A Song for Francesca – Music in Italy 1330- 1430
Andreas DE FLORENTIA (d. 1415) Astio non more mai [3.02] (1); Per las ver’onesta [4.35] (1)
ANONYMOUS Quando I oselli cnata [2.01] (1) ; Constantia [3.04] (1)
Giovanni DA CASCIA (fl. 1340-1350) Quando la stella [3.15] (1)
ANONYMOUS Amor mi fa cantar a la Francesca [2.34] (1)’ Non na el so amante [2.39] (2)
Francesco LANDINI (c.1325 – 1397) Ochi dolente mie [2.52] (1) ; Per seguir la speranca [3.38] (1)
ANONYMOUS O regina seculi / Reparatrix Maria [2.28] (1)
Guillaume DUFAY (1397 – 1474) Quel fronte signorille in paradise [2.36] (1)
Richard LOQUEVILLE (d. 1418) Puisque je suy amoureux [2.52] (2) ; Pour mesdisans ne pour leur faulx parler [1.52] (2)
Hugo DE LANTINS (fl.1420 – 1430) Plaindre m’estuet [4.33] (1)
ANONYMOUS Confort d’amour [3.47] (1)
Richard LOQUEVILLE (d. 1418) Qui ne reoit que vos deulx yeulx [1.12] (2)
Estienne GROSSIN (fl. 1418 – 1421) Va t’ent souspir [1.34] (1)
Gothic Voices (Margaret Philpot (contralto), Caroline Trevor (alto), Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor), John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Leigh Nixon (tenor)) (1)
Andrew Lawrence King (medieval harp) (2)
Christopher Page (director/medieval harp)
rec. 26, 29 September 1987, Church of St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, London
This is one of the fine series of CDs which Christopher Page and his Gothic Voices made for Hyperion. The group were founded in 1980 and during the 1980s and 1990s made more than twenty recordings, starting with ‘A feather on the breath of God’ their influential and popular disc of music by Hildegard of Bingen.
This disc was made in 1987 and has recently been re-issued on Hyperion’s budget label. The disc’s title, A Song for Francesca comes from a monophonic balata Amor mi fa cantar a la Francesca whose title could either mean ‘Love makes me sing to Francesca’ or ‘Love makes me sing in the French style’. The disc’s theme is the contrast between the Italian and French styles of the period and the way the Italians of the early 1400s were interested in music by French and Northern European composers. So the first nine items are all Italian from 14th century and the final ten items are French but from an Italian manuscript which may have originated in Venice so reflecting the kind of French music which the Italians were listening to.
The beguiling title track, Amor mi fa cantar a la Francesca comes from the earliest extant collection of secular Italian polyphony, a manuscript which derives from Padua and Verona in the 1330s and 1340s and probably reflects the sort of music that the young men and women in Boccaccio’s Decameron were listening to. This, like many of the Italian pieces on the disc is a two-part composition, where the florid and rather virtuosic upper voice is accompanied by a lower voice singing longer notes; though the word ‘accompanied’ is wrong because the two parts are of equal importance. This is particularly true as it is from the lower voice that we can get the full meaning of the text.
The later Italian tradition of polyphony is also represented; Andrew Lawrence King plays two solos (tracks 4 and 7) in this style and there are polyphonic ballate by Francesco Landini and Andreas de Florentia.
The French part of the disc starts in striking fashion with a 5-part motet; the one and only time on the disc when all five singers perform together. This 5-part form was very rare. All the parts are isorhythmic but the piece is delightfully consonant leading Christopher Page to wonder whether it might be by Dufay.
The remaining pieces are all in the rondeau form, dominant in France and Northern Europe and all but one are 3- or 4- part with a duet between the cantus and the tenor. Colour and rhythmic impetus come from the contra-tenor. These gracious and sometimes virtuosic songs come as a nice contrast to the Italian ones and they give you an interesting slant on Italian music making – the songs that Italians wrote and the songs that they sang by other composers.
One of the Northerners, Richard Loqueville, played the harp and so three of his songs are given in arrangements for harp played by Andrew Lawrence King.
The performances are very fine indeed, virtuosic when needed, and utterly beguiling. As is usual from Page and his group the performances are unaccompanied. The music is presented vividly and vibrantly but with no instrumental accompaniments to liven things up; in fact there is no need at all: the performances are lively enough and complete in themselves.
The singers are an impressive bunch, Margaret Philpot, Caroline Trevor, Rogers Covey-Crump, John Mark Ainsley and Leigh Nixon.
The CD booklet includes an article by Christopher Page and full texts and English translations.
Page and his group are brilliantly persuasive advocates of this music. Even if you think that a disc with the subtitle of “Music in Italy, 1330-1430” sounds a little dry, don’t be put off. When you play the disc you’ll be beguiled and entranced.
Robert Hugill
You’ll be beguiled and entranced.