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Track(s) taken from CDA66358

Le Lai de la Fonteinne

author of text

The Hilliard Ensemble
Recording details: February 1989
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: November 1989
Total duration: 23 minutes 21 seconds


'Superbly recorded … very impressive indeed' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'lt should be no surprise that this is a real winner' (Fanfare, USA)
Le Lai de la Fonteinne (‘The lay of the fountain’) is in essence a prayer and hymn of praise to the Virgin and a meditation on the nature of the Trinity, likened by the poet to a fountain. The fountain itself, the stream flowing from it and its source are three apparently separate things, which in reality are one: God the Father is the source, the fountain is the Son, and the stream is the Holy Ghost. The cleansing and thirst-quenching properties of water, its strength to remain itself even as ice or vapour, the fount of harmony and purity – all are invoked as images uniting in the vision of the Virgin as the true foundation of faith: ‘just like water the sweet fruit of life took on human flesh and human shape in your empty womb’.

The lai was a major form of earlier medieval song-poetry and it is not surprising to find Machaut inheriting the tradition. What is surprising is to discover that four of his lais are polyphonic, though always derived from the single line of a solo singer. Le Lai de la Fonteinne has twelve stanzas, the standard number, which subdivide conveniently into six monodic and six polyphonic sections, alternating these textures throughout. The use of three voices of course reflects the lai’s subject and the three-in-one principle further reflects the particular substance of given stanzas, as does the canonic nature of the music – one voice makes three which are in fact but one.

Such play with words, with numbers, and finally with sound itself is not mere play, but a vitally serious and profoundly inevitable interplay of artistic invention and the recognition of eternal necessities, truths, that surround us and support us. They can be loose and flexible, utterly fluid, yet are ultimately irresistible. Man seeks to harness this force, to reflect it in his own works, by careful construction in accordance with the immutable laws of number and physics, which in turn free him to create and recreate those games of light and darkness that we call the arts.

from notes by Paul Hillier © 1989

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