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Guillaume DUFAY (c1400 - 1474): Chansons

[I] "Lament for Constantinople & other songs"
The Orlando Consort
rec: Oct 3 - 5, 2017, Loughton (Essex), Parish Church of St John the Baptist
Hyperion - CDA68236 ( 2019) (70'48")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Belle, que vous ay je mesfait 3, rondeau; Ce moys de may 3, rondeau; En triumphant de Cruel Dueil 3, rondeau; Helas, et quant vous veray 3, rondeau; Je me complains 3, ballade; Je ne suy plus tel que souloye 3, rondeau; Je vous pri/Ma tres douce amie/Tant que mon argent dura 4, chanson; Je vueil chanter de cuer joyeux 3, rondeau; La dolce vista 3, ballata; Le serviteur 3, rondeau; Ma belle dame, je vous pri 3, rondeau; Malheureulx cueur 3, virelai; Mon chier amy 3, ballade; O tres piteulx/Omnes amici (Lamentatio sancte matris ecclesie Constantinopolitane) 4, motet-chanson; Par le regard de vos beaux yeux 3, rondeau; Pouray je avoir vostre mercy 3, rondeau; Puisque vous estez campieur 3, rondeau; Vostre bruit et vostre grant fame 3, rondeau;

Matthew Venner, alto; Mark Dobell, Angus Smith, tenor; Donald Greig, baritone

[II] "New Flowers"
rec: March 5 - 9, 2017, Bremen, Studio Radio Bremen
green sonic - CD 1710 ( 2018) (58'55")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

anon: Parleregart etc. Ad huc semel (after Dufay); Guillaume DUFAY: Ave virgo que de celis a 3, motet; Belle, que vous ay je mesfait 3, rondeau; Ce moys de may 3, rondeau; Donns l'assault a la fortresse 3, rondeau; He, compaignons, resvelons nous 4, rondeau; L'alta bellezza tua, virtute, valore 3, ballata; Les douleurs, dont me sens tel somme 4, rondeau; Par droit je puis bien complaindre et gemir 3/4, rondeau; Par le regard de vos beaux yeux 3, rondeau; [Qui latuit in virgine] 3; Resistera 3 (attr); Resvellies vous et faites chiere lye 3, ballade; Se la face ay pale 3, ballade; Vergene bella a 3, motet-chanson; ?Guillaume DUFAY / ?John DUNSTAPLE (c1390-1454): Je languis en piteux martire 3, ballade

Julia von Landsberg, soprano, organetto; Elodie Wiemer, recorder; Szilrd Chereji, vielle; Or Harmelin, lute

Guillaume Dufay died in 1474. He had commissioned his tombstone, on which he had written how he saw himself: as a composer. Pupils and other composers of a younger generation wrote lamentations on his death. These two facts indicate that with Dufay we have arrived at the Renaissance, in which the individual became more important and was given more attention than before.

During the last stage of his life, when he lived in Cambrai, where he had started his career as a choirboy, he began to collect and organise his oeuvre. Unfortunately, the major manuscripts resulting from his efforts were destroyed during the French Revolution. As a result a part of his oeuvre has been lost, whereas other compositions have been preserved incomplete. Dufay contributed to the main genres of his time: masses, motets and chansons. The two discs under review here focus on the latter genre.

The chansons constitute a little over a third of Dufay's extant oeuvre. It is not always known when they were written, but a considerable number of them were composed during his time at the court of Carlo Malatesta da Rimini. His use of French texts can be explained from the fact that this was the common language of the Italian aristocracy at the time. The main genres are represented: ballade, virelai and rondeau.

Je vous pris is a so-called 'combinative chanson', meaning that it has three different texts. It is the only piece of this kind in Dufay's oeuvre. Je me complains is a ballade with just one stanza; ballades usually had three stanzas, and therefore it is likely that the remaining two have been lost. Mon chier amy is a condolence to a friend, and could have been written at the occasion of the death of either Pandolfo Malatesta or Pope Martinus V. A recent disc with music by Dufay, 'The Dufay Spectacle', took a chanson for New Year's Day, Ce jour de l'an, as its starting point. The Orlando Consort included another song for this day, the rondeau Pouray je avoir vostre mercy. Two further rondeaux are intended for May Day: Je vueil chanter de cuer joyeux and Ce moys de May. The former has an acrostic, 'Jehan de Dinant'. It has not been possible to identify this person, and therefore we don't know whether it is the poet or rather the dedicatee of this piece. Belle, que vous ay je mesfait is a rondeau that has been preserved incomplete. For this performance the six missing lines have been reconstructed by borrowing lines from a chanson in the Chansonnier de Rohan.

The latter source also includes the poem En triumphant de Cruel Dueil, which David Fallows, the author of the liner-notes to the Hyperion disc, identified as the correct text of a song by Dufay, which has been preserved in a single source with only Je triumphe de crudel duel as its incipit. That allowed for a vocal performance of this piece. Par le regard and Le serviteur are two pieces by Dufay which appear in more sources than any other of his chansons. Vostre bruit et vostre grant fame and Puisque vous estez campieur have two texted voices. In the former one imitates the other at the octave, in the latter they are written as a canon at the octave.

Santenay's programme is largely different and includes only a few pieces that are also in the Hyperion recording. One of these is Belle, que vous ay je mesfait. Again, it is heard here in a reconstruction; the liner-notes don't mention where the lines replacing those missing in Dufay's chanson are coming from. Par droit je puis bien complaindre et gemir is a rondeau in canon form, and lacks a tenor. Se la face ay pale is one of Dufay's most popular chansons, which he also used as cantus firmus for a mass. He, compagnons, resvelons nous is a rondeau written during Dufay's time at the Malatesta court. The text mentions the names of members of the court chapel, such as Huchon, Jehan, Hughes and Thierry. Donns l'assault a la fortresse has been preserved in two versions, for three and four voices respectively. The first has only an incipit, the latter, included in a manuscript from after Dufay's death, offers the complete text; the fourth voice may not be from Dufay's own pen. In Les douleurs dont me sont tel somme, the two treble voices run in a strict canon; the piece ends in five-part polyphony. Parleregart etc. Ad huc semel is an intavolation of the chanson performed by both The Orlando Consort and Santenay, and taken from the Buxheimer Orgelbuch.

Resveillies vous et faite chiere lye is a three-part ballade, written at the occasion of the marriage of Carlo Malatesta da Pesaro to Vittoria di Lorenzo Colonna in July 1423. Je languis en piteux martire is a ballade which is probably not from Dufay's pen. It is generally considered being written by Dunstaple. Only three lines of text appear in the only source. Here the complete piece is sung; it is not mentioned from which source the text has been taken.

Both discs include pieces which don't belong to the category of the chansons. The Orlando Consort opens with O tres piteulx, a lament written at the occasion of Constantinople's falling to the Turks in 1453. Dufay composed four laments, three of which are lost. The tenor is in Latin, and its text is taken from the Lamentations of Jeremiah: "All her friends have dealt treacherously with her. Among all her dearest she hath none to comfort her". La dolce vista is a ballata and is considered an early work, as it shows the influence of Ciconia. The lines of text missing in the only source are replaced by lines from a poem by Leonardo Giustinian. Another ballata is L'alta belleza tua virtute valore; in the Venetian source it was originally attributed to Hugo de Lantins. Vergene bella is another very popular piece; its text in honour of the Virgin Mary is from the pen of Petrarca. Ave virgo que de celis is also a Marian motet, here performed instrumentally. That is also the case with Resistera, which has been preserved textless and is of doubtful authenticity. Qui latuit in virgine is a basse danse which has also been preserved with the text Je suis povere de leesse. Again the authenticity is doubtful.

These two discs comprise largely different programmes, but are also very different with regard to interpretation. The Orlando Consort opts for a strictly vocal performance. When only some of the voices are texted, only these are sung, whereas the other are vocalized. This is one of the options; another one is the use of instruments, as is the case in the recording by Santenay. It makes use of organetto, recorder, vielle and lute. Sometimes the recorder is a bit too dominant, which goes at the cost of a good balance, and especially the intelligibility of the text. Belle, que vous ay le mesfait appears in both recordings, and Santenay takes considerably less time than The Orlando Consort. The text - "Fair one, what have I done wrong, that you should flee from me so decisively" - suggests that a slower tempo is more appropriate than the lively interpretation by Santenay.

Although I am not entirely satisfied by Santenay's recording - because of the role of the recorder, but also the inclusion of several pieces of doubtful authenticity - I have mostly enjoyed it; the singing and playing is very good and overall this disc offers a nice variety of styles. In that regard the Hyperion disc is more one-sided and has more of a documentary character, underlined by the scholarly liner-notes by David Fallows. I have no problems with that, but I am a bit disappointed by the singing. Some of the lower voices are hardly ever without a slight vibrato. I never like that, but here it is particularly annoying. Even in those pieces where the lower parts are vocalized, the voices are not entirely stable. It is clearly audible and damages the overall impression of these performances. Considering the quality of the programme, that is very regrettable.

Johan van Veen ( 2019)

Relevant links:

The Orlando Consort

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