Asteria: Un tres doulx regard

Program: #10-44   Air Date: Oct 25, 2010

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The award-winning duo is back with more of their exploration into the early Burgundian repertoire.

NOTE: All of the music on this program is performed by the ensemble Asteria. As the two write of themselves: Asteria (Sylvia Rhyne, soprano, and Eric Redlinger, tenor and lute) seeks to bring a narrative quality and emotional immediacy to their late-medieval vocal and instrumental music. Their historically informed settings are based on extensive archival research into original sources in Paris, The Hague, and Basel, Switzerland.For more information, you may visit their web site at:

The Blossoming of the Burgundian Spirit in Song, 1390-1440

(notes from Asteria): Just like the shy lover who is knocked off their feet by a merest glance from the object of their affections, the music of the first generation of Burgundian composers at the end of the ars nova is infused with the sweetness and explosive passion of new love. Asteria's latest program, "un tres doulx regard," is the result of extensive archival research during their sabatical year in France in 2006/2007. Largely drawn from anonymous or unattributed compositions from the last decade of the 14th century and very beginning of the 15th, this body of work constitutes the generation of "Dufay's teachers", and contains many of the elements that will later be the hallmarks of the mature Burgundian style that swept Europe during of the middle of the 15th century.

At the turn of the 15th century, a common merchant or educated noble in Dijon, Brugge or Lille would have had very little reason to suspect that the next 70 years would bring with them such dramatic developments. War with England, repeated calls for crusades, and the terror of the black death were still very much the order of the day when their new duke, Philip the Bold, a prince of the Valois dynasty of French kings, took as his bride Marguerite of Male, a Flemish princess and the richest heiress in Europe. The unprecedented wealth that subsequently flowed into Burgundian coffers was used to support an increasingly extravagant series of artistic endeavors and cultural achievements that would place Philip's court at the cultural and political center of Europe. It was at this time that the celebrated sculptures of Claus Sluter were realized at the Chartreuse de Champmol in Dijon, and the finest artisans in northern Europe were engaged to beautify Marguerite's elegant country palace in nearby Germolles. Under Burgundian patronage, Christine de Pizan, perhaps the greatest poet of the late middle ages, would leave her enduring mark, and later in the century Jan van Eyk and Rogier van der Weyden would adorn Burgundian spiritual and secular edifices with their best works.

In music, too, much was changing. The bewildering complexity of the ars nova composers was met with a strong, reactionary backlash by the following generation, who eschewed the virtuosic, twisting melodies of their predecessors in favor of more simple, elegant lines and forms. Inspired by their duke's love of chivalric ideals, the music of this early Burgundian period is perhaps the most plainly beautiful of the age, reflecting the more pure and finely distilled poetic traditions of the day.

The theme of these secular chansons is almost invariably that of courtly love, that mysterious and uniquely medieval literary and cultural tradition that places the lady on the highest possible pedestal and prescribes with absolute precision the social roles for noblemen and noblewomen at court. But like the rules of love in any age, there are countless variations and permutations: "Although my beard be grey, may you &Mac222;nd it in your heart to love me," beseeches an aging knight in "Pourtant se jay la barbe grise." "Give comfort to your lover, for he has served you to the best of his ability!," encourages the text of "Dones confort." And in Johannes le Grant's "Layssies moy coy," the jilted lover requests merely to be left alone in his love-stricken grief: "Don't speak to me of singing - I have better cause to lament!"

When the knight woos his lady, the pain of her initial refusal is utterly bittersweet. The more inaccessible the object of his affections, the greater his passion, and the higher the drama and glory of the pursuit. The troubadours of the preceding age preached the gospel of courtly love as the ultimate human experience, and their ability to convey the passion and despair of love in verse and music - the longing of new love, the agony of love unfulfilled, and the exquisite pain of love itself - was viewed as the pinnacle of artistic expression. Indeed, the voluminous quantities of courtly song and poetry, spanning almost 500 years, attest to the enduring interest that medieval society held for the twists, travails and seeming contradictions of this fascinating tradition.

In the end, things have not changed so very much in the 500 years that have followed; songs about love still predominate, and our lives are still capable of being turned upside-down in the merest instant by "a most sweet glance!

01-Pour L'amour De Ma Doulce Amye (Guillaume Dufay)
02-Ce Jour De Lan Voudray Joye Mener (Guillaume Dufay)
03-Dame D'onnour Et De Tous Biens Garnye (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
04-La Doulce Flour Qui De Moy Honnouree (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
05-Tristre Dolent Plain De Pensee lute (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
06-Entre Vos Nouviaux Maries (Johannes Legrant)
07-Puis Que Je Suy Amoureux (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
08-Puisque Je N'ay Plus De Maystresse (Jacques Vide)
09-Pour Deleissier Tristresse Et Joye Avoir (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
10-Pleysir Soulas Desduit Et Joye (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
11-Se Liesse Est De Ma Partie Johannes Legrant
12-Pour Tant Se Jay Le Barbe Grise (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
13-Tant Plus Vos Voy lute (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
14-De Plus En Plus Se Renouvelle (Gilles Binchois)
15-Dones Confort a Vostre Amy (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
16-Mon Povre Cuer N'a Que Tristresse (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
17-Veuillies Hoster De Che Dangier (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
18-Layssies Moy Coy Je Vous En Prye Johannes Legrant
19-Mon Plus Haut Bien (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
20-Pour Mesdisans Ne Pour Leur Faulx Parler (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
21-Amours Venes Mon Cuer Reconforter lute (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)
22-Cuer Triste Et Mas Sans Solace Et Sans Joye (anon from Oxford Can. Misc. 213)

Composer Info

Guillaume Dufay, Johannes Legrant, Jacques Vide, Gilles Binchois

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