Various: Medieval songs and dances

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

ALBUM TITLE: Tristan & Yseut
WORKS: Medieval songs and dances
PERFORMER: Brigitte Lesne, Emmanuel Vistorky (singer); Alla Francesca/Pierre Hamon
The first written version of the Tristan and Yseut story is tentatively attributed to an English-born troubadour based at Salisbury c1160, seven centuries before Wagner began to tug on the diatonic rug underneath Western classical music with his ‘Tristan chord’. Wagner’s source was a 13th-century German poem. Alla Francesca rummages in a manuscript held in the Austrian National Library and containing monophonic songs in which the melodies are, unusually, fully-notated throughout. In addition, Pierre Hamon has composed two instrumental dances and taken two further estampies from a collection in the British Library.


Only Hamon and co-director Brigitte Lesne remain from the personnel I first heard some 11 years ago, but the ensemble sounds as riveting as ever. The love-crossed stars of the story, along with other characters participating or commenting on the tragedy, are sung with real feeling by Lesne and Emmanuel Vistorky. The excellent instrumentalists play with equal commitment. Alla Francesca’s utterly convincing recreation of this music is full of magic, passion and humanity. Barry Witherden