paul hillier - proensa (ecm 1368) - 1988
w/ hillier (baritone), stephen stubbs (lute, psaltery), andrew lawrence-king (harp, psaltery), erin headley (vielle)
photography - werner hannappel / design - barbara wojirsch
the songs of the troubadours are the most evocative and alluring remnants of that culture, which once flourished in the former roman empire that is now southern france - provence, proensa. this recital takes words and music from the crumbled remains of that epoch and fashions them into song, well aware that the music is so deeply sunk in time that no one knows precisely how the songs were uttered. yet, left alone, away from theories and unencumbered with elaborate musical arrangements, these songs are remarkable selfsufficient. each melody has a firm, distinct character of its own and enables the poetry to be enchanted into song, without compromising the subtleties of the verse and linguistic color, which is so often the case with more "fixed" settings of words and music. the participation of instruments, by no means essential for any one piece, is here used as an aural counterfoil to the voice, providing interludes between strophes, linking song to song, and sometimes fleshing out the modal shape of a tune to form a background accompaniment.
- above quote works well as a description, or an example, of one of the many unique qualities of the ecm/manfred eicher sound.
- also unique to the label's vision is the relationship of the music (and the quality of sound) to the sparseness of the stones and rocks in the black & white landscape (quite exaggerated by the design and typography).
the camera works similar to the recording studio in capturing and heightening (and also abstracting) rare moments of subtlety and beauty.
(thanks to grasprelease for suggestions which led me to this one)