Performers: Catherine Joussellin (voice, fiddle, percussion), Brigitte Lesne (voice, harp, percussion), Emmanuel Bonnardot (voice, fiddle, rebec), Pierre Hamon (bagpipes, recorders, flute, percussion)
Recording date: April 1991
========= from the cover ==========
Cantar alia francesca
In Boccacio's Decameron, each day begins and ends to music. The terminology used to describe the musical activities of young Florentines was declined around two main words, canzona and ballata; but there was also conjugation of the verbs cantare (to sing) and sonare (to play an instrument). Today, it is often difficult to say exactly what was sung and what was played, but a few suggestions can be put forward in the light of contemporary musical sources and even of Boccacio's own writings (the ballata Non so qual i mi voglia). Three musical genres are to be found in the codex Rossi, the oldest one (c. 1430-1440), i.e. the madrigale, the caccia and the ballata. Most of the thirty-seven pieces in the collection are polyphonic madrigals, such as Dal bet castel for two voices, a typical example of narrative style and of the metrical oppositions which underline the final ritornello.
The caccia, whose style is somewhat similar, has an added descriptive dimension which is achieved not only via the writing for the two upper voices- unlike the French chace- but also through the verbal play tending towards onomatopoeia and imitation (for example, in Maestro Piero's Or qua compagni).
In Jacopo da Bologna's triple madrigale (Aquila altera from the codex Palatino), the genre is exceptionally elaborate, both poetically and musically; the polytextuality shows French influence (in the manner of Machaut's triple ballade), and the general tone of the emblematic text is elevated.
The few ballate in the codex Rossi are all monodic. As their name suggests, they are intended for dancing, whether played-as here, for example, in De poni amor, in the manner of Tindaro in the Decameron "al suono della cornamusa" (to the sound of the bagpipes), or sung, where they were a sort of canzona a hallo: "a la sixiesme journec...ils trouverent les dames qui dancoient une dance au chant de Madame Fiamette" (French translation by Le Macon 1545: "On the sixth day... they found the ladies who were dancing a dance to the singing of Madame Fiametta").
The poetic and musical form of the ballata (Ripresa a; Piedi bb; Volta a and Ripresa a) is reminiscent of another form of dancing song, the French virelai. It is doubtless significant that in certain sources, the musical section of the piedi bears the comment "andare" (walk). The idea of dance was in any case still a reality at the time of Francesco Landini towards 1380-1390, even though the poetically more personal and polyphonically more elaborate ballata (two or three voices) had completely supplanted the madrigal in Florentine musical taste, in Il Paradiso degli Alberti by Giovanni da Prato (c. 1390), when there is a pause in the philosophic discussions, "to the great pleasure of all and especially of Francesco (Landini), two young girls danced and sang his (ballata) Orsun gentili spiriti in such sweet fashion that all present were deeply moved and even the birds began to sing more sweetly in the trees".
In the famous codex Squarcialupi, which contains all the ballate of the "divino" Francesco, the polyphony for two or three voices is presented in various settings, providing evidence in all probability of the existence of several manners of performing pieces which belonged to the vocal repertory but which "wcrc suitable for instruments". Alongside entirely vocal polyphonic pieces (for three voices, such as Si dolce non sono, or for two voices such as Ecco la primavera), there are also examples of typical French song with the cantus accompanied by two instrumental lines (e.g. the ballata Gram plant' agli occhi and the virelai Adiu, adiu dous dame)-one indication amongst others of French influence which is also to be found in the metre (triple time being looked upon as French), in the notation techniques and even the isorhythmics of the tenor in Si dolce non sono.
The fact is that French culture, associated with the trade links with Bruges and Avignon, was one of the dominant features of the Florentine Trecento in its closing stages. This blending of the two cultures of the Ars Nova was already musically perceptible even before Landini, witness the pun "cantar all francesca" (to Franchise and/or in the French manner) in the anonymous ballata from the codex Rossi (Amor mi fa cantar alia francesca), performed here on instruments. The famous blind organist, Landini, did no more than bring the process to its final fulfilment, both from the ethical and technical points of view: whatever the rhythm, perfect or imperfect, more often than not it was the French notation that was used for writing down his works.
- Jean-Pierre Ouvrard (translated by John Sidgwick)