Home page
Back to this CD
CD index


The Medieval Lady

Beatriz, Countess of Dia (12th C.) (France) allows us a unique personal perspective of a world ruled by a rigid code of courtly love. The text for this song is outside the male, more formal, esthetic of courtly love because of its directness, immediacy and personal viewpoint. The Countess, wife of Guilhèm de Poitiers, lived in southern France in the 12th century, a period favorable for the economic independence of aristocratic women. The legal system in southern France allowed women to inherit property. They often ruled their family estates while their husbands were away fighting in the crusades, freedoms that were gradually whittled away in later centuries. Although this was an era when poetry and music by women flourished, there are only 23 surviving poems by women and only four melodies. We are fortunate to have the both the melody and poetic text for the Countess of Dia's song, one of only two extant melodies of its kind surviving from the 12th century.

Maroie de Dregnau de Lille (13th C.) (France) is an otherwise unknown poet whose lovely little song presents us with a glimpse into the secular life of medieval women -- the expectation that despite the chill of winter, a maid should remain joyful and thus increase her worth.

Queen Blanche (1188-1252) was born in Castile, then a kingdom in what is now central and northern Spain. Upon marriage, she became Queen of France, and governed France as regent during the minorship of her son Louis IX, and then again during his absence due to the 7th crusade. Of noble birth, Blanche was in the position to benefit from an education otherwise unavailable to women, or to most men. Her nobility and its accompanying education and wealth probably helped ensure the survival of her songs through the centuries.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1170) (Germany), a unique and extraordinary woman by any century's measure, wrote books on natural science, theology and medicine, as well as the first morality play set to music. She composed a large collection of religious music, Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum (Symphony of the harmony of celestial revelation). Of noble birth, her resources probably helped her to found her own monastery in Germany, and she earned the respect of kings, emperors and churchmen. The title of her collection, "Symphonia," refers, in addition to its more general musical meaning, to the medieval style hurdy-gurdy called a symphonia, used in this performance of 0 Ierusalem. The songs in this collection are in Latin, and, as common with plainsong, were written as a single line of music. This performance includes echoes, counter-melodies and drones inspired by Hildegard's melodies and poetry.

Anne Boleyn (1507-1536) was the second wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I. Her father attained a high position under the young Henry VIII and spent several years as Ambassador to France. Anne lived at the French court from age 12-16. We know she was trained in music and dancing, owned a virginals, (a keyboard instrument similar in sound to a harpsichord), and played the lute. She had an excellent reputation as a composer and performer. This song is said to have been written by her when she was in the Tower of London facing execution for treason, though her only crime was probably her failure to produce a male heir.

Lady Killigrew's (17th C.) (England) lovely setting of this John Donne poem appears in English manuscript from the early years of the 17th century. Though her first name is not indicated and thus her exact identity difficult to ascertain, she may be related to Anne Killigrew, a poet and painter who lived just before the Restoration. The unclear identity of Lady Killigrew is a good example of the dilemmas music historians face when researching this material.

Mary Harvey (Lady Dering) (1629-1704) (England) studied music at Mrs. Salmon's School, a fashionable English girls' school called where she also learned Latin, French, "all manner of cookery," fancy needle work and dancing. After her marriage at age nineteen, she began lute lessons with Henry Lawes, a composer at the court of Charles I. Three of Lady Dering's songs were included in Lawes' publications of Jacobean lute songs, and although the title page mentions only Henry Lawes as composer, the Lady Dering's name appears on the music itself.

Giles Farnaby (c.1563-1640) was a "joyner and musician" (a woodworker, composer and music teacher) who earned a Bachelor of Music from Oxford in 1592. More than fifty of his pieces are included in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, a major collection of English keyboard music. Farnaby's piece Tower Hill was included on this recording because it refers to the infamous prison where Anne Boleyn was held prisoner earlier. It is performed on two lutes instead of keyboard in this recording.

Richard Farnaby (b c.1594-?) was Giles Farnaby's son. Less is known about Richard, but four of his pieces are in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.

Anonymous Trotto (c.1400) (recorder, nakers); Estampie (13th C.) (symphonia, recorder); Saltarella (c.1400) (recorder, lute) Saltarella (c.1400) (recorder, tambourine aux cordes); La Manfredina (c.1400) (medieval fiddle, lute)

Anonymous Lute Duets are taken from the Jane Pickering Lute Book (1615-1645), which contains music copied in three different hands. It was customary at the time, when printed music was not so readily available, to write down familiar tunes, one's own tunes, and tunes composed by others. The anonymous lute duets on this recording were copied in the same hand that wrote "Jane Pickeringe owe [sic] this Booke 1616," presumably by Jane Pickering herself. Both the main part of the Jane Pickering Lute Book and the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book were written in the 17th century during the "Golden Age" of Elizabethan and Jacobean lute music.




Links to alphabetical list of composers
Bios and links to their recordings at this site

 A   B  C-E F-G H-I J-K  L   M  N-Q  R   S  T-V W-Z