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Le Jeu d’amour
Moniot d’ARRAS (c.1213-1239)
Ce fu en mai, au dous tens gai [3:12]
Thibault de CHAMPAGNE (1201-1253)
Amors me fait commencier [3:52]
L’on dit q’amors est dolce chose [4:16]
Jehannot de l’ESCUREL (d.1304)
Bien se lace (2:07]
Adam de la HALLE (c.1237-1288)
Je muir d’amourete [1:33]
Jean de FLAGY
‘Et tout les gens …’ [0:30]
Lai de Kievrefuel [14:00]
Guillaume dAMIENS (13th century)
Je mais ne serai saous [1:08]
Guillaume le VINIER (d.1245)
Pastourelle: Valuru, valuraine [4:53]
Guillaume de DOLE
‘Main à main…’ [0:19]
Caroles on ‘La verte olive’: La jus desous la verte olive;
C’est desoz l’olive; C’est la jus par dessous l’olive   [7:45]
Guillaume d’AMIENS (13th century)
Prendés i garde our cest rivage /ANONYMOUS
Prendés i garde [1:34]
Colin MUSET (13th century)
En mai [2:25]
Margot, Margot grief sunt li mau d’amer [1:40]
Trois serors sor rive mer [1:11]
En un vergier [6:08]
Tuit cil qui sunt enamourat [2:52]
Anne Azema (soprano); Catharine Joussselin; Ellen Santaniello; John Fleagle; Noël Bisson (voice); Shira Kammen (vielle; rebec; harp); Jesse Lepkoff (flute; recorder); Robert Mealy (vielle; harp); Margriet Tindemans (vielle; gittern; harp).
rec. 20-25 January 1976, Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts.
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 2564 62685-2 [59:43]



This was originally issued on Erato 0630-17072-2 in 1997. By the time I heard a friend’s copy and fell in love with it, it was unobtainable. I am, therefore, delighted to welcome it back into circulation, especially at Apex price.

Azema is utterly at home in this repertoire. Indeed, the CD booklet tells us that she “conceived and directed” the entire programme, and that she was responsible for the “research, transcriptions and editions of [the] original source material” though others were responsible for instrumental realisations. Azema’s booklet notes make clear her knowledge and understanding in this field, and she has the musical and vocal skill necessary to create from that knowledge a gorgeous experience for the listener.

The programme draws on compositions by the trouvères of Northern France. The few - relatively - familiar names – such as Adam de la Halle and Thibault de Champagne - are here, but much of what is on offer cannot be attributed to named composers. Azema’s programming and performance - very ably assisted by instrumentalists largely drawn from the ranks of the Boston Camerata - puts before the hearer a range of mood which may be surprising to those conditioned to think of medieval love poetry as limited to expressing the lover’s pain and frustration. 

Certainly the lover in the anonymous (and lovely) ‘L’on dit qu’amors est douce chose’ declares:-

            They say that love is a sweet thing
            but I do not know its sweetness.
            All joy is refused me from there
            and never did I feel any of its rewards

but there are also songs of feast and dance, as in Guillaume le Vinier’s ‘Pastourelle’:        

When the harvest is all brought in
            the shepherds grill their meat,
            the young girls are dressed in their best
            and the young dandies enter the dance …

and of female desire, (as in the anonymous motet ‘Prendés i garde’:

            I am a bold lass,
            I indeed avow,
            I cannot prevent myself
            from looking around,
            for one is looking at me,
            and I am most desirous
            that he should have me with him…

and of less than ‘courtly’ male behaviour (again from Guillaume le Vinier’s ‘Pastourelle’ :

            The son of the priest of Oignies,
            who has sweet-talked so many
            that he is engaged to five,
            three of whom he has got pregnant
            was absolutely amazed by Guionet: he was seized
            by jealousy; so he got up to a lot of tomfoolery:
            he began to do handsprings,
            with a crown of nettles on his head.

The ‘game of love’ took many forms!

The songs of the trouvères come down to us without clear rhythmic notation; nor can we be certain of what – if any – instruments were used in the accompaniment of any particular song. Suffice to say that the solutions reached here are thoroughly persuasive and make for richly entertaining listening; whether they are ‘correct’ is a different question which can’t sensibly be posed here. Azema is a performer of great spirit and drama – always appropriately. Whether singing unaccompanied or supported by various combinations of flute, recorder, vielle and rebec she communicates mood and meaning to perfection. Her diction is a model of clarity, her commitment never in doubt. She responds intelligently and flexibly to the different idioms and forms on show here – virelai, rondeau or pastourelle.

The group of trouvères centred on Arras, which included Adam de la Halle, Moniot d’Arras and Guillaume le Vinier – is well represented, but the most remarkable piece here is the well-known ‘Lai de Kievrefuel’. This ‘Lay of the Honeysuckle’, traditionally attributed to no-less than Tristan himself, is here given a remarkable performance, Azema’s passionate interpretation following a lengthy and beautiful instrumental introduction.

But, in truth, all the tracks on this CD are performances rich in musicality and intelligence. Full texts and translations are provided and I recommend it unreservedly.

Glyn Pursglove






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