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Briefly Noted: Troubadour Songs

available at Amazon
Nuits Occitanes, Ensemble Céladon, P. Bündgen

(released on May 27, 2014)
Ricercar RIC340 | 68'25"
The troubadour repertory, like Gregorian chant, is open to many different rhythmic interpretations because the notation in which it is recorded is mostly not precise in that area. All kinds of performances can work, unaccompanied or with instruments, rhythmically free with each note more or less equal or in metrical patterns. Except for a relatively small percentage of troubadour melodies, it is impossible to know what, if any, melody went with the poetry that was often written down without music notated. This new recording, made by the Ensemble Céladon, skirts around the issue: the booklet essay mentions that in some cases it is necessary to match another text's melody to a similar text "or, in the worst possible scenario, to create new ones based on the style of the surviving pieces."

The performances recorded here remind me of one of the classic recordings of the music of the trouvères, the descendants of the troubadours, recorded by Sequentia (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, 1991). The two voices, countertenor Paulin Bündgen and soprano Clara Coutouly, are both attractive and not overdone in any way. A quartet of musicians on a range of instruments (fiddle, lute, recorders, percussion) provides a completely fabricated but entirely plausible accompaniment, while the application of some simple types of organum, easily improvised, yields intriguing results as well. Two of the more beautiful poems are attributed to Bertran de Born, punished with the schismatics in the eighth circle of Dante's Inferno for his role in splitting apart the sons of King Henry II of England, and to one of the few female authors of troubadour poetry, Beatriz de Dia, the wife of Guillaume de Poitiers.

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