Recorded at Abbaye de Gellone, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, France,
July 11-18, 1998.
Erato CD 3484-25503-2
"Seductive, beautiful, and generous"
-- Répertoire, Paris
Anne Az é ma, voice
Kit Higginson, psaltery, recorder
Shira Kammen, medieval fiddle
Margriet Tindemans, medieval fiddle, harp
Laurence Brisset, voice
Annelies Coene, voice
Catherine Jousselin, voice
Pasquale Mourey, voice
This recording was made during the 17th Concert Season at Gellone Abbey.
A project supported by France's Région Languedoc-Roussillon.
Programme devised by Anne Azéma
Research, transcriptions, performing editions of the sources: Anne Azéma
Organological research and original instrumental music: Margriet Tindemans, Shira Kammen, Kit Higginson
Editions of the vocal parts in tracks 2: Leo Treitler; 7, 8, 9, 13: Joel Cohen
The French soprano Anne Az
ma, renowned for her performances of early music,
has been acclaimed by critics on four continents for her original,
passionate and vivid approach to the songs and texts of the Middle Ages.
She has also been widely praised in many other repertoires, from Renaissance
lute songs to Baroque sacred music to twentieth-century music theatre.
ma's current discography numbers over twenty recordings. A featured
soloist with the Boston Camerata, she has taken prominent roles in many of
that ensemble's tour and Erato productions ( Grand Prix du Disque ). She has
been a soloist with numerous other ensembles, large and small, early and
contemporary. Ms. Az é ma is a founding member of the Camerata Mediterranea,
touring with them in France, Italy, Spain, Morocco, the Netherlands, and the
United States, and appearing on both of that ensemble's Erato CDs. She is
frequently invited as a recitalist and often partnered in duos by lutenist
Joel Cohen, touring with Mr. Cohen in North America, Europe, Africa, and
Japan. Her teaching activities include master classes, notation seminars
and coaching in France and the United States. Anne Az é ma's recent major
festival appearances as soloist and recitalist include Aix-en-Provence,
Lourdes Versailles, Spoleto (USA), Singapore, Jerusalem, Seville, Dresden,
Boston, Bergen, Tanglewood and Tokyo.
, Anna Az
ma's first CD on Erato, won her a Critic's Choice in
the English review Gramophone, and a nomination for the French Grand Prix
des Discophiles. Her second CD, Le Jeu d'Amour , released in the spring of
1997, became a bestseller in the United States and won the coveted 10 rating
from R é pertoire magazine (Paris).
PROVENCE MYSTIQUE, OR THE MINSTRELS OF GOD
"I know a great many stories: the story of Merlin, of the death of King Arthur, of Tristan and Isolde, stories about lovers and great lords. I also know how to sing well in the service of the Holy Church: how to 'triple' the Sanctus and the Agnus in counterpoint, how to intone the saeculorum And I know my profession well - how to sing chansons, make good poetry, write pastourelles, rotrouenges and dances. And all kinds of people are grateful to me for this. The Lord God allows me to accomplish many things that will earn me salvation at the Day of Judgement."
This inventory of the talents of Peire de Corbiac (Lo tezaurs -13th c. ) gives us a glimpse of the kinds of activity which the minstrel-troubadours of the Middle Ages would have been expected to perform. These activities ranged from that of story-teller and poet to musician, improviser and entertainer; and their sphere of activity encompassed different milieux, ranging from the world of the court and courtly love to the liturgical and spiritual world of the Church. Our program brings together texts and music which might have formed part of the repertoire of some of these minstrel-troubadours. None of the pieces belongs to the liturgy of the Mass itself, but all of them deal with the relations between God and man, and the theme of human destiny.
The region now referred to as the south of France was in the Middle Ages known as Proenza (that is, Provence), and was truly a crucible of creative activity that was to change for ever the relationship between men and women, and between Man and the Creator. There, the musician-poets known as Troubadours sang songs of many different kinds composed in different poetic idioms and stylistic registers. They were written and performed in the vernacular (termed a vulgar tongue to distinguish it from clerical and learned Latin), now known by the modern names of Occitan, or Provençal. Their songs expressed their love for an earthly Lady, distant, inaccessible, deeply loved and a loyal friend, revered and feared. But a part of their repertoire was also devoted, in the same language, with often the same images and in the same forms, to their spiritual life . For the first time in the history of Western music and of non-Latin literature, the skill of the greatest poets was placed at the service of Christian praise and anguish in the contemplation of human destiny.
Tonight we will present differents aspects of this contemplation. Some of our songs reflect upon the fear of the end of of the world and the final judgement - oh so akin to our recently marketed First Night anxiety (Audi Tellus). Some reflect the sunny hope offered by the Virgin Mary, intermediary between God and Man (Ar Levatz sus). Others sing of the strength of the cross and its fundamental meaning that is, the redemption of the fall of Adam, who tasted the forbidden fruit. The cross then becomes in its turn the "Fruit of true knowledge" (Dels quatre caps que a la crotz). We will also celebrate the incarnation of the Word made flesh (Flore vernans gratie, Verbum patris) and the coming of Christ, as the shepherd Tityrus, the so-called "ass of God", carrying redemption in his saddlebag (Gregis pastor). Processional and paraliturgical music of this kind (that is, for musical activities performed outside of the Mass itself) was widespread among the Aquitanian monasteries and abbeys.
Most striking perhaps, is the very strong dissatisfaction expressed by some of these troubadours. Born of a climate of real tension in regard to the institutional priestly caste, two of the pieces on our second half testify to this critical spirit. The discourse of Guilhem Figueira, does not mince words on the "betrayal" of Rome (D'un sirventes far). And the moralizing parable of Peire Cardenal on the state of the world and the condition of Man estranged from the love of God is one of the most striking texts in this entire repertory (Una ciutatz fo). Despite the efforts of some commentators, it is quite hard to establish whether these troubadours were in fact implicated in the Cathar movement (considered sacrilegious and heretical by Rome and was made the object of a Crusade in 1208). It is however certain that their vision of the world and the outrages of Rome rest on historical facts, and in particular the massacre of the entire town of Béziers, which was instigated by Rome with the help of the Cistercian order under its abbot Arnaud Amauri on 22 July 1209.
These tensions found echos even in a neighbouring repertory from the Iberian peninsula, written in Galician, the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a collection of songs in honour of the Virgin compiled for King Alfonso X the Wise (1221-1284). Here (En bon ponto) we find a poor troubadour thrown into a dungeon for singing of the wrongdoings of Count Simon de Montfort. Count Simon was no legend but an authentic historical figure, the military commander of the same crusades sent by Rome against the Cathars. To this day his name is anathema in many circles in Southern France. In our story, the Virgin, recognizing one of her own people, and rewarding those who sing her praise, restores the unjustly imprisoned Gascon troubadour to liberty.
In attempting to follow the traces of Pierre de Corbiac, we have devised our own instrumental performance material, basing it on pre-existant vocal sources, and drawing on medieval learning methods (embracing such aspects as performance from memory, improvisation, knowledge of rhetoric). The troubadours, minstrels, clerics and nuns of the Occitan-speaking regions sang and played with a lively spirituality, describing the corruption of worldly power, their anguish in the face of death and the Last Judgement, but also celebrating the new dawn, lo jor clars et luzens: a bright and shining day.
Translation: Philip Weller
I AUDI HOMO
1 Audi tellus
II LO FRUGZ DE SABER
2 Clara sonent organa
instrumental : Shira Kammen, Margriet Tindemans, fiddles
vocal : Anne Azéma with Laurence Brisset, Annelies Coene, Catherine Joussellin, Pasquale Mourey
3 Ar levatz sus, francha corteza gens !
After Gaucelm Faidit (c.1150-c.1220)
Anne Azéma with Kit Higginson, psaltery, and Margriet Tindemans, harp
4 Tantost com fon al loc vengutz
Planctus Beate Marie, anonymous, Provençal, 13th century
5 Vexilla Regis
Laurence Brisset, Annelies Coene, Catherine Joussellin, Pasquale Mourey
6 Dels quatre caps que a la cros
Jaufré Rudel (c.1125-c.1148)
Anne Azéma with Margriet Tindemans, fiddle
7 Verbum Patris humanatur
Anne Azéma with Laurence Brisset, Annelies Coene, Catherine Joussellin, Pasquale Mourey and Kit Higginson, recorder, Shira Kammen and Margriet Tindemans, fiddles
III ROMA TRICHAIRITZ
8 D'un sirventes far
After Peire Vidal (active 1180-1205)
Anne Azéma and Shira Kammen, fiddle
9 Una ciutatz fo
Music based on Cantiga de Santa María 45, attrib. to Alfonso el Sabio (1221-1284)
Anne Azéma with Kit Higginson, recorder, Shira Kammen and Margriet Tindemans, fiddles
IV CUM MELODIS ORGANO
10 Dona, Maire del salvador
Planctus Beate Marie, anonymous, Provençal, 13th century
11 Flore vernans gratie
12 En bon ponto
Cantiga de Santa María 363, attrib. to Alfonso el Sabio
Anne Azéma with Laurence Brisset, Annelies Coene, Catherine Joussellin, Pasquale Mourey and Kit Higginson, psaltery, Shira Kammen and Margriet Tindemans, fiddles
13 Gregis pastor Tityrus
Provence Mystique is a hit in France
The French media review Télérama has given its highest, ffff rating to this new Erato CD by Camerata's Anne Azéma and friends. Quoth the Télérama reviewer:
"The performance by Anne Azéma and her associates is seductive. The voices are beautiful and generous, with just the right touch of sensuality and warmth that has for too long been absent in this kind of ensemble; the instrumentation is ingenious." In another new review from France, the highly respected journal Répertoire writes: "A spiritual reflection... The clear and expressive voice of Anne Azéma finds the right tone each time: by turns mystical, playful, lively and even violent, when reprobation overwhelms the poet. Rigor and vigor in the inspired accompaniment, built around Shira Kammen's vielle..."
Provence Mystique , a compelling and beautiful program of sacred songs from medieval France and Spain, is now available as well in the United States.