Christine de Pizan: Chansons et Ballades
Berlin Classics 0300699BC
What at first glance might seem a little contrived about this programme quickly reveals itself to be a rather brilliant conceit. Christine de Pizan [/Pisane] (1364-c.1430) was a remarkable medieval writer, as Natalie Zemon Davis has described her, “France’s first professional literary woman”. The extraordinary ups and downs of her life, explored and reflected through her poetry offers commentary on the Hundred Years War, French/Italian culture and, famously, the life of Joan of Arc. Many will know Gilles Binchois’ 1430s setting of her ballade Deuil angoisseux (“Anguished grief”) marking the death of her husband, Etienne Castel, in 1390. But, surprisingly for someone of her stature and circulation, nothing else survives with music. And this is where VocaMe step in, setting her poetry; ballades, rondeaux and virelais; to music she may have known – a technique known as contrafactum. Basically: one-song-to-the-tune-of-another.
To read the full text of this review please visit www.gramophone.co.uk (March 2016)