When we were developing our first medieval French motet program, Love’s Illusion, from the Montpellier Codex (c. 1300), we decided to use only motets on the topic of fin amours, or “courtly love.” But there were two exceptions in the program, one of which was the loveliest of the handful of 4-voice motets in the Codex, Plus bele que flor / Quant revient et fuelle / L’autrier joer / FLOS [FILIUS EIUS] (Mo 21). In this motet, three different fin amours texts are declaimed simultaneously by the upper three voices over a wordless tenor. The highest of these voice parts, the quadruplum, begins like any typical courtly love motet lyric, praising the beauty and goodness of the lady-love. But, while the other two texted voice parts sing of secular love, the quadruplum lyric concludes with a “surprise ending,” in which the object of the singer’s love and desire is revealed as the Virgin Mary. Inspired by this motet, we have had in mind another Montpellier Codex program that explores the juxtaposition of courtly/pastoral love themes with ardor and praise for Mary, the Lady with no equal.
The trouve?re chanson and the French motet repertories of the 13th- century are closely intertwined, both in terms of their poetry and their melodies. In both are found high-art lyrics of love and longing as well as more playful, sometimes naughty pastourelles which deal with the stock characters of the countryside: shepherds, shepherdesses and other non- noble personages. They go by many names, but the most common are Robin (for the man) and Marion/Marot/Marotele (for the woman). In Marie et Marion we present the common and contrasting themes of love and desire, in motet and song, for the earthly (and earthy) Marion, and the heavenly Marie, both of whom inhabit, comfortably side by side, the music and poetry of this age.
The Montpellier Codex, from which we draw all the motets in this program, was collected in Paris around the year 1300, and is the richest single source of 13th-century French polyphony. With a repertory spanning the entire 13th century, it contains polyphonic works in all
the major forms of its era – organum, conductus, hocket and, primarily, motet (315 motets in all). In the tracklist we have included the Mo numbers by which scholars normally refer to these motets.
The French double motet, by far the most popular type of motet in the 13th century, dominates the Montpellier Codex. Its tenor is usually based on a plainchant fragment, but sometimes on a dance or popular tune as in En mai quant rosier / L’autre jour par un matin / HE RESVELLE TOI ROBIN (Mo 269).