Collection: The Sweet Look and the Loving Manner

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Anonymous,Beatriz de Romans,Comtessa de Dia Beatriz,Iseut de Capio
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Trobairitz Love Lyrics and Chansons de Femmefrom medieval France
PERFORMER: Sinfonye/Stevie Wishart
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66625 DDD

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Life for women in 12th- and 13th-century Provence was, it would seem, little different from the lot of women today. Many of the texts by these trobairitz (female troubadours) feature wife-beating, lesbianism, even an agony aunt (‘shall I marry a man of our acquaintance, or shall I stay a virgin?’), as well as the better-known medieval preoccupations of unrequited love, infidelity and love cut short by death.

The impassioned aspirations of Sharpen up: the extreme emotions of 17th-century Italian sacred music call for a little more passion from the elegant but reticent Sixteen Sinfonye’s performing style, already familiar from their previous Hyperion CDs (‘Bella Domna’, CDA 66283, and ‘Courts of Love’ CDA 66367) are in stark contrast to the idealised refinements of the perhaps more immediately loveable Gothic Voices.

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Listen to the instrumental introduction to the first song, ‘Lady Carenza’: there’s nothing ‘sweet’ or ‘loving’ about the juxtaposition of unrelated sonorities – screams from the fiddle, a manic flourish from the lute and a crazy riff from the drums. I’m not sure what medieval ears would have made of it, but there’s no denying Sinfonye’s capacity for alerting us to a small but distinctive repertoire from an age and mentality essentially no different to our own. Highly recommended. Antony Bye