The song Se la face ay pale
is brilliant and virtuosic in character rather than lyrically reflective, and belongs to the category of what we might call the ‘public’ (or better, ‘semi-public’) chanson, a type of song that seems designed to make a powerful sonic impact in performance within, say, a ‘representative’ courtly context. It may well have been written for—that is, in honour of—Anne de Lusignan, Louis’s new wife and soon-to-be Duchess. Whether or not it was composed expressly for the wedding, or soon thereafter, it is in any case clearly a work of the 1430s, and a notably advanced one at that. If it did indeed become a kind of musical ‘emblem’ for the House of Savoy, that would make its assumption into a large-scale, celebratory Mass setting all the more fitting.
from notes by Philip Weller © 2009