Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Save around 22%
with these retailers

The Sport of Love
Songs of Love and the Hunt from the Renaissance and the Middle Ages

Musica Antigua de Albuquerque
DORIAN DOR-93175 [63:30]

It is sometimes a good idea for reviewers to expand their horizons. Bearing this in mind and cognisant of the need to prepare for my lecture series, in August, at The Earnley Conference (Chichester) about music in the courts of Europe, through the ages, I deserted my accustomed 19th/20th centuries romanticism to explore the territory of early music and this album. I was not disappointed.

The album comprises 27 numbers from the Renaissance and the Middle Ages that were sung in Italy, Germany, France and England. The dedication and scholarship of Música Antigua de Albuquerque is very impressive in assembling such material and in the fidelity of their performances using original style instrumentation. I was continually astounded at the complexity and sophistication of this music - especially the vocal lines. The spirit of love and hunting commingles, for hunting was used as a metaphor for amorous courtship.

I will just mention a few of the numbers.

The opening numbers are Italian and the first track is instrumental. We are told that very few examples of instrumental music survive from the medieval period. Trotto, strongly rhythmic and vibrant, is named after the verb trottore, which means "to trot" and probably refers to the choreography of the dance it accompanied. 'L'aquila bella' is a 14th century madrigal sung here a capella. The florid and intricate vocal lines beguile the ear and there is an engaging cuckoo chorus. "Caccia 'Alla caccia su su'" is a catchy instrumental number played on crumhorns, shawm, drum and tambourine and is concerned with the care of the hunt's hounds. 'So ben, mi c'ha bon tempo' is an engaging merry song in a homophonic dance-rhythm style for soprano and recorder, vihuela de mano, viols and drum.

Of the German songs, 'Es taget vor dem wald' is a humorous bouncy song for tenor by Swiss composer Senfl who spent most of his career in Germany in the early 16th century; while the quieter more tender song for male voices, 'Ich schwing mein Horn' is about a forlorn hunter who realises he will never capture the heart of his quarry.

'Blow thy horn, hunter' for three voices belongs to the repertory of English "foster" songs (from the word "forester") which were probably performed as part of the courtly May-games or during one of the many pageants enjoyed by Henry VIII and his court. The lines are filled with bawdy double-entendre. Another song included here, 'Passtime with good company' is attributed to Henry himself.

From 16th century France came songs with texts that refer to le Jeu D' Amours - "the game of love". The texts of the Parisian chansons of the 1530s and 1540s are set with much attention to the natural flow of the language, usually with one syllable per note, short melismas mostly towards the ends of phrases and with musical phrasing matching the poetic structure. The style of the song here broadens. The old favourite theme of unrequitted love is now shared with fulfilled love and humour is in fashion. The high-flown courtly love lyric now is mixed with a more natural poetic diction, for as the chanson became available to a wider audience, it took on a more popular style. 'Je ne fus jamais si ayse' with its lovely refrain at its repeated title line (I was never so content) is a vibrant example of Le jeu d'amours.

A fascinating album and strongly recommended


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

Reviews from previous months

Reviews carry sales links but you can also purchase from:

Return to Index