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'Cut to the Chace' - Medieval Rounds

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[Theme music]

Just about everyone knows the song “Row row row your boat.” It has a very simple melody and words, and it’s fun to sing as a round, with voices starting the song every time the previous voice gets to a certain word. European music of the middle ages had loads of rounds, some very simple, others incredibly complex. On this week’s program we’re going to hear medieval English, French, German and Italian equivalents of “Row row row your boat.” And you’ll be amazed at just how complicated the chase can actually be! Later, for our featured release, we’ll hear music of Machaut, from the Orlando Consort’s CD “Machaut: The Gentle Physician.”

[Let theme music run, fade at :59]

News Hole:

MUSIC TRACK
Miri it is: Songs and Instrumental Music from Medieval England
The Dufay Collective
Chandos (ASIN: B00118EWSQ)
T.20: Sumer is icumen in (4:38)

That was the famous round “Sumer is icumen in,” which we think of now as one of the Top Ten hits of the Middle Ages.” That version is from the Dufay Collective’s 1999 CD “Miri it is: Songs and Instrumental Music from Medieval England.  

Segment A:

Probably the single most celebrated piece of English medieval music is also one of the earliest examples of music in what is now called the major mode. It’s also the earliest example of a ground bass, that is, a lower line that repeats over and over; and it’s the earliest known piece to appear in a manuscript with both secular old English and sacred Latin words set to its melodies.

[START THE NEXT MUSIC HERE, let it run for about 5-6 seconds, then lower volume under voice]

MUSIC TRACK
Sumer is icumen in chants médiévaux anglais
Hilliard Ensemble
Harmonia Mundi France, 1985/ B01ABBQ8A8
Anonymous mid-C13
T. 11 Perspice Christicola (1:23)

. . . I’m speaking, of course, of “Sumer is icumen in,” but also its Latin version Perspice Christicola, dating from the thirteenth century. The upper melody is what we call a canon, or round, today, with each voice entering as the previous one gets to a certain point in the song, just like “Row row row your boat.” Underneath that a minimalist second melody is also sung as a round. It can be sung by four people, 2 on the bottom and two on the top but it can also be sung adding more people to the top line, just as “Row row” can.  Performed here by the Hilliard Ensemble with its sacred words, instead of a welcome to summer, the round speaks of the Crucifixion of Jesus.

[BRING MUSIC UP AND LET PLAY TO END]

 

The Hilliard Ensemble recorded both versions of this 13th-century round on their 1985 Harmonia Mundi France CD called, not too surprisingly, Sumer is icumen in: chants médiévaux anglais.

The “Sumer canon” is the first known of a very, very long tradition of rounds - in a moment we’ll talk about the medieval words used to describe these songs.  Some of them are even simpler than the “Sumer” canon, meant to be sung by pilgrims to pass the time on the long walk to, say, Compostela, when it was frowned upon to sing, say, secular songs of questionable taste. Here’s a very simple example taken from the 14th Century Libre Vermell, a book written, as it explains, quote, “because the pilgrims wish to dance and sing while they keep their watch at night in the church… and also in the light of day; and in the church no songs should be sung unless they are chaste and pious, for that reason these songs that appear here have been written. And these should be used modestly, and take care that no one who keeps watch in prayer and contemplation is disturbed."

MUSIC TRACK
Estel de mar
Ensemble Kantika
Christophorus, 2009 / B003G06VSG
anon
tr. 3 Laudemus Virginem (2:03) 

From the 2009 CD Estel de mar, the Ensemble Kantika sang the anonymous round Laudemus Virginem.

Rounds very quickly became a part of art music composed by professional musicians. Here’s an example dating from early 14th Century France-- a secular piece, possibly written by Denis le Grant, a composer who was also a bishop, and it is definitely not a song for amateurs!  The rapid singing and onomatopoeia in the text portray the hunt. You will hear imitations of hunting horns in the middle of the piece on words like "Hau" and "huop." The antiphonal trumpet-like sound is created through a musical technique called "hocketting" (which has the same root as the word “hiccupping,” and I think you’ll hear why). The canon form itself symbolizes the "chase" of the huntsmen after their prey, each voice literally chasing after the others, and the word “chace” became associated with voices singing in canon.

MUSIC TRACK
Philippe de Vitry and the Ars Nova
Orlando Consort
Amon Ra,1991 / B01GFYADVA
Denis le Grant?
Tr. 2 Se je chant (4:10) 

A piece entitled “Se je chant,” sung by the Orlando Consort on their very first recording, Philippe de Vitry and the Ars Nova, released in 1991 on the Amon Ra label.

We turn now to 14th Century Italy, where the Italian word for the chace is the caccia. Musically, the caccia, in the strict sense of the word, may be defined as a texted canon for upper voices, to which is added an untexted tenor. Textually, Italian cacce are typically descriptive pieces in dialogue, sometimes involving hunting scenes. The hunting scenes might be replaced by allegorical love songs, or by market or fishing scenes. Let’s hear an early 14th Century example by Ghirardello da Firenze. It might well remind you of the French piece we just heard: As soon as the dawn of the beautiful day appears, the text tells us, the hunters arise and off they go with the Italian version of the French hounds and horns looking for quail and deer.

MUSIC TRACK
Madrigali, cacce, ballate / Ghirardello da Firenze
Ensemble Modo Antiquo
Nuova Era Internazionale, 1992 / B000QZT00U
Gherardello da Firenze
Tr. 11 Tosto che ll’alba (3:49)

Drums and brass (and even a krummhorn) joined  a group of the hunters in Italy, as Modo Antiquo performed Tosto che ll’alba on their 1992 Nuova Era Internazionale disc Madrigali, cacce, ballate  / Ghirardello da Firenze.

Now let’s listen to what a very adept composer, Francesco Landini, can do with a caccia. His first voice begins singing solo; the second voice eventually echoes this melody at the octave below, then the third voice enters in an unusual disposition. Not only is this third voice singing in imitation NOT at the octave but at the fifth, but it’s completely canonic in its relation to the tenor. The ritornello, or the part that keeps coming back, is in a contrasting meter, and built upon a strict canon between all three voices. And all of this goes on beneath the surface of one of the Italian fixed poetic forms-- the madrigal! No hunting song, this!  Here the unknown poet addresses the poetic Other who, though traveling in rich array, appears cold as "pearls of gold."

MUSIC TRACK
A Laurel for Landini
Gothic Voices, Christopher Page
Avie, 2006 / B01L5KUVYS
Francesco Landini
Tr. 6 De, dimmi tu (2:11)

We heard Gothic Voices, directed by Christopher Page,  singing Dè, dimmi tu, drawn from their 2006 recording called A Laurel for Landini, on the Avie label.

Now let’s make a quick side-trip to Germany at around the same time,  for a visit with Oswald von Wolkenstein. He took a popular French chace for three equal voices in canon, titled Talent m'est pris, and gave it a new German text, Die minne füget niemand. Oswald is today considered one of the most important song authors of German literature in the Middle Ages. His text deals in a slightly cynical manner with the connection between eroticism and money: he who has no money, does not get anywhere with the women, and even the innkeeper insists upon payment. So the quote “poor fellow" calls for a drinking binge, then announces his intention to pounce on the young girl in the haystack. Hockets, yes, but clearly no hint of courtly love here!

MUSIC TRACK
Oswald von Wolkenstein
Ensemble für Frühe Musik Augsburg
Christophorus,1988 / B003FZZGE2
Oswald von Wolkenstein
Tr. 10 Die minne fueget niemand (1:49)       

The Ensemble für Frühe Musik Augsburg sang Die minne füget niemand on their 1988 recording Oswald von Wolkenstein.

Midpoint break: theme music

Your listening to Harmonia. I’m Angela Mariani.

Hard Break: (1:00)

MUSIC TRACK
Miri it is: Songs and Instrumental Music from Medieval England
The Dufay Collective
Chandos (ASIN: B00118EWSQ)
T.4: Edi beo thu (Estampie) (2:06--fade to fit :59)

Segment B 

Let us beat a hasty retreat from perhaps the boundary of good taste and travel back to France, to spend some time with the most important poet and composer of the 14th century, Guillaume de Machaut. Parenthetically, it’s worth musicians’ remembering that most of the manuscripts containing Machaut’s works contain poetry that is not set to music. Included in his works are 19 lais, spelled l-a-i-s, of which four contain polyphony. A lai is an extended poetic form whose stanzas are each in a different form, and therefore each one has different music. Machaut’s lais are a high point in the – by then – long history of the form. Rubrics in the manuscripts instruct us that in the Lai of the Fountain, only the even stanzas are to be sung as 3-voice canons. Let’s hear the first pair of the 12 stanzas. Each has a double-versicle form, so you’ll hear the same melody twice. This performance, recorded in 1972, is unmistakably the Studio der Fruhen Musik.

MUSIC TRACK
Chansons. Vol. 1
Studio der Fruhen Musik/ Binkley
EMI, 1989 /B07F2SZLSY
Guillaume Machaut
Tr. 8 and 9: Je ne cesse de prier; Et ou porrait en querir (1:52; 1:51) 

Re-released in 1989 by EMI, that was the Studio der Frühen Musik, directed by Thomas Binkley, performing the first two stanzas of Machaut’s Lay of the Fountain.

Machaut may have masterfully taken the lai into its final phase, but his successors still enjoyed the thrill of the chase. Jaquemin de Senleches composed a song called “La harpe de melodie,” in the rhythmically complex style of the ars subtilior, made even more complex by being written in one source on what appear to be the strings of a harp, using a unique notation that doesn’t employ the spaces between the nine lines. The singer is then instructed in a separate poem, wrapped around the front pillar of the harp, how to form a canon of two voices.

MUSIC TRACK
Ce diabolic chant
Medieval Ensemble of London
Éditions de L'Oiseau-Lyre, 1983 / B000Y9A7NW
Jaquemin de Senleches
Track 9 La harpe de melodie (3:40) 

I certainly would not like to have to write that rhythm down in notation, would you? The Medieval Ensemble of London makes Senleche’s La harpe de melodie sound easy, on their 1983 CD aptly named Ce diabolic chant.

Matteo da Perugia stands astride the turn of the fifteenth century. This free-standing Gloria is scored for tenor and two canonic cantus parts, indicated with the rubric ‘fuga,’ which now begins to replace “chace” in musical manuscripts. Not to be confused with “fugue,” the Latin fuga is related to both fugere: ‘to flee’ and fugare: "to chase."

MUSIC TRACK
Matheus de Perusio Matteo da Perugia Dammerung im Paradies
Huelgas Ensemble, Paul van Nevel
Sony,2007 / B0000029VL
Matteo da Perugia
Tr. 6 Gloria (2:09)

The Huelgas Ensemble, Paul van Nevel, Director, sang Matteo da Perugia’s Gloria on their 2007 Sony CD entitled—wait for it—Matheus de Perusio-Matteo da Perugia-Dammerung im Paradies.

Finally, a piece by Johannes Ciconia, a composer about whose life we are not at all certain, but whose motet style illustrates a distinctively north Italian tradition. With a canon in the top two voices, this motet joyfully, with maybe just a touch of obsequiousness, celebrates one Stefano, probably the Bishop of Padua, Stefano Carrara. Listen carefully to the end and you might hear the composer say, “Deign to receive me, Ciconia, (although I am unworthy)-- as a sign in your heart, for you are gracious. Amen.” Of course it’s sung in Latin, but “Ciconia” is the same in any language!

MUSIC TRACK
Sidus Praeclarum
Mala Punica/Memelsdorff
Errato,1998 /B000006Q27
Johannes Ciconia
Tr 2 O felix templum (3:05)       

The ensemble Mala Punica, directed by Pedro Memelsdorff, sang Johannes Ciconia’s O felix templum on the CD Sidus Praeclarum, released in 1998 by Errato.

[Start music – let it run for about 15 seconds, then fade and continue under voice track]

MUSIC TRACK
Machaut: The Gentle Physician
Orlando Consort
Hyperion, 2018 / B07FDMXLSP
Tr. 9: S'onques douleureusement, from the Lai de confort (excerpt)

The round that you hear in the background is by Guillaume de Machaut, part of the “Lai de Confort,” and is one of the works included on our featured release this week: the Orlando Consort’s Machaut, the Gentle Physician. Unfortunately we don’t have time to hear that whole 23-minute piece, so we’ll sample a couple of other Machaut compositions from the recording. The "gentle physician" referenced in the title is used poetically by Machaut as a metaphor for Hope, which soothes the sufferings endured by the unrequited passion of the medieval courtly lover.

An interesting object of debate in performance practice circles has to do with how instruments and voices may have been combined in this 14th-century repertoire. Here’s a beautiful motet by Machaut that has rarely been recorded with all three parts performed with voices. As with most motets in this era and style, the voices not only each sing a different melody, but also a different text. Between the two texts, we discover that the happy love lyric in one of them is a bit of a sham – his love is actually unrequited.  This is “Maugre mon cuer /De ma dolour / quia amore langueo.”

MUSIC TRACK
Machaut: The Gentle Physician
Orlando Consort
Hyperion, 2018 / B07FDMXLSP
Tr. 6: Maugre mon cuer /De ma dolour / quia amore langueo (2:27)

Maugre mon cuer /De ma dolour / quia amore langueo, a motet by Guillaume de Machaut, from the Orlando Consort’s recording “Machaut: The gentle physician.”

Machaut famously wrote a piece called “My end is my beginning,” so it seems appropriate to end this featured release section with the very first track on the recording, which is Machaut’s famous ballade “De fortune,” a lady’s lament about the ups and downs of Fortune.

MUSIC TRACKMachaut: The Gentle Physician
Orlando Consort
Hyperion, 2018 / B07FDMXLSP
Tr. 1: De fortune (4:58)

 

De fortune, a ballade by Guillaume de Machaut, from the Orlando Consort’s 2018 recording “Machaut: The Gentle Physician.”

More music, stories, history, recordings, and other information about the world of early music can be found on our Harmonia Early Music Podcasts, online at harmonia early music dot org and through iTunes. You’re listening to Harmonia.

Fade in theme as usual

Harmonia is a production of WFIU, and part of the educational mission of Indiana University. Additional resources come from the William and Gayle Cook Music Library at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

We welcome your thoughts about any part of this program, or about early music in general. You can leave a comment or question any time by visiting harmonia early music dot org and clicking on "Contact."

The writer for this edition of Harmonia was Wendy Gillespie.

Thanks to our studio engineer Michael Paskash and our staff – Wendy Gillespie and LuAnn Johnson. Additional technical support comes from KTTZ at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

Our producer is Elizabeth Clark, our executive producer is John Bailey, and I’m Angela Mariani, inviting you to join us again for the next edition of Harmonia.

[Theme music finishes]

Just about everyone knows the song “Row row row your boat.” It has a very simple melody and words, and it’s fun to sing as a round, with voices starting the song every time the previous voice gets to a certain word. European music of the middle ages had loads of rounds, some very simple, others incredibly complex. On this week’s program we’re going to hear medieval English, French, German and Italian equivalents of “Row row row your boat.” And you’ll be amazed at just how complicated the chase can actually be!

Later, for our featured release, we’ll hear music of Machaut, from the Orlando Consort’s CD Machaut: The Gentle Physician.

PLAYLIST

News Hole:
Miri it is: Songs and Instrumental Music from Medieval England
The Dufay Collective
Chandos (ASIN: B00118EWSQ)
T.20: Sumer is icumen in (4:38)

Segment A:
Sumer is icumen in chants médiévaux anglais
Hilliard Ensemble
Harmonia Mundi France, 1985/ B01ABBQ8A8
Anonymous mid-C13
T. 11 Perspice Christicola (1:23)

Estel de mar
Ensemble Kantika
Christophorus, 2009 / B003G06VSG
anon
tr. 3 Laudemus Virginem (2:03)

Philippe de Vitry and the Ars Nova
Orlando Consort
Amon Ra,1991 / B01GFYADVA
Denis le Grant?
Tr. 2 Se je chant (4:10)

Madrigali, cacce, ballate / Ghirardello da Firenze
Ensemble Modo Antiquo
Nuova Era Internazionale, 1992 / B000QZT00U
Gherardello da Firenze
Tr. 11 Tosto che ll’alba (3:49)

A Laurel for Landini
Gothic Voices, Christopher Page
Avie, 2006 / B01L5KUVYS
Francesco Landini
Tr. 6 De, dimmi tu (2:11)

Oswald von Wolkenstein
Ensemble für Frühe Musik Augsburg
Christophorus,1988 / B003FZZGE2
Oswald von Wolkenstein
Tr. 10 Die minne fueget niemand (1:49)

Theme Music Bed: Ensemble Alcatraz, Danse Royale, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 [ASIN: B000005J0B], T.12: La Prime Estampie Royal

:59 Midpoint Break Music Bed: Miri it is: Songs and Instrumental Music from Medieval England, The Dufay Collective, Chandos, Tr. 4 Edi beo thu (Estampie)

Segment B:
Chansons. Vol. 1
Studio der Fruhen Musik/ Binkley
EMI, 1989 /B07F2SZLSY
Guillaume Machaut
Tr. 8 and 9: Je ne cesse de prier; Et ou porrait en querir (1:52; 1:51)

Ce diabolic chant
Medieval Ensemble of London
Éditions de L'Oiseau-Lyre, 1983 / B000Y9A7NW
Jaquemin de Senleches
Track 9 La harpe de melodie (3:40)

Matheus de Perusio Matteo da Perugia Dammerung im Paradies
Huelgas Ensemble, Paul van Nevel
Sony,2007 / B0000029VL
Matteo da Perugia
Tr. 6 Gloria (2:09)

Sidus Praeclarum
Mala Punica/Memelsdorff
Errato,1998 /B000006Q27
Johannes Ciconia
Tr 2 O felix templum (3:05)

Featured Release:
Machaut: The Gentle Physician
Orlando Consort
Hyperion, 2018 / B07FDMXLSP
Tr. 9: S'onques douleureusement, from the Lai de confort
Tr. 6: Maugre mon cuer /De ma dolour / quia amore langueo (2:27)
Tr. 1: De fortune (4:58)

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