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Masters, Monsters and Mazes
SOLAGE (fl. 1390) Le basile [4:09]
Mark RIMPLE En la maison Dedalus [2:35]
Anon (c. 1375) En la maison Dedalus [4:16]
GRIMACE (fl. 1370) Se Zephiras/Se Jupiter [3:43]
Johannes CUVELIER (fl. 1372-1387) Se Galas [6:10]
Thibaut de CHAMPAGNE (1201-1253) Ausi comme unicorne sui [5:05]
FRANCISCUS (fl. 1370) Phiton, beste tres venimeuse [4:25]
Guillaume de MARCHAUL (c. 1300-1377) Phyton le merveilleus serpent [2:07]
Baude CORDIER (early 15th century) Tout par compas [1:32]
Anon (c. 1300-1400) Ung lion say [2:24]
Johan ROBERT, called TREBOR (fl. 1390-1410) Se July Cesar [6:11]
Jacob de SENLECHES (fl. 1378-1386) Le harpe de melodie [4:23]
Pierre TAILLANDER (fl. 1390) Se Dedalus [5:29]
Johannes SUZOY (fl. 1380) Pictagoras [4:09]
Gaucelm FAIDIT (c. 1150-1220) Fortz chausa [4:46]
Anon (fl. 1390-1400) Le Mon Aon [6:39]
Trefoil: Drew Minter (counter-tenor, Memling 19-string harp), Mark Rimple (counter-tenor, 5-course plectrum lute, Ghent altar-piece gothic harp), Marcia Young (soprano, Cythara anglica)
No recording date or location given
MSR CLASSICS MS 1095 [68:02]
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This disc of late 14th century French polyphony from the mediaeval trio, Trefoil, is both an enjoyable and a scholarly production. Rather than turning to modern transcriptions, the group worked out the music from the actual mediaeval manuscripts, finding enlightenment and clarification in so doing. The pieces are certainly tremendously atmospheric and, together with the texts, give a good insight into that particular period.

The "monsters" in the rather fascinating title come from the frequent literary allusions and symbolic references to animals in texts set by the troubadours. Here, we have reference to the basilisk (in the opening song, Le Basile, where the creature’s ungainly fleshly bulk is depicted by the syncopation and rhythmic irregularities of the music), a unicorn (in the beautiful song for solo countertenor Ausi comme unicorne sui), lion (Ung lion say), and Phyton (Phiton, beste tres venimeuse and Phyton le merveilleus serpent).

The "maze" is a reference to the labyrinthine ways and melodic lines of the songs. It is also a nod to the pieces entitled En la maison Daedalus – Daedalus, of course, being the architect of the maze that was home to the Minotaur. In these songs, the music itself becomes a labyrinth through canons. Other musical mazes occur in the instrumental Tout par compass, where a third melodic line accompanies the other two as they encounter and extract themselves from the mathematical obstacles the music provides, and in Le harpe de melodie, where the voices chase each other through another maze.

Finally, these songs were composed and performed for nobles and "masters", and many of them contain mythological representations of the nobles. For example, the "Febus" (Phoebus) in Le Mont Aon represents Count Gaston III of Foix. Gaston was clearly a popular man – in Phiton, beste tres venimeuse Phoebus or Febus will overcome a dreadful beast, and both Se Galaas and Se July Cesar allude to him through his notorious battle cry "Febus avant!". In fact, the latter song – for solo counter-tenor, with the other two voices rather charmingly coming in for the battle cry - also likens Count Gaston, amongst others, to King Arthur, Lancelot, Tristan, Julius Caesar and King Sigismund!

The composers featured on the disc range from the well-known - Guillaume de Machaut, for instance - through to little known and anonymous composers. The disc also includes an intabulation by Mark Rimple (En la maison Daedalus) after the ensuing song.

The three voices – one soprano (Marcia Young), two counter-tenors (Drew Minter and Mark Rimple) - work well together. Perfectly integrated, they offer great clarity of phrase in the beautiful interweaving lines. The same three are the instrumentalists (lute, harp and cythara anglica) for the non-vocal works. Marcia Young’s voice is a little on the harsh side on its own - as in En la maison Daedalus and Phiton, beste tres venimeuse – although it is a little sweeter in Fortz chausa. I rather prefer it tempered by the counter-tenors as in Le Basile and Se Galaas. The counter-tenors are both excellent.

This is a delightful disc – well presented with good, clear notes, and contains some beautiful and entrancing works.

Em Marshall



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