute, Tambourin, Chitarra saracenica, Psalterium
Sterling Jones, Fidel, Lyra, Rabel, Rebec


Alice Robbins, Fidel, Lyra
Hopkinson Smith, Chitarra saracenica, Laute, Tambourin

Digitally mastered

Cover: „Der Mai" Buchminiatur aus ,,Tres riches heures du Duc de Berry"
Paul von Limburg, nach 1400,
Archiv für Kunst und Geschichte, Berlin.

Ⓟ 1970,1974 TELDEC Schallplatten GmbH
© 1985 TELDEC Schallplatten GmbH

Chansons of the Troubadours

The few Troubadour song manuscripts that contain music give only a melodic scheme for the poem with little indication as to its rhythm. What interests us however is the full sound picture of Troubadour music, and this must be reconstructed with the help of three kinds of evidence. First, the notation: we must not be confused into thinking that this represents the entire music. Second, our knowledge of Arab performance practice today; the importance of Islam influence on European culture in the 10th to 13th centuries applies to music no less than to poetry. Third, our knowledge of mediaeval French and Italian performance styles as derived from the Greco-Roman traditions, particularly that of the church.

The accompaniments of the songs were not written, but devised by the performers in keeping with the character and subject matter of the poem. The Arab Nuba has been taken as a model for the creation of the accompaniments since it is a form which seems to have changed little since the time when Arabian culture exerted such a positive influence on Western Europe. The Introduction (Mayalia) in the Nuba begins with a free section (Burguia) which presents the material of the song, its mode and the salient characteristics of its melody; this is followed by a Tuxia in which the rhythm is established. The interludes between the stanzas (Atuachi) are either formed from the same material as the song or independently conceived. In the song "A chantar" the interludes used are pieces that occur elsewhere in the Troubadour manuscripts. These earliest preserved examples of pure instrumental music are scarce, but they do have precise stylistic characteristics; thus the "Saltarello" (No. 3), which comes from a manuscript somewhat later than the Troubadour period, has been included on the record because it belongs to the same tradition.

The accompaniment to "Kalenda maia" is played on two vielles, as described in the Razo which tells of the song's composition (see enclosed text sheet). The contemporary German writer Wirnt von Gravenbere tells of vielle players improvising together on a similar occasion as follows: "neither let any note that the other played go unnoticed in his own playing". It is reasonable to assume that something similar occured in the performance of "Kalenda maia".

Our knowledge of the instruments used by the Troubadours comes from two main sources: references to instruments in the poems and pictures of them in manuscript illuminations. The instruments are mostly of Arab derivation: the Lute (Ud), the Vielle (Kimancha), the Lira (Rebab), the Nakers (Nakir) and others.

To begin, we hear two so-called "Sirventes" addressed by poets to their patrons. Peire Vidal from Toulouse enjoyed being at the court of Barral, Viscount of Marseilles. But he sometimes quarrelled with him, and had to move on to another court, to Toulouse, Catalonia, Northern Italy or elsewhere. With his song "Baron de mon dan covit" he seems to have reconciled himself with Barral again. It is a song in praise of fame. His songs also bring fame to the person to whom they are dedicated; the author asks his patron to reward him accordingly. It is a passionate song, full of bragging and wishful thinking.

Giraut de Bornelh from the district of Limoges dedicates his song "Leu chansonet' e vil" to three patrons at once, the main dedication being to the Prince or "Delphin" of Auvergne in Clermont-Ferrand, i.e. Robert I of Mainsat. On its way to Clermont the song passes through the districts of Ussel (Dept. Corrèze) and Saignes (Dept. Cantal), where the troubadour and nobleman Eble resides. Giraut begs the song to present his greetings to Sir Eble. In the "Envoi" he further presents his compliments to his lord "Sobre Totz", (honoured) "above all", i.e. his patron Raimon Bernart de Rovinhan, (lord of Rouvenac near Limoux in the Pyrenees). All three patrons are not only enthusiastic lovers of troubadour art, but also troubadours themselves.

We next hear three of the most beautiful Provençal love songs. Bernart de Ventadorn is certainly the most spontaneous poet; in his songs the mood changes in each verse, from deepest sorrow to greatest joy. We hear his Lark Song, his song of despair, one of the most tragic and beautiful in Provençal poetry. In "Kalenda maia", Raimbaut de Vaqueiras increases the intensity of his longing until it reaches its climax in the sensual 4th stanza. In the classical 5th stanza, the "Envoi" to the Margrave Bonifaz, the song ends with an allusion to Chrétien de Troyes and his novel "Erec" that tells of the most fervent service to love. Like Raimbaut, the Countess of Dié (Dept. Drôme) comes from Provence proper — unlike Giraut de Bornelh and Bernart de Ventadorn who are natives of Limousin. The Countess is the best known of the lady troubadours, her song "A chantar" her most famous declaration of love. She fights desperately for her beloved, who turns his attentions to others.

In between we hear some dance songs: beside the instrumental "Saltarello" from a later period the Latin trio "Veris ad imperia", a prayer to Hecate, the goddess of birth, and the spring song "A l'entrada del temps clar", a dance song in honour of the loving queen and in deprecation of her jealous, aged husband. Both songs have the same melodic and metric structure, the same refrain text. The dance song "Kalenda maia" belongs to the category of the "Estampida" or "Stantipes". According to the "Vida" or troubadour biography and the "Razo" or song preface of the 13th century, Raimbaut de Vaqueiras was at the court of Monferrat (in Casale) when he wrote the song to a melody that was played by two vielle players from Northern France. The "Estampida" is also accompanied by two vielles.

We thus hear various types of troubadour poetry, and we meet not only the troubadours of Limousin and the South-West, but also those of Provence. The most important centres of troubadour art are represented in these songs — the courts of Auvergne and the Pyrenees, of Marseilles, Provence and Northern Italy.

One of the most important poetic epochs of Europe is once more made available to us in the present recording.

Chansons of the Trouvères

Perhaps two thousand Trouvère melodies have survived along with countless texts without melodies, in the many Trouvère Chansonniers. Clearly, the repertory is immense, but it is not simply a tremendous number of simple songs: it includes extended religious epics, political satire, philosophical dialogues, pastorelles, dawn songs, courtly love songs, folk-song imitations, etc. As a matter of fact, only two things bind this considerable repertory together: the fact that it is all written in the langue d'oil, Old French (although in different dialects) and the fact that it is a monophonic repertory.

The language of the Trouvères, langue d'oil, was the language spoken in France north of Aquitania. Several of the dialects belonging to the langue d'oil became important literary tongues, e. g. Norman and Picardic, and we are reminded of great and monumental works such as the Arthurian romance, the famous chronicles of Villhardin and of Joinville, the Roman de la Rose, and many other works.

Only one other vernacular language is associated with medieval France, the langue d'oc of the south, which was spoken in Catalunia (including Majorca), along all the coast to Italy, and North to the limits of Aquitain. It was also a literary language in Italy north of the dolce stil nuovo, particularly Montferrat, Genoa, Mantua, Venice and the surrounding countryside. Those who practiced the arts of verse and music in the lange d'oc were called Trobadors (trobar = to find), while those who practiced in the langue d'oil were called Trouvères (trouver = to find).

Today, unquestionably, the term Troubadour is more widely known than Trouvère, and the reason for this may lie in the fact that a number of manuscripts contain Vidas or biographical sketches of the Troubadours, while this was not practiced among the Trouvères. Another reason may lie in the scandalous end to which the Occitanean civilization was abruptly brought. Seven hundred years ago this culture of music and poetry, primed by the interest of wealthy patrons and flourishing within the pleasantries of a particularly sympathetic and indulgent life-style, suddenly ceased. The monstrous war of avarice and hypocrisy, the Albigentian "crusade" (1209-1229), condoned by king and Pope alike, was the cruel blight that devastated the Languedoc. The armies of Simon de Montfort systematically destroyed the cities, towns, monasteries and estates of the vast Mediterranean area; and when he was finally killed and the rape of Provence ended, it was too late. The patrons of the Troubadours were no longer in a position nor of a mind to waste away the seasons with love and frivolity as before. As a result the Troubadours, unable to live in their homeland, became displaced persons, existing as they could in Spain and Italy.

No such misfortune befell the Trouvères, and thus it is that we have such a wealth of Trouvère material that to this date no single comprehensive study of this area has been attempted.

We mentioned above that this repertory is bound together by the language (langue d'oil) and by the fact that it is monophonic, which means essentially that, like folk-songs, only the text and melody are fixed, the accompaniment not. When instruments accompany these songs, they impress their own specific character on the sound-picture, with the result that performances employing differing instruments will have quite different sound pictures and may even be considerably different in length!

Thus in De moi doleros vos chant for example, the accompaniment is little more than the stroking of a few odd strings — except for the flute, which tries to impress its personal character on the performance in prelude and interlude. In Biaus m'est estez there is a single four-course lute accompanying the singer, and the personality of that instrument is enhanced by its wanderings as it moves towards notes which it reaches together with the singer — not quite a dialogue but just a hint at the companionship of instrument and singer.

The reasonable performer today of course always must be aware of the boundaries of historical style — he may not be as uninhibited as his 13th century counterpart in shaping his accompaniment; this forefather was very much more at home in the subtleties of regional performance characteristics and symbolism. Thus, to him, a particular sound common to the streets of Toulouse in the south, in the heart of the Languedoc (Troubadour) might have its roots in the Moorish occupation of that city when the Arabs worked out a sanitation system for the city (still functioning with modifications) and a (still existant) irrigation system for the countryside. That Arab sound would perhaps not be noticed as anything unusual: not so in the North, where that Arab sound would have great meaning, would be quickly identified as "foreign" and would have symbolic significance.

Thus in Chanterai por mon coraige, a song concerned with a Christian captured by the Saracins in Syria, the sound of a distant Arab mode, with clashing dissonance, is thought of as a symbol and is heard in contrast to the clearly European Christian sounds. The melody itself hints at this solution through its unusual chromatic alterations.

In Trop est mes maris jalos the musicians are having fun with a light and amusing song of mal-mariée, stressing rhythmic play, while in Li joliz temps d'estey the light character is brought out through dance-like interludes derived from the tune but placed in different rhythm. A striking colour in Lasse, pour quoi refusai is the douçaine playing in two distinct registers punctuating the lines of text just as the psaltery in the Retrowange novelle punctuates the strophes.

The biographies of the Trouvères have not yet been written. Holgar Petersen Dyggve, Onomastique des trouvères, a remarkable work of scholarship, is the first step. The Trouvères manuscripts do not provide Vidas as did the Troubadour manuscripts, so most of the biographical data must be derived from the songs themselves. A central date for our Trouvères is 1200.

Guiot de Dijon, for example, was active in the first part of the 13th century: he mentions three people who took part in the 5th crusade, Erart II de Chassenay, Jehan I d'Areis and Andrieu III de Montbard. Erart II returned from the crusade in the Spring of 1220, the other two were captured in Syria. Andrieu III did eventually return, but Jehan died in the Saracin prison. Now if Guiot is the composer of this song, it is not unreasonable to suppose it was written soon after the arrival of Erart II. Spanke (Zeitschrift fiir frz. Sprache und Lit. 53 1930) brings convincing evidence to show that Guiot may not be the composer of this song. It doesn't really matter. Gace Brulé was at the court of the daughter of Eleonor of Aquitain in the Champagne. The countess (wife of Henri I, Count of Champagne) was as active and influential as her mother had been. She brought poets of Langue d'oc (e.g. Bertran de Born) together with those of the Langue d'oil (e.g. Chrestien de Troyes), and encouraged and supported poetic activity. It is possible that the Trouvère Etienne de Meaux may have borrowed the tune for his Trop est from Gillebert de Berneville (composer of De moi doleros) or it might have been the other way around. It was not uncommon for poets to share a melody.

Well, whoever our Trouvères may have been, their works testify to a high artistic level, and it remains a challenge to the singers of today to draw more and more attention to this large and exceptionally beautiful repertory.

1. Retrowange novelle
A hymn in honour of Mary, the mother of God. She is simultaneously virgin and mother, and helps in the redeeming work of her son. The prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled, a rod has come forth from the stem of Jesse. It is beautiful beyond all measure. Mary has borne Jesus who, by his death on the cross, has saved all who were previously lost from eternal damnation.

2. Chanterai por mon coraige
The song of a pilgrim in captivity. He tells of the dangers threatening a pilgrim on his long wanderings in the land of the enemy Saracens. It is doubtful whether he will see his homeland again; he thinks of the lover far away whom he left. She gave him as a souvenir her chemise, which he presses against his body to ease the pain of separation. The pilgrim recalls the happy times when he vowed he would be eternally faithful to her. The wind carries to him pleasant memories and thoughts of his distant homeland.

3. Lasse, pour quoi refusai
Lament. A girl's regret for having rejected her lover. He loved her a long time but she did not respond. She reproaches herself for having been foolish and having a hard heart. She now realizes that she cannot live without him. She is inconsolable. If he still desires her now she will surrender herself to him entirely. Her song is meant to reach his ears and call him quickly back. If he comes she will make up for everything.

4. De moi doleros vos chant
Lament over an unhappy love affair. The lover finds no joy in life. He is lonely and cannot find help or understanding anywhere. A traitor spoke ill of him, thus causing him unhappiness and stealing his honour. He wishes for happiness and contentment, but love brought him only unhappiness and suffering.

5. Biaus m'est estez
Love song. First the lovesick singer describes beautiful, external nature. The lover professes his love for a high-born lady who is unable to respond to him because of the differences in class. Wherever she is, his thoughts are with her, night and day. Cupid should teach him how he can conquer the lady. However, the lady does not give way. The rejected lover weeps and is sad. He can neither sleep nor laugh. He is a martyr to love, but still the lady remains unmoved.

6. Trop est mes maris jalos
The complaint of a woman about her too jealous husband. She charges that he is a mean fellow and takes revenge on him by meeting her lover. Her husband thinks that he possesses her, but he cannot control her love and affection. These belong to her lover. Her husband drove her to this and she feels free of all guilt. She is not afraid to tell him this. Concluding comment of the poet: Friendship is better than marriage.

7. Li joliz temps d'estey
Love song. Summer has returned and with it the desire to love. Remembering the lover is both sweet and full of sorrow. Love is a malady, but wants no cure; desire and pain are inseparably linked with each other. At first sight of the lover the man was already overcome with yearning for her. Since no man can live without love, he intends to endure his suffering patiently until death, and to serve his lady always in unshakeable faith. He hopes that she will eventually listen to him.