Dufay Mille Bonjours

Voices and instruments, certainly; but is this a case of ‘too many cooks’?

Author: 
Fabrice Fitch

Dufay Mille Bonjours

  • Pour ce que veoir je ne puis
  • Helas mon dueil
  • Mille bonjours je vous presente
  • Helas, et quant vous veray?
  • Je languis en piteux martire
  • Mon chier amy
  • Mit ganczem Willen
  • C'est bien raison de devoir essaucier
  • Resvelliés vous et faites chiere lye
  • Franc cueur gentil, sur toutes gracieuse
  • Franc cueur gentil, sur toutes gracieuse
  • S'il est plaisir que je vous puisse faire
  • Par le regard de vos beaux yeux
  • Se la face ay pale
  • Je veuil chanter de cuer joyeux
  • Mille bonjours je vous presente
  • Entre vous, gentils amoureux
  • Puisque vous estez campieur
  • He, compaignons, resvelons nous

Single-composer discs of secular music are still relatively rare for the 15th century, and even though Dufay was the most prolific song composer of the time, he’s perhaps had more than his fair share. Diabolus in Musica have already given a superlative account of his most famous Mass cycle, so this new recording was eagerly anticipated. In the event, it’s a curious experience, showing the extent to which continental ensembles appear reluctant to engage with the a cappella experiments of English performers of this repertoire. Space doesn’t permit me to revisit the arguments over the incorporation of instruments in late medieval songs. There’s no doubting the accomplishment of these instrumentalists but their doubling of lines taken by singers thickens the texture, as when a sauce has one flavour too many; and when the voices are allowed to drop out altogether, a crucial component of the musical form – the poetic one from which it is derived – goes unaccounted for. Perhaps the strangest moment of the recital is in the wonderful ballade Resveillés vous, when the instruments step aside for the series of chords that spell out the dedicatee’s name, to be replaced by singers. This sounded out of place when the Medieval Ensemble of London did it 30 years ago, and with the audible shift in recorded balance and level, it sounds even more bizarre here. I’m by no means advocating rigid adherence to a single manner of performance; merely suggesting that constant shifts in instrumentation distract from some of the most elegantly shaped melodies in
the repertory.

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