Brigitte Lesne (voice, medieval harp, gothic harp, percussions), Pierre Hamon (recorders, tranverse flute, bansuri, double flute, pipe & tabor, bagpipe), Carlo Rizzo (tammorra, tamburello, tambourines, voice)
Recording site and date:
Church of Bon Secours, Paris, France [06/2007]
Priory of Froville, France [06/2008];
If you attend some concerts of medieval music or take a course covering the music of the period, you will encounter pieces by singers known as troubadours or trouveres, depending on where in France they came from, or minnesingers, if from German-speaking lands. But Europe was more linguistically diverse 6-700 years ago than it is today, and medieval songs from a variety of places, some in languages no longer spoken, have come down to the present day, perhaps by oral transmission, perhaps collected by scholars or other observers, perhaps notated in a few cases. Performers are beginning to rediscover songs, especially from around the Mediterranean region, with special emphasis thus far on the tricultural heritage of the Spanish golden age. This collection by the French group Alla Francesca includes Sephardic Jewish pieces from Iberia, as well as a few troubadour songs by the Countess of Die and other anonymous creators. But it includes a group of songs from along Italy's west coast, from Naples to Tuscany, in what would now be called dialects of Italian but weren't thought of that way at the time. Several themes were common across the repertory: songs on some variation of courtly love, cradle songs, Marian pieces, and what might be called songs of a knight errant. There are also several instrumental dances of the kind that appear on many medieval discs. All the texts are given in their original languages, French and English, and a brief introduction to the music in the latter two languages is also included. Alla Francesca is a trio of scholar-singers, accompanying themselves on harps, winds, and percussion; compared with the heavily Arabic-influenced sounds coming out of Spain or even with the medieval recordings of Jordi Savall's groups, these are rather sedate interpretations, pleasant but lacking a sense of the distinct cultural flavors stressed in the booklet notes. The disc is a welcome addition, however, to the sparse set of recordings exploring this legacy.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Ever since antiquity, the shores of the Mediterranean have assembled men and women who share a cultural heritage with multiple resonances. Languages and music have survived the din of the wars that long opposed these peoples who constantly resorted to arms to conquer land, trade, power in short, from ancient times to modern, from east to west and north to south. Music, with its sounds and its rhythms, has traversed space and time, using the words of various languages to transmit every aspect of the everyday or extraordinary lives of these men and women from the shores of the Mediterranean. Most of the time, their music bears witness to an essentially oral type of transmission down the centuries, with a song simply passing from one language to another while retaining its melodic line, sometimes changing rhythm or modifying an expression the better to suit the sensibility of the singer-adaptor. The majority of the pieces presented here only became accessible thanks to the painstaking work of scholars who rediscovered them in manuscripts of the thirteenth century, for the oldest music here, or after they were collected by ethnomusicologists in the case of the traditional songs. The languages employed show the extraordinary variety of the Romance languages, each of them showing the vernacular evolution of Latin specific to each territorial parcel of the former Roman Empire, from Castilian to Occitan, from Florentine to Neapolitan. Religious history also left many traces on this eminently popular repertory, whether through the gradual process of Christianisation or through Jewish population movements around the Mediterranean basin. As a bearer of messages - notably the most powerful of cultural messages, language, religion, memory - the singing voice played its role as a stabilising bond of identity.
One finds in this repertory many songs of women, cradling little children, including the baby Jesus, or in Judeo-Spanish milieux relating the birth of Moses. The dance is not forgotten, given rhythmic punctuation by stamping feet (estampies) supported by percussion. The love-song set amid blossoming nature, where the girl is compared to the loveliest of flowers, is attested in all repertories, while humour peeps through here and there to add a light touch to the context of seduction. A most learned lady from a courtly milieu, the Countess of Die, slips her amorous plaint into this concert of anonymous creators. The theme of the Passion of Christ is used with great skill to depict the Virgin's sorrow and the devotion to the Mother of God of those who know they are sinners, weaving a tapestry of history and legend encompassing both popular and art music.
The programme assembled here allow us to recreate a link with the men and women, near or distant - in space or time - who composed these pieces, sometimes without even leaving a name behind, or merely sang them. They say something about their loves, their faith, sometimes their fears, in any case their wisdom and their appetite for life. In so doing, they allow us to glimpse their intimate existence.
The soloist voices create links and contrasts enhanced by the use of early instruments and others more readily associated with the traditional repertory to produce a lively, colourful whole that sets the imagination vibrating.
- Genevieve Brunel-Lobrichon (Universite de Paris-Sorbonne Paris IV)