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De la Rue: Chansons from the Album of Marguerite of Austria

Corvina Consort
Dir.: Zoltán Kalmanovits

rec: Sep 6 - 10, 2000, Studio Hungaroton
Hungaroton - HCD32018 (73'30")

Autant en emporte le vent kl; A vous non autre cde; Ce n'est pas jeu ade; Cueurs desolez - Dies illa abcde; De l'oeil de la fille du roy acde; Fraw Margretsen Lied - Pour ung jamais fhikl; Il est bien heureux dfghk; Il viendra le jour désiré aegik; Pour ce que je suis deghk; Pour ung jamais ehl; Pourquoy non cde; Pourquoy tant me fault il attendre adgik; Secretz regretz fhikl; Tous les regretz dghj; Tous nobles cuers fkl; Trop plus secret adgjk

Agnes Pintér, soprano (a), harp (l); Balász Draskóczy, tenor (b), tenor rebec (i), bass rebec (j); Károly Pászti, tenor (c), recorder (f); Zoltán Kalmanovits, baritone (d); András Demjén, bass (e); Lídia Draskóczy, fiddle (g); Eszter Draskóczy, rebec (h); Miklós Budai, lute (k)

Marguerite of Austria lived from 1480 to 1530. From 1507 until her death she acted as governor of the Low Countries. Her court in Malines was not only a centre of political power, but a cultural centre as well. She herself was well educated, spoke several languages, wrote poetry, painted and played the clavichord. During her reign many writers and artists visited the court. Music had a special place at the court, to a large extent because of the dominance of 'Netherlandish' (or Franco-Flemish) musicians and composers in Europe. Marguerite left a couple of books with music, generally known as her 'chanson albums'. These contain some sacred pieces, but mainly secular works by composers like Josquin Desprez, Alexander Agricola, Gaspar van Weerbeke, Heinrich Isaac, Jacob Obrecht and Pierre de la Rue.
De la Rue was a famous composer in his time. Having spent some time in Italy he returned to his native Flanders, where he became Marguerite's favourite composer. Therefore it is no coincidence that his chansons are well represented in Marguerite's chanson albums.
As far as I know never before a recording has been exclusively devoted to Pierre de la Rue's secular works. That makes this recording more than welcome. All the more because these chansons are beautiful works, which deserve to be performed much more often. Most of them are written in the rondeau form. There is also some uniformity as far as the content of these pieces is concerned. They are mostly about unhappy love, and are of a pretty gloomy nature. It is often thought that this reflects the rather sombre character of Marguerite. So one shouldn't expect any 'merry melodies' here.

Secular pieces like these could be performed with voices only, but also with a mixture of voices and instruments. Most chansons are performed this way. A small number has been performed with instruments only, probably because the text hasn't survived or is incomplete. In some cases the text has been reconstructed from other sources. Sometimes the decisions which have been taken are disputable. The chanson A vous mon autre is appearing in several manuscripts, but with different texts. Here it is performed with two different texts simultaneously. It is true, as is stated in the booklet, that the singing of two different texts in one piece was common practice, but one may assume that those texts were intended to be sung simultaneously. But in this case it is very likely that the 'alternative text' has been added by someone else, and therefore these texts were never meant to be sung at the same time.
The pieces on this CD are generally intimate in character. And so is the performance, in which the 'soft' instruments like fiddle, rebec and lute are predominant. In some pieces a recorder is used. These instruments are very skilfully played. The voices are pleasant and blend very well, not only with each other, but also with the instruments. On the whole the balance between voices and instruments is good, although in some pieces the lower voices are a little too strong, when both baritone and bass are singing.
On the whole, this is a delightful and recommendable recording of music by an infrequently performed composer.

Johan van Veen (© 2003)

Relevant links:

Marguerite of Austria
Pierre de la Rue
Corvina Consort

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