Rondeau: Rose, liz, printemps, verdure
Guillaume de Machaut (ca. 1300-1377)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 2 Tracks 1-3
Machaut knew that rhythm and repetition are essentials of loving. Because of the syncopation (which, as we know, was really a hemiola) the musical line has enough subtlety to make us want to hear it again. And we do, several times. We repeat the opening of this delightful Rondeau until the lines of the text are spent.
The four voices are tangle in pairs. The contratenor and tenor are so close in register that they present one complicated voice. Increasing their union are the several voice crossings which, at times, makes it difficult to distinguish a single voice. Only slightly higher in register, the cantus and triplum are likewise engaged. These upper two voices are so active that it is not easy to follow one part more than the another. In fact, reading the NAWM score while listening to this recording may show that at least one of the singers does not stay on the same line throughout.
What I like about this Rondeau are the first four beats of the upper voices. Both parts move steadily by step. However, when combined, the listener hears a line that has a sudden upward leap after the first two and half beats. Even if the audience of this piece missed this detail, Machaut, I am certain, knew that by creating such intimate lines for the singers to enjoy, their delight would be easily conveyed to the listener.