i. Scoring, Number and Identity of Voices

Within the Machaut manuscripts, much variety is on offer when considering differences in both the large-scale planning and the execution of musical song-settings. Once some technical aspects of the various manuscripts are considered, clear patterns emerge. A more or less stable tradition can be found in MSS Vg, B, A and G, which differentiate itself from both the early MS C and the later MS E.

The early MS C shows a number of features that distinguish it from the other sources. It presents a number of works that are scored for fewer voices than in later version, although its planners anticipated further voices to be added (these never were, even though space was left). This source has two layers of copying, the majority of the work having been executed by 1349, with the remainder completed in the mid 1350s. The empty spaces for voices which were appended to songs copied in the early layer were kept in later versions in the other MSS. For those songs copied into the later layer that had such additional space, this space was not transmitted to later MSS. Either new voices were added to them, or the space left for such potential additions removed (and with it, the doubt concerning the intended size of setting). Some later sources show continued circulation of materials in versions close to Machaut’s own, but many others demonstrate the variety of copies in circulation, with apparently both expanded and reduced settings available to scribes for transcription. This is most clearly shown in MS E, which seems to present both early versions and up-to-date reworkings (in some cases evidently having more than one exemplar for each song), hinting at various modes of circulation and performance-practice. To trace these patterns, I begin with a source overview, presenting the transmission of extant works either exhibiting competing versions, or with some tension between the space planned for them and the eventual execution of their copying. This is followed by an example of the transition of one work from the early tradition of MS C towards a more established tradition in the main group of manuscripts. Finally, I consider the changing characteristics of some of the many voice-additions found in MS E.

In our printed edition, this variety was deemed too important and potentially too informative to consign to mere verbal description. In order not to obscure the shape of the oeuvre in the main part of the edition, the variant readings are placed separately with the critical apparatus. However, all versions deemed different enough or independent enough from the main tradition that is represented by our base source (MS A) are transcribed there in full.

Uri Smilansky


Fortune's Child

Out now on the Hyperion websiteFortune's Child is the most recent recording of Machaut's works from the Orlando Consort. As Fabrice Fitch of Gramophone notes, "five volumes in, Hyperion’s Machaut series shows no sign of running out of puff." Complimenting their performance, Fitch says "the Orlandos project and enunciate Machaut’s French so well that one rarely reaches for the printed text" and he is particularly impressed by Angus Smith's interpretation of 'Dou mal qui m'a longuement'. He further remarks, "as with previous volumes, the programming of this series is deeply impressive."

A Burning Heart

CD Cover Image for "Machaut: A Burning Heart" by the Orlando Consort

Available now from the Hyperion website, the Orlando Consort's latest CD, A Burning Heart, is already receiving critical acclaim. Blair Sanderson, writing for AllMusic.com, describes the Consort's singing as "wonderfully evocative and full of medieval atmosphere." While Brian Wilson, for MusicWeb International, declares: "I doubt...if either Chaucer or Chrétien could have imagined anything better than the singing on this and the other Orlando Consort Machaut recordings."


***********************STOP PRESS!!!!!!!!************************

The Complete Poetry and Music of Guillaume de Machaut Volume 1 is out now!!!!

Volume 1: The Debate Poems is now available in print.

You can also enjoy the entire volume online via the Middle English Texts Website.

Edited and translated by R. Barton Palmer, with art historical commentary by Domenic Leo, and musical commentary by Uri Smilansky, the volume contains  Le Jugement dou Roy de Behaigne, Le Jugement dou Roy de Navarre, and Le Lay de Plour.




The Dart of Love

Available now from the Hyperion website, The Dart of Love is second in a series of recordings by the Orlando Consort of Machaut's music. It has already received critical acclaim:

The Orlando Consort perform these works with matchless purity of tone and clarity of diction. (Limelight, Australia)

The programme is nicely varied in mood and scoring, ranging from four-voice ballades and motets to a single-voice virelai, and every combination in between … a thoughtful essay by Anne Stone makes audible sense of the many connections between the pieces on this valuable, impressive recording. (Gramophone)

The Ferrell-Vogüé Machaut Manuscript

Full colour facsimile with introductory study by Lawrence Earp, Domenic Leo and Carla Shapreau. Preface by Christopher de Hamel

"It is a vast manuscript of royal luxury, 390 leaves of parchment, 314 mm. by 220 mm., illustrated with 118 enchanting miniatures by a workshop of court illuminators led by the Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy.They include pictures of gothic chivalry and romance, with mythology and natural history. Music is included on 235 pages of the manuscript, with almost the entire corpus of the ballades, lais and motets of Machaut, as well as his great polyphonic setting of the Mass, the four-part Messe de Nostre-Dame.The manuscript has never before been photographed in its entirety or reproduced in colour."

"Vol. 1 introductory study (225 pages colour/mono), vol. 2 facsimile (789 full colour pages) on 150gsm matt art paper. Full size reproduction, hard bound in buckram, presented in hard slipcover."

Available now from DIAMM Publications.

The Art of Grafted Song: Citation and Allusion in the Age of Machaut by Yolanda Plumley

Available now from Oxford University Press

"Presents the first detailed exploration of citational practices in the song-writing tradition of fourteenth-century France. The first monograph-length study on the Ars nova chanson with new evidence about the emergence of the new polyphonic chanson. Provides new evidence about the circle of poets and composers who engaged with Machaut and created a new style of poetry and song. Explores little studied collections of lyrics and songs of the period and provides fresh insights and perspectives on Machaut's works."



New Voir Dit CD

Available now from the Hyperion website.

This new CD from the acclaimed Orlando Consort showcases songs from Machaut's Livre dou Voir Dit (‘Book of the True Tale’). The recording was inspired by collaborative work between our project team and the Orlando Consort who have been trialling the new edition being produced. You can watch a video of the consort discussing their recording on YouTube.

It has already received critical acclaim: David Fallows for Gramophone writes:

To my ears, this is a dream team, with the enormously experienced Donald Greig and Angus Smith alongside ...Matthew Venner and Mark Dobell, who display the most magnificent articulation of the texts alongside the understanding of the lines gained from their senior colleagues...always dead in tune, always beautifully balanced...the unforgettable track here is Angus Smith performing the 'Lay de Bon Esperance', over 20 minutes of unaccompanied solo singing...He's terrific.