Machaut: Songs from Le Voir Dit

Machaut: Songs from Le Voir Dit

by Orlando Consort


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Although many college music history courses include a survey of the accomplishments of Guillaume de Machaut (ca. 1300-1377), the early music revival has largely bypassed him in performance. Any competent recording of his work is welcome, and this one, by Britain's famed Orlando Consort, is certainly more than competent. The group takes up the nine songs from "Le Livre du Voir-Dit" (roughly, "the true story"), a fascinating work including some 9,000 lines of poetry, only a small proportion of which are set. The story purports to describe a romance between an aging poet, presumably Machaut himself, and a teenage noblewoman who has become attracted to him because of his creativity. The tale has kept several generations of scholars guessing as to its veracity, and, like so much medieval literature, it contains stories within stories, codes, and other self-referential details that seem to suggest that poetry itself is the point of the whole thing. The rather madrigalian performances here are not ideal. The polyphonic songs in the set (several are monophonic poetic constructions of great complexity) are notated with a vocal line and textless accompanimental lines, and there is no reason to suppose that the vocalises used here represent an authentic performance practice, and they add an extraneous note to the music somehow. The four singers introduce the music clearly, however, and they do enough to draw the listener in to one of music history's unknown masterpieces.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/08/2013
Label: Hyperion Uk
UPC: 0034571177274
catalogNumber: 67727
Rank: 121704


  1. Dame, se vous n'avez aperceü, rondeau for 3 voices

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Guillaume de Machaut: Songs from Le Voir Dit 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
RGraves321 More than 1 year ago
Machaut’s poem "Le Voir Dit," written when he was in his sixties, recounts a love affair between himself and a young girl. Machaut included several pieces of music to help illustrate the text – a true multimedia medieval work of art. This is spare, yet intimate music. Machaut was acknowledged to be one of the greatest poets and composers of his age – and that dual mastery is apparent. The 20-minute "Le Lay De Bon Esperance," for example, is set for solo voice. Yet the text and music so perfectly match that the emotion of the poem is communicated even when the listener (such as myself) understands not a word. The polyphonic songs, such as Se Pour Ce Muir, are textbook examples of ars nova. Machaut uses isorhythms to develop each line independently. And yet all the voices work together, making the sound an organic whole that is as stark and beautiful as the Gothic architecture that inspired it. The Orlando Consort is recorded with microphones closely placed. It’s a very clean record with virtually no ambiance. And in this case, that’s a good thing. Unlike Machaut’s religious works, meant to be sung in the resonant spaces of cathedrals, these songs are private messages to the reader of "Le Voir Dit." Which is how the Orlando Consort performs them.