Peirol d’AUVERGNE (or d’AUVÈRNHA) (c.1160-c.1225)
Coras quem fezes doler [5.55]; Per dan que d’amor mi veigna [3.36]; Atressi col signes fai [4.58]; Del sieu tort farai esmenda [6.12]; En joi quem demora (instrumental) [3.09];
Quant amors trobet partit [7.12]; Mainta gens mi malrazona [3.06]; Camjat ai mon consirier [4.43]; D’un bon vers vau pensan com lo fezes (instrumental) [1.32]; Tot mon engeing e mon saber [4.55]; Si bem sui loing et entre gent estraigne [2.58]; Ben dei chanter puois amors m’o enseigna [6.34]; Mours m’entremis de chantar volontiers [4.13]; M’entencion ai tot’en un vers mesa [6.34]; D’un sonet vau pensan (instrumental) [1.26]; Nuills hom no s’auci tan gen [3.50]; D’eissa la razon qu’ieu suoill [2.31]
La Camera delle Lacrime (Bruno Bonhoure (voice), Christophe Tellart (hurdy-gurdy, bagpipe, flute), Andréas Linos (fiddle, tanbur), Antoine Morineau (daf, tombak, udu), Spyros Halaris (kanun) with Judith Kan (voice), Christian Marzoli (tenor), Mathieu Langer (tenor), Pierre-Paul Zalio (tenor))/Bruno Bonheure
rec. Chapelle de l’hopital Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, 30 March-2 April 2009. DDD

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’ (I 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 indicated above.

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. 

Gary Higginson