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Guillaume de Machaut - Rose, liz, printemps, verdure

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Uploaded on Jan 30, 2011

Rose, liz, rondeau for 4 voices

Gothic Voices
Christopher Page

By the time of the 1309 schism of the Catholic Church, the fine rondeaux of Adam de la Halle had already given the polyphonic art song a good foothold in French music and the secular was beginning to replace the sacred as the pre-eminent mode of musical expression. With a unique talent like Machaut's to carry that cultural impulse forward, the triumph of the secular in music was assured. Despite being a canon himself, Machaut's oeuvre is almost entirely secular, mainly consisting of pieces in the formes fixes. The polyphonic rondeau was something he came to relatively late, having mainly done earlier work in monophonic lays and virelais and polyphonic ballades. Machaut rarely wrote for four voices in his chansons. Rose, liz is one of only four rondeau by Machaut for as many voices, and it is one of his most mature and well-conceived works in any genre. It's not easy to count the many exquisite qualities of such a well-made work, but a few can be enumerated. The part-writing, to start with, is extremely good at every point, while the softened harmonies are exquisitely controlled and well deployed. All the dissonance and rhythmic edginess that makes his famous mass so striking are absent in Rose, liz, which is translucent and harmonious all the way through. Although the triple meter of the piece is a slightly regressive feature (duple meters were more avant-garde, as they were still considered less perfect), in Rose, liz Machaut shows his very mature grasp of meter and musical time. The piece gently ebbs and flows between two types of measures and revels in quite a degree of supple syncopation. Other aspects show the highest sophistication and modernity, especially in the use of something called musical rhyme, a very modern feature at the time wherein the composer ends the first and second halves of the piece with the same music, or rhyming, as it were. The moment-to-moment intricacies, the subtleties of design, and the formal elegance of Machaut's rondeaux would indicate that, like his motets, the intended audience was the cultured musical elite of his day. They were the only people who would have appreciated the real brilliance of the work. Now, elite or not, pieces like Rose, liz are sweet and intimate works which, through their artfulness, completely surpass any merely archaic charm. [allmusic.com]

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