Sanstierce und Gäste


Medieval and Sephardic Women's Songs from France and the Iberian Peninsula

Women's songs are among the oldest poetic testimonies that have come down to us in writing. They are songs in which the speaking/singing "I" is a woman. "Chansons de femmes" is the name given to the songs of the Trouvéres from the point of view of women, although it is considered certain that they were written and probably also performed by men. Only in Provence were there the only female composers, the trobairitzes, of whom we know today: Azalais de Porcairagues, Maria of Ventadorn and the Comtessa Beatritz de Dia. And only the latter has a melody that has been handed down with the text, the famous "A chantar". The other poems of the Trobairitzes have been handed down to us without melodies, which inspired a Trobairitz of the 21st century to look for melodies or to invent them herself, so that we will hear not only Beatriz de Dia but also other songs by don women.

Our musical journey continues in Portugal and Galicia – the land of poets to this day! Here, the medieval style of singing dominated until the Renaissance, which is why many songs have been handed down in one voice. And already in this early period we find the phenomenon of "saudade", this untranslatable Portuguese word, which can best be translated as "unfulfilled longing". Here we encounter the "Cantigas de Amigo" by Martín Codax. He was probably born around 1230 in the province of Galicia. Nothing is known about the life and work of this Iberian trobador, who is the only Iberian poet of the early period from whom melodies have survived. The language of the "Siete Canciones de Amigo" is Galician, a Spanish-Portuguese dialect. The famous collection of songs by King Alonso el Sabio, the "Cantigas de Santa Maria", are also written in Galician.

Our journey ends in the Mediterranean region, where the Sephards fled after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. They settled mainly around the Mediterranean and continued to live in their Judeo-Spanish tradition. And it was mainly the women who maintained the Jewish song tradition and passed it on from generation to generation. In the 1950s, the musicologist Isaac Levy set out for these countries and unearthed a true treasure: "I visited one old woman after another, village after village, to hear and record their songs from their mouths. They are still sung by women in Greece, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Rhodes."

The songs of the Middle Ages – like medieval poetry in general – were not intended for reading, but for public performance. They were sung and accompanied by musical instruments. How the texts were realised with music, what role improvisation played and how all this interacted in the performance of the songs is difficult to ascertain and only in exceptional cases have the meldodies to the songs survived. That is why improvisation based on researching the medieval sources is the basis of my work. This is also a reason why performing and listening to this medieval music always involves a here and now.

Sanstierce (بلا بعداً ثلاثياً) – Martín Codax – Cantigas de Amigo (excerpts)