Ars Subtilior: Ballades, Rondeaux & Virelais

February 14, 2024, 10:00 pm

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a 14th-century heart-shaped musical score

Love is complicated, but not as complicated as the music that celebrates it. Near the end of the fourteenth century, around the 1370s and 80s, the movement known as ars nova would cede its musical dominance to a more highly refined musical style that was complex, difficult to write, and difficult to sing. One of the distinguishing characteristic of ars subtilior is its musical notation, the manuscripts sometimes presented as a form of visual music.

On this Valentine’s Day edition of Baroque&Before, we’re listening to selections from a 2007 re-release of a recording first released in 1982, featuring The Medieval Ensemble of London. Founded in the 1970s and led by the Davies brothers, Peter and Timothy, The Medieval Ensemble of London comprised 5 singers, plus harp, gittern (a medieval forerunner of the guitar), lute, doulcian (a Renaissance predecessor of the basoon,) and the three-stringed bowed rebec.


Johannes Suzoy (Jo Susay) fl 1380
Ballade: Prophilias, un des nobles de Roume
Prophilas, one of the patricians of Rome found himself in grievous peril through loving

Ballade: A l’arbre sec puis etre comparé
I may be likened to the withered tree

Ballade: Pictagoras, Jabol et Orpheüs
Pythagoras, Jubal, and Orpheus were the first fathers of melody

Johannes Olivier fl late 14th century
Ballade: Si con cy gist mon cuer en grief martire
As my heart lies here in grievous suffering

Jacob (Jacquemin de) Senleches fl 1382-83
Ballade: Je me merveil / J’ai pluseurs fois
Sometimes I marvel / Many a time in the past

Virelai: En ce gracieux tamps joli
In this pleasant, joyful season in a secluded spot

Ballade: Fuions de ci, fuions, povre compaingne
Let us flee from here, unhappy band

Virelai: La Harpe de melodie
The melodious harp

Ballade: En attendant esperance conforte
While he waits, hope comforts the man who seeks perfection

Virelai: Tel me voit et me regarde
There are some who see me

Johannes Galiot fl 1380-95
Ballade: Le sault perilleux a l’aventure prins
I took the perilous leap at a venture

Rondeau: En atendant d’avoir la douce vie
While he waits to have that sweet life

Guido: fl 1372-74
Rondeau: Dieux gart qui bien le chantera
God preserve him who sings it well

Ballade: Or voit tout en avanture
Now let it all go as it may

Ballade: En Albion de fluns environee
In Albion, surrounded by rivers

Rondeau: Se j’ay perdu toute ma part
I have lost all that which was my own

The Medieval Ensemble of London:
Peter Davies and Timothy Davies, Directors
Margaret Philpot, alto; Rogers Covey-Crump and Paul Elliott, tenors; Michael George and Geoffrey Shaw, baritones; Robert Cooper, rebec and fiddle; Peter Davies, dulcian and harp; Timothy Davies, gittern and lute.

L’Oiseau-Lyre 4759119