Machaut – Remede de Fortune new triumph for Blue Heron

What is “Remede de Fortune?” Nothing less than a multi-media work of art — created in 1350. Guillaume de Machaut was one of the greatest poets of his time. And one of the greatest composers. 

But Remede is more than just a combination of Machaut’s words and music. Machaut personally supervised the creation of an illuminated book. 

This illuminated text tells the story of a heartsick poet who blames Fortune for his, um, misfortune. Hope personified comes to his aid, leading him to the proper expression of love. 

The pages of the manuscript tell this story in rich detail. Music notation is embedded in the illustrations, as are poems. In order to fully experience Machaut’s creation, patrons would look at the pages while the poetry was recited, the songs sung, and dances recreated by instrumental ensembles. 

So it’s a media-rich graphic novel, created 650 years before the concept came into being. Oh – and at the end, the poet’s gift to his love is his love poem,  “Remede de Fortune,” making this meta as well. 

The early music vocal group Blue Heron staged a live performance of “Remede” with Les Délices. Their performance includes all the music contained in the story.  The narration was replaced with motets, songs, and dances of the period. 

It’s a great performance and one that can be enjoyed on several levels. I first listened to the recording cold. The recording works as a pure listening experience. There’s enough variety between the combination of instruments and voices to hold interest. 

Blue Heron is still one of the finest vocal ensembles around, and they didn’t disappoint. The music was sung with pure, clear tones of incredible expressive beauty. Les Délices provided subtle accompaniment, supporting the vocalists without detracting from them. 

The release comes with the complete text for Remede (and thankfully English translation). It also includes several full-color reproductions of the artwork. So one could, as in Machaut’s time, follow along with the text and art as the music played. 

It was an extraordinary work of art, and it’s an extraordinary realization. Highly recommended.  

Guillaume de Machaut: Remede de Fortune
Les Délices Debra Nagy, director
Blue Heron; Scott Medcalfe, director
Blue Heron

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