Birth: ca. 1110 in Auvillar, France
Death: ca. 1150 in Auvillar, France
Genre: Vocal Music
Though Marcabru was a pivotal figure in the development of L'angue d'oc poetry and music, very little is known of his life. The few biographical tidbits that survive regarding this early Troubador tend either toward the anecdotal, or toward speculation based upon his writings, though documentary evidence of his employment does survive. The only information about his birth, for example, comes from two short and later literary biographies, or vidas, of him. They offer the information that his mother's name was Marcabruna, and that he was a foundling "left at the door of a rich man"; his first given name may or may not have been Panperdut (Lost Bread). They also give his native region as Gascony; some use of a Gascon dialect in Marcabru's poetry supports the second claim. He certainly entered the service of Guillame X, Duke of Aquitane, sometime before or around 1130. In this court, Marcabru enjoyed the patronage of the son of the very first Troubador, Guillaume IX; Guillaume X's artistic patronage of Marcabru and others set a precedent for the splendid later court of Eleanor of Aquitane. Marcabru claims to have known and studied with the Troubador Cercamon.
The remainder of Marcabru's musical career seems to involve a series of wanderings among patrons, and a return to Aquitane by perhaps 1145. Guillaume X died in 1137 on pilgrimage to Compostela, and around that time Marcabru began seeking other employment. At one time or another he served the courts of Peire de Gabaret, Viscount of Bearn, Afons Jordan, Count of Toulouse, and Alfonso VII of Leon. At least two of Marcabru's pieces, both crusading poems, may either be linked to Alfonso's attempts in the 1130s and early 1140s to reconquer Spain from the Moslems, or to the Second Crusade of 1148-1149. One other song makes reference to an 1149 battle in the ongoing Spanish reconquest. A prolific body of 39 other poems, three with music, survive from his hand, and a large number of later Troubador poets and musicians knew either his work or the man personally. Though his work was universally acclaimed by later writers, some castigate him personally for misogynist tendencies.
- Timothy Dickey (All Music Guide)