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Siete qui: Home Festival Festival 2009 La Messe de Notre Dame di Guillaume de Machaut
La Messe de Notre Dame di Guillaume de Machaut PDF Print E-mail

by Dominique Vellard

Machaut’s date of birth is unknown, but musicologists have conventionally decided to make this artistic spirit’s year of birth coincide with the beginning of the XIV century. Around the year 1323, Machaut appears to be working as «secrétaire et familier» in the life of John of Bohemia of the House of Luxemburg, prince «hardi et chevaleresque» (daring and chivalrous). Precisely the unstable nature of this man, used to frequent relocations (Flanders, Italy, Bohemia, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, etc...), determined and shaped the creativity of Machaut’s personality. In 1340, because of John of Bohemia’s blindness, Machaut went definitively to live in Reims, with the role of canon. This new position permitted him to obtain a certain stability and to complete his scores, which have been conserved in their complete form until nowadays, surprisingly in the form that he had given them. Thanks to documents found in Reims, emerges the true destination of Messe de Notre Dame, composed not for a royal coronation or for the royal chapel of Avignon – as had been initially thought – but for a commemorative mass instituted by the Machaut brothers. In this way our analysis of the opera presents a bond with the history the Messe de Notre Dame.

We are very far from the aesthetics of the XX century, which had wanted to see in this score by Machaut a work of avant-garde – evidencing the rhythmic figures, sometime in a hysterical way! – for the complexity of the unique technical lyrics and for the serenity of the musical discourse.

If at first sight the Messe, both in terms of analysis and of interpretation, suggests the simultaneous presence of heterogeneous elements juxtaposed just for this determinate situation, a major familiarity with the score reveals in reality a process in which each new element presented is able to enrich the construction, leading both the performer and the public, at the end of the Messe, to an intense satisfaction. We are not able to know about Machaut’s concept of form, both analyzing the sections that maintain the same rhythm (Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus, Ite Missa est) and those, as Gloria and Credo, in which musical construction respects the semantic structure of the text, without losing its formal rigour.

I will not underline once more the incredible diversity of the used techniques (as the increment of rhythmical density in the Kyrie, true leitmotif of the entire masterpiece): Machaut combines all of these elements together and the refined intellectual game does not modify the force or the nature of the score.