Previously, I was telling you stories about medieval composers whose dates of birth and date are unknown. There were also famous composers, whose first name or last name is not definitely established. Today’s story is about famous composer of the late medieval composer, whose point of origin and nation that he came from are still a mystery, along with other details mentioned above.
Historians are so puzzled, that they simply call him European composer. They still argue whether he was Flemish or Italian. And they call him Egardus, although, they are not sure that this is his name at all. His name, a copy of one of his works in a Flemish manuscript suggest a Northern origin. Yet all of his works are found in Northern Italian manuscripts with one exception. And that exception, a Polish manuscript, has strong Italian connections.
Only several compositions of Egardus survived. They sound less complex than other mid-century composers, but this lack of complexity can be attributed to an early date for his works. So, I guess, this is an opportunity for discovery, because all other attempts by prestigious experts failed. The only thing that may be stated with a not of hesitancy is that Egardus lived somewhere in between the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries.
Peire Cardenal left us his generous heritage - around a hundred pieces of his survived. Several of the tunes reached us as well. This number of works can hardly be matched by other poets of the age. Cardenal’s biography written by Miguel de la Tor mentions that Peire was possibly influenced by Bernart de Venzac, an obscure troubadour who was famous earlier for his bitter irony. So like Bernart, Peire Cardenal is attacking the perceived corruption of society and contemporary crisis of spiritual values. He tells us a great deal of envy, greed, adultery, and pride. His language, however, is skilled and he employs a vocabular at once popular, colorful, rich with rare and deeply expressive words.
His songs, especially those that lambasted hypocritical clerics won him many enemies. But Peire, obviously, could not care less about this. Even with all these enemies Cardenal became one of the most celebrated troubadours of his time. His poems much satirical criticism of the contemporary moral and political climate, sometimes verging on heresy. Here is one of Cardenal’s famous quotations that went through times:
“If some beggar steals a bridle he’ll be hung by a man who’s stolen a horse. There’s no surer justice in the world than that which makes the rich thief hang the poor one.”
This famous troubadour from Provence lived almost to be one hundred years old - from 1180 to 1278. Due to his extraordinary for these medieval times life, he had a rare chance to observe deep changes around him. He saw how his native Occitan culture first went up to its highest point. And he witnessed its decline during the Albigensian Crusade and its post-Albigensian Crusade state. The name of this famous composer, poet and troubadour was Peire Cardenal. And his works are kind of different from many other troubadours of his time.
A lot of materials about Peire are still waiting for English author who will write a book about this exceptional man. There are so many materials that still need to be translated from Occitan and French into English. So what do we know now about Peire Cardenal?
He was born in Puy-en-Velay, Auvergne, France apparently of a noble family. And he was educated as a canon himself. Peire studied at the foremost cathedral school in Puy before becoming a song writer. He visited various courts of kings and barons, and had a jongleur to sing with him.
Years later, some anonymous writer, carried away by his imagination, wrote Rudel’s fictionalized biography. This style was called vida and was quite popular in the medieval period. This vida became the basis for a legend. According to it Rudel fell in love with Countess Hodierna of Tripoli without even seeing her! He just heard about her beauty from pilgrims, who were returning from the Holy Land. Rudell was so smitten, that he took a long sea journey just to see Hodierna. Unfortunately, during the voyage, he fell sick and was brought ashore in Tripoli already a dying man. When Hodierna heard the news, she came down to the shore from her castle and Rudel died in her arms.
The whole legend was a fluke, and, naturally, it never happened. But it was romantic! When 19 century Romanticism authors discovered the legend, they just could not pass the opportunity and meet it the halfway. To mention a few, Robert Browning, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Ludwig Uhland, Heinrich Heine, Giosué Carducci created their poems based on this fiction story. In the next century more epic poems and even an opera were created as well.
Usually, they say that life is more interesting than fiction. This time it was the other way around.
In 1895 citizens of Paris were flowing to see the La Princesse lointaine at the theater. Great Sarah Bernhardt played the leading female role on the stage. And French dramatist Edmond Rostand, who wrote this drama was lauded by the whole Europe. In the center of his creation there was a story about love of a troubadour to a beautiful princess who lived far away from him … So, where did this story come from?
Well, once upon a time there was a famous troubadour Jaufré Rudel. He really existed and was quite famous composer and poet of his times. Rudel is even considered to be one of the inventors of the “love from afar” style in troubadours poetry. He was of noble origin, in fact, his title was Prince of Blaye. History did not leave us much about Rudel, the only thing that is known for the fact is that he died overseas during Second Crusade around 1147. Several his fellows-troubadours, including famous Marcabru, composed their songs about him, lamenting on his death. Seven of Rudel’s poems have survived to the present day, four of them with music. And here is where we could end this story, when something interesting happened.
Music was her secret consolation against his cruelty to her - in his bursts of rage he would often drag her across a room by the hair. Fortunately, her mother encouraged Anna to learn how to play the harpsichord, flute, and violin. And she received her first lessons from her brother, future king. In archives of web analytics company I found some additional facts of her life.
It seems that princess was a very brave and passionate woman. When she was twenty years old, Anna met Friedrich von der Trenck, whose adventurous life inspired works by literary giants such as Victor Hugo and Voltaire. In 1743, Anna secretly married him. When her brother, who was already a king, discovered she had married secretly and was pregnant, he annulled her marriage and imprisoned her husband for ten years. Then Frederick exiled her in anger to Quedlinburg Abbey, a place where many aristocratic women were sent to give birth to children out of wedlock. However, Anna continued to correspond with Friedrich von der Trenck until her death.
Naturally, our famous pirates were not unemployed, there was a constant demand from France and England for able and ruthless sailors that could be used as a striking force. Infamous great pirate Henry Morgan was on the rise when he started recruiting his sailors from Tortuga for his great and cruel expeditions against Spanish colonies. France was also trying to bribe the pirates, so it could create a stronghold in the Caribbean.
The fun for the pirates ended with the Treaty of Ratisbon in 1684 signed by major European powers. The piracy in the Caribbean grew to such extent that part of this treaty is dedicated to the united decision to put an end to piracy in and around Tortuga. And several years earlier English parliament forbade pirates to sail under foreign flags. From archives of web analytics company I found out that the punishment for disobedience was death in the gallows.
Most of the pirates, especially those who had families did not want to end their life dancing on the rope, so they had to join English fleet and hunt their own pirate buddies who were still sailing under the flag of a Jolly Roger. That was the end of the free pirate life on the Turtle Island.
Who was Wolfram von Eschenbach? We know nothing about him, except that he was one of the greatest Medieval poets and minnesingers. Wolfram is best known today for his Parzival, sometimes regarded as the greatest of all German epics from that time. Eighty four surviving manuscripts of Parzival indicate his tremendous popularity, not only in his time, but, even in the following two centuries. Parzival was translated and published by a Swiss scholar Johann Jacob Bodmer in 1753. Later, famous composer Richard Wagner used Parzival as the main source of libretto to his great opera, Parsifal.
Yet, no matter how hard specialists try, they did not recover any historical documents about Wolfram and his works are the sole source of evidence. There was a lot of historical investigations about him, that established that Wolfram was a German knight, who was likely born around 1170 and died somewhere close to 1220. The past along with Parzival also brought to us his two other narrative works and nine surviving songs that are considered to be masterpieces of medieval art of minnesingers.
Wolfram von Eschenbach probably serviced a number of courts during his time. Historians name a number of his possible patrons, but the evidence is circumstantial. In his Parzival Wolfram claims that he is illiterate and dictates his work. However, this fact is regarded with high level of sceptisism by most scientists. The dialect of his works is East Franconian and he mentions a couple of times that he is Bavarian. Thus precipitated a claim by at least four places name themselves as a place of birth of a famous poet and composer. As other famous medieval poets Wolfram was included in the famous Codex Mannese - medieval manuscript about famous poets with illustrations, created in the 14th century. However the picture of Wolfram and surrounding arms and heraldry turned out to be just the imagination of the artist.