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Jehan de LESCUREL (b. late 13th Century) Songé .I.
Songe Chansons and Dit Enté «Gracïeux temps»
Ensemble Syntagma [Mami Irisawa, Zsuzsanna Thot, Akira Tachilawa, Giovanni
Cantarini (singers); Christophe Deslignes (organetto); Atsushi Moriya
(recorder); Sophia Danilevski (fiddle); Jérôme Salomon (percussion);
Joël Fosse, Emilia Danilevski (narrators)]/Alexandre Danilevski (lute
rec. Église Sainte Brigitte, Plappeville, France, December 2013. DDD
155p soft-cover book and CD. Includes texts in Old French with Modern
French, English and German translations. Detailed notes in French and
English. EDITION FACSIMILE FME-1401 [70:26]
I was very pleased to receive this CD of music by Jehan de Lescurel,
particularly as his music and indeed his name was totally unfamiliar
to me. Although I am familiar with music earlier than this and also
later music by such as Guillaume de Machaut, the interim period leading
to Ars Nova is new to me. As I did not immediately have any means of
playing the CD I began instead by reading the book in which the CD is
The foreword gave a very thorough and informative introduction to the
work of Lescurel and a background to the period, but further on I did
find this very learned and deeply thought dissertation quite daunting
to read and comprehend. I am sure this is partly due to the English
translation of Emilia Danilevski’s work, and so I turned to Brian Wilsons
review of this CD which is equally scholarly but much more readable.
It gives a good introduction to the period and the concept of Courtly
Love, and I think that reading this would be really helpful to the general
music lover in his appreciation of what this music and poetry is all
Although this CD almost seems to be marketed as a book with a recording,
there are unquestionably fine musical performances to be enjoyed. For
the general listener and music lover, however, an attractively presented
CD with a simple introductory explanation about the history of the period
and the music might be more valuable, with the current release as a
deluxe version serving the needs of the specialist, the music student
and historian. For example, the average music lover might find such
statements as in Lescurel’s work, we find everything imaginable
with regard to technical processes and ornatus difficiles: asyndetons,
logodaedalia, the last stanza is an epiphonema ............ a
The disc begins with an instrumental version of the chanson Amour,
voulés-vous acordez, beautifully and sensitively played by
members of Ensemble Syntagma. On the second track we are treated to
some pure and ethereal singing from Mami Irisawa, always with perfect
intonation even though the melodic intervals can be quite difficult.
On the ensuing tracks I was really struck by the sensitivity of the
phrasing and the subtle balancing of voices and instruments. There are
some ravishing colours and textures here which I had not encountered
before. The instrumental additions may not be totally authentic but
they certainly add to the colour and attractiveness of the performances.
The delicacy of the percussion player Jérôme Salomon is
to be admired, too. Listen to Amours, que vous ai meffait for
The substantial work on this recording is the dit Gracïeus Temps
and one could not wish for a better performance. It is performed in
three sections with a charming instrumental item and the chanson,
Belle, comme loiaus amans forming interludes. This second piece
is beautifully sung, I assume by Zsuzsanna Tóth as her voice
has a touch of attractive vibrato not present on some of the other tracks
sung by soprano. The dit is superbly performed, and I found listening
to the poetry in old French perhaps even more fascinating than Lescurel’s
musical lines. I would have liked to have seen the English translation
of the text alongside the original, perhaps on the opposite page in
the book, to aid clarity, as it is for the chansons. Akira Tachikawa’s
counter tenor is another highlight of this disc. He gives meaning and
expression to the eloquent poetry and noble thoughts presented on the
disc’s final track.
The performances can be quite breath-taking and it was a pleasure to
learn something of the refined poetry and music of this period. This
is a really valuable and beautifully performed and recorded release.
Footnote When I wrote my original review I said that though there was much for the general
listener to enjoy, I imagined that the major appeal would be to specialists
in medieval music and poetry. I certainly didn’t mean to put off non-specialists;
in fact I thought that I had conveyed my great enjoyment of this recording.
I did wonder, however, if I had under-estimated the likely appeal to a wider
audience. As I had two copies – having stupidly forgotten that I already had
one – I passed the second to Geoffrey Molyneux for some second thoughts.
As a music graduate and teacher he knows a great deal more than me, as his occasional
reviews on the MusicWeb-International main pages and in my Download News testify,
but he isn’t the kind of specialist that I was thinking of for this recording.
I asked him particularly to say how much he thought it would appeal to a wider
group of listeners and I’m pleased to see that he believes that it would.