La fiamma del to amor, Johannes Ciconia

March 13, 2010

This two-voiced Italian ballata has been infrequently recorded work outside the complete works’ collections. What is immediately striking in the score is the use of a repeated first section.

All is explained by Timothy Dickey, All Music Guide, whom I quote at length as follows:

A composition such as Johannes Ciconia’s Ballata La fiamma del to amor che giá me strinze, though it qualifies as complex and polyphonic, preserves a somewhat lighter texture than its Francophile contemporaries (which Ciconia certainly knew). Both text and music follow he Italian refrain form, which kept a closer resemblance to the French virelai. An opening refrain is followed by two verses with both contrasting music and poetic structure. A volta (turning) gives new text to the opening meter, and the refrain rounds the entire form with its return. Ciconia’s music fills the expected form with a powerful yet subtle structure. Both refrain and contrasting “feet” (verses) are in the same meter and are close to one another in level of rhythmic complexity; the refrain, however, contains subtly longer melismatic extensions, a bit more rhythmic interest, and more intimacy of imitation between the two voices; the music for the “feet” also shifts the basic tonality of cadences, leading to a more secure harmonic return in the “turning.” The Italian poetic text mirrors (or presages) these subtleties in a number of ways. The refrain sets out the duality of love in an almost Petrarchan dichotomy: the lover’s soul balances between life and death. The “feet” elaborate: his spirit desires to soar above its weeping, but cannot find a place to live beyond death. Almost surprisingly, the “turning” offers hope: “Love can conquer death!” Unfortunately, the form demands that poem and music return to the opening refrain, and we are once again reminded of the lover’s perilous suspension between life and death.

Sources: Lucca: Archivio di Stato 184 (Mancini Codex), fol. 54v (2/2).

Facsimiles: The Lucca Codex. Codice Mancini. Introductory Study and Facsimile Edition. Edited by John Nadas and Agostino Ziino, Lucca. Libreria musicale italiana editrice, 1990.


1. CLERCX, Suzanne. Johannes Ciconia: Un musicien liégois et son temps, 2 vols., Brussels: Palais des Académies, 1960, Vol. II: 61.
2. NEMETH, George L. The Secular Music of Johannes Ciconia, Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University (1977): 198.
3. WILLIAMS, Carol J. The Mancini Codex: A Manuscript Study, Ph.D. dissertation (University of Adelaide), 3 vols., 1983, Vol. II:  45.
4. The Works of Johannes Ciconia, edited by Margaret Bent and Anne Hallmark. Monaco: Editions de L’Oiseau-Lyre, 1985. Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century XXIV: 134. Work No.31


1. BONACCORSI, Alfredo “Un nuovo codice dell’ Ars nova: Il codice Lucchese.”  Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Ser. 8, I/12 (1948): 586.
2. PIRROTTA, Nino and Ettore LI GOTTI. “Il Codice di Lucca. III. Il repertorio musicale.” Musica Disciplina, V (1951): 129.


1. Recording on CD

2009 Trecento. EtCetera KTC1902. Jill Feldman, soprano and Kees Boeke, fl. Inter alia: Dolce fortuna; La Fiamma del to amor. Reissued by Olive Music, OM002, 2009.

2005 (Dec 13) Ars subtilior: Dawn of the Renaissance. Ferrara Ensemble, Ensemble Organum, Hilliard Ensemble, Huelgas Ensemble, Orlando Consort. Harmonia mundi Fr. Inter alia: 2. La fiamma del to amor (2’27); 3. Le ray au soley! (1’27)

1998 En doulz chastel de Pavie: Chansons a la cour des Visconti vers 1400. Ferrara Ensemble, Crawford Young. Harmonia mundi ‘Documenta’ 905241 (60:28). Inter alia: La Fiamma del to amor, a 2 (Lucca f54v) (2:30); Le ray au soley! canon, Perugia, f.83 (1:30); Sus une fontayne (Mod.f.27v-28)(8:15). Incl Randall Cook on viola d’arco, CY on guiterne and Marion Fourquier on harp.

1982 L’œuvre intégral / Johannes Ciconia.: Huelgas Ensemble, dir Paul van Nevel. Musique en Wallonie, MW 80040-44. (10 and 12/80). Œuvres italiennes III: Merçe o morte; La fiamma del to amor (4’44); O donna crudele; Per quella strada lactea. ?Reissued 1997.

2. YouTube video clips

Johannes Ciconia (1335-1411) – La fiamma del tio amor (instrumental). theprof1958, 24 Oct 2009 (2:26). Ferrara Ensemble, dir Crawford Young. lute and vielle. Visuals: still image.

Johannes Ciconia. La fiamma del to amor. CathedralMusicOnline, 6 Dec 2009 (3:30). Fidel and vielle. Case Western Reserve University Collegium Musicum, dir. Dr. Debra Nagy. Performed at Trinity Cathedral (Episcopal), Cleveland, Ohio. Brownbag Concert: A medieval banquet, November 18, 2009. Visuals: live concert, church altar.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: