Emmanuel Bonnardot (voice, vihuela d'arco), Raphael Boulay (voice), Pierre Hamon (recorders, bagpipes, pipe & tabor), Marco Horvat (voice, lute, fiddle), Brigitte Lesne (voice, harp), Pierre Boragno (bombarde, recorders, pipe & tabor), Gilles Rapin (slide trumpet, cornet), Michele Vandenbroucque (shawm, dulcian)
Recording date: February 1997 (Paris)
========= from the cover ==========
ARMES, AMOURS... It was with these words that Eustache Deschamps began his homage to the great poet Guillaume de Machaut who died in 1377 - for the themes of war and love were the very emblem of all that was seen as noble at the time.
In the late Middle Ages, love was still a source of inspiration for poets and musicians, who treated the subject either in the courtly rhetoric of earlier centuries (J'ay pris amours, Est-il merchy) or in saucy innuendo (Ho, ho, ho; Ce qu'on fait a quatimini).
At the same time, there were many compositions referrring directly to specific wars and contemporary political or religious events, or which reflect their impact. For instance, Helas, Olivier Basselin is a lament on the imprisonment of the Norman musician and poet of that name during the long war against the English which came to an end in 1453 (officially in 1475). The year 1453 was also that of the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, who were advancing into Europe. At the Burgundian court, the Order of the Golden Fleece was agitating for yet another crusade. Against such a background, the song L'homme armi became a symbol, and Morton used it in his rondeau in honour of 'Maistre Simon le Breton', the chaplain from Burgundy who had set off to war against the Turks.
The historical event that marked fifteenth century music more than any other was without doubt the Great Schism of 1378. Following in the footsteps of the earlier popes in Avignon and their cardinals, the new Roman papacy attracted musicians from the north of France and the southern parts of the Low Countries. Italy gradually became infused with a Flemish-Burgundian culture. The secular French music copied out in the peninsula around the years 1390-1420 is often derived from sources in the Low Countries. This is the case of both the Codex Reina (A l'arme, a l'arme), which originated in Venice, and Pit 568 (Or sus vous dormes trop). The latter, which was compiled in Lucca towards 1407 for a family of Florentine merchants, contains both French and Italian songs.
When the Council of Constance (1415) reunited the Church around a papacy established once and for all in Rome, the migration of musicians and the circulation of the musical repertory intensified as a result of the upsurge in trade between the northern and southern areas of Europe. Song-books from the late fifteenth century demonstrate the intense interest the Italians took in French polyphony. Songs were written throughout the peninsula, in manuscripts belonging to the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie in the large towns. An interesting example is the Mellon song-book (N'aray je jamais mieulx, Il serai / L'ome arme, Ce qu 'on fait a quatimini, Est-il merchy), which was compiled under the direction of the composer and theoretician Johannes Tinctoris as a wedding gift for Princess Beatrice of Aragon.
There is much common material in the Italian manuscripts and contemporary French song collections, such as the one from Dijon, and the same composers recur from manuscript to manuscript. Amongst these, Gilles Binchois (c. 1400-1460), one of the leading composers of his time, and the Englishman Robert Morton (c. 1430-c. 1476), spent most of their careers at the Burgundian court. Antoine Busnois (c.1430-1492), who was also at the Burgundian court from 1460 to 1467, proved himself to be a prolific and particularly inventive writer of songs. It is generally supposed that he studied in Tours with Johannes Ockeghem (c.1410-1497).
The fifteenth century opened a new period in the history of instrumental music. This was the time when the first great anthologies appeared using specific notation (the earliest keyboard piece in tablature, which has only survived in fragmentary form, dates from c.1325-1350).
The earliest great manuscript of polyphonic works in tablature, the Faenza Codex, contains arrangements of polyphonic vocal pieces and monodic dance tunes (Bel fiore). In this respect, it is representative of fifteenth- and even sixteenth-century instrumental practice.
A few decades later, the Lochamer Liederbuch extended and developed the Germano-Italian tradition of ornamentation on a tenor found earlier in the Codex Faenza (Mit ganczem Willen). Both this manuscript and the Buxheimer Orgelbuch provide examples of compositions by the famous Nuremberg organist and lutenist, Conrad Paumann (c.1410-1473). The Buxheimer Orgelbuch, the greatest collection of fifteenth-century arrangements for keyboard, was probably compiled by students and friends of Paumann, and bears witness to the fertile influence of European song on German organ-playing (J'ay pris amours).
Finally, the closing decades of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth produced a number of manuscripts, Italian in particular, containing polyphonic pieces without texts, clearly intended for performance by instrumental ensembles (Panciatichi 27, La spagna).
The sheer diversity of the programme on the present disc is a reflection of the wealth and the remarkable evolution of music over the period from roughly 1380 to 1500. Alongside enduring national traditions such as the carol in England, this era was bringing about 'the birth of European music.
-Veronique Lafargue K