Music of the Troubadours

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Music of theTroubadours

The poems and songs of the troubadours provide a repertoire of earlyEuropean secular song. It is usual to distinguish the poets and musicians ofthe Occitanian tradition of southern France from those who flourished slightlylater in the north, the first as troubadours and the second as trouv?¿res.

The troubadours themselves, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, were,in general, not the wandering minstrels of nineteenth-century imagination, butoften of high social position, kings, princes and lords, however limited theirdomains. Among these poets, however, there were individuals of lower socialstatus, sons of shopkeepers and tradesmen. All, though, were influenced by atradition and by conventions of the court and by courtly notions of idealisedlove, its joys and sorrows. Other subjects of all kinds occur, political,satirical, apologetic or bawdy. The language of the troubadours, the langued'oc, is Proven?ºal and closely related variants, to be greatly distorted bythe trouv?¿res. The activities of the troubadours extended into Cataloniaand into Italy. A large number of troubadour poems survive and a fairlysubstantial body of monodic music, offering a single melodic line following therhythm and pattern of the verse set.

The present anthology of troubadour music and verse opens with Tantm'abelis by Berenguier de Palou, who flourished in the early twelfthcentury. His place of birth seems to have been Palol, near Elne, in thedistrict of Rousillon, at the modern border between France and Spain. The sonof an impoverished knight, he is one of the earliest of the Catalantroubadours. Tant m'abelis consists of five seven-line stanzas, eachline including ten syllables. These decasyllabic lines rhyme in the patternABBACDD, with the same rhymes continued in each stanza. There is a furtherexample of his work in Ai tal domna, a setting of an eight-line stanzaof seven-syllable lines, rhyming ABABCCDD. There follows an instrumentalversion of the anonymous twelfth-century Domna, pos vos ay chausida.

No puesc sofrir is the work of the troubadour Giraut de Bornelh, whoseestampie, Reis glorios is also included. The latter is an alba, acomposition that marks the parting of a couple at dawn (alba), after anight together, perhaps observed by a third party, a watchman. The music byGiraut is one of only two surviving musical examples, while there are ninesurviving examples of the texts. Giraut was born at Excideuilh, near Perigueuxin about 1140 and died at the turn of the century. Of relatively humbleparentage, he rose to be respected as the master of the troubadours andquotations from his work are included, with those of other troubadour poets, inDante's De vulgari eloquentia, evidence of his contemporary reputation.

Four of his 79 surviving poems are preserved with their music. No puescsofrir consists of ten eight-syllable lines, rhyming ABABCDDCDD. The contrafactum,an imitation, following current practice, follows the same pattern, usingthe same rhyme-scheme and same rhyming syllables, in a series of five stanzas (coblas),with a final three-line envoi (tornada). This is by the poet PeireCardenal, probably born about the year 1180 at Le Puy-en-Velay in theHaute-Loire. Three of his surviving ninety poems are extant with their musicand two of these are contrafacta. Peire Cardenal lived a remarkably longlife and seems to have died at the age of nearly a hundred at Montpellier,where Jacques I, King of Aragon had his residence until his death in 1276. Theverbal intricacies of the poem are of particular interest, with an excursioninto alliteration in each line of the final stanza.

A bagpipe improvisation on the medieval bujo is followed byRaimon de Miraval's Bel m'es qu'ieu chant. The Proven?ºal troubadour,whose name leads to possible confusion with his father, making the dating ofhis birth difficult, flourished between 1180 and 1215. His castle at Miraval,to the north of Carcassonne, held by him together with his three brothers, wasseized by the Albigensian crusaders in 1209 or 1211 and in the present poem helooks forward to its recapture. Raimon de Miraval's patrons included CountRaimon VI of Toulouse, defeated by the crusader Simon de Montfort in 1213, andRaimon-Rogier of Beziers, who appear under pseudonyms in his poems, as do othermembers of the nobility. 48 chansons survive, 22 of them with theirmusic, an unusually large number. The four stanzas of Bel m'es qu'ieu chant consistof nine seven-?¡syllable lines, with a repeated rhyme scheme for each stanza,ABBACDDCC, reflected in the music.

Cantaben els ocells is the work of Ramon Llull (Raymond Lull),distinguished as a Catalan philosopher, theologian, poet and mystic. Born aboutthe year 1232, he died in 1315. A prolific writer, he left some 243 works, inLatin and in Catalan, to the second of which he gave scholarly respectability.

His passing and varied references to music have a distinct bearing oncontemporary practice. From a land-owning Barcelona family, he was born inPalma de Mallorca, possibly in 1235, but at the age of thirty turned away fromsecular poetry to a life religious activity urging the foundation of collegesto study other religions. A figure of the greatest importance in CatholicEurope, Ramon Llull devoted much of his life to missionary activity, the causeof his death in 1315. His short poem is recited to a characteristic musicalaccompaniment.

Ara lausatz, lausat, lausat is an anonymous work of bawdy suggestion fromthe Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses in Catalonia, its collegiate churchfounded in 887 by Count Wilfred the Hairy (el Velloso), whose daughterwas the first of the abbesses.

A native of Narbonne, where he was born about the year 1230, GuirautRiquier is regarded as the last of the troubadours. His 89 surviving poems canbe dated through frequent topical references and fall between the years 1254and 1292. He was in the service of Amalrich IV, Viscount of Narbonne, and thenof Alfonso X of Castile. In 1279 he entered the service of Henry II, Count ofRodez, and died at the turn of the century. 48 of the poems survive with theirmusic, an unusually large number. Humils, forfaitz, repres e penedens consistsof two eight-line stanzas with a final three-line envoi. Therhyme-scheme is ABBACCD, with the final three rhymes echoed in the envoi, matchedby the repeated melodic formula, with its ornamentation.

Bernart de Ventadorn was born in the castle of Ventadorn, in Limousin,between about 1130 and 1140 and was influenced by the example of Eble II andhis successor, both Viscounts of Ventadorn and proponents of the traditionalcourtly traditions of troubadour poetry. It appears, from various allusionselsewhere and from the usual surviving vida, the customary and sometimesimaginative biographical notice of the lives of troubadours, that he was theson of a baker or a foot-soldier. Whatever his origins, he left Ventadorn toenter the service of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who married the future Henry II ofEngland. He was later in the service of Raimon V, Count of Toulouse, and afterthe latter's death in 1194 is said to have entered a monastery in the Dordogne,where he died in the last decade of the century. 45 poems survive, with musicto eighteen of them. Quan vei la lauzeta mover is not only the mostfamous of Bernart de Ventadorn's songs, but among the most widely known introubadour repertoire, variously imitated and a possible influence on thenorthern French trouv?¿re
Disc: 1
Lanquan li jorn
1 Tant m'abelis
2 Domna, pos vos ay chausida (Instrumental)
3 Non puesc sofrir
4 Bujo (Instrumental)
5 Bel m'es qu'ieu chant
6 Cantaben els osells
7 Ai tal domna
8 Reis glorios
9 Ara lausatz, lausat, lausat
10 Humils forfaitz
11 Quan vei la lauzeta mover
12 Lanquan li jorn
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