of Love - Songs
of the troubadours and trouvères ANONYMOUS (13th Century) Por coi me bait mes maris? [2:23] Dansse Real* [3:05] La Tierche Estampie Roial [3:08] En un vergier [6:56] La Quarte Estampie Royal [2:50] En ma forest [3:12] Bele Doette [9:04] La Prime Estampie Royal [3:40] Giraut de BORNELH (c.1140 – c.1200) Reis glorios [7:32] Gaucelm FAIDIT (c.1170 – 1230) Lo rossinholet salvatge [9:50] Colin MUSET (fl.
1200) Volez oir la muse Muset?*[6:50] Bernart de VENTADORN (c.1130 – c.1200) Can l’erba fresch’ [6:18]
Faye Newton (soprano, symphonie*); Hazel Brooks (vielle)
rec. 17-18 February, 2005, St. Andrew’s Church Toddington Gloucestershire,
United Kingdom. DDD HYPERION
To a 21st century mind the concept of courtly
love may at times perhaps be hard to understand … subjugation,
deliberate seeking of the apparently unobtainable, idealisation.
Yet any serious analysis of the phenomenon - prevalent in
the royal and ducal courts of southern France in the 12th and
13th centuries - will take note of parallels between
the idealised woman (‘midons’) and the Virgin Mary. Other
contrasts can be identified: pure love elevated to perfection;
of the sublimation of erotic desire into an abstract. This
was perhaps a safe outlet for what the church would otherwise
suppress. Male humility was within this milieu, a civilizing
and pacifying force in a violent world. This complex of values
possibly existed as a way to bind together – through accepted
protocols and etiquettes – a society with disparate centrifugal
forces at work.
Courtly love also produced some of the most splendid music
of the early Middle Ages. Here we have a major, pleasing
and expertly articulated contribution to the recording of
that repertoire from relative newcomers duo Trobairitz. Their
style and sound well suit the material presented to us by
the ever-enterprising Hyperion. They offer a dozen varied
works, two thirds of them anonymous and with otherwise less
well-known pieces by the likes of de Ventadorn, Muset and
At one level this music is remote, atmospheric, nicely
rhythmic and rather rough. But to stop there is to miss the
true beauty and intellectual impact of the genres. ‘Genres’ plural:
treatises of the time identified several different poetic
forms … the canso, alba, dansa, plamb, pastourelle.
Then came the many variations in melodic style of composition … and
these before regional differences in performance are taken
into account. It must be remembered that the original makers
of this literature and music were neither ‘wandering’ nor
minstrel entertainers, nor particularly humble. Likely to
be aristocratic, the early troubadours were highly educated
and artistically sophisticated. There is a certain simplicity
- yet not completely guileless plainness - in these works:
Messatger, vai, e no m’en presez mens, s’eu del anar vas midons sui temens’
‘ Don’t think any the less of me that I’m afraid to go to
The most prolific and famous composer of his time was Bernart de Ventadorn whose influence on Gaucelm Faidit is clear from
the two lovely examples we have here. Lo
rossinholet salvatge is the longest
item on ‘The Language of Love’ at almost ten minutes. It’s
typical of the extended sinuous lines that weave a vivid,
immediate and highly focused
tableau out of a rarefied nothing:
qu’enoi ni tir seus
sui e nom pose giquir de
leis tan ni quan’
‘ No matter who is to suffer, I am hers and can never, never
There is all the psychological density: awareness and regretful
acceptance of wider suffering than just the poet’s own. There
is a destructive devotion with a reluctance to ‘leave’, despite
the fact that poet and lady have in fact no overt or productive ‘understanding’.
When you listen to this music, you’re entering a complete
world, somewhat introverted, intense and very personal. There
is a pressing need for its performers to avoid the mawkish,
accentuating instead reflection, passion and the musical
tension between resignation and plaintiveness. That’s what
duo Trobairitz succeed in very well. They adopt an almost
businesslike approach to the slow, plangent exposition of
these songs. It is almost as if that faint hope - that love
will be requited - isn’t necessary to justify the introspection.
The beauty and poignancy of the marriage of words and music
allow them to stand by themselves.
By neither lingering on nor distorting the musical high-points
- as well as the more routine moments - suits modern sensibilities,
or emphasises what careful listeners will detect anyway.
These two performers display a commitment to the genre and
its particular delights that makes this a particularly welcome
The items on this CD are recorded in a sequence that brings
variety, alternates known composers and anonymous works,
contrasts the nine vocal numbers with the three instrumental
ones and generally makes an impact as a cohesive whole.
It will probably take some time for you to accustom your
ears and senses to the singing style of Faye Newton; it’s
very polished - perhaps too ‘polite’, a touch too refined,
or gentile when compared with the landmark recordings of,
say, Mara Kiek. Newton’s is a gentle,
nicely understated rather than lightweight voice. You lean
forward slightly and become drawn in by the music, not the
personality of the singer. Very compelling.
in the informative liner notes are in French and English
and the whole experience is warm, immediate and thought-provoking.
The climbing and dipping melodic line of the anonymous Bele
Doette, for example, will stay with you long after the
CD is put away. Wonderful.
Faye Newton and Hazel Brooks met at the Guildhall School
of Music and Drama. They formed duo Trobairitz in 2000 to
explore the courtly song repertoire of the troubadours and
trouvères and met with almost instant acclaim at the Antwerp
Young Artists’ Presentation the same year. Thereafter they
have performed throughout the UK and Europe and been well
received – understandably so. This is their first CD and
one can only hope for more releases of this calibre in the
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