Photo: Eric Ashley
Titled Fleur de Valeur: a medieval bouquet, a 2013 Bridge Records release from the ensemble Trefoil presents a program that centers on the symbolism of flowers in the music and poetry of the Middle Ages. The disc gathers together mostly 13th and 14th century trouvère songs, chansons and motets by Ciconia, Dunstable, Dufay, Binchois and others, interpreted by the performers of Trefoil with subtlety, blend and nuance. All three singers of Trefoil—Drew Minter, Mark Rimple and Marcia Young—also play a variety of string and plucked instruments in some of the tracks. This lends lots of interest and color to a genre of music which can sometimes seem unfamiliar or inaccessible to many of today’s listeners.
The rose takes a central place in many medieval texts both as an emblem of the Virgin Mary and Divine beauty, and then by extension, as imagery for human love and desire.
In a Cantiga by Alfonso the X the singer pledges to be Mary’s own troubadour in place of all other loves.
In other poetic traditions, the Marguerite, or Daisy, is the flower of flowers….Described as one who chases the sun, the daisy is sometimes associated with the son-god, Apollo. Gilles Binchois describes the daisy as “sovereign over all other blossoms” in his Margarite fleur de valeur.
There aren’t very many examples of purely instrumental from the 13th and 14th centuries. But poetry and depictions in art do offer evidence of instruments in ensemble playing together. The members of Trefoil present instrumental arrangements performed on lute, citole, and harps.