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Vergine Bella, by Guillaume DuFay (1397​-​1474)

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Guillaume DuFay’s (1397-1474) Vergine bella, che di sol vestita is among the earliest surviving musical settings of the poetry of Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374).

While the 3-part musical setting may be performed with some tampering by adding text to the lower parts, there is a sufficient degree of authority to support an instrumental rendering of the tenor and contratenor lines, which are mostly untexted in all sources. Instrumental performance presents a challenge when arranged for one person to play on the lute, due to parts that cross and frequent differences of rhythmic distribution as they do so, but entirely possible if done with sensitivity to line, articulation and rhythmic accent. Our performance is in accordance with the original clef designations from Bodleian Library ms. Canonici 213 with the untexted lower parts played on the lute.

Interpretively, we were entirely uninfluenced by other musical approaches and, while informed by the commentary and analysis of Alejandro Planchart and Margaret Bent, our interpretation is unique. As is typical of his music, DuFay obviously had a formal scheme of proportion in his time signatures for this sectional piece, but we assign a larger value to the basic pulse and shape the time changes in accordance with the rhetorical devices inherent in the text.

While we take all the steps necessary to consider historical performance practice, in the end, we are convinced that a flexible and communicative musical approach surely trumps a rigid and academic performance: We are performing expressive music, not doing dry math.

For more information about this single and our music, please visit our website and our blog, Unquiet Thoughts.

lyrics

Vergine bella, che di sol vestita,
coronata di stelle, al sommo Sole
piacesti sí, che 'n te Sua luce ascose,
amor mi spinge a dir di te parole:
ma non so 'ncominciar senza tu' aita,
et di Colui ch'amando in te si pose.
Invoco lei che ben sempre rispose,
chi la chiamò con fede:
Vergine, s'a mercede
miseria extrema de l'humane cose
già mai ti volse, al mio prego t'inchina,
soccorri a la mia guerra,
bench'i' sia terra, et tu del ciel regina.

- Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374)

O Virgin fair, arrayed in the sun, crowned with stars,
You who found such favor with the highest Sun
that he hid his light in you,
Love drives me to speak of you.
But I cannot even begin without your aid
and the aid of Him who established Himself in you.
I invoke her who has always answered those
Who called upon her with faith.
Lady, if extreme misery in things of earth
ever turned you to pity,
Bend down to to my prayer, help me in my struggle
Though I be clay,
And you the queen of heaven!

translation by Donna Stewart

credits

from Singles, track released September 19, 2012
Music: Guillaume DuFay (1397-1474)
Poetry: Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374)

arranged for lute and voice by Ron Andrico, Mignarda Editions,
copyright Mignarda Editions 2012

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Mignarda Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Mignarda specializes in thoughtful programming illuminating the vibrant mingling of renaissance music & poetry. Noted for awakening modern audiences to an appreciation for historical music, their work encompasses concertizing, teaching & recording, with 12 critically-acclaimed CDs, a series of 12 music editions, scholarly articles, reviews and the internationally-popular blog, Unquiet Thoughts. ... more

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