Nuits Occitanes: Troubadour’s Songs

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COMPOSERS: Beatriz de Dia,Berenguier de Palazol,Bernart de Ventadorn,Bertran de Born,Cadenet,Guiraut de Bornelh,Marcabru,Raimon Jordan,Raimon de Miraval
LABELS: Recercar
ALBUM TITLE: Nuits Occitanes: Troubadour’s Songs
WORKS: Troubadour’s Songs
PERFORMER: Ensemble Céladon/Paulin Bündgen

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Nine centuries after the flowering of their art, the wanderings of the troubadours throughout their lands of origin in what are now southern France and northern Spain, their further excursions on crusades with their patrons and, perhaps above all, their code of courtly love, continue to have a strong hold on our imagination and emotions. As well as fascinating early-music scholars, their legend informed 1960s-70s folk-rock musicians, not to mention Verdi.

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Surviving manuscripts contain some 2,500 poems, but only about 350 had melodies attached. To supply the deficiency, performers have to find melodies from other sources that might fit, or even compose some. The most controversial issue has always seemed to be the approach to rhythm, since mediaeval notation does not indicate this. No one can say how ‘authentic’ the realisations arrived at by Bündgen and the Ensemble are, but they make good sense and, arguably more important, sound beautiful. Played with a perfect mix of finesse and emotion, with details clearly picked out by the recording, this is an utterly enchanting recital. The sparse yet supportive instrumental accompaniment provides an evocative setting for the haunting singing of countertenor Paulin Bündgen and soprano Clara Coutouly, whose voices complement each other superbly. Barry Witherden