Early Music Recording Lists

Medieval Secular Songs

The subject of this list is primarily the French language compositions of the Medieval period, whether the chanson proper or the polytext motet. Material in other languages (especially Italian) will be included, where appropriate. This does include Latin, if the theme of the program is not primarily sacred.

This music shows a broad range, from the subtle monophonic melodies of the late 12th century to the convoluted polyphonic songs of the early 15th century. Of course, Machaut is central. The recordings listed will not be entirely composed of secular music (of necessity), but that will be my primary interest in the disc (so far as that can be pinned down).

The sectional break-downs & individual listings are arranged roughly chronologically, and intended to help clarify stylistic eras. In this case, ratings tend to be rather clearly indicative of a broad appreciation on my part.


Latin Lyrics

Since they don't involve the vernacular flowering of the following section, and especially because much of this repertory was closely associated with Notre Dame (& its cathedral music), I had previously included it in the Ars Antiqua section of the sacred list. However, particularly as prompted by the first item, creating this section now seems warranted. The listing for this section will likely remain brief, but more items are possible, as the earliest horizons of performable music continue to recede....

Boethius: Songs of Consolation (*)
Metra from 11th-century Canterbury
Sequentia - Benjamin Bagby
Glossa 922518
Nova Cantica (**)
Latin Songs of the High Middle Ages
Dominique Vellard and Emmanuel Bonnardot
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77196
Conductus, Vol. 3 (*)
Music & Poetry from Thirteenth Century France
John Potter / Christopher O'Gorman / Rogers Covey-Crump
Hyperion 68115

Troubadours & Trouvères

These recordings seem to come in bursts, with long lags in certain areas, but overall the volume is high, so I am rather selective (perhaps coming to arbitrary...) here. Nonetheless, the list below is ample, at least for the trouvères, and the range of interpretations does continue to vary somewhat. (Of course, there is still a matter of balancing overall programs in this space....)

Nuits Occitanes (**)
Troubadours' Songs
Ensemble Céladon - Paulin Bündgen
Ricercar 340
La Chanson de Guillaume (**)
Lai, Chansons guerrières et politiques (1188-1250)
Diabolus in Musica - Antoine Guerber
Studio SM 2756
L'amor de Lonh (***)
Medieval songs of love and loss
Ensemble Gilles Binchois - Dominique Vellard
Glossa 32304
Variations amoureuses (*)
French love Songs from the 13th Century
Alla Francesca - Brigitte Lesne
Paraty 220 190
Thibaut de Champagne - Le Chansonnier du Roi (**)
Amour Courtois et Chevalerie au XIIIe siècle
Alla Francesca
Aeon 1221
Tristan et Yseut (**)
Alla Francesca - Brigitte Lesne & Pierre Hamon
Zig-Zag Territoires 051002
Adam de la Halle: Le jeu de Robin et Marion (**)
Ensemble Micrologus
Zig-Zag Territoires 040602
Adam de la Halle: D'amoureus cuer voel chanter (*)
Le Jardin de Courtoisie - Anne Delafosse Quentin
Zig-Zag Territoires 070401
The Love Songs of Jehan de Lescurel (***)
Ensemble Céladon - Paulin Bündgen
Ricercar 366

Ars Antiqua

This section links up closely with the preceding one, but here the emphasis is on polyphony and the motet, which evolved alongside both the trouvère song and the sacred polyphony of the era. The emphasis is on the Parisian motet, although some outlying repertory is included.

Les Escholiers de Paris (***)
Motets, Chansons et Estampies du XIIIe siècle
Ensemble Gilles Binchois - Dominique Vellard
Harmonic 9245
Motetus (**)
Music at the Time of Notre-Dame in Paris
Visse / Mentzel / Brownless / Mason / Clemencic Consort - René Clemencic
Stradivarius Dulcimer 33398

Machaut

Machaut is clearly one of the all-time great Western composers, and I am happy to have a variety of wonderful recordings to list here. Although there are many other recordings available, especially given the relatively advanced state of interpreting Machaut's songs, I have tried to be selective. The recordings in this section are chronological by recording date.

Le vray remède d'amour (***)
Machaut: Ballades, Rondeaux, Virelais, Motets
Ensemble Gilles Binchois - Dominique Vellard
Harmonic 8825
Le Jugement du Roi de Navarre (**)
Machaut: Ballades, motets, virelais et textes dits
Ensemble Gilles Binchois - Dominique Vellard
Cantus 9626
Machaut: Ay mi! (**)
Lais et virelais
Emmanuel Bonnardot
Opus 111 30-171
Machaut: Mon chant vous envoy (****)
Marc Mauillon / Angélique Mauillon / Vivabiancaluna Biffi / Pierre Hamon
Eloquentia 1342
The Orlando Consort Machaut Edition (***)
Orlando Consort
v. 1 - Hyperion 67727
v. 2 - Hyperion 68008
v. 3 - Hyperion 68103
v. 4 - Hyperion 68134
v. 5 - Hyperion 68195
v. 6 - Hyperion 68206
v. 7 - Hyperion 68277
v. 8 - Hyperion 68318 ....

Italian Ars Nova

After a short burst of activity a could of decades or so ago now, this section was starting to languish a bit — after having recovered from what seemed like almost nonexistent coverage a couple of decades before that. Italian music of this period does compete with the French in volume, even if the contrapuntal variety is not so great, and so there is still more that could be done, particularly as regards individual composer surveys, etc. Performance practice does solidify nicely, but there's still a matter of familiarity with the most intricate lines & allusions.

D'Amor cantando (**)
Ballate e madrigali veneti: Codice Rossi XIV secolo
Micrologus
Opus 111 30-141
Landini E I Suoi Contemporanei (**)
Firenze Secolo XIV
Micrologus
Opus 111 30-112
Landini: Fior di Dolceça (****)
L'Ars nova di Magister Franciscus Cecus Orghanista de Florentia
Micrologus
Zig-Zag Territories 050603
Con voce quasi humana (*)
Vocal Music of the Trecento
Ensemble Perlaro - Lorenza Donadini
Raum Klang 3501
Firenze 1350 (**)
A Medieval Florentine Garden
Sollazzo Ensemble - Anna Danilevskaia
Editions Ambronay 055

Ars Subtilior & Transition

Once neglected and considered "bizarre" or even unplayable, this music is enjoying a tremendous increase in attention. There are (relatively) many quality performances appearing, and the voluminous sources are making it one of the longest sections of this list. In many ways, this repertory grows naturally out of the late works of Machaut, but then the center of activity shifts to Southern France & Northern Italy. There is also a significant outlier in French-ruled Cyprus. Toward the end of this section we also find the the beginnings of the Renaissance style with its simpler lines and greater emphasis on harmony in thirds. The last programs below span this shift, to an increasing degree.

Codex Chantilly (***)
Bibliothèque du Musée Condé 564
Tetraktys - Kees Boeke
I: Etcetera 1900
II: Etcetera 1905
III: Etcetera 1917
Fortune Obscure (*)
Die Schicksalsballaden des Codex Chantilly
Fortuna Canta
Conditura Records 011
Flour de Beaulté (**)
Late Medieval Songs From Cyprus
La Morra - Michal Gondko & Corina Marti
Ramée 0602
Enigma Fortuna (****)
Zacara da Teramo: Complete Works
La Fonte Musica - Michele Pasotti
Alpha 640 [CDx4]
Ciconia: Opera Omnia (***)
Diabolus in Musica - Antoine Guerber / La Morra - Corina Marti & Michal Gondko
Ricercar 316 (2 CDs)
Matteo da Perugia: Chansons (***)
Tetraktys - Kees Boeke
Etcetera 1918
De Tristesse, de Deuil, de Desplaysance (*)
Songs from Ms. Oxford, Bodleian Library, Canonici Misc. 213
Tetraktys - Kees Boeke
Etcetera 1911

If a recording in this genre is not listed here, either I haven't been able to obtain a copy (perhaps out of print), I don't know about it at all, I felt that it is substantially duplicated by a recording I like better, or I didn't care for it enough to give it one star. Please feel free to inquire, especially if you know a recording I probably don't.

I will try to keep this page up to date as new releases appear.

To recommendation lists.

Todd M. McComb
Updated: 5 September 2021