Author Topic: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)  (Read 5703 times)

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Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #80 on: January 08, 2017, 07:58:50 AM »
Dominique Vellard did a great thing by allowing this video of his group's performance of La Messe de Mostre Dame to be made available on YouTube.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/11A4wqv8_wo" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/11A4wqv8_wo</a>

As a live performance the singers do a masterful job with the singing - which is not easy - and the performance incorporates the appropriate plainchant surrounding the mass sections.  It hardly gets better than this.

This is really the only legitimate manner of presenting this work.  Machaut certainly never imagined the work to be performed in a concert setting or recording of just the six polyphonic movements, successively sung without break.  Not only does that destroy the context of the work but it undermines the effectiveness of the music leading to a sense of monotony which is not felt if the plainchant is inserted as Machaut fully expected.  This music was written for liturgical use not as a performance piece.

However, there are also recordings which insert inappropriate material which also destroy the context for the mass.  Both practices should be avoided, imo.

Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #81 on: January 09, 2017, 05:50:42 AM »
One thing I find really annoying is that Kandel doesn't say anything, at least as far as I know, about why he used women for the triplum in Machaut's mass, given that the performance seems to want to use the latest ideas about  It would be interesting to know what Gérard Geay has to say about it. At least Peter Philips is open about this - he just does what he likes!

They must have used women to sing the mass in convents!

Yes, Hildegard von Bingen had her female choir in the 12th century.  I looked for something from Gérard Geay, in the booklet and elsewhere, and couldn't find anything.  I was looking mainly because they sang a g# in the KYRIE I's first phrase that is not notated in the Leech-Wilkinson score and I wanted to find out where they got that idea.  I think Schmelzer also sings a g# here, so it might appear in one of the manuscript sources.  I asked E. E. Leach but haven't' heard back, and am on the verge of trying to contact Leech-Wilkinson or even Kandel himself.

I am unsure about motets but for secular songs women were used, in fact, there were female troubadours, I believe.  It was just in church where there was an overt non-use.


Yes, Hildegard von Bingen had her female choir in the 12th century.  I looked for something from Gérard Geay, in the booklet and elsewhere, and couldn't find anything.  I was looking mainly because they sang a g# in the KYRIE I's first phrase that is not notated in the Leech-Wilkinson score and I wanted to find out where they got that idea.  I think Schmelzer also sings a g# here, so it might appear in one of the manuscript sources.  I asked E. E. Leach but haven't' heard back, and am on the verge of trying to contact Leech-Wilkinson or even Kandel himself.

I am unsure about motets but for secular songs women were used, in fact, there were female troubadours, I believe.  It was just in church where there was an overt non-use.

Not necessarily. The performers may have sharpened the notes according to the rules of musica ficta.

Maybe; but they would be in the minority of other scholars, e.g. Daniel Leech-Wilkinson who has done the most current research and published the standard performance score has a g natural in the same place, which most groups observe.  It was quite surprising to hear it.

Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #82 on: January 09, 2017, 05:52:51 AM »
As far as I understand, the music of the French school's masses first and foremost served the purpose to decorate and embellish the words, and not to express them in the way we percieve the word "express" since the romantic age. Just like the decorated capitals in manuscripts from that time. This is my main objection to Schmelzer's interpretation, which is anything but beautiful and instead expressive in a kind of romantic sense. And his claimed intention of making Machaut's mass sound "new" to us is IMO besides the point. Think of all the great music which sounded new to the first listeners. Should we distort our interpretations of this to make it sound new to us again? What about the Choral symphony or Le Sacre du Printemps? I think Schmelzer has taken his arguments out of the air, with the purpose of creating a sensation. With all the existing fine recordings of Machaut's mass it is of course difficult to make a new, which creates sensation by informed arguments.

I have mixed feelings about Schmelzer's recording: on the one hand it is overall a beautiful sounding performance; on the other hand it is as you say, an aberration of the performance practice of this work; and his pretentious essay does not help his case, imo.

I suppose you think of the G sharp in bar two of the Kyrie.

The edition by Lucy Cross (Ed. Peters 1998) which is intended as a score for practical performance, has a lot of "adaptions", In this edition the note is G sharp (sharped Causa Pulchritudinis). The rules of musica ficta were of course meant to be used in performance, which she explains in a chapter dealing with musica ficta.

I have not seen her score, but will seek it out.  The g# may "solve" one problem (although I find the E minor tonality to be pleasing) but creates a different one with the c in the motetus creating a E augmented vertical sound.  I would like to understand why she chose to sharp the g whereas Leech-Wilkinson and others did not.  Also the tenor, which carries the chant, has a g natural which should not be changed.  g against g# seems very odd.

Granted during Machaut's time they were thinking linearly and not vertically, in fact tolerating "illegal" contrapuntal movement between internal voices as long as the counterpoint was pure in relation to the bottom voice at the time.  Still I wonder if that augmented chord might have been extraordinary for them.

In the bar in question she has also sharpened the g in the tenor and the c in the motetus, I suppose because of the rising steps in all three parts.

I found a review of the Cross score here:

Reviewed Work: Messe de Nostre Dame [For] Mixed Voices by Guillaume de Machaut, Lucy E. Cross
Review by: Virginia Newes
Notes
Second Series, Vol. 57, No. 3 (Mar., 2001), pp. 717-721
Published by: Music Library Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/900841

The conclusion of the reviewer is that this score should not be recommended because of the liberal application of sharps (which are all put inside the score instead of above as is usually done with editorial decisions).

I will keep looking for other opinions of this score.

Interesting, thanks for bringing it to my attention.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2017, 08:04:55 AM by sanantonio »

Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #83 on: January 09, 2017, 06:51:16 AM »
When I was going through information about Lucy Cross's score of the Machaut mass I came across the sad news that she died in June 2016.  Her dissertation concerning application of accidentals in medieval polyphonic works has been cited in several books and papers but I have not seen how they have reacted to her theories.  I've downloaded a few and will read them soon.

It is a source of much debate among musicologists and of great interest to me.

 ;)

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #84 on: January 09, 2017, 07:39:41 AM »
As far as I understand, the music of the French school's masses first and foremost served the purpose to decorate and embellish the words, and not to express them in the way we percieve the word "express" since the romantic age.

You may be right. There does seem to be some sort of expression (as opposed to decoration)  in the music , for "Et in terra pax" and "ex Maria Virgine" for example. Lucien Kandel makes this point, if I remember right.

And yes, res severa verum gaudium indeed  :)
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Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #85 on: January 09, 2017, 04:44:25 PM »
A recording of the mass which is new to me.  It is a live performance of a quartet

Machaut - Messe de Nostre Dame
A Capella Holmiensis
SGB - Sångensemble Gycklare Blå SGB 0004



Kyrie
Gloria
Credo
Sanctus
Agnus Dei
Ite missa est
Playing time: 25' 53"

A Capella Holmiensis [formerly knoww as Sångensemble Gycklare Blå]
Anneli Albertsson, Charlotte Almbrand, Pelle Appelberg, Henrik Ubbe

Gustaf Vasa Church, Stockholm, Sweden [2003]

Aside from the obvious problems, imo, of having women singing, and some ontonation drift - this is actually a pretty good performance.  The mass is very taxing for the singers and this live concert is impressive since they perform the mass non-stop.  Of course, that kind of  thing is contrary to how Machaut expected the mass to be interrupted with chanted portions of the mass - breaks which would give the singers needed rests - but also this kind of performance tends to take away and not enhance the effect of the music.

Still, an interesting addition to my growing collection of recordings.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #86 on: January 09, 2017, 10:52:39 PM »
A recording of the mass which is new to me.  It is a live performance of a quartet

Machaut - Messe de Nostre Dame
A Capella Holmiensis
SGB - Sångensemble Gycklare Blå SGB 0004



Kyrie
Gloria
Credo
Sanctus
Agnus Dei
Ite missa est
Playing time: 25' 53"

A Capella Holmiensis [formerly knoww as Sångensemble Gycklare Blå]
Anneli Albertsson, Charlotte Almbrand, Pelle Appelberg, Henrik Ubbe

Gustaf Vasa Church, Stockholm, Sweden [2003]

Aside from the obvious problems, imo, of having women singing, and some ontonation drift - this is actually a pretty good performance.  The mass is very taxing for the singers and this live concert is impressive since they perform the mass non-stop.  Of course, that kind of  thing is contrary to how Machaut expected the mass to be interrupted with chanted portions of the mass - breaks which would give the singers needed rests - but also this kind of performance tends to take away and not enhance the effect of the music.

Still, an interesting addition to my growing collection of recordings.

I like this a lot, partly because it's somehow very small scale, intimate. They draw me in to the music. Good find!
« Last Edit: January 09, 2017, 10:57:47 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #87 on: January 10, 2017, 06:17:17 AM »
I like this a lot, partly because it's somehow very small scale, intimate. They draw me in to the music. Good find!

I have begun to come up with criteria for what I want in a performance of this work: small male group; ficta according to Wilkinson; pitched according to Parrott;  interpolated chant so that the repeats are taken and other sections separated by mass proper chants. 

For example the Kyrie would look like this, and has been done this way (polyphonic sections are in ALLCAPS):

KYRIE I
Chant
KYRIE I
Christie Chant
CHRISTIE
Christie chant
KYRIE II
Chant
KYRIE III

This would create a timing of about 50 minutes for the mass and give the polyphony singers needed rests and also create more variety in the texture for the audience.

Some separate the sections with organ, but what they use (as does Kandel) are organ insertions from about 100 years after Machaut's mass.  I don't think we have any contemporaneous organ music from his time in manuscript.  I could be wrong, but this is what I've read.  Also inserting organ creates an episodic effect for the mass which when chant is used it sounds more seamless and pleasing.

I have yet to hear a recording that is better than Taverner Consort/Andrew Parrott from 1983, which, btw, will be reissued in a week on a new CD transfer.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2017, 06:41:25 AM by sanantonio »

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #88 on: January 10, 2017, 07:38:33 AM »
Two of the organ pieces which Kandel uses are from the Robertsbridge Codex aren't they, which is mid 14th century? The Adesto and Tribum
« Last Edit: January 10, 2017, 07:40:31 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #89 on: January 10, 2017, 07:48:29 AM »
Two of the organ pieces which Kandel uses are from the Robertsbridge Codex aren't they, which is mid 14th century? The Adesto and Tribum

Those are included on the disc, but not the ones I was referring to.  I was was talking about the ones inserted between the mass movements, which are not identified as I recall.  A reviewer commented that they were from 100 years later.  But as I said, I cannot be sure exactly what they are since they are not labeled.

Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #90 on: January 10, 2017, 08:38:32 AM »
I think most of what Musica Nova/Kandel performs of Machaut is very good, e.g. I enjoy these quite a bit:



Which is why their recording of the mass is frustratingly disappointing. 

Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #91 on: January 11, 2017, 06:22:36 AM »
I am awaiting delivery from Presto Classical of this recording of the mass:

MACHAUT Messe de Nostre Dame. Felix Virgo/Inviolata • Mary Berry, dir; Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge • HERALD 312



Information from Fanfare review of 2004 (I've bolded the aspects which make this recording worth having, imo):

Mary Berry (whose death at the age of 90 occurred during the preparation of this review) recorded her program at Reims cathedral in 2004, a tactic previously adopted by John McCarthy. Berry has made her reputation in chant study and performance, but she gives a notably effective interpretation of the Mass, sung from Daniel Leech-Wilkinson’s edition of 1990. The liturgical reconstruction includes a very appropriate motet at the offertory, composed during the siege of Reims and addressed to the Blessed Virgin. The Mass Propers are taken from contemporary Reims manuscripts for the feast of the Assumption, a reasonable selection, and include the sequence (prosa) Area virga, previously unrecorded. All the cantillations for a celebration of Mass are included. The tactus of the polyphony matches the (slow) singing of the Kyrie invocations and the other chants, conferring a unity on the entire Mass that has not been heard in previous interpretations.


Offline Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #92 on: January 11, 2017, 06:50:01 AM »
I ordered it too, so it's a race. The thing that caught my attention was this comment "the tactus of the polyphony matches the (slow) singing of the Kyrie invocations and the other chants, conferring a unity on the entire Mass that has not been heard in previous interpretations." That's one of the things I remember enjoying about Rebecca Stewart.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2017, 06:52:42 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #93 on: January 11, 2017, 07:55:36 AM »
I ordered it too, so it's a race. The thing that caught my attention was this comment "the tactus of the polyphony matches the (slow) singing of the Kyrie invocations and the other chants, conferring a unity on the entire Mass that has not been heard in previous interpretations." That's one of the things I remember enjoying about Rebecca Stewart.

I wonder if Stewart had heard this recording, since her live concert was done in 2005. 

I didn't post it but J. F. Weber, the Fanfare reviewer, continued to describe Mary Berry's paper from 1968:  The Performance of Plainsong in the Later Middle Ages and the 16th Century.  "She showed convincingly that following the writings of Jerome of Moray in the 14th century, chant became florid, the “flowers” being notes added to the beginning and end of each phrase. She also showed that the more solemn the feast, the slower was the chant."

So, it will be an interesting performance to hear, for sure.

Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #94 on: January 11, 2017, 08:23:50 AM »
Two of the organ pieces which Kandel uses are from the Robertsbridge Codex aren't they, which is mid 14th century? The Adesto and Tribum

I finally tracked down the information about the dating of the organ insertions during the Kyrie sections.  It was in the review in Fanfare:

We have to go back to a remarkable (now forgotten) version by Grayston Burgess on L’Oiseau-Lyre to hear the polyphony alternating with intabulations from the Codex Faenza [late 15th century], as we hear on the new disc; unfortunately, there is no excuse for playing these during the Mass. While Burgess used a small chorus rather than a vocal ensemble, he used no instruments, and he came up with period pronunciation for the first time in this work. Summerly’s performance of nine polyphonic Kyries follows the recommendation of Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, whose edition (and consultation) he used, but it should be noted that the editor also urged the use of chant Propers in a liturgical reconstruction.

He doesn't end on a bad note, though.  And listening this morrning the last track, which is the lament by F. Andrieu, "Armes, Amours - O flour des flours" (one of the most beautiful works of the 14th centtury), I agree that the tempo works overall.

The most distinctive aspect of Lucien Kandel’s interpretation is the tempo. In every movement this is the slowest performance I checked, and the total time is just over 40 minutes. Since such otherwise fine versions as Safford Cape’s and Dominique Vellard’s have been characterized as slow (they ran more than 10 minutes faster than this one), it is hard to call this an effective performance. Yet the rhythm is so solid that the slow tempos do not drag. The Andrieu lament ranks with the recent one by Liber unUsualis (27:5), both versions complete with three strophes.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #95 on: January 11, 2017, 09:42:39 AM »


I think this is one voice in a part, all men, two higher and two lower voices. No instruments. If I'm right than it's as authentic as Parrott and Clemencic or anyone in the ordinaries. And my feeling is that the singing is expressive, with lots of colour and shading and a good tempo and an articulation which declaims the mass text quite meaningfully. They're good with the words, the poetry.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2017, 09:47:03 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #96 on: January 11, 2017, 09:59:19 AM »


I think this is one voice in a part, all men, two higher and two lower voices. No instruments. If I'm right than it's as authentic as Parrott and Clemencic or anyone in the ordinaries. And my feeling is that the singing is expressive, with lots of colour and shading and a good tempo and an articulation which declaims the mass text quite meaningfully. They're good with the words, the poetry.

Weren't you complaining about Oxbridge groups?   ;)

Orlando Consort is an all male group but use a counter-tenor, i.e. don't pitch down a fourth as does Parrott.  Also, if memory serves, they sing the polyphonic movements back to back without any chant.  But other than that, their recordings are first rate, although I prefer their three releases devoted to Machaut songs on Hyperion.

But the really interesting thing about that record is the coupling with the modern work.  I am of mixed reaction to it.

Offline sanantonio

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #97 on: January 12, 2017, 09:51:35 AM »
I have just published my review of the Schmelzer recording of the Messe.

Taking Liberties : Björn Schmelzer & Machaut’s “Messe de Nostre Dame”

Some history included and something to jump start my critical discography.

 :)

Offline JCBuckley

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #98 on: January 12, 2017, 10:11:59 AM »
An excellent review - thank you. Having listened to this recording a few times, my thoughts are much like yours - I'm unconvinced by many of Schmelzer's ideas (where I can make them out amid the verbiage), and certainly wouldn't pick this as my first-choice performance of the music, but I find it tremendously powerful (if not always beautiful) and would not want to be without it.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377)
« Reply #99 on: January 12, 2017, 11:46:04 AM »
I have just published my review of the Schmelzer recording of the Messe.

Taking Liberties : Björn Schmelzer & Machaut’s “Messe de Nostre Dame”

Some history included and something to jump start my critical discography.

 :)


Thanks for this, I hope to be able to give it some more time later but one thing that struick me straight away is that Schmelzer has explicitly denied your idea that he has taken the mass in an entirely new direction. He thinks that his  "performance is in line with the crucial shift that Marcel Pérès introduced two decades ago with his performance of Machaut’s work, giving early music the moral task of the fabulation of history, a fabulation that includes the hybridity of past practices, a fabulation that is part of the performance and, as we endeavour to show, of the works themselves before the “modern” segmentations, works that consist of a diagrammatic writing, but demand an actual performance to be truly complete."

I think this is interesting, I think it makes sense, although  I don't feel totally confident I understand the concept of fabulation. We stared to discuss it a bit in this thread when we talked about the underdetermination of the score.

I'm about to make another post in response to something that Premont said which bears on these questions I think .
« Last Edit: January 12, 2017, 11:53:32 AM by Mandryka »
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