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13th-century love songs
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Medieval secular poetry

Fin'amour is a feeling, a lifestyle, symbolism of gestures and behaviour, and the favourite subject of European medieval literature. The concept of courtly love developed during the times of troubadours – the poets of XI and XII century’s Provence. Their works survived to our times in many texts; some of them were preserved with music notation. About the authors themselves we find out from their short biographies (vidas) placed in some of the songs collections.

Giraut de Borneilh, described by his contemporaries as the master of troubadours, among other things was famous for his song Reis glorios. It belongs to a genre called alba, which are songs telling about lovers parting at dawn. But here the subject is shown from the point of view of a lover’s friend, who stands on guard and warns about the forthcoming morning.

The songs performance was often accompanied by dance. A l'entrada del temps clar of anonymous author is a good example. Its lyrics tell about a queen starting to dance despite the jealousy of her husband. Not only the dance character, but also specific motives of fin'amour motywy especially admiration for mistress, yearning for her presence and expectation of her acceptance - are included in the song Calenda maia.

One of the subjects most willingly taken up by poets was the pain of love. It is described by the most famous song by Bertrart de Ventadorn, who had to leave the court of his protector because of the affection for his wife, Marguerite de Turenne. The song Can vei la lauseta mover is full of bitterness caused by unfulfilled love. The view of a flying lark does not ease the pain, it rather heightens the feeling of jealousy towards the happy ones. The song ends with full of resignation decision to leave in sadness and to abandon joy and singing.

In the works of trouveres – the authors of northern France and successors of troubadours – we find not only the leading subject of love, but also the variety of forms. A light story of a young man watching lovers’ fun, accompanied by a charming melody (Ce fut an mai by Moniot d’Arras), contrasts with the motet Pucelete / Je languis / Domino for three voices, in Notre Dame style with lyrics about longing for the beloved.

The troubadours’ music in its form and content had a wide influence in the other regions of Europe. The German medieval bards of love (minne) are known as minnesangers. One of their most eminent representative was Walther von der Vogelweide. Thanks to Leopold Staff’s translation Polish readers know his love poem Under der linden telling about love pleasures on a bed of roses, witnessed only by a nightingale. The Palestinian Song (Palästinalied) on the other hand belongs to the current of songs connected with the crusades. The songs contained encouragements to take part in the crusades, described battles and (services rendered by knights fighting for the Holy Land) (honours showering the knights fighting for the Holy Land).

Songs originating from the lands of today’s Portugal, especially Cantigas de Amigo (Songs to a friend) by Martin Codax also deserve our attention. The lyrical subject of another song, Ondas do mar, is a woman awaiting her beloved on the sea shore in Vigo.

The works of troubadours reached also England, among others because of Bernart de Ventadorn. Undoubtedly though, English music differed from the rest of Europe. It is illustrated by the extraordinary melodics of the anonymous song Brid one brere. In the text layer there is a noticeable passion of medieval poets to symbolism and the idiom of fin'amour. Literally the poet addresses to a bird singing in a briar, but the text may be also interpreted as a request for listening directed to a mistress. A bird on a briar may also symbolize the love itself – it is indeed a picture often used in love poetry.

The Middle Ages poetry was created not so much by the high-born, but above all the educated. From many troubadours’ vidas we know that they often came from the lower social classes and earned their livings as musicians in the company of jugglers (jongleurs). At the other extreme of the highly estimated works of troubadours or trouveres there were the broad texts of goliards. They were usually fluently Latin speaking students of universities or monastic schools. Bacche bene venies is a paean of praise for wine and Bachus. The simple song In taberna shows the atmosphere of taverns, where the goliards spent their time among drunken revels and playing dice.

Repertoire

    Bernart de Ventadorn ( XII w.) [Paris, Bibl. Nationale, Ms U, f. 89v-90r]

  1. Quan vei la lauseta mover
  2. Anonim ( XII w)

  3. A l'entrada del temp clar
  4. Giraut de Bornelh (XIIw.) [Paris, Bibl. Nationale, MS R-8]

  5. Reis glorios
  6. Walther von der Vogelweide (XIII w.) [Bibl. de l'Arsenal, Paris 5198]

  7. Under der linden
  8. Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (XIIIw.) [Paris, Bibl. Nationale, MS R-62]

  9. Calenda maia
  10. Anonim (XIII w. ) [Codex Montpellier]

  11. Pucelete / Je languis / Domino
  12. Walther von der Vogelweide (XIII w.) [Münster Ms VII, 51]

  13. Palastinalied
  14. Anonim(ok. 1300 r.)

  15. Brid one brere
  16. Martin Codax (XIII w.) [Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Vindel MS M979]

  17. Ondas do mar de Vigo
  18. Anonim (XII w.)[Carmina Burana]

  19. Bacche bene venies
  20. Moniot d'Arras (XIII w.)

  21. Ce fut en mai
  22. Anonim (XII w.)[Carmina Burana]

  23. In taberna

Members of the Ensemble

Agata Kachel-Flis - oud, darabuka, riqq

Agnieszka Le¶niak-Mucha - voice, darabuka, symfphony, triangle

Tymoteusz Dorda - voice, fidel

Jakub Kabus - voice, bendir, darabuka, symphony

Piotr Flis - romanesque harp, recorder, oud, artistic direction

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