========= from the cover ==========
Tempio dell'Onore e delle Vertu
This cd, which contains an anthology of chansons by Guillaume Dufay dated between 1415 and 1435, including in particular all of Dufay's secular compositions with Italian texts, was recorded at the church in Colletto, on the hill outside the city of Pinerolo. Since the foundation of our group we have always had connections with this area: several of us were either born or currently live nearby Which is why we take pleasure in recalling that the music of Guillaume Dufay rang out here six hundred years ago, thanks to the author himself The nowadays most oft-cited historical event about Pinerolo occurred in the 17th century, when under the French occupation (1630-1696) the entire city was turned into a fortress and gained notoriety as a state prison. It was here that in 1665 the musketeer D'Artagnan kept guard over the former minister Fouquet (who died here in 1680), and not long after that the mysterious figure known as The Man in the Iron Mask' was imprisoned here until 1681.
But at other times in history Pinerolo was a genuine capital city Founded prior to the nth century, in 1243 it fell under the rule of the Counts of Savoy In the 14th century the House of Savoy split into two separate lines, one on either side of the Alps. With the marriage of Philip of Savoy to a descendant of a crusader knight, the line on the Italian side adopted the title of Princes of Acaia and turned Pinerolo into the capital of its principality. The city's finest monuments - the cathedral, senate and palace of the Princes of Acaia - date to this period. Following the extinction of the Acaia line in 1418, Pinerolo gradually lost its central role on the Italian side of the duchy, but for the whole of the 15th century it remained one of the seats of the ducal court, and between 1438 and 1439 Ludovic of Savoy and his consort Anna di Lusignano, sister to the king of Cyprus and a woman of legendary beauty, wintered at Pinerolo.
The Savoys, who had been granted ducal rank twenty years earlier as a means of mitigating the enormous power of the neighbouring Duchy of Burgundy, were rapidly gaining prominence on the European political scene. It was against this background of events that they chose the most sought-after musician of the period (coincidentally from Burgundy...) to serve as their maestro di cappella (1434), and so it was that that winter Guillaume Dufay found himself in Pinerolo. At that time the Savoys' chapel was one of the finest in Europe, in terms both of the number and type of singers and instrumentalists (the latter included an organist and a trumpet player).
Indeed, the presence of Europe's greatest musician in Pinerolo during its golden age should perhaps be remembered in the city with greater pride and resonance than the sojourn two centuries later of the mysterious figure imprisoned by the King of France. As it is, Alexander Dumas wrote reams about the history of the latter while references to the presence of Dufay amount to nothing more than a few lines buried in the archives.
It was Stanislao Cordero di Pamparato, himself from Piedmont, who first discovered evidence of Dufay's sojourn in documents relating to the Court of Savoy. Cordero's findings, published in 1925, were crucial to the reconstruction of a hitherto obscure period in the life of Dufay, whose appointments and transfers closely match the complicated political events of the first half of the 15th century Despite his appointment to the Court of Savoy, until 1437 Dufay continued to figure in the papal chapel records. Indeed, he abandoned his role there just in time to avoid being simultaneously in the service of Pope Eugene iv and the antipope Felix v (alias Amadeus viii, First Duke of Savoy and father of Ludovic). However, the considerable benefits and prebends that he continued to enjoy were provided partly by the Pope and partly by the Savoys, and, perhaps to avoid compromising his position, at the end of 1439 he went back to Cambrai. He returned to Savoy in 1450, immediately after the reparation of the schism in the Western Church.
In the same documents, Cordero di Pamparato also came upon a reference to an opera staged in Pinerolo in the presence of the dukes for the carnival of 1439. It was entitled Tempio dell'Onore e delle Vertu and was clearly a moralite, a type of allegorical, edifying theatrical performance fashionable at the time. Although no specific evidence has been found of Dufay's possible participation in this, Cordero suggests that his role at the court is itself evidence. We have included this suggestion here not as an attempt to reconstruct a (hypothetical) musical involvement in the event, which would be impossible, but because the association with the title Tempio dell'Onore e delle Vertu sheds new light on Dufay's secular work prior to 1440.
At first sight, the fact that a moralite with this title should have been performed precisely at carnival time would appear to be yet another piece of evidence of the moralist vein that is so prominent in the history of the House of Savoy. Especially when one's idea of carnival in the late Middle Ages is inspired by texts such as La bataille de Caresme et de Charnage and Le fabliau de Cocagne.
On the other hand, the vast corpus of chansons from the 14th and 15th centuries, dominated by the ballade and rondeau genres, is devoted almost exclusively to conventional love themes: the praise of beauty and grace (which Dufay also exalts in Lalta bellezza tua, La dolce vista, Mon cuer me fait), the despair and sadness provoked by unrequited love (Passato e il tempo omai,Je me complains piteusement). The Italian Ars Nova also contains themes associated with hunting and pastoral genres. In addition to these, there are a few 'topical' political themes (perhaps mainly to be found in 'folk' cbansonniers, the works of which have not survived). There are no strictly 'moral' themes. Even the concept of'fidelity' (in love) is perceived as asymmetric and totally devoid of moral significance: on the one hand we have the (promised) fidelity of the poet/singer (who, moreover, traditionally addresses the wife of another), and on the other the infidelity of the woman beloved (but cruelty and betrayal nearly always consist of nothing more than rejection by the lady in question, also represented by the allegorical figures of Refus and Dangier). The songs dedicated to May Day, until the 12th century the quintessential autonomous genre (an example of which is Entre vous, gentils amoureux), exalt the triumph of courtly gallantry over conjugal fidelity, and invariably include an invective directed at the jaloux and envieux (i.e. the husbands).
Given these themes, can there be any connection between the chansons and the Tempio dell'Onore e delle Vertu} And yet, chansons undoubtedly featured in moralite's. 'Sur la scene, dans les mysteres, dans les moralites, dans les farces surtout, les parodies, les imitations de chansons connues sont frequented wrote G. Thibaut, who linked the many occasions of use, even theatrical use, with the widely documented adaptations of the numerous chansons based on poetic texts different from the original. One of the works he cites is Dufay's rondeau entitled Craindre vousvueil, adapted to Italian as Quel fronte signorile inparadiso (and to Latin as Bone Pastor, panis vere).
As such, in the theatre, instead of using an autonomous musical production, the text of an existing chanson was often adapted to the specific themes and context of the show in question. This was particularly the case when the theme was of a moral nature or a sacred performance (mystere) was being staged. However, even the latter would contain songs based on love or frivolous themes, used to underline (at times, negatively) the nature of a character. It was important to use a well-known repertoire, regardless of whether it was the original or a parody.
Therefore, Cordero di Pamparato's hypothesis about Dufay's presence at the Pinerolo carnival of 1439 suggests us to pay closer attention to the pieces showing a departure from the traditional cliche of the love ballades in the secular works, or revealing the kind of transformations a piece of music could undergo depending on the occasion for which it was used.
By this we are in no way suggesting that the appearance in Dufay's chansons of certain themes or successive rewritings is necessarily connected to their theatrical use. In fact, even in its choice of poetic themes, Dufay's work contains elements of originality that are immediately obvious, as well as the conventional motifs that we have already noted. There are, in particular, signs of an evolution from the literary image of love as something strictly confined to the emotional sphere and lacking all moral dimension (except for the stilnovista idealisation that regards human love as a reflection of divine love, and, if correctly bestowed, potentially redeeming, as in Donna, i ardentiray, Qyel fronte signorile, Donna gentile), to the humanistic concept that values human relations not only in connection with religious morality but also with virtu civili. In fact, friendship, loyalty and grief shared are all themes that also crop up in Dufay's work (Mon chier ami is written in an epistolary style subsequently much admired by the humanists). Moreover, for the first time, Petrarch's poem Vergine bella was put to music (the only precedent of a musical piece based on a work by Petrarch is Jacopo da Bologna's Non alsuo amante).
It is, therefore, Dufay's work itself that suggests that the title Tempio dell'Onore e delle Vertu might well be interpreted from a perspective not too far removed from the emerging humanist philosophy. As a matter of fact, the 'Temple of Honour and Virtues' existed as a real building in ancient Rome, on the via Appia.
An example of an unusual theme can be found in the ballade Invidia nimica. The first line, Invidia nimica di ciascun virtuoso, evokes the incipit of Petrarch's sonnet O invidia nimica di vertute, and it is difficult to imagine that this is mere coincidence. But whereas with Petrarch envy is something that penetrates the heart of the woman beloved (troppo felice amante mi mostrasti /a quella che' miei preghi humili et casti / gradi alcun tempo, or par ch'odi et refute), Dufay's musical text is all about the envy that causes victims in the life of the court. It is a genuine moral invective, and may well have a precedent in the ballade by Andrea da Firenze:
Dal traditor non si pub I'uom guardare / che mostri buonafaccia/con sagacicostumiefalsa traccia. (...)
Simile a Giuda un traditor cotale /pien d'infinita laccia /' trudito m'ha con dimostrar bonaccia. (...}
Similarly, Dufay's ballade contains a reference to the author himself as a (potential) victim of the envy of others:
O Dio, per tuapotenza /Dal mio grasso stato Se son cacciato senza /Aver mal operato, frbn seguiro mai cato / Di questo seporazzo Di ferro pungemzzo / Chipunto m'ha d'ortica.
These lines highlight how difficult it often is to arrive at a correct interpretation of these texts. What is the meaning of cato and seporazzo? The (rare) future form that appears in the penultimate line (pungerazzo instead of pungerd) actually suggests that the previous line should be read as se porazzo, that is, sepotrb. The text becomes perfectly comprehensible when one bears in mind that the moral maxims most frequently used in the Quattrocento were precisely those contained in an anonymous anthology from either the 3rd or 4th century, known throughout Europe by the title Dicta Catonis (or Disticha Catonis), but in Italy simply as /'/ Cato. The correct reading is therefore,
Non seguiro mai Cato, / di questo: seporazzo di ferro pungemzzo / chi punto m'ha d'ortica.
meaning,'/// am a victim of the envy of others, I shall not take up the proverbial invitations to resigp myself: if I can, I shall defend my honour with all my strength \ Who wrote these words? Do they refer to a specific event? We shall never know, but this invective would certainly not be out of place in a theatrical performance. French literature of Dufay's time (and surely the moralites) often featured a similar allegoric character: Malebouche, the Slander.
Another text that merits comment is La belle se siet. Throughout Northern Italy it is still common for generations to be taught (in the various dialects) traditional songs in which a young girl asks to die and be buried next to her beloved, and for the tomb to be covered with flowers to remind passers-by of the events that befell her. The story is known as Bor di tomba. In the 20th century, during the War of Liberation, the same theme featured in the famous partisan song Bella ciao. Similarly, in France people have sung for centuries about the story of Pernette, who refuses to marry sons of princes and other suitors, and asks instead to be hung with her beloved Pierre and then buried next to him on the Way of St James for all the pilgrims to see the flowers on her tomb and pity her fate.
The origin of all of this is held to lie in a traditional song, popular on both sides of the Alps, whose melody may well have been used by Dufay in the tenor line of the chanson. However, the element that subsequently became the distinguishing feature of the story, flowers on the tomb, is curiously absent from Dufay's chanson (the association between flowers and burial would have been fairly uncommon in the 15th century). And yet the transformations that the song has undergone over the generations are patently evident: in France it forms part of the traditional repertoire sung by pilgrims making the journey to Santiago de Compostela, and in Italy there are versions of the fior di tomba theme that make no mention of a death sentence (the loved one dies by accident, through illness or as the result of non-specified causes). Indeed, in his anthology of traditional songs (1888), Costantino Nigra points out that the version of Eor di tomba in which the beloved is a condemned prisoner exists only in Piedmont.
What could have induced Dufay to clothe the story of an unfortunate young girl in a counterpoint for two voices characterised by rare formulas - five or six syllables in the same repeated note; key words each repeated three times consecutively (fnari, pendu, les gens) - not to be found in any of his other compositions and not even derived from traditional melodies? It is as if he were consciously experimenting with a new genre. This example of love that accepts not only death but also the disgrace of the gallows as proof to the world of its loyalty (and which could also be interpreted as a profoundly Christian symbol) has nothing in common with the conventional motif of the poet/singer mortally (almost) racked with pain at the rejection of his loved one, a theme that crops up time and again in the chansons throughout the whole of the 16th century (and which reappears in Ma belle dame souverainne).
By contrast, another composition by Dufay seems to introduce a genre subsequently used extensively. The piece is Navrejesuid'un dart penetratif, and while the metaphor of the beloved lady's gaze piercing the poet like an arrow is not new, Dufay presents it here as a fanfare in exaltation of the similarity between amorous conquests and warfare. Years later Dufay developed this similarity further in Donnes I assault a lafortresse, and subsequently it was also explored by prominent composers up to Monteverdi's Madrtgali Guerrieri etAmorosi.
Turning our attention to his ballade Se la face ay pale, this must have been very popular in its time. Dufay composed it during his early years as a member of Ludovic's entourage and then used the tenor line as the cantus firmus for a mass probably written for the wedding of Ludovic's son, the future Duke Amadeus ix, and Princess Yolande of France. The text is unique amongst Dufay's other compositions in that it is made up of a succession oiequivoci, a term (literally meaning 'equal sound') used to designate a play on words - exceptionally popular in France - based on homophones, words pronounced the same but differing in meaning. For this ballade there is a version for three voices (with sometimes frequent variations between the different manuscripts), and a stylistically subsequent arrangement for four voices that is probably not the work of Dufay We found it worth wile to include the different settings in the recording, but it would have been pedantic to separately perform each version, and we have therefore used in sequence, for the various stanzas, three different versions of the countertenor line in the three-voice setting, and finally the version for four voices.
It is difficult to comment on Vergene bella. This piece does not fit easily with any of the formal categories used to classify the rest of Dufay's work (and even transcends the distinction between sacred and secular music). This is also why it is entirely up to the performers to resolve the numerous problems in terms of execution, beginning with the choice between the instrumental or vocal representation of the three voices. In the manuscripts, only the cantus includes the whole of the first stanza of Petrarch's song, but the tenor line includes two lines used as a narrow imitative counterpoint (Chi la chiamb con fede: Vergene, s'a mercede), and then, later on, in both the tenor and countertenor, Soccorri alia mia guerra. Few are of the opinion that all three parts should be sung, and there are those who believe that the fragments of text indicated in the other voices are simply references for the instrumentalists. As is the case in many of Dufay's compositions, the cantus itself includes sections without any text, suggesting that these were intended for instrumental execution. To explain all of this, no-one better than Massimo Mila:
'Van den Borren and Besseler are certain that the tenor and countertenor lines are instrumental (...} The situation is probably as follows: the cantus is a continuity of the melodic discourse and totally predominant with regard to the other two voices. In any case, especially where the cantus is given over to vocalisations, these merely provide passive accompaniment, hi other places, however, such as at the beginning, and in the words Soccorri alia mia guerra, the three parts follow on one from the other in a genuine play of imitations or musical canon, the effectiveness of which is diminished by the subordination of the timbre of the two instruments. (...} there is a strong temptation to consider an exclusively vocal execution, at least for these passages (let us not forget that Haberl transcribed Vergene bella as a composition for three real voices). However, in truth one cannot but recognise the fact that there are apparently insuperable problems in performing most of the other passages in this way The hypothesis of an alternate execution, three voices in certain places and one voice with instruments in others, has a similar precedent in certain passages of the great Florentine motet Nuper rosarum/lores.'
It is astonishing that Mila (1910-1988), a Piedmontese musicologist who devoted his career to the study of chapters of the history of music fairly far removed from the 15th century (indeed, his work on Dufay is the only example from this period), should have developed this intuition merely from studying the score. He was certainly unable to verify the validity of his hypothesis for in those days the opportunities for hearing music of this type were fairly rare. And yet, we are convinced that Mila was right, and that the introduction of a second and third voice solely at the points indicated in the manuscript is not only reasonable but totally consistent with this extraordinarily expressive piece. If there is a passage where a departure from the safety of the (few) documented certainties is justified in favour of instinct, then this is it. Besides, the instrumental sections of the cantus are not simply an intermezzo or ritornello: they are an integrated part of the melodic discourse, and seem intended to connect rather than separate. The alternation in this piece between voices and instruments is neither schematic nor predictable, and there are numerous possible ways of performing it. Dufay was praised by his contemporaries for his use of the principle of varietas and for his skill in constructing relationships and proportions. Prior to the 16th century, only Dufay dared to tackle this text by Petrarch, and he did so with a continually varying musical writing. The task of the performer is to convey as much of this excellence as possible, without fragmenting its overall coherence and inspirational unity.
- Guido Magnano & Giuseppe Maletto