You must take yourself to Aquitaine in South-Western France.
Perhaps you have seen some of the extraordinary Romanesque carving
found in the churches, especially Poitiers. Perhaps you have
stood in Clermont where the first crusade was preached in 1095.
However to quote the introduction to the booklet notes by singer
Bruno Bonheure “Peirol d’Auvergne inhabits a theatre
of the imagination somewhere between the epic and the everyday”.
This little known troubadour did actually exist and we know a
good deal about him. He lived at the time of the third, fourth
and fifth crusades. He served the Dauphin Count of Auvergne,
himself a troubadour, at Montefferand near Clermont. Amid the
life of a prestigious court Peirol produced his thirty four known
songs, seventeen of which survive with melodies. So what is the
approach of La Camera delle Lacrime?
You may think that establishing a chronology for such an early
composer would be a hopeless case. However in the instance of
Peirol it is possible, as we know some of his biography. It seems
that when in the employ of the Dauphin, Peirol in love with the
niece of the count, one Sail-de-Claustra. One reads in the opening
songs of the CD that his love although successful at first was
certainly not requited; eventually it was probably disdained.
Yet he writes “for the sickness that love brings me/I will
never cease/to sing and be joyful”.
In the longer but succinct and very useful booklet essay by Didier
Perre the life-story is developed in the light of these recorded
songs and of others which no longer have their melodies extant.
They tell a quite romantic tale. Peirol then it seems moved on
to serve Dauphiné and the court of Vienne. There he fell
head over heels for Marqueza, probably Sail’s sister and
the wife of Héracle III. The song in track 7 tells us
that now his lady “does not call for me any more than she
does with other people”. So Peirol moved on again. We have
the date 1202 when like a vagabond Peirol sojourned in various
French courts and got to know other troubadours. He was a performer
(jongleur) now as well as, or instead of being, a composer and
was, he tells us “a martyr to love”.
Then he went off to the crusades and to the Holy Land. We seem
to hear of this in the dialogue song “Quant amors trobet
partit” in which the evocative and wonderfully flexible
voice of Bruno Bonheure is joined by that of Judith Kan. Peirol
died after his travels home having spent several years it seems
in the middle-east and after the failure of his long quest for
the love of Sail-de-Claustra. He abandoned courtly love and I
presume ‘amor courtoise’ in the musical sense.
A good example of the attractiveness of these performances and
the melodies is ‘Camjat ai mon consirier
have changed my thoughts/For I have changed to a new beloved).
The verses are sung solo with the last line repeated by a chorus.
The memorable melody is begun by a simple accompaniment from
a tanbur (I think). Then a drum enters for verse 2. A vielle
is introduced for verse 3 with, I suspect, an improvised counterpoint.
For the next verse a harp doubles the tune which now becomes
a little syncopated. Another vielle or string instrument joins
in next so the texture is built up. For a short while before
the last stanza the instruments are left alone. The song ends
like most of the others with an ‘envoie’ with which
it is sent off to its audience “Go song, straight to the
fair one, wherever she may be”. An earlier song had signed
off with “Dauphin if I dared reveal my desire to someone/I
so love your nobility/that you would know the truth.”
Four instrumental ‘songs’ are given for which text
does not survive. Their melodies, at least as they are performed
here, have a real middle-eastern quality to them. Examples include “D’un
bons vers vau pensan’; also ‘Tot mon engeing e mon
saber’ which introduces a flute half way through evocatively
doubling the tune a fourth lower in a sort of parallel organum.
This song ends “The poem is only to be uttered by one who
knows how to speak properly”.
La Camera delle Lacrime consists of Bonheure and four other instrumentalists
who play on a variety of eastern instruments some of which may
well be unknown to you. There’s a Kanun - a sort of Turkish
zither, a Tanball which is the principal percussion instrument
of Persia and a Tanbur - a long-necked lute. Troubadours, as
they passed through the Holy Land bartered instruments and brought
back such items to western Europe. Their inclusion here makes
a good deal of sense. In addition to these players the group
is supplemented by a female and three further male singers as
All texts are given, translated from the original Occitan into
both French and English; I am not sure however about the curious
black and white photographs which adorn the booklet.
So, a fascinating and evocative disc, with a slightly new bias
on the performance of troubadour music and one which is well
worth searching out.