The French media review Télérama has given its highest rating ffff to this Erato CD by Camerata's Anne Azéma and friends. Quoth the Télérama reviewer:

"The performance by Anne Azéma and her associates is seductive. The voices are beautiful and generous, with just the right touch of sensuality and warmth that has for too long been absent in this kind of ensemble; the instrumentation is ingenious."

Provence Mystique, a compelling and beautiful program of sacred songs from medieval France and Spain, is now available as well in the United States.

 1. Audi Homo: Audi Tellus - Anne Azema
 2. Lo Frugz De Saber: Clara Sonent Organa - Shira Kammen/Margriet Tindemans/Anne Azema/Laurence Brisset/Annelies Coene/Catherine Joussellin
 3. Lo Frugz De Saber: Ar Levatz Sus, Francha Corteza Gens! - Anne Azema/Kit Higginson/Martriet Tindemans
 4. Lo Frugz De Saber: Planctus Beate Marie: Tantost Com Fon Al Loc Vengutz - Anne Azema
 5. Lo Frugz De Saber: Vexilla Regis - Laurence Brisset/Annelies Coene/Catherine Joussellin/Pasquale Mourey
     6. Lo Frugz De Saber: Dels Quatre Caps Que A La Cros - Anne Azema/Margriet Tindemans
     7. Lo Frugz De Saber: Verbum Patris Humanatur - Anne Azema/Laurence Brisset/Annelies Coene/Catherine Joussellin/Pasquale Mourey/Kit Higginson...
     8. Roma Trichairitz: D'un Sirventes Far - Anne Azema/Shira Kammen
     9. Roma Trichairitz: Una Ciutatz Fo - Anne Azema/Kit Higginson/Shira Kammen/Margriet Tindemans
    10. Cum Melodis Organo: Planctus Beate Marie: Dona, Maire Del Salvador - Anne Azema
    11. Cum Melodis Organo: Flore Vernans Gratie - Anne Azema
    12. Cum Melodis Organo: Cantiga De Santa Maria 363: En Bon Ponto - Anne Azema/Laurence Brisset/Annelies Coene/Catherine Joussellin/Pasquale Mourey/Kit Higginson...
    13. Cum Melodis Organo: Gregis Pastor Tityrus - Anne Azema/Laurence Brisset/Annelies Coene/Catherine Joussellin/Pasquale Mourey/Kit Higginson...






Audi tellus                                                       Anonymous





Ar levatz sus, francha corteza gens !               Text: Peire Espanhol (12th century)

                                                                        Music: after Gaucelm Faidit (c.1150-c.1220)



Clara sonent organa                                        Anonymous, Aquitanian


Tantost com fon al loc vengutz                        Anonymous: Planctus Beate Marie
                                                                                                      Provençal, 13th century


Vexilla Regis                                                   Text: Venance Fortunat (?-609)

                                                                        Music: Gregorian chant


Dels quatre caps que a la cros                        Text: Peire Cardenal (c.1180-c.1278)

                                                                        Music: Jaufré Rudel (c.1125-c.1148)





D'un sirventes far                                             Text: Guilhem Figueira (c.1215-c.1240)

                                                                        Music: after Peire Vidal (active 1180-1205)

Una ciutatz fo                                                  Text : Peire Cardenal

                                                                        Music based on Cantiga de Santa Maria 45 
                                                attrib. to Alfonso el Sabio (1221-1284)





Dona, Maire del salvador                                  Anonymous, Planctus Beate Marie

                                                                        Provençal, 13th century


Flore vernans gratie                                        Anonymous, Aquitanian


En bon ponto                                                   Cantiga de Santa Maria 363

                                                                         attrib. to Alfonso el Sabio


Gregis pastor Tityrus                                        Anonymous, Aquitanian


Program devised by Anne Azéma

Transcritions and editions: Anne Azéma, Joel Cohen, Leo Treitler

Creation and elaboration of instrumental parts: Robert Mealy, Kit Higginson, Margriet Tindemans

This program is an Erato CD, number  3484-25503-2



Shira Kammen, Laurence Brisset, Catherine Jousselin, Anne Azéma, Pasquale
Mourey, Anneliese Coene and Margriet Tindemans in the Cloister of The Abbey
of St Guilhem le Désert, France, where this CD was taped.



"I know a great many stories: the story of Merlin, of the death of King Arthur, of Tristan and Isolde, stories about lovers and great lords. I also know how to sing well in the service of the Holy Church: how to ‘triple’ the Sanctus and the Agnus in counterpoint, how to intone the saeculorum And I know my profession well – how to sing chansons, make good poetry, write pastourelles, rotrouenges and dances. And all kinds of people are grateful to me for this. The Lord God allows me to accomplish many things that will earn me salvation at the Day of Judgement."


This inventory of the talents of Peire de Corbiac (Lo tezaurs -13th c. ) gives us a glimpse of the kinds of activity which the minstrel-troubadours of the  Middle Ages would have been expected to perform. These activities ranged from that of story-teller and poet to musician, improviser and entertainer; and their sphere of activity encompassed different milieux, ranging from the world of the court and courtly love to the liturgical and spiritual world of the Church. Our program brings together texts and music which might have formed part of the repertoire of some of these minstrel-troubadours. None of the pieces belongs to the liturgy of the Mass itself, but all of them deal with the relations between God and man, and the theme of human destiny.


The region now referred to as the south of France was  in the Middle Ages  known as Proenza (that is, Provence), and was truly a crucible of creative activity that was to change for ever the relationship between men and women, and between Man and the Creator. There, the musician-poets known as Troubadours sang songs of many different kinds composed in different poetic idioms and stylistic registers. They were written and performed in the vernacular (termed a vulgar tongue to distinguish it from clerical and learned Latin), now known by the  modern names of Occitan,  or Provençal. Their  songs expressed their love for an  earthly  Lady, distant, inaccessible, deeply loved and a loyal friend, revered and feared. But a part of their repertoire was also devoted, in the same language, with often the same images and in  the same forms, to their spiritual life . For the first time in the history of Western music and of non-Latin literature, the skill of the greatest poets was placed at the service of Christian praise and anguish in the contemplation of human destiny.


Tonight we will present differents aspects of this contemplation. Some of our songs reflect upon the fear of the end of of the world  and the final judgement - oh so akin to our  recently marketed  First Night anxiety (Audi Tellus). Some reflect the sunny hope offered by the Virgin Mary, intermediary  between God and Man (Ar Levatz sus). Others sing of   the strength of the cross and its fundamental  meaning that is,  the   redemption of  the  fall of Adam,   who tasted   the forbidden fruit.   The cross then becomes in its turn  the "Fruit of true knowledge"  (Dels quatre caps que a la crotz). We will also  celebrate the incarnation of the  Word made flesh (Flore vernans gratie, Verbum patris)  and  the   coming of Christ,  as the  shepherd Tityrus, the so-called "ass of God", carrying redemption in his saddlebag (Gregis pastor). Processional and paraliturgical music of this kind (that is, for musical activities performed outside of the Mass itself) was widespread among the Aquitanian monasteries and abbeys.


Most striking perhaps, is the very strong  dissatisfaction expressed by some of these troubadours. Born of a climate of real tension in regard to the institutional priestly caste, two of the pieces on  our second half testify to this critical spirit. The discourse of Guilhem Figueira, does not  mince words on the "betrayal" of Rome (D'un sirventes far).  And the moralizing parable of Peire Cardenal on the state of the world and the condition of Man estranged from the love of God is one of the most striking texts in this entire repertory (Una ciutatz fo).  Despite the efforts of some commentators, it is  quite hard  to establish whether these troubadours were in fact implicated in the Cathar movement (considered sacrilegious and heretical by Rome and  was made the object of a Crusade in 1208). It is however certain that their vision of the world  and the outrages of Rome rest on historical facts, and in particular  the massacre  of the entire town of Béziers, which was instigated by Rome with the help of the Cistercian order under its abbot Arnaud Amauri on 22 July 1209.


These tensions found echos even in a neighbouring repertory from the Iberian peninsula, written in Galician, the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a collection of songs in honour of the Virgin compiled for King  Alfonso X the Wise (1221-1284). Here (En bon ponto) we find a poor troubadour thrown into a dungeon for singing of the wrongdoings of Count Simon de Montfort. Count Simon was no legend but an authentic historical figure,  the military commander of the same  crusades sent by Rome against the Cathars. To this day his name is anathema in many circles in Southern France. In our story,  the Virgin, recognizing one of her own people, and rewarding those who sing her praise, restores the unjustly imprisoned Gascon troubadour to liberty.


In attempting to follow the traces of Pierre de Corbiac, we have devised our own instrumental performance material, basing it on pre-existant vocal sources, and drawing on medieval learning methods (embracing such aspects as performance from memory, improvisation, knowledge of rhetoric). The troubadours, minstrels, clerics and nuns  of the Occitan-speaking regions sang and played with a lively spirituality, describing the corruption of worldly power, their anguish in the face of death and the Last Judgement, but also celebrating the new dawn, lo jor clars et luzens: a bright and shining day.


Anne Azéma

Translation: Philip Weller