• Anthony Payne
  • Echoes Of Courtly Love (1987)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • hn.2tpt.tbn.tba
  • 15 min

Programme Note

In the second half of 1986 I spent four months teaching composition at the New South Wales Conservatorium in Sydney. My schedule was so well organised that I had time both to compose and catch up on certain private study projects that I had long promised myself, among them the music of Dufay.

After listening to the complete chansons of that composer I had the uncanny feeling that I had been sitting in his very presence, so powerfully did the music speak to me. Accordingly I began to conceive of the idea of arranging some of these memorable pieces in a way that would express my admiration and gratitude across the centuries. The chansons themselves would not be distorted or interferred with, but by means of discreet introductory and linking material, would be placed in a context and in a sequence that would take account of my twentieth century sensibility. Thus by linking together songs that shared certain motivic characteristics and by organising the complete sequence of seven songs into three broad spans I imposed a kind of symphonic order which was outside fifteenth century thinking but which I hope does Dufay no disservice. In a sense the work is a little autobiographical tone poem, telling of my experience of listening to Dufay often late at night and alone in my room at the Conservatorium.

After an introduction, composed by me, which lays out one or two basic motifs, we hear two vigorous love songs, the rondeauxs "Donnes l'Assault a la Fortresse" and "Navre je suis d'un dart penetratif". My music returns and subsides, leading to a central sequence of three chansons: the lamenting ballade, "Adieu ces bons vins de lanoys", an energetic drinking song, "He compaignons, resvelons nous", and the exquisite "Par droit je puis bien complaindre et gemir" - truly one of the world's great love songs. After a short pause the third and last section launches two more lively chansons, the cumulatively rhythmic drinking song, "Puisque vous estez campieur", where I slightly elaborated Dufay's tonal scheme to achieve a climax, and the colourfully joyous "Le mois de May" in which I allude to the unrivalled verve of David Munrow's classic realisation.

Anthony Payne
August 1988