Guillaume de Machaut was one of the great composers
of a pivotal period at the intersection between the late medieval times
and the Renaissance. His works include sacred compositions, such as
his Messe de Nostre Dame, which took polyphonic music to new summits,
as well as popular dances and songs that reveal the influence of the
Yet this disc actually contains little music by Machaut.
Only the last two pieces are by him. This leads to a bit of confusion:
is Calliope trying to use Machautís name to sell a compilation of medieval
music? This barely seems necessary, yet there is clearly some ambiguity.
In any case, this recording features a selection of
music from the trouvères period, ranging from instrumental
works to solo chants. This disc covers a wide range of material, from
the oriental influence of works like La quarte estampie roial, with
its droning vielles and lively rhythm, to the more restrained Ne míoubliez
pas, a bittersweet song with a subtle voice singing over a gentle accompaniment.
The music of this period was diverse, and shows influences
from the Arab culture of Spain, as well as the European culture of northern
Europe. Emmanuel Bonnardot has made an excellent selection of music,
varying style, rhythm and instrumentation, to present a program of medieval
music that avoids the overly-common mistake of being too specific. Polyphonic
music, such as Adam de la Halleís song for three voices, Fi maris, is
side-by-side with a delightful instrumental piece by Lescurel, Belle
comme loiaus amans, providing contrast and curiosity. The long lai by
Machaut, Le lay mortel, is a memorable work. This strophic song for
voice, crwth and psalterion combines arabesques of oriental-influenced
melodies with Emmanuel Bonnardotís earthy voice in a haunting, melancholy
song of love and loss.
This is one of the finest collections of music by the
trouvères to be released in a long time. The excellent
selection of music (though little is by Machaut), the variety of instrumentations
and Emmanuel Bonnardotís simple, expressive voice make this an essential
recording for discovering this music that is so old, yet so pertinent
to our time.