Songs of the Trobairitz
Soprano, violin, English horn
Texts: Women troubadours of medieval Provence
1988, rev. 2006
Premiere–Janet Walker, mezzo-soprano; Gerhard Veith, English horn; and Jane Berger, violin, Augsburg, Germany, 1990
42 pages. Score and parts included.
Songs of the Trobairitz is one of a number of scores I’ve written for voice and chamber ensemble, works like Give Her the River, To Live in This World, Great Blue and A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day. Written in 1988 as a wedding present for a violinist-oboist pair, these texts by the Trobairitz—women troubadours of medieval Provence—provide a candid view of joyous, bitter, gentle courtly love. Told in terms not unlike our own day, the more reflective, even-numbered songs have a particularly familiar ring. The score was extensively revised in 2006. Songs of the Trobairitz was premiered in July 1990 in Augsburg, Germany by Janet Walker, mezzo-soprano; Gerhard Veith, English horn; and Jane Berger, violin.
The vocal line is appropriate for either soprano or lyric mezzo-soprano. For easier reading, the instruments are presented at concert pitch and in inverted order in the score, as if for a piano reduction. However, the English horn part is transposed. The parts are well cued, with vocal line where necessary.
I thrive on youth and joy,
and youth and joy keep me alive,
for my friend’s the very gayest,
which makes me gay and playful;
and since I’m true, he should be faithful:
my love for him has never strayed,
nor is my heart the straying kind.
–Countess of Dia, born c. 1140
Of things I’d rather keep in silence I must sing:
so bitter do I feel toward him
whom I love more than anything.
With him my mercy and fine manners are in vain,
my beauty, virtue, and intelligence.
–Countess of Dia
God knows I should have had my fill of song—
the more I sing, the worse I fare in love,
and tears and cares make me their home;
I’ve placed my heart and soul in jeopardy,
and if I don’t end this poem now
it will already be too long.
–Castelloza, born c. 1200
Now we are come to the cold time
when the ice and the snow and the mud
and the birds’ beaks are mute;
and the hedge-branches are dry—
no leaf nor bud sprouts up,
nor cries the nightingale
whose song awakens me in May.
–Azelais de Porcairages, born c. 1140
If you knew my mind, sweet handsome friend,
your handsome noble learned heart
no longer would lament; for you’re the one
who’s made me happier today than ever.
To me true joy’s impossible without you
to whom I give myself sincerely,
Wherever I go, you have my heart in guarantee.
Translations by Meg Bogin, from The Women Troubadours. Norton & Co., 1980. Used by permission.