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.
It will probably be very hard to answer who Antonello da Caserta was, as we know nothing about this great man, except that he was a famous medieval Italian composer in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Some musicologists advanced a theory that da Caserta was from Naples and created there. But eventually, this conclusion provided to be wrong, becuase most of composer’s surviving works are in northern Italian manuscripts. Anyways, there is nothing that I could find either from the archives of my local web analytics company.
There are some hints that Antonello was a monk. Yet, even this scarce information provides us with nothing, because we don’t know which monastic orders of that time he belonged to. Other hints place Antonello in Pavia in 1402, it looks like at some certain point of his life he worked for the Italian noble dynasty Visconti in Milan, which they ruled from 1277 to 1447. So far we don’t even know the exact name of Antonello, as different sources also name him Anthonello or Antonellus Marot.
It seems that da Caserta was heavily influenced by French musical models which was quite unusual for those times. He even set texts both in French and Italian.
Antonello was famous for his ballades that tell us about courtly love. His surviving works show that Antonello was very famous among other composers of the generation after Guillaume de Mauchet. While his Italian songs are simpler, his creations in French are more complex ballads that use the proportional rhythms that became popular in much later periods.
Famous composer Donato da Cascia undoubtedly was an integral part of the Early Italian Renaissance period, that we know as Trecento. He created his music in the second part of the fourteenth century. As in many other cases related to that period, we know nothing about this famous composer, his life, his date of birth or death. So, I can only suppose that he was from Florence or a place called Cascia, near Florence, as his last name says.
The only picture that specialists discovered, shows him in the typical robes of the Benedictine order, so we may assume that he was a monk or a priest. But here lies the mystery: out all his surviving music, there is not even a bit of religious music. It is all completely secular. All the sources of his music with just one exception were found in Tuscany.
Jacopo da Bologna most likely had some influence on Donato da Cascia’s works. We know about most of Donato’s music, thanks to Squarcialupi Codex - the illuminated manuscript compiled in Florence, Italy in the early 15th century. Even though, his music was written in the typical style of mid 14th century, it has exceptional virtuosity. All surviving madrigals created by Donato da Cascia represent the peak of virtuoso singing.
The beginning of the Renaissance in Italy started somewhere in the14th century. In Italian this historical period is called the Trecento from the phrase "mille trecento" which is translated as 1300. The list of famous names is practically endless. And, in addition to this list, we can add famous composers and musicians, artists and writers who published their works anonymously.
The Trecento, as you may well know it, was the period of heightened activity in art, literature and music. This is when Dante wrote his Divine Comedy, painter Giotto di Bondone used for the first time perspective in art. The list of Renaissance giants is huge and include famous creators as Boccaccio, Petrarch, Adnrea da Firenze and others.
Music had also changed drastically during Trecento. Partially, because a lot of troubadours was fleeing from the Southern France, mostly Provence, to Italy. Troubadours had a huge impact on Italian music of Renaissance period. Famous composers and musicians that used to write only religious music started writing secular songs. Francesco Landini, Paolo Tenorista, Maestro Piero and others created not only polyphonic music for all powerful Catholic Church but also love lyrics for everyday people.
From what we know, instrumental music was also widespread during Trecento. Unfortunately, not much of it survived, just few notated examples. The rest of the sources come to us from the area around Florence. We also know that some of the poetry of Dante was set to music, but none of it survived either.
Yet, Walther’s poems give us the picture not only of a great artistic genius, but of a strenuous, passionate, very human and very lovable character. His talents and strong views became required by German society, when empire and papacy started their struggle in 1197. Walther took side with German independence and unity which gave him a place of significance in history. Till the end of his days, Walther remained a faithful Catholic, which is confirmed by religious poems. Nevertheless, he was fervently opposing the extreme claims of the Roman popes, whom he attacked with bitterness, expressing his deep patriotic feelings.
Walther never switched sides and a highly intelligent new emperor Frederick II held in high esteem poet’s genius and zeal. Thus, Walther received desired recognition and even a small fief in Franconia, that gave him a home and fixed position. Yet, he was complaining that this fief had little value. There is some evidence, that Frederick made Walther the tutor of his son, but this evidence based on one of his lyrics is disputed by modern researchers.
Walther von der Vogelweide did not stay immediately at his new fief long, he traveled for a while and only then settled at his new place. From there he was urging German princes to take part in the Sixth Crusade in 1228 but, did not participate in it himself, or at least did not go further than Tirol. In a beautiful poem he paints the change that had come over the scenes of his childhood and made his life seem a thing dreamed. When he was dying in 1230, he put in his will the request to feed the birds at his tomb every day.