Marie et Marion

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Program: #14-18   Air Date: Apr 28, 2014

As with every Anonymous 4 recording from the beginning we celebrate that ladies’ latest, a return to 13th century France and the Montpelier Codex.


 Marie et Marion



Note: All of the music on this program is from the ensemble Anonymous 4 and their disc Marie et Marion.  The recording is on Harmonia Mundi and is CD # HMU 807524. For more information:

 When we were developing our first medieval French motet program, Love’s Illusion, from the Montpellier Codex (c. 1300), we decided to use only motets on the topic of fin amours, or “courtly love.” But there were two exceptions in the program, one of which was the loveliest of the handful of 4-voice motets in the Codex, Plus bele que flor / Quant revient et fuelle / L’autrier joer / FLOS [FILIUS EIUS] (Mo 21). In this motet, three different fin amours texts are declaimed simultaneously by the upper three voices over a wordless tenor. The highest of these voice parts, the Quadruplum, begins like any typical courtly love motet lyric, praising the beauty and goodness of the lady-love. But, while the other two texted voice parts sing of secular love, the Quadruplum lyric concludes with a “surprise ending,” in which the object of the singer’s love and desire is revealed as the Virgin Mary. Inspired by this motet, we have had in mind another Montpellier Codex program that explores the juxtaposition of courtly/pastoral love themes with ardor and praise for Mary, the Lady with no equal.

 The trouvère chanson and the French motet repertories of the 13th-century are closely intertwined, both in terms of their poetry and their melodies. In both are found high-art lyrics of love and longing as well as more playful, sometimes naughty pastourelles which deal with the stock characters of the countryside: shepherds, shepherdesses and other non-noble personages. They go by many names, but the most common are Robin (for the man) and Marion/Marot/Marotele (for the woman). In Marie-Marion we present the common and contrasting themes of love and desire, in motet and song, for the earthly (and earthy) Marion, and the heavenly Marie, both of whom inhabit, comfortably side by side, the music and poetry of this age.

 The Montpellier Codex, from which we draw all the motets in this program, was collected in Paris around the year 1300, and is the richest single source of 13th- century French polyphony. With a repertory spanning the entire 13th century, it contains

polyphonic works in all the major forms of its era – organum, conductus, hocket and, primarily, motet (315 motets in all). In the tracklist we have included the Mo numbers by which scholars normally refer to these motets.

 The French double motet, by far the most popular type of motet in the 13th century, dominates the Montpellier Codex. Its tenor is usually based on a plainchant fragment, but sometimes on a dance or popular tune as in En mai quant rosier / L’autre jour par un matin / HE RESVELLE TOI ROBIN (Mo 269).

 In a double motet, each of the two upper voices – motetus and triplum – has its own text. There are also triple motets, which add a third texted part, called the quadruplum (Mo 27 and Mo 21), as well as many lovely examples of French motets consisting of only a tenor and a melody line. Many of these two-voice French motets resemble the chansons d’amour of the trouvères with an added accompaniment (Mo 189, Mo 239, Mo 225). In fact, bits of trouvère songs and song refrains often find their way into the upper voices of French motets, as in Mo 138 and Mo 77, where the tune and text of a little rondeau, Que ferai biau sire diex, makes its appearance in motets built on two different tenors.

 For the most part, texts of motets in honor of Mary are in Latin throughout. He mere diu / La virge Marie / APTATUR (Mo 146) and A la clarte qui tout / ILLUMINARE (Mo 189) are notable exceptions. By the mid-13th century, the upper voices of secular motets have French texts. But those motets that mix sacred and secular are usually polyglot (Mo 40, Mo 273), with the sacred text in Latin and the secular text in French.

 The late-13th century anonymous chanson pieuse De la gloriouse fenix is a love song directed to the Virgin, reciting and glorying in the catalog of her spiritual charms with the same intensity and single-minded desire as a chanson d’amour catalogs the physical charms of the beloved. Like many trouvère love songs, Amour me fait commencier begins by stating that an overflow of love and desire have caused the lover to burst forth in song (“love makes me start singing”). This song is attributed to the noble trouvère count, crusader and diplomat Thibaut IV (1201-1253), ruler of Champagne in Paris, and from 1234 Theobald I, ruler of the kingdom of Navarre in far southwestern France. The anonymous Volez vous que je vous chant, a gem of magical storytelling, resembles the medieval reverdie, in which the season of spring is encountered as a beautiful woman. But the mystical lady in this song, attired in spring flowers, is born of noble musical parentage – a sea siren and a nightingale – and is thus the ultimate object of desire.

 In the last group of works on our program, earthly love and love of the Virgin Mary coexist in harmony. The chanson pieuse J’ai un cuer trop lait, attributed to an otherwise unknown trouvère Thiebaut d’Amiens, is typical of many Mary songs, in asking pardon for a life of sin and guilty pleasures, and turning toward Mary to intercede and sweep all potential punishment away. We close with the motet that inspired this program, Plus bele que flor / Quant revient et fuelle / L’autrier joer / FLOS [FILIUS EIUS] (Mo 21).                             – Susan Hellauer


1 Mater dei plena / Mater virgo pia / EIUS (Mo 66)  2'20

He mere diu / La virge marie / APTATUR (Mo 146) 1'31

A la clarte qui tout / ET ILLUMINARE (Mo 189) 2'21

4 Marie assumptio afficiat / Hujus chori suscipe / TENOR (Mo 322) 2'35

5 Chanson: De la gloriouse fenix (Ruth Cunningham) 5'38

6 Ave lux luminum / Salve virgo rubens / IOHANNE (Mo 56) 2'00


7 Plus joliement c’onques / Quant li douz tans / PORTARE (Mo 257) 1'31

8 Reverdie: Volez vous que je vous chant (Susan Hellauer) 3'52

9 J’ai les biens / Que ferai biau sire / IN SECULUM (Mo 138) 1'07

10 Que ferai biaus sire / Ne puet faillir / DESCENDENTIBUS.(Mo 77) 1'24


11 Pensis chief enclin / [FLOS FILIUS EIUS] (Mo 239) 2'13

12 L’autre jour par un matinet / Hier matinet trouvai / ITE MISSA EST (Mo 261) 1'33

13 Quant florist la violete / El mois de mai / ET GAUDEBIT (Mo 135) 1'46

14 Sans orgueil et sens envie / IOHANNE (Mo 225) 1'56

15 Trois serors / Trois serors / Trois serors / [PERLUSTRAVIT] (Mo 27) 1'25

16 Chanson: Amors me fait commencier (Marsha Genensky) 4'19

17 En mai quant rosier / L’autre jour par un matin / HE RESVELLE TOI ROBIN (Mo 269) 1'22


18 Pucelete bele et avenant / Je languis des maus / DOMINO (Mo 143) 0'59

19 Diex qui porroit / En grant dolour / APTATUR (Mo 278) 2'02

20 Pour chou que j’aim / Li joli tans / KYRIELEISON (Petrus) (Mo 299) 2'21


21 Chanson: J’ai un cuer trop lait (Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek) 4'39

22 Par une matinee / Mellis stilla / DOMINO (Mo 40) 1'40

23 Or voi je bien / Eximium decus / VIRGO (Mo 273) 2'50

24 Plus bele que flor / Quant revient et fuelle / L’autrier joer / FLOS [FILIUS EIUS] (Mo 21) 2'41


Composer Info

Montpellier Codex (c. 1300)

CD Info

CD # HMU 807524