Author Topic: Recordings of Machaut's Motets  (Read 174 times)

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Offline Mandryka

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Recordings of Machaut's Motets
« on: October 19, 2018, 09:12:14 AM »
I'm reading this book at the moment and I just want somewhere to note down any ideas etc. I'm hoping others will have things to say about this music.



One thing I'll mention at the outset is that the book has been an eye opener for me about the sheer active nature of church ceremonies in the C 14 -- they're always going off on processions around the town carrying banners and reliquaries, stopping at churches and at various important idols in the city walls, singing as they went. I was also surprised to read that Reims was such an important place at the time, with a tradition of vigorous, pugnacious bishops and martyrs.  A city second only to Rome. Rome founded by Romulus, Reims by Remus, some people even disputed that and argued that Romulus was the true founder of Reims too.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2018, 09:36:07 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Recordings of Machaut's Motets
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2018, 09:31:11 AM »
Let's kick things off with 18 because there's good reason to think it's the earliest motet, maybe the first composition we have from Machaut.  Bone pastor, qui pastores / Bone pastor, Guillerme / Bone pastor -- it looks like three latin poems but really the tenor just goes "Bon pastor" The poems seem to be in honour of  Gruillaume de Trie, bishop of Reims from 1324-1334,  hence the postulate that it must be early.  The only recordings I've been able to find are from Hilliard Ensemble (HE)  and Ensemble  Musica Nova (EMN)

 

They are like chalk and cheese.

I like EMN here very much. EMN are clear as crystal, in a dry non resonant ambience, each line is clear, they seem to make the cross relations interestingly dissonant from time to time. The power of their performance comes from the tight rhythms and the interesting crunchy harmonies.

HE are more languid, the voices seem less distinguishable in the duplum and tenor, they don't add expression by dissonance. Rather their expressiveness comes from the sinuosity and flexibility of the voices -- something which may not be justifiable, but we shall see as I explore rhetoric in Machaut's isorhythmic compositions a bit more over the next few weeks. They sing the triplum with quite a low voice, and this gives the whole motet a bit of a low feel, which may be part of the reason why the harmonies sound less exciting.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2018, 02:25:16 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Recordings of Machaut's Motets
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2018, 10:48:17 AM »
Just a quick note about performing these songs.

I still haven't been able to get hold of Christopher Page's paper "Machaut ‘Pupil’ Deschamps on the Performance of Music: Voices or instruments in the 14th-century chanson" (Early Music, Volume 5, Issue 4, 1 October 1977, Pages 484–491), though I haven't given up.

As far as I can see his work is based on a comment of the aforementioned Deschamps  -- he says that when you have a polyphonic song, you can perform it without words, with words, or with words and music. He goes on to say that if someone's sick, it's probably better to have words alone.

That's it.

Except it's not it, because of the experiments of ensembles like Gothic Voices etc.

But as far as the historical authenticity of the practice is concerned, as far as I know, that's it.

This issue is going to rear its head in the next motet, 19.

« Last Edit: October 19, 2018, 10:50:07 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline BPS

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Re: Recordings of Machaut's Motets
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2018, 11:32:53 AM »
A quick question – what do you mean by 18?  B18 as in Ballade 18?  I don't see it on this listing of songs on the EMN disc:

https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/7983066--guillaume-de-machaut-ballades#related

Wait, I see M18 as in Motet 18 "Bone Pastor" here:
https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/7928811--guillaume-de-machaut-motets#related

Different album art, though.

I'll try to follow along....
« Last Edit: October 19, 2018, 11:34:57 AM by BPS »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Recordings of Machaut's Motets
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2018, 12:22:34 PM »
Sorry, Motet 18. I put the wrong image in.

 This is just taken from Wikipedia

Quote
M1 "Quant en moy / Amour et biauté / Amara valde"
M2 "De souspirant / Tous corps qui de bien amer / Suspiro"
M3 "Fine Amour / He! Mors com tu es haie / Quare non sum mortuus"
M4 "Puisque la douce rousee / De Bon Espoir / Speravi"
M5 "Qui plus aimme / Aucune gent m'ont demandé / Fiat voluntas tua"
M6 "S'Amours tous amans joir / S'il estoit nulz qui pleindre / Et gaudebit cor vestrum"
M7 "Lasse! je sui en aventure / J'ay tant mon cuer / Ego moriar pro te"
M8 "Ha! Fortune / Qui es promesses de Fortune / Et non est qui adjuvet"
M9 "O livoris feritas / Fons totuis superbie / Fera pessima"
M10 "Helas! ou sera pris confors / Hareu! hareu! le feu / Obediens usque ad mortem"
M11 "Fins cuers doulz / Dame, je sui cilz / Fins cuers doulz"
M12 "Corde mesto cantando / Helas! pour quoy virent / Libera me"
M13 "Eins que ma dame / Tant doucement m'ont attrait / Ruina"
M14 "De ma dolour / Maugre mon cuer / Quia amore langueo"
M15 "Faus Samblant m'a deceu / Amours qui ha le pouoir / Vidi Dominum"
M16 "Se j'aim mon loyal ami / Lasse! comment oublieray / Pour quoy me bat mes matris?"
M17 "O series summe rata / Quant vraie amour enflamee / Super omnes speciosa"
M18 "Bone pastor, qui pastores / Bone pastor, Guillerme / Bone pastor" (c. 1324)
M19 "Diligenter inquiramus / Martyrum gemma latria / A Christo honoratus"
M20 "Biaute paree de valour / Trop plus est belle / Je ne sui mie certeins"
M21 "Veni creator spiritus / Christe, quie lux es / Tribulatio proxima est et non est qui adjuvet" (c. 1358–60 or later)
M22 "Plange, regni respublica / Tu qui gregem tuum ducis / Apprehende arma et scutum et exurge" (c. 1358–60 or later)
M23 "Inviolata genitrix / Felix virgo / Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes" (c. 1358–60 or later)
M24 "De touz les biens / Li enseignement / Ecce tu pulchra es amica mea" (doubtful)
« Last Edit: October 19, 2018, 12:24:59 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Recordings of Machaut's Motets
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2018, 09:07:23 PM »
19, Diligenter inquiramus / Martyrum gemma latria / A Christo honoratus is also a three voice motet entirely in Latin. And like 18, it is the celebration of a person, in this case St Quintin, whose cult was particularly active in Reims, and responsible for the completion of some significant architectural projects.

In addition to HE and EMN I’ve found recorded three other recorded performances - Cantica Symphonia, Clerks Group and Liber Unusualis



What seems to me really interesting at the moment is the contrast between EMN and Cantica Symphonia. As with M18, EMN’s interpretation is bracing and functions as a study in rhythms shifting from one voice to another. Their vigour is totally winning, and it seems to befit a motet which talks, in one of the poems, about St Quintin’s prowess.

Cantica Symphonia replace the tenor (A christo honoratus) with a viol type instrument. The result is greater clarity of the poems which carry the burden of meaning. They sing in a more sensual and fluid way that EMN, I would say with an emphasis more on feeling than rhythm.  Their expressive singing is counterbalanced by an extraordinary impression of control and poise. Using a sustaining instrument for the tenor in this motet, a practice which reminds me of using organ instead of sung tenor in polyphonic chant, brings clarity and contrast to the music. I like what they do very much.

« Last Edit: October 20, 2018, 05:03:52 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Recordings of Machaut's Motets
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2018, 08:43:15 AM »
 These are the tenors of Motets 1-17 with their translation. On the right I've mentioned steps in books about making mystical spiritual journeys which were extremely popular reading in C14 France. The hypothesis  is that in Motets 1 - 17 the tenors steer the interpretation, and that these 17 motets represent an allegorical cycle representing such a mystical journey.

Amara valde   --- Intensely bitter --- You know your spiritual journey will be difficult
 Suspiro  --- I sigh  ---  At first you experience fear of God, and you grieve because of sin
 Quare non sum mortuus  ---  Why did I not die?  -- Resolution to follow Christ's passion
 Speravi ---  I have hoped  ---  Hope for forgiveness
 Fiat voluntas tua  --- Thy will be done  --- Desire to conform to Christ's will with patience, obedience and abstinence
 Et gaudebit cor vestrum  ---  And your heart will rejoice  ---  Experience fleeting joys
 Ego moriar pro te  ---  That I might die for thee  ---  struggle with sin/devil
 Et non est qui adjuvet  ---  And there is no help  --- struggle with sin/devil
 Fera pessima  ---  Most evil beast  --- struggle with sin/devil
 Obediens usque ad mortem  ---  Obedient unto death  --- Let fire purify the soul
 Fins cuers doulz  ---  Sweet noble heart  ---  Yearn for wisdom
 Libera me  ---  Free me  ---  Yearn for wisdom
 Ruina  --- Ruin ---  Yearn for wisdom
 Quia amore langueo  ---  For I am sick with love ---  Yearn for wisdom
 Vidi Dominum  ---  I have seen the Lord  ---  Fleeting glimpse of Christ
 Pour quoy me bat mes matris?  ---  Why does my husband beat me?  ---  Endure further earthy tribulations
 Super omnes speciosa  ---  Beautiful above all  ---  Final union with Christ

The duplum and triplum are prima facie love poems, but apparently the analogy between the quest of a lover for his beloved and the quest of a pilgrim for the experience of Christ's wisdom was pretty standard fare.

Oh one other thing. Machaut was very careful to arrange them. All the indications are that 1-17 form a cycle. I'm exploring the idea that sequence represents a spiritual mystical journey.


« Last Edit: October 21, 2018, 05:00:17 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Recordings of Machaut's Motets
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2018, 09:24:42 AM »
In motet 1 the tenor, Amara valde, is taken from a responsory called Plange quasi virgo, which, I must say, is shockingly bitter. If this is what Machaut's audience were thinking of when they heard the motet they certainly knew that they weren't listening to a jolly song about courtly love.

Quote from: http://www2.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Plange_quasi_virgo
Weep like a virgin, my people,
howl, keepers of the flock, covered with ashes and wearing hair-shirts,
for the great and very bitter day of the Lord will come.
Prepare yourselves, priests, and lament,acolytes before the altar,
cover yourselves with ashes.
For the great and very bitter day of the Lord will come.

The triplum is a French poem where the lover says he's feeling bad because he's worried that he doesn't have enough courage to woo his beloved, and the duplum is a French poem where the lover says that he would rather die than do anything to dishonour his love.

This intersection of secular and sacred is something I find interesting -- it came up in a conversation with Que recently about The Sound and the Fury's performance of Faugues' L'homme arme mass. What we in fact see is that in early music, clash of registers and languages is part of the scene.


I've found six recorded performances -- EMN, Liber Unusualis, Orlando, Studio der Fruhen Musik (who use an instrument for the tenor), vajravoices (youtube)  and Ferrara Enselmble


 


There's a lot to enjoy in all of them. However EMN and Liber UnUsualis are the most bitter, partly I think because of the way they flatten harmonies to create dissonances,  and for me this makes their interpretations stand out.

« Last Edit: October 20, 2018, 09:32:58 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Recordings of Machaut's Motets
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2018, 02:03:59 AM »
Sylvia Huot ("Patience in adversity, The courtly lover and Job in Machaut's Motets 2 and 3", Medium Ævum, Vol. 63, No. 2 (1994), pp. 222-238) has argued that the source of the tenor Suspiro in Motet 2 is Job 3: 24-25 -- the responsorium Antequam comedam suspiro. . .  I have not been able to get hold of her paper so I can't comment on her argument.

Here's the text in English

Quote
   
24 For sighing has become my daily food;
    my groans pour out like water.
25 What I feared has come upon me;
    what I dreaded has happened to me.
26 I have no peace, no quietness;
    I have no rest, but only turmoil.”

Without going into too much detail, Pope Gregory the Great (Moralia) gave this a mystical reading: eating is a metaphor for thinking about Christ, sighing is a metaphor for longing for divine union. This way of thinking was all part and parcel of popular mystical journey literature (the analogue of self help books today!) It's also worth mentioning that Suspira were a type of prayer.

The French motetus talks about the lover's inability to speak; the French triplum talks about his wavering between sighing and complaining.

Anyway it seems pretty clear to me that the tenor holds the whole thing together -- sighing is the key idea in this motet.

I have found recordings EMN, HE, Ferrara Ensemble, Theatre of Voices, Orlando Consort, Cantilina Trio (youtube)



HE seems to me interpretatively very interesting, because the sigh pervades the whole interpretation. They take their time so that the music seems rather expressive, a study of the sigh. All the commercial ones are all well sung and well recorded and satisfying, though I would say that, in the light of HE, when it's taken fast it can sound a bit glib.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2018, 02:13:28 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Mandryka

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Re: Recordings of Machaut's Motets
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2018, 04:53:40 AM »
Sylvia Huot in the above mentioned paper "Patience . . . argued that the source of the tenor Suspiro in Motet 2 is Job 3: 24-25 -- the responsorium quare non sum mortuus. . .  , again from Job  (Job 3: 11), which gives in English

Quote
11 Why did I not perish at birth,
    and die as I came from the womb?
12 Why were there knees to receive me
    and breasts that I might be nursed?

Pretty miz!

The triplum is so dramatic in its opening that it made me think of John Donne!

Quote
Hé. Mors comme tu es haïe
De moy, quant tu as ravie
Ma joie, ma druererie [consolation]

versus

Quote
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

what a contrast with the triplum of Motet 2, where the lover was so sad he couldn't speak for sighing. He you can't shut him up! Performed as a cycle to a knowing audience the effect music be powerful.

Anyway, the poem's basically saying that the lover (seeker after Christ on some interpretations) would rather be dead than live without his love (Christ), who has herself died. It seems that the mystical self help books of the time recommended a thorough contemplation of the passion of Christ early on in the journey, as it were, and predicted that the seeker would fall into a depressive death wish as a result.

The duplum  talks about how the beloved has "vint navrer au coeur" the beloved, and that she offers no hope of healing. I'm not clear how this fits in with the above interpretation of the triplum as a metaphor for  the passion.

As far as recordings go, there is EMN and HE and Orlando and one on youtube from Tenet Vocal Artists



HE seem to be most aware of the need to express the hopeless of the tenor throughout the motet. Orlando are cheerful, partly because they stick to the jaunty modal rhythms, but affectively it seems totally wrong to me. I intend to explore medieval rhythms a bit more. Their copywriter can talk the talk though

Quote from: Tasmyn Mahoney Steele in the booklet of Fortune's Child
He! Mors! / Fine Amour / Quare non sum IONMEis (Motet 3 9 ) is a cry of pain. Lamenting the death of the beloved, the motet is founded on a tenor whose liturgical source is the Historia of Job, which in turn is taken from chapters 3, 6 and 9 of the book of Job. These passages of the Bible depict Job fearing the wrath of the Lord and pondering the purpose of his existence in a world of suffering. The upper lines of this motet also contemplate the pain of living, but lay the blame for suffering at the door of the allegorical figures of Death, True Love, and Fortune. Drawing also on citations from Marian songs and trouvere lyrics, He! Mars! I Fine Amour/ Quare is rich in its intertextuality, and would have evoked for medieval listeners a complex set of emotional resonances.

EMN are a bit better largely because their harmonies are more interesting though whether it's the result of expressive flattening or a higher pitch I couldn't say -- probably both. I like EMN very much.

If someone could scan for me the booklet essay of EMN I'd be very pleased!

« Last Edit: October 21, 2018, 04:59:00 AM by Mandryka »
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