This Sunday, I thought that I would share with you another album of mediaeval music by modern artists. The album, Le Jardin des Melodies, presents a rich selection (27 tracks) of music from the French court during the 16th century.
It is a period in history known for its glittering court life, filled with banquets, tournaments, and balls. While not strictly mediaeval (many would pick a cut-off point at 1500), the music continues the traditions of the southern French troubadours, who popularised the themes of courtly love so iconic of mediaeval literature.
The selected pieces vary widely, ranging from lively dancing tunes to the soulful laments of unrequited love. Impeccably elegant, the cd conjures the grace and wealth of the French Renaissance and immediately transports one into a world of lavish entertainments and refined living.
I have to admit, however, that this cd reminds me more of a work of historical fiction than of history itself. Dorothy Dunnet’s book Queen’s Play, in fact, could almost have been written to accompany Le Jardin des Melodies. As the second book in her series The Lymond Chronicles, the book follows the title character, the Scottish nobleman Lymond, to the court of 16th century France. His task is to foil plots against the young Mary Queen of Scots’ life, and it embroils him in the complex world of court intrigue and high politics in the palace.
Impeccably well-researched and wonderfully rendered, Dorothy Dunnett’s works provide the perfect reading material to accompany a lazy Sunday spent listening to Le Jardin des Melodies. If you do take a listen, though, be sure to give your full attention to the last track of the album, Helas faut-il que je Lamente. Slow and mournful and lovely, with heart-breaking female vocals, it leaves one with a deep appreciation for the cultural achievements of a by-gone age.
Unfortunately, the website for the King’s Noyse is currently down for maintenance. Please do check back with them if you are interested in their work!