Guillaume IX DÕaquitaine

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COMPOSERS: Guillaume IX D’aquitaine
LABELS: Alpha
WORKS: Las cansos del Com de Peitieus: troubadour songs
PERFORMER: Brice Duisit (voice, viol)
CATALOGUE NO: 505
Guillaume of Aquitaine (d1127) is the earliest troubadour whose works have survived – or, at least, 11 of his poems have, while only one of them, ‘Pos de chanter’, has the music and even that is fragmentary. Other performers have dabbled with Guillaume’s songs, but they tend to follow the example of Martin Best (Nimbus, reviewed July 1999) who simply recites the verses over an improvised instrumental backdrop. Brice Duisit in this atmospheric recording not only sings these poems to improvised melodies, but accompanies himself on the vielle (medieval fiddle) while doing so.

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Such an enterprise treads a fine line between the creative and the gauchely self-indulgent, and my own view of the result here is a slightly negative one. There are some evocative pictorial touches, as in the song about a horse, ‘Companhon farai’, with its cantering fiddle playing. Also, in ‘Ab la dolcher’, the ornaments in the vocal part nicely echo those on the instrument. The truth is, though, that Duisit interjects a brief instrumental interlude at the end of almost every line of poetry, which not only becomes a tiresome mannerism but is also deeply insensitive to the dramatic pace of a strong narrative such as ‘Farai un vers’. Anthony Pryer