Absolutely fascinating, and it goes without saying not much like Verdi. This is an illuminating selection of the music of the troubadours, part vocal part instrumental, dating from the 12th to the 14th centuries. The artists are two groups of specialists, representing it seems slightly different traditions in the performance of the music, but with previous experience of collaborating. Particular care was apparently given to the selection of the vocalist, the final choice being Maria Lafitte of Canso Catalana, a specialist not only in the music of the period but also in the mediaeval romance languages - Provencal and some near congeners - of the poetry we find here.
The performances have a great deal of `presence' and what sounds to me like an air of authority. Maria Lafitte puts her heart and soul into all her contributions, and it should be taken as a compliment when I say that for me there was an odd suggestion of Piaf about her. With one exception, the mildly risqué # 9, all the vocal work is solo work. In # 9 I have to suppose the instrumentalists double as the choristers, since no other credits are given. The instrumental music (comprising about half of the disc) has not advanced at this stage beyond rudimentary harmony consisting of drone basses and percussion effects, but it is strikingly well recorded, particularly as regards parts of the percussion, and the liner note details the precise instruments used. What I would have liked to find in the note is rather more about the choice of instruments - is it specified in the scores or, as I suspect, did the specialist performers prescribe it themselves? As regards the vocal side, the liner note is completely admirable, pitching to an audience of newcomers to this music and packing in a lot of the historical background in a short space. There is also a brief section on the performers, the commentary is given in German and French as well as English, and there is a full text of the poems with English translation.
on 30 December 2002
Music of the Troubadours
The Theme: Idolised love, it's joys and sorrows, represented in the traditions of the courts in the 12th and 13th century.
The Troubadours: singers and poets of Southern France, kings, princes, lords, but also sons of shop keepers and tradesmen.
Example No. 9: An anonymous work from the monastery of 'Sant Joan de les Abadesses' in Catalonia:
'Praise now,, praise, praise the abbot's command.
Fair one, if you were a nun in our house, to the profit of all the monks you would
But you shall not pass a day, fair one, excepts on your back, so the abbot says.
The Recording: with it's freedom of improvisation, offers a refreshing wealth of rhythms and colour, using traditional European, Arabic and Turkish instruments like: voice, shawn, recorder, fiddle drums, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipe, nay, gaita, daval, deft etc
The only voice, the one of Marie D. Lafitte is strong, clear, and haunting, but should it not have been the one of a falsettist?
A wonderful present to all my best friends.
on 30 July 2016
If you like medieval music this is a valuable CD to add to your collection. If you are not very familar with the music of this period I would invite you to buy it you will quickly become hooked.
The singing by Marie Lafitte is absolutely stunning supported by the excellent musicians Oni Wytars and the Ensemble Unicorn playing period instruments.
The songs range from the "jaunty" to the more introspective interspersed with beautiful instumental pieces.
The "icing on the cake" is the final track (just over 17 minutes) "Lanquain li jorn" mixing unaccompanied singing, poetry and instrumental passages.
on 11 August 2013
I bought this download out of curiousity, since I am interested in early music, loved Songs of the Auvergne sung by Netania Devrath, and managed to borrow a very expensive book about female troubabours long ago. The review by another Amazon customer was encouraging.
I have enjoyed replaying most of this recording over the past week so much that I have ordered the CD in hope of getting more details of the songs from the liner notes. A little research on the internet produced a copy of the back of the CD cover listing the composers and song titles. Checking one composer, Berenguier, on Wikipedia revealed a listing of some of his songs, two of which are on the recording but technically in the wrong order, if the progress of a courtly love affair is followed.
Troubadours did not sing sloppy serenades. The songs range through the initial emotion of yearning to be noticed by the unattainable object of adoration, suffering due to continuing lack of recognition, joy at the smallest sign of recognition, anger if no response or if it is signalled the affair is over. Troubadours are go betweens, acting for persons who because of difference in rank or being already married cannot openly acknowledge or consummate a love affair. The songs are a complex blend of entertainment and coded messages for a cultured wealthy circle. The identity of the parties involved is intended to be hidden in the words or music so that only they know who for certain who is involved while the rest of the audience try to solve the riddle.
On this recording Maria Lafitte performs stunningly with the range of emotion needed. I suggest that you listen with good speakers or earphones able to reproduce the full treble and bass range to bring out the full depth of the musicians and vocals.
This is an astonishing CD, as the music, as well as the texts and the interpretation is concerned.
M. Posch and M. Ambrosini point out in their excellent introduction that, the troubadours (of the southern part of Europe) were, in general, not wandering minstrels like the `trouvères' (of the North of Europe), but often held high social positions in society.
The subjects of the songs, written in the `langue d'oc' (Provençal) or Catalan, are mostly ideal love, but also political (war), bawdy and religious themes.
We see idealized love in the songs of Berenguier de Palou: 1 - `So much I love': `So if ever am held in your arms, so that both of us are of one mind' and 7 - `Such a lady': `noble and fair in demeanour'.
Of course, love rhymes with sorrow and loss of liberty: in 11 - `When I see the lark move' by Bernart de Ventadorn: `she has brought death to me'. But, in 3 - `Now I can be satisfied with love' by Peire Cardenal: `Nor am I her captive nor her bond-slave, but I have escaped from her'.
Love themes are mixed with war (the crusades) in 5 - `It is fine to sing' by Raimon de Miraval and in 12 - When the days are long in May' by Jaufre Rudel.
Another aspect of love is `making love': in 9 - `Praise, now' (Anon.) `you shall not pass a day except on your back, so the abbot says'; or, in the alba song (a couple at dawn after a night together) 6 - `the birds were singing' by Ramon Lull.
No wonder that some asks for mercy: in 10 - `Humble, sinful, accused and penitent' by Guiraut Riquier: `I have wasted my time in sinning. I seek mercy, mother of Christ'.
All the songs and the instrumental pieces shine by their beautiful monodic melodies, as do the intimate (5, 10) as well as the more expansive laments (11, 12) or the fiesta exuberance about sex (9).
The interpretation of the songs by the late Maria Dolors Lafitte is simply formidable as is the playing by Oni Wytars and the Ensemble Unicorn.
Rarely has early Western music of the 12th and 13th century been served so admirably.
All texts are translated in English.
A must have for all lovers of classical music.
Just to add to the previous reviewers' comments on the vocals:
Fascinating though this album is, the vocals do seem a little incongruous. Marie Lafitte is something of an Edith Piaf sound-alike. That's not to say for certain that such songs would never have been originally performed by such a gravelly-voiced fags-'n'-booze chanteuse (and many of the songs sound like they would have been more at home in the tavern than the court), but it's not really what we're used to with modern interpretations of early music. A personal preference, but I think this material would be better with a soprano/falsetto.
on 5 May 2016
Raw, atmospheric, and very evocative of an age. Also sung in French, which I liked.
on 1 January 2016
interesting and different.
on 12 September 2014
i can only play this cd on my lap top will not play on any of my cd players comes up as no disc , grate tracks well worth the listen if you are into medieval music a must buy!