Mia yrmana fremosa  /  Triphonia

Medieval woman's songs of love and pain

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[1]   Motet: Endurez, endurez les dous mas d'amer   [1:26]   anonymous, Codex Montpellier (1250-1300)


MARTÍN CODAX (fl. c. 1230). Cantigas de amigo
[2]   Ondas do mar de Vigo   [2:30]   ca  I
[3]   Mandad' e comigo   [1:32]   ca  II
[4]   Mia yrmana fremosa   [2:03]   ca  III
[5]   Ay Deus, se sab'ora meu amigo   [1:34]   ca  IV
[6]   Quantas sabedes amar amigo   [1:07]   ca  V
[7]   Eno sagrado en Vigo   [1:15]   ca  VI
[8]   Ay ondas, que eu vin veere   [1:49]   ca  VII

[9]   Motet: Trois serors sor rive mer   [1:33]   anonymous, Codex Montpellier (1250-1300)

[10]   Sephardic Ballad: Tres hermanicas eran   [5:28]   anonymous, oral tradition


[11]   Motet: Endurez, endurez les dous mas d'amer   [0:36]   anonymous, Codex Montpellier (1250-1300)
[12]   Estampie (instrumental): Endurez, endurez les dous mas d'amer   [3:20]   Gaby Bultmann
[13]   Chanson de toile: Bele Yolanz   [4:36]    anonymous, Chansonnier de St.-Germain-des-Prés (13th century)
[14]   Motet: Bele Aelis par matin se leva   [1:11]   anonymous, Codex Montpellier (1250-1300)
[15]   Blôzen wir den anger ligen sâhen   [6:52]   NEIDHART VON REUENTAL (c. 1180 - c. 1237)


[16]   Motet: Endurez, endurez les dous mas d'amer   [0:37]   anonymous, Codex Montpellier (1250-1300)
[17]   Chanson de malmariée: Trop est mes maris jalos   [1:45]   ETIENNE DE MEAUX (13th century)
[18]   Conductus (instrumental): Procurans odium   [1:04]   anonymous, Carmina burana (c. 1230)   CB  12


[19]   Motet: Endurez, endurez les dous mas d'amer   [1:09]   anonymous, Codex Montpellier (1250-1300)
[20]   Motet & Chanson de femme: Onques n'arnai tant que jou fui aimee   [6:22]   RICHART DE FOURNIVAL (1201-1260)
[21]   Ich was ein chint sô wolgetân   [5:13]   anonymous, Carmina burana (c. 1230)   CB  185


[22]   Motet: Endurez, endurez les dous mas d'amer   [1:50]
anonymous, Codex Montpellier (1250-1300)

[23]   God de bat eyn zelelin   [5:17]
anonymous | Text: Wienhäuser Liederbuch, c. 1470 | Melody: Rostocker Liederbuch, late 15th century

[24]   Cantiga de Santa Maria: De vergonna nos guardar   [5:31]   CSM  94
anonymous | El Escorial, Real Monasterio de El Escorial, c. 1280-83

[25]   Ik draghe an mynes herten grunt   [4:24]
anonymous | Wienhäuser Liederbuch | Melody: Liederbuch der Anna von Köln, c. 1500


[26]   Motet: Endurez, endurez les dous mas d'amer   [1:15]   anonymous, Codex Montpellier (1250-1300)

all arrangements by Triphonia

Ensemble for Medieval Music Berlin

Amanda Simmons — voice, romanesque harp, tambourine, castanets, scallop shells
Gaby Bultmann — voice, vielle, psaltery, recorders, stringed tabor, bells, frame drum, riqq
Leila Schoeneich — voice, recorders, stringed tabor, frame drum

Amanda Simmons, Gaby Bultmann, and Leila Schoeneich founded Ensemble Triphonia in 2004 because of their mutual passion for medieval music. They studied in Berlin, Amsterdam, Milano and Bloomington/USA. It is their wish to perform this music, with all its variegation and expressivity, in such a way that listeners may better understand and enjoy their experience. Triphonia developed a performance style based on the use of original sources and research, together with the desire to improvise and discover new possibilities of variation, a practice which also played a great roll in performance practice in the Middle Ages. Triphonia has since created various thematic concert programs, for example a musical pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with many musical stations along the way from Bingen on the Rhine river via Paris, southern France, and northern Spain (this program is also in a scenic version with projected pictures, dialogues, and props) or the Christmas program "Mit vrouden quam der engel" (The angel came rejoicing) with gregorian chant and medieval songs from Germany, England, Italy, and France. One of Triphonia's main emphases is in the use of many different combinations of instruments in their accompaniments of the mostly monophonic melodies, as well as the reconstruction of lost melodies through the use of related sources. Ensemble Triphonia utilizes a wide range of instruments: romanesque harp, psaltery, medieval recorders, pipe and tabor, stringed tabor, vielle, medieval brass bells, portative organ, hurdy-gurdy, medieval dulcimer, and various percussion instruments. Along with an occasional purely instrumental piece — sometimes self-composed in the style of existing medieval pieces — Triphonia places the highest priority on the instrumentation and accompaniment of the vocal songs. Various techniques are applied to accompany the solo voice or instrument such as drones or additional improvised vocal or instrumental parts, creating a unique polyphonic, heterophonic, or homophonic version of an original monophonic melody.

Romanesque harp: Rainer Thurau (Germany)
Vielle, Psaltery, Stringed tabor: Winfried Goerge (Germany)
Medieval recorder in g: Eugene Ilarionov (Ukraine)
Tenor recorders: Adriana Breuking (The Netherlands), Martin Praetorius (Germany)            
Bells, Castanets: Michael Metzler (Germany)
Frame drum: David Roman (Germany)
Riqq: (Egypt)
Tambourine: Velasso (Mexico)
Scallop shells: Atlantic Ocean

Literary Sources:
Vox feminae: Studies in Medieval Woman's Songs, ed. John F. Plummer. Kalamazoo, 1981
Frauenlieder: Cantigas de amigo, herausgegeben von Thomas Cramer, John Greenfield, Ingrid Kasten und Erwin Koller. Stuttgart, 2000
• "The Oldest Folk Poetry? Medieval Woman's Song as 'Popular' Lyric," Anne L. Klinck in From Arabye to Engelond, ed. A. E. Christa Canitz and Gernot R. Wieland. Ottawa, 1999
Frauenlieder de Mittelalters: Zweisprachig, übersetzt und herausgegeben von Ingrid Kasten. Stuttgart, 1990
Neidhart von Reuental: Lieder, Helmut Lomnitzer. Stuttgart, 1975

Musical Sources   
• Montpellier Codex: Montpellier, Bibliothèque Inter-Universitaire, Section Medicine, H196
• Martin Codax, Cantigas de amigo: Pergaminho Vindel, Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Vindel MS M979
• Chansonnier de Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fr. 20050 (Ms U)
• Neidhart von Reuental: Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Ms. germ. fol. 779 (Hs c; "Riedsche Handschrift")
• Etienne de Meaux: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, fr. 847 (Ms P)
• Richart de Fournival: Rome, Biblioteca Vaticana, Reg. 1490 (Ms a)
• Codex Buranus (Carmina Burana): München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 4660
Procurans odium aus dem Carmina Burana (music): Firenze, Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana, Plut. 29.1
• Wienhäuser Liederbuch: Wienhausen, Klosterarchiv, Hs. 9
• Rostocker Liederbuch: Rostock, Universitätsbibliothek, Mss. phil. 100/2
• Cantigas de Santa Maria: El Escorial, Real Monasterio de El Escorial, b.I.2 (E Codex)
• Das Liederbuch der Anna von Köln: Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Ms. germ. Oct. Nr. 280

Executive producer: Anne de Jong
Recording producer: Christian Hagitte
Mastering: Sonja Harth und Christian Hagitte

English & German Song Text Translations: Amanda Simmons / Triphonia

Recorded at: St. Albertus Magnus Kirche, Berlin
Recording dates: 5-7 March and 9 May 2009

A&R Challenge Records International: Wolfgang Reihing
Booklet editing: Johan van Markesteijn
Cover photo: Georg Thum, wildundleise.de
Art direction: Marcel van den Broek, new-art.n1

Challenge Classics
℗ & © 2010

In this recording we take the listener on a journey through the continental European tradition of so-called "woman's songs," as well as glimpsing at a few songs found in manuscripts associated with German female religious communities.

Woman's songs, embodying mostly love lyrics, were found throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and reflect a more popular character. The language in these poems tends to be simple and direct. The songs often incorporate aspects of nature: in German songs the linden tree, fields, woods, flowers, and birds are common (Blôzen wir den anger; Ich was ein chint sô wolgetân), whereas the romance-language lyrics tend to utilize the images of the sea, waves, beaches, rivers, and wind (Cantigas de amigo; Trois serors sor rive mer; Tres hermanicas eran). Even in modern popular traditions of Portuguese fado or French chanson the image of the sea is still prevalent. Other prevailing themes may involve the conflict between the upper and lower classes (Blôzen wir den anger— knight versus dairy-farmer), strife among married couples resulting in frustrated and dejected wives and suspicious and jealous husbands (Trop est mes mans jalos), dissension between mothers and daughters (Blôzen wir den anger; Bele Yolanz; Bele Aelis), as well as discrepancies between sisters (Tres hermanicas eran), or intimacy between sisters (Cantigas de amigo; Trois serors sor rive mer). The woman's song unfolded in a variety of genres: strophic refrain songs, dance songs, ballads, chanson de toile, chanson de malmairée, pastourelles, dialogues, motets, etc.

One may ask why a recording of primarily woman's songs would contain no single song actually attributed to a female composer. The category of medieval woman's song embodies lyrics written not necessarily by women, but rather in the female voice — songs seen through the eyes of a woman, spoken by a female speaker. Such songs do not depict the typical male devotion to the lady and do not emphasize the high courtly love tradition of the unattainable lady, but rather they tell more seemingly personal, yet also archetypal stories of the wishes, desires, sorrows, and disappointments of young women. Woman's songs, mainly written by male composers — although many have been transmitted without authorship — could perhaps be thought to reflect the male desire and fantasy about women and their reflection of the female stereotype during the Middle Ages, as well as providing a diversion for an audience more sophisticated than the characters represented in the songs themselves. The trobairitz (female troubadour), like their male counterparts, on the other hand, composed mostly in the more artistic courtly love tradition, and except for a few dance songs, they did not seem to have written songs in the more popular style of the woman's song. This leads to the speculation that the creation of woman's songs could indeed have been a mostly male practice.

Endurez, endurez les dous mas d'amer /
Endure, endure the sweet pains of love

Weaving its way throughout the CD program and serving as a common thread, this "mini-motet," found in the Montpellier Codex, appears in different versions introducing each new section.

By the Sea

The corpus of cantigas de amigo are probably the oldest known woman's songs or even the oldest known european lyrics in the vernacular language. These cantigas are simple woman's songs written in Galician-Portuguese, the primary poetic language of the Iberian peninsula in use until the middle of the 14th century. The use of parallelism dominates the poetic style of the cantigas. The cantigas had their roots in oral folk traditions and most likely derived from or were at least related to the female-voiced lyric of the jarchas, Mozarabic verses which formed the final lines of Arabic and Hebrew muwashshahs, the content of which is akin to that of the cantigas de amigo (e.g. mother-daughter dialogues, etc.). At the same time, the cantigas also represent a rather formalized depiction of popular song, thus approaching a more courtly art. Of the many extant cantigas texts, the only ones to survive with melodies are six of the seven cantigas de amigo attributed to Martin Codax in the 13th century. These seven songs also represent what is most likely the first known song cycle in the history of western music. The sixth of these seven songs exists without a melody, although it is clear that a melody was intended as staff lines exist in the manuscript and the other six songs are notated.

The problem of missing melodies for medieval lyrics provides an interesting challenge to the modern performer. The options for finding an appropriate melody are manifold: sometimes a contrafact itself can be found in other sources; often a melody can be borrowed from another song by the same composer or from a compatible lyric with an extant melody; and yet another option is that the performer may "compose" a new melody in the same style. These latter options are
in keeping with medieval compositional and performance practices. In the Middle Ages, the idea of borrowing or using other melodies or texts was prevalent and often considered an honor to the original composer. For just this reason, I chose to use the melody "composed" many years ago by Thomas Binkley for the sixth cantiga de amigo of Martin Codax.
I performed these cantigas de amigo while studying with Thomas Binkley; I have not been able to separate myself from his melody ever since and thus, as a tribute to my former mentor, I carry on the medieval tradition.

Like the young woman in the cantigas who confesses her longing to the waves, in Trois serors sor rive mer, three sisters are gathered at the seashore and simultaneously declaim separate verses — a practice characteristic of the french motet — each describing her own love. The Tenor melody of most motets was usually a fragment taken from a gregorian chant, a tradition that had its roots in the early development of polyphonic music. In Trois serors sor rive mer the Tenor comes from the chant Perlustravit. The question of the performance practice of such Tenors is still an ongoing discussion as to whether the Tenor was to be sung or to be played by an instrument and if sung, to which text or syllable. In our version of Trois serors sor rive mer the Tenor is both sung and instrumentally accompanied; we have texted Tenor with the opening phrase of the upper voices providing a repetitive underlay for the scene. Trois serors sor rive mer, like the motet Endurez, is found in the Montpellier Codex, with over 300 motets, an important source of both sacred and secular songs.

The ballad, Tres hermanicas eran, with its Sleeping Beauty character, also depicts three sisters. This song has its roots in the primarily oral song tradition of the Sephardim — the spanish Jews — who until their expulsion from the Iberian peninsula in 1492 and 1591, lived primarily in Portugal und Andalusia and more or less represented a link between the Mozarabic and European traditions. The secular repertoire of the sephardic ballads and romances, mostly in ladino language, was, like the French counterpart of the chanson de toile, originally sung by women doing handwork and then later also performed in the courts. The story portrayed in Tres hermanicas eran draws upon a Greek myth as well as an old spanish pastoral tale. This sephardic folksong is extant in numerous versions and is still popular today.

Mother-Daughter Dialogues

The chanson de toile is a genre of woman's song in which women are depicted doing typical hand- and needlework such as spinning or sewing. In these songs a young woman often longs for her lover or recounts her tragic love. The chanson de toile is frequently in the form of a dialogue, especially between mother and daughter, in which there is a conflict of interest about the daughter's love life, as related in Bele Yolanz. In the motet Bele Aelis there is likewise a dispute between mother and daughter which is alluded to by the daughter in the upper voice (Triplum), while the middle voice (Motetus), again reflecting the typical use of simutaneous texts in motets, depicts the frustrated and rejected lover yearning for his lost love. The Tenor of this motet was taken from the chant Flos filius eius. In order to accentuate the mother-daughter conflict by bringing the voice of "the mother" directly into this song, we have set the refrain text of Bele Yolanz to the tenor melody. This also provides a link to the previous chanson de toile, which has a similar theme. Mother-daughter dialogues are not only found in romance language lyrics, but appear in middle-high German songs like Blôzen wir den anger, in which the proper choice of a husband leads to dissension. In contrast to refined Minnesang, many of Neidhart von Reuental's songs tend to exhibit a more popular flair, a kind of "courtly poetry of the peasants." Such songs often have a dance-like character, incorporate elements from nature, as well as employing a boorish tone. At the end of Blôzen wir den anger, Neidhart names himself as the "knight of Riuwental," for whom the young village girl yearns, and thereby eventually offering his own personal commentary about the social class system.

The estampie at the beginning of this set employs motives from the motet Endurez, imitating the style of the Robertsbridge Codex, a manuscript of late medieval instrumental music.

La Malmariée

The chanson de malmariée, an important genre in medieval French lyric, is a woman's song about the unhappily married young woman (usually through an arranged marriage) who complains about her old, jealous, and lurking husband, while longing for her young and handsome lover (Trop est mes maris jalos). This type of song has its roots in 12th century May dance songs. The closing piece in this section is an instrumental version of Procurans odium, a three-voice song in the form of a conductus (a strophic processional song originating in the development of polyphony in the later 12th century). Procurans odium is found in the famous Carmina Burana Codex which was probably compiled in Kârnten around 1230. Unfortunately the notation of this song in the Carmina Burana manuscript is indecipherable, however, the song is also found with legible notation in other sources; our version comes from one of the most important sources for polyphonic music of the so-called "Notre-Dame" school (Firenze, Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana, Plut. 29). This rather moralistic and sarcastic song alludes to a theme especially of interest in southern France, that of the lauzengiers, the gossipers who publicly spoke badly about secret lovers, often to their own advantage.


Laments form one of the most significant genres in the entire history of music and are also an important part of the woman's song repertoire. In Onques n'amai tant que jou fui amee, a woman mourns the loss of her love due to her own pride. This monophonic song, composed by the trouvère and all-around scholar, Richart de Fournival, also exists in a two-voice motet version in the Montpellier Codex, presented here instrumentally. Ich was ein chint sô wolgetân, found in the Carmina Burana manuscript, is one of only a few songs in which the lyrics combine middle-high German and latin. This use of language points to a clerical hand in the composition in which the latin texts assume a learned commentary, more or less poking fun at the pastourelle motive evoked in the direct, yet provocative and dramatic vernacular narrative.

Celestial Love

The final section of this recording is devoted to celestial "Minne," the mystical and exalted love for the "heavenly groom" experienced by young women in religious communities in the late Middle Ages. A great treasury of sacred songs offering a more personal access to Christ and God emerged out of these communities. Especially in northern Germany and the Netherlands, the "devotio moderna" movement set the tone for a more Christian Humanism which placed the inner relationship of the believer in the foreground as well as influencing the beginnings of the Reformation. This mood is especially evident in songs found in the Wienhauser Liederbuch, such as God de bat eyn zelelin, a dialogue between the soul and God, and Ik draghe an mynes herten grunt, in which Jesus is described metaphorically as a divining rod. This small and rather plain song book, intended for private use by a nun, originated c. 1460 in the Cistercian convent near Celle in Germany and contains a variety of songs, stories, rules, sanctions, and anecdotes. Many of the fine lower German texts have been handed down without melodies, as is the case with our two selections. The melodies we chose to underlay the Wienhäuser lyrics come from other song books dating from the same time period and originating not far from Wienhausen: the Rostocker Liederbuch and the Liederbuch der Anna von Köln. In both of our versions the use of more "angelic" instrumentation such as harp and psalter or harp and bells serves to emphasize the devotional aspect.

The Cantigas de Santa Maria, collected, commissioned and perhaps to some extent composed by King Alfonso the Wise, represent one of the most opulent and exemplary of all medieval song collections from the Iberian peninsula. In his court in Toledo, Alfonso X established one of the largest and most reknowned courtly music traditions which included many European as well as Arabic musicians. More than 40 colourful and detailed illustrations of musicians and their instruments are included in the manuscripts prepared under King Afonso's supervision. Over 400 songs survive with melodies, most of which depict miracles performed by the Virgin Mary, every tenth song a hymn in praise of Holy Mary.

Amanda Simmons
(supplemented by Gaby Bultmann)