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GAUTIER de COINCY (1177 - 1236)
Miracles of Notre-Dame
Poems in praise of the Virgin set to medieval popular songs

Amours (c. 1218) [22.43]
Va Viele [18.40]
Chançonetes [3.01]
Conductus [3.48]
Royne Celestre [6.37]
The Harp Consort, directed by Andrew Lawrence-King
Notes and translations in English, and Français. Texts in Old French (langue d’oïl?).
Text translations available in Deutsch and Español from:
Recorded at L’Abbaye de Saint-Michel-en-Thiérache, Aisne, France, 18 June 1999.

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Comparison recordings:
Trouvère Songs; Russell Oberlin, alto; S. Barab, viol. Experiences Anonymes LP

Gautier was associated with the trouvères, who were the northern counterparts of the troubadours in southern France, which districts were at that time culturally and linguistically somewhat differentiated. This work partially inspired Alfonso X ‘El Sabio’s’ Cantigas de Santa Maria which actually adopted some of Gautier’s language, paraphrased and, of course, translated into old Spanish.

A reviewer recently complained that an "Anonymous 4" release of music from this period was monotonous, the same voices, the same texture, and the same sound over and over again. Much the same can be said for Russell Oberlin and Seymour Barab’s pioneering recording of some of these songs; just the voice—certainly a superb voice, a beautiful voice, which one wants to listen to for hours—and accompaniment, and little textural variety.

That complaint cannot be levelled against this recording. The name of the ensemble is misleading; they do not play only harps, but every medieval instrument you ever heard of, and with exceptional verve and virtuosity. The variety of vocal and instrumental textures and rhythms is endlessly fascinating, although there is a unity of motifs and effects within each of the five collections. And these people sing with genuine and infectious delight; unlike one well-known group I’m too polite to name, they don’t confuse enthusiasm with over-acting. Some of the tunes may sound familiar to you from the Play of Daniel.

"In modern times instrumentalists have reconstructed from medieval sources a sophisticated array of improvisation techniques," says Mr. Lawrence-King in his notes, and the generous utilisation of these techniques make this recording unique and valuable. Perhaps Ian Harrison’s shawm figurations on Amours dont suis epris is worth the whole price of the disk! He really sounds like a European musician who took lessons from an Arab player, and at moments there is just a suggestion of a Berber oasis encampment. And his long sweet cornetto solo on "Douce Dame" conjures up echoes of Quiet City or perhaps Rhapsody in Blue. This disk would be an excellent gift to your audiophile friends who think that all classical music is dull and depressing.

Paul Shoemaker

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