On French 13th century motets

February 5, 2010

Okay, so uni lectures don’t start for another two weeks but I’m heavily into the listening already. One of the joys of my Music Residential School at UNE Armidale back in 1991 was composing our own French 13th-century three-part motets. I’m unsure whether or not I’ll have the time to repeat the experience, but then, as now, I keep coming back to the same recording for inspiration.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: motets and songs from thirteenth-century France. Gothic Voices, dir. Christopher Page. Hyperion CDA66423.

Track 1. Anon. Je ne chant pas/Talens m’en pris/APTATUR/OMNES. An attempt to show that the four-part motet was not overly ambitious for its time.

Track 14. Anon. En non Dieu/Quant voi la rose/NOBIS. Found in both the Montpellier Codex and Bamburg Codex, and happily illustrations of the manuscripts are found in Bukofzer. Performance on YouTube with accompanying modern score transcription. One of the reasons I find this so compelling might be linked to what Christopher Page describes as it being unusually “closely-wrought”, with the extraordinary closesness of texts and music between the parts. Of course the imitation at ‘le roussignol chanter’ is glorious and memorable. In this performance, the motettus is sung prior to all parts joining in.


Hans Nathan, The Function of Text in French 13th-century Motets. MQ, vol.28 no.4, Oct. 1942: 445-462.

Review of Gothic Voices, EM May 1993, p.289.

Christopher Page, The Performance of Ars Antiqua Motets. EM, 1988: XVI(2): 147-164.


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