Author Topic: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.  (Read 3359 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« on: December 25, 2014, 09:32:26 AM »
I'm thinking really of a certain type of music written mostly between the end of Machault and the prime of Du Fay. French and Italian I guess. I nearly called this thread "Music from the Chantilly Manuscript", but then I remembered this glorious recording by Mala Punica which (I think) includes music from other sources:




I'm really looking for two things myself, though of course others will have different agendas. First off, I want a performances which bring out the avant garde side of the music. It is avant garde music, isn't it? Rhythmically complex, voices in complex relationships with each other, chromatic harmonies, expressive, improvisatory in feel - that's right I think.

Of course not all music between Machault and Du Fay fit the bill. Did Ciconia write  much in the Ars Subtilior style?

And second, I want variety - variety of expression especially. You know, the music's by lots of different composers and was written over quite a long period of time, so you would expect lots of variety.

There's an interesting review of recordings from the OUP mag Early Music (by a slightly up-tight reviewer) here

http://people.stfx.ca/x2011/x2011tph/Ars%20Subtilitor/ars%20subtilior%20review.pdf

(Is this in the right place? Maybe Que will decide to move it as I can't.)
« Last Edit: April 01, 2016, 11:37:22 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Recordings Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2016, 06:46:33 AM »


This is the sort of music making which is right up my alley. Graindevoix perform music mostly from the Chantilly Codex. They sing with that mixture of poise and feeling which is exactly what I want from music. That and a palpable commitment - no doubt a consequence of their extraordinary imaginative vision.

The strangeness of the performances  is disorienting. In particular the textures are astonishing, because Schmelzer doubles up high and low voices, sometimes singing the same text, sometimes not; sometimes singing together, sometimes staggered. The effect of this makes the flesh creep in Fumeux fume par fumée, it is really scary.

(Could someone move this to the recordings section, as I'd like to use it just to post some more things about performances I come across.)
« Last Edit: February 27, 2016, 06:49:35 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2016, 07:32:18 AM »
I only know their Binchois CD. As to this I found them trying to modernize the music beyond recognition, so I never went further with their productions. If you actually are rcommending the Chantilly CD, I am prepared to "try" it.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2016, 07:50:35 AM »
I only know their Binchois CD. As to this I found them trying to modernize the music beyond recognition, so I never went further with their productions.

Unlike the Binchois, there's no instruments. I don't hear what they do with codex Chantilly as modernisation at all, but I'm not really confident about what's anachronistic and what isn't in this area. It doesn't sound Baroqued or Mozart-ified  or romanticised or pointalised or spectralised or new-age-ified (like Tetrakis.) I think it sounds so strange you could almost say it's medieval.

The recording is the soundtrack from a show they gave I think in Avignon a few years ago which featured contemporary dance. That's something which for me makes it even more interesting in fact.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2016, 07:58:40 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2016, 10:40:25 PM »


This recording by the all lady ensemble De Caelis is interesting from four points of view.

First, the style seems to be a golden mean between the extreme avant garde experimental approach of Ensemble Organum and the extreme sensual approach of Tetraktis.

Second, the performances reveal the polyphonic interest of the music in a very satisfying way.

Third, the instrumental parts - medieval organetto, harp - add to the feeling of contrapuntal complexity and coherence in a really interesting way. I don't know how they got the pats of the instruments but I'd be surprised if in some of the songs (eg corps femenin) they weren't taken from the codex. That, or they were composed by a modern master!

Fourth, sometimes the performances are just drop dead gorgeous. As in la harpe de mellodie (senleches) for example.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2016, 04:35:35 AM by Mandryka »
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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2016, 12:08:17 PM »
These are contemporary reinterpretation of Guillaume de Machaut music: after the exposition of a Machaut theme, follow a contemporary variation.   I dont know whether this is what you are looking for.
Personnally, I did not like this recording.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2016, 08:34:33 AM »
These are contemporary reinterpretation of Guillaume de Machaut music: after the exposition of a Machaut theme, follow a contemporary variation.   I dont know whether this is what you are looking for.
Personnally, I did not like this recording.

This is certainly the sort of thing that I like to hear, Holliger is one of the composers I really like. 

I don't normally think of Machault's music as being in quite the same style as Senleches's  or Ciconia's - ie not pukka Ars subtilior.

It would be good to explore these types of "transcription" in more depth, as they seem to be a serious aspect of recent music.


« Last Edit: March 17, 2016, 08:38:06 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2016, 12:31:25 AM »


I've been searching in vain for on line reviews of this recording by Thomas Binkley and Studio der Fühen Musik dedicated to Ciconia. And I'm not up to the task of providing one except to say that there's nothing cool about what Thomas Binkley does. It's expressive singing and it makes a huge contrast to an ensemble like Orlando consort in similar repertoire.

It's as if we've got two axes for appraising early music performance:

Avant/garde and Experimental (Organum) ------------------- Sensual and psychedelic (Kees Boeke)

Cool and polished(Orlando)  -----------------------expressive and humane (Binkley)

I dunno.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2016, 02:55:18 AM »


This rather beautiful recording by Kees Boeke, Walter van Haue and the Little Consort is like the sound track for a party in a Nicholas Roeg film. It's very evocative of The Summer of Love. The music is nearly all Ciconia.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2016, 01:04:37 PM »


Pedro Mimelsdorff is at the exact polar opposite end of the stylistic paradigm of Orlando Consort and Marcel Pérès. On this recording of chansons by Matteo de Perugia he makes the music so dramatic and emotional that at times I thought of Richard Strauss and Hugo Wolff! It's beautiful.

What worries me slightly is this: the sensual approach of Mala Punica makes Ars Subtilior accessible. Pleasant, and (heaven forbid) relaxing. And that may be really not what this music is supposed to be like at all - maybe this music was intended to be a challenge, a shock of newness.

And then there's the whole question of instrumentation. Not just the choice of instruments, but the way he uses them to create preludes, postludes, interludes.

But you know, there's a huge amount to just enjoy on this CD. If this is what Matteo de Perugia sounds like then he was an outstanding composer. And even if not, Pedro Mimelsdorff is a super entertainer.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2016, 01:08:33 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2016, 07:01:36 AM »


This CD of Sacred music, called Missa Cantilena, contains amongst other things  four mass movements by Matteo de Perugia. I think Pedro Mimelsdorff's work here is even more impressive than on Hélas Avril, which was itself pretty impressive. The reason is that the strangeness, the shock, the boldness, the feeling of being confronted by a music which confounds expectations of what music is like, is really well preserved. And, genius that Mimelsdorff is, he's done it in a way which is totally pleasurable to listen to. I haven't had a chance to hear the anonymous music, or the pieces by Zaccaria da Teramo.

I especially like the way he uses instruments.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2016, 07:25:04 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2016, 10:46:41 PM »


Gothic Voices sing Solage and Machaut. Their way of treating Machaut's Douce Dame tanto com vivray and Mors Suis je me vous voy makes them sound quite interesting harmonically.  And hence the CD makes the two composers seem sometimes closer than the Ars Nova / Ars Subtilior distinction would suggest.

The singing style is controlled, unemotional, animated and intense. A Capella, for good or for bad.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2016, 11:37:17 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2016, 08:06:51 AM »


I have been listening to Gothic Voices and Graindelavoix sing Binchois's song Adieu mon amoureuse joye. The song is about an unrequited lover, the text is here

http://www.lieder.net/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=90089

Gothic Voices sing it without instruments, one voice sings the words supported by another voice singing vocalise. Graindelavoix support the voice with a range of instruments. In terms of historical practice I wonder whether there are images from Binchois' time of people singing accompanied by instruments, as there is from the century before (I have been told), from the time of troubadours.

Graindelavoix expand the song with a substantial instrumental interlude. The effect is to stress the third verse, where the singer gives his heart to his lost lover, because he will always be loyal. They bring out the bitterness and irony of this extraordinary gesture. In that final verse they use extreme dynamic range and introduce a hiccough like wobble into the voice.
 
This is I think, an example of what Björn Schmelzer means by authenticity, when he says

Quote
our work with the songs of Binchois started from the preoccupation of singing out one’s sadness and raising it into a kind of sublime expression which can be understood and felt by everybody. We searched also for a new sound and a new way of dealing with instrumental involvement and ornamentation, but one that involved finding a true (and therefore ‘authentic’) sound in which words, ornaments, phrasing and lines speak again and allow one to feel this ‘douloureuse joye’.

It is an authentic interpretation in this sense: he has let the words determine a way of performing which communicates the bitter irony of the poem.

Am I in the right thread? Did Binchois write Ars Subtilior?


« Last Edit: April 23, 2016, 08:12:37 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2016, 09:05:43 AM »
Am I in the right thread? Did Binchois write Ars Subtilior?

No, Binchois' chansons are more rhythmically flowing and less mannered than the chansons of the Ars Subtilior.

BTW thanks for the explanation above. I see that I do not subscribe to Schmelzer 's definition of authenticity.

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2016, 11:13:42 AM »
No, Binchois' chansons are more rhythmically flowing and less mannered than the chansons of the Ars Subtilior.




I put it here because there's a review of the Gothic Voices cd on Amazon.com which makes the following claim which I thought was interesting though I'm not at all sure it's correct.

Quote
[In Ma fin est ma commencement] by Guillaume Machaut (1300-1377),  [t]he three vocal lines are sung forwards and backwards in contrary motion to each other. That ballade is not included on this CD, but the Machaut piece "Il m'est avis" is just as beautifully hyper-rational while sounding almost improvised and wild. A century later, Gilles Binchois (1400-1460) was still writing in the "subtle art" style pioneered by Machaut; in fact Binchois took the style, with its bafflingly complex rhythmic conjuring, farther than anyone. One could argue that Binchois was the culmination of the Medieval in music, the apotheosis of subtlety, and yet he was also clearly the prime influence on the musical thought of Johannes Ockeghem, whom one could identify as the founder of the new wave of polyphony, the "Franco-Flemish" school that supplanted the "Burgundian" of Binchois and Dufay.

By the way I love the Gothic Voices CD.



 I see that I do not subscribe to Schmelzer 's definition of authenticity.

Yes, well I'm not surprised by that 😉
« Last Edit: April 23, 2016, 11:15:29 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline (: premont :)

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2016, 04:40:52 AM »
I put it here because there's a review of the Gothic Voices cd on Amazon.com which makes the following claim which I thought was interesting though I'm not at all sure it's correct.

Who wrote that review? He/she seems to be misguided concerning Bimchois, while it is true, that some of Machaut's secular works anticipate the mannered style of Ars Subtilior. And the Ma fin est ma commencement is a good example. It is made up of two sections. The second section is identical with the first but played backwards - of course an allusion to the words of the text. 

Link to score: http://imslp.org/wiki/Ma_fin_est_mon_commencement_(Machaut,_Guillaume_de)

A normal listener has got no chance to percieve this construction, and even when playing the piece it is difficult to percieve (I have tried). The
"ingenious" construction has neither any influence upon the artistic quality of the piece nor upon the musical experience of the listener. so it only serves intellectual purposes.

Quote from: Mandryka
By the way I love the Gothic Voices CD.

Yes, one of a great series.
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #16 on: April 25, 2016, 08:38:56 AM »
« Last Edit: April 25, 2016, 08:40:43 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #17 on: April 25, 2016, 08:46:13 AM »
Subtilior or not, here are some recent Binchois discoveries. The problem, of course, is that the music isn't often gathered together.

3 songs by Currende consort, really nicely done, on CD 10 of their Masters from Flanders set.

Four numbers by Tasto Solo on their Buxheimer Codex CD,

An impeccable Jordiesque thing allegedly by Binchois on a CD With Christopher Columbus in the title - you know the sort of thing.

A very "challenging" set of three Binchois songs by Capilla Flamenca on a CD called Espris D'amour.

For something like this, spotify's search engine comes into its own!

« Last Edit: April 25, 2016, 08:53:48 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline JCBuckley

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2016, 09:19:01 AM »
You have this set, I assume?


Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Ars Subtilior Appreciation Thread.
« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2016, 11:14:07 PM »


It's very very expressive, this early recording of Binchois by Graindelavoix - free ornamentation and a cloud of heterophonic instrumental accompaniment makes for something which demands the listener's emotional response, as much as a symphony by Mahler.

And the strangeness of the singing style means that the music sounds alien and savage.

So what we have, as often with Schmelzer, is an encounter with otherness, with the medieval other. With all that that entails about uncomfortableness.

It makes me think of Mathias Enard.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2016, 11:17:52 PM by Mandryka »
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