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.
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.
Not all famous troubadours were of aristocratic origin. Some of them had came from lower class families like great composer and poet Giraut de Bornelh. He was born around 1138 in Limousin and started writing music and poems at quite an early age. Soon his fame spread around and his fans gave him for his skills a very prestigious name - Master of the Troubadours.
And Giraut was a Master, indeed. He invented the new, light style of troubadour’s music, won a lot of poetical debates. We got a rare chance to observer his contribution because around ninety poems and four of his melodies survived to our modern times.
When another great troubadour Raimbaut of Orange unexpectedly died, Giraut created one of his best pieces - a lament on the Raimbaut’s death. This song became famous, especially during Third Crusade. Giraut accompanied Richard the Lionheart and his own patron Aimar V of Limoges and even stayed in the Holy Land for a while. Specialists say, that it is quite possible that Giraut made a piligrimage there even before the beginning of the Third Crusade. He lived a long life and died in 1215.
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.
This is the story of the famous troubadour who was loved and praised for his talents by all his contemporaries. Dante called him “the best craftsman”, Petrarch went even further and named him “Grand Master of Love”. This troubadour was the inventor of the most beautiful type of song, called “sestina” and Longfellow claimed that he was also the author of the metrical romance songs. Ezra Pound considered him to be a greatest poet to have ever lived.
That is all what I found about him during my web research. This famous troubadour’s name was Arnaut Danièl. He was an Occitan troubadour of the 13th century. And we know practically nothing about his life. Only sixteen existing lyrics survived and there is a music for only one of them but if was composed a century later after troubadour’s death by an anonymous author. So, we don’t know of any original melody of this great composer. Dante also refers to Daniel as the author of "proses of romance", which we know nothing about. His creations in prose, remain a mystery to this very day..
According to short medieval romanticized biography of Arnaut, he was born of a noble family. However, he was so poor that he had to become a jester. Contemporary sources hint that gambling and love of easy women brought him in young age to these economic troubles. In Dante’s The Divine Comedy, Arnaut Daniel appears as a character doing penance in Purgatory for lust. In homage to these lines which Dante gave to Daniel, T. S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land opens and closes with references to Dante and Daniel.
Troubadour from Provence, and later in his life, knight Raimbaut de Vaqueiras spent most of his life in Italian courts until 1203, when he joined the Fourth Crusade. Although his dates of birth and death are unknown. At least, I found them in the archives of web analytics company. We can guess from his name that he came from the place Vacqueryas in southern France. His creative period in the 12 century is dated from 1180 to 1207. According to contemporaries, he used wide range of styles and wrote songs in five languages. Only eight of the melodies for thirty three of his survived songs reached us. Yet, one of the songs, Kalenda Maia is considered one of the best troubadour melodies.
Rambauit was not only a troubadour, he was also a court poet and close friend of the leader of the Fourth Crusade Boniface I of Montferrat. At the time Boniface had presided over one of the most prestigious courts of chivalric culture and troubadour song in the second part of the 12th century. Vaqueiras sometimes addressed him as Lord Englishman, but the in-joke is never explained. He served with Boniface in action against the communes of Asti and Alessandria. Vaqueiras even saved Boniface’s brother-in-law Alberto of Malaspina when he was unhorsed.
Later Rambauit earned his knighthood by protecting Boniface with his shield in battle at Messina when they took part in Emperor Henry VI invasion of Sicily. This happened right after the campaign’s successful conclusion. He was present at the siege and capture of Constantinople in 1204, and then accompanied Boniface to Thessalonica. During the Crusade he was writing an important commentary on the politics of the Latin Empire in its earliest years and, suddenly his writing stopped and we don’t hear of Rambauit anymore. It is very significant, that there is no lament composed by him in memory of Boniface’s death. After all, he was most loyal friend. That is why historians suggest that our troubadour died on 4 September 1207, together with Boniface, in an ambush by the Bulgarians.