on 23 March 2008
I first bought this album in 1988 when I was going through an obsession with Mediaeval music, mostly the polyphony of 13th and 14th Centuries. When I first played 'Bella Domna' I was quite shocked, therefore.
The songs are of a broad troubadour style, so there is only one person singing, accompanied for the most part by at least one instrument. But what amazing instruments! What a profound voice!
The 'Cantigas de amigo' song cycle is overwhelming. Maria Kiek's voice ranges from the hypnotic to the 'hairs on the back of the neck' to heart rending. The music just sounds so ancient, almost alien, but it seems to connect with something inside the heart and leaves one yearning for something indescribable.
'Domna vos pos ay chausida' is of the courtly love realm. I have to admit the first time I heard it, it made me want to procure a 'symphony' and learn to play it. Unfortunately, these seem to be hideously expensive for some reason.
'Onques n'amai tant que jou fui amee' is filled with yearning. The language is beautiful. The French pronunciation of "avoir", "to have" is gone, and we have the Provencal pronunciation "avv where".
There are also several purely instrumental tracks which are described as being dances, although one is a slow and reflective harp solo.
I lent my recording of this to someone in 1991 and didn't get it back. I was most upset. When it became available during the mainstream Internet age I didn't hesitate, and neither should you.
One of the best discs of troubadour & trobairitz compositions I have come across. Maria Kiek is a fine vocalist indeed, and the first seven tracks, cantigas d'amigo (love songs sung by a woman about her lover gone away over the sea) written by the 13th century Galician Martin Codax (the manuscript being discovered by accident in the early 20th century) are particularly hypnotic, in conjunction with director Stevie Wishart's symphony (a.k.a. hurdy gurdy).
Also here are some more well known tracks, such as Beatrice, Comtesse de Dia's haunting "A chanter m'er de so qu'ieu non volria" and the anonymous "Lasse pour quoi refusai". The sleeve notes are relatively brief but there are full lyrics and translation. A definite must have for lovers of medieval music.