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Amor De Lonh - The Distant Love of the Troubadours
Martin Best Consort
rec. 1997, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK
NIMBUS NI5544 [65.11]

Over the next weeks I will be reviewing nine discs recorded from the early 80’s to the late-90’s by the Martin Best and his Consort on the Nimbus label. Almost all will cover the period from 11th-14th Centuries.

This one comes from 1997 and seems to have been one of the last in the sequence. As can be seen below the Troubadour’s names are from the 12th Century and these are contrasted with 13th Century dances and some sacred works from an earlier period. The only difference you might find between the earliest discs of c.1984 and this one is that Martin Best’s voice became a little harsher and less pleasing. Even so he always sang this music with character and precision.

The nineteen pieces have been neatly and coherently divided into six sections. Most start with a dance like a Salterello and each includes a sacred work usually an antiphon sung by the women’s voices. After that Best sings as ‘Canso’ by a troubadour. These were poets and often musicians from the south of France and it’s generally thought that they accompanied themselves by improvising on a string instrument perhaps with an introduction and then passages within and between the verses breaking up the text. Best does just that on a psaltery or a ‘guitarra moresco’ or with the harpist Frances Kelly. The dances are played mainly on ‘fideles’ (sic) with percussion and that wondrous instrument, the ‘symphony.’- a sort of hurdy-gurdy. Many of these dances have however been much recorded over the last fifty years sometimes quite raucously!

Troubadours like Ventadorn and Jaufre Rudel hail from the ‘classic’ early and middle period of artists and we know quite a bit about their life and times from a surprising amount of archival material which has survived. In fact 460 names have come down to us. But only 42 seem to have left their own melodies. Ventadorn has left at least forty pieces in various sources and was one of the most popular performers of his age.

So this is one of those discs which, because of its varied pattern, gentle songs and lively dances, you can play through in one go. Original texts are supplied with good translations and there is an essay by Martin Best discussing the troubadour tradition, performance style and the programme design.

Gary Higginson

Previous review: Brian Wilson

1.Guiraut de BORELH (c.1140-1196) Si. us conselh, Bel ami Alamanda
2. Antiphon: Beata Viscera
3. Jaufre RUDEL (d.c1160) Can lo rossinhols e.l fulhos
4. ANON: Salterello (Italy 13th Cent)
5. Antiphon: O Maria Jesse Virga (11th Cent)
6. Bernart de VENTADORN (d.1194) Ab joi mou lo vers e.l comens
7. ANON: Danse Royale (13th Cent)
8. Antiphon: Venit dilectus (c.1100)
9. Jaufre RUDEL – Can lo rius de la Fontana [4.59]
10. ANON: Ductia (13th Cent)
11. ANON: Salterello (13th Cent)
12. Hermanus CONTRACTUS (d.1054): Alma Redemptoris mater
13. Antiphon: Paradisi porta (c.1100)
14. Bernart de VENTADORN: Tant ai mo cor ple de joya [11.40]
15. ANON: Lamento di Tristan (Italy 14th Cent)
16. ANON: Rotta (Italy 14th Cent)
17. Antiphon: Anima mea liquefacta est (11th Cent)
18. Bernart de VENTADORN: Can par la flors jostal vert folh
19. Guiraut de BORNELH: Canso melody played instrumental


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