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Duration: 16 minutes

FOUR MADRIGALS ON OLD PORTUGUESE TEXTS (1976-1981)
for SATB (Madrigals 1-3) and SSATB (Madrigal 4) Soli or Chamber Choir

1. Ai eu coitada (Sancho I of Portugal)
2. Mia madre velida (Dinis I of Portugal)
3. Ai flores (Dinis I of Portugal)
4. Amigos, non poss' eu negar (Joan de Guilhade)

These four pieces bring together into one place many of my dearest passions: vocal chamber music, the Portuguese language, and things medieval. (In addition, the final madrigal, in which the poet confesses that he has been bewitched by a pair of green eyes, was composed shortly after I had met my future wife, Lisa, who also has green eyes.) The texts themselves are examples of the Gallego-Portuguese lyric, which flourished from the 12th through 14th century. I was drawn to them by their elegant and affecting simplicity and the often haunting quality of their parallelistic poetic structure. The first poem, written by one of Portugal's earliest kings, is a cantiga de amigo, a popular form of the period that always presents a young girl's lament over the absence of her lover. The second is a bailada or dance-song that begins cheerfully enough: a girl tells her mother that she is off to dance with her lover, but then at the end she reveals that she has, in fact, been betrayed by him. Ai flores, the third madrigal, is also a cantiga de amigo in which a girl pours forth her lament to the flowers who then answer her, telling her that all will soon be well. The final poem, written at least one humdred years after the others, is closer to the Provençal troubador tradition, and features a male protagonist, here a courtier, singing the praises of his beloved.

I. Ai eu coitada

Ai eu coitada como vivo                                        Ah! Sorrowful am I, living
en gran cuidado                                                       in such great care
por meu amigo                                                         for my beloved
que ei alongado:                                                      who is far away:
Muito me tarda o meu amigo                                 long my lover keeps
na guarda                                                                 me waiting.

Ai eu coitada como vivo                                       Ah! Sorrowful am I, living
en gran desejo                                                         in such great desire
por meu amigo                                                         for my beloved
que tarda e non vejo:                                             who tarries and whom I see not:
Muito me tarda o meu amigo                                long my lover keeps
na guarda                                                                 me waiting.

II. Mia madre velida

Mia madre velida                                                    My beautiful mother
vou-m'a la bailia                                                      I go to the dance
do amor.                                                                   of my love.
Mia madre velida                                                    My beautiful mother
vou-m'a la bailada                                                   I go to the dance
do amor.                                                                   of my love.
Vou-m'a la bailia                                                      I go to the dance
que fazen en vila                                                     which they hold in the town
do amor.                                                                   of my love.
Que fazen en vila                                                    Which they hold in the town
do qu'eu ben queria                                               of he whom I loved best
do amor.                                                                   (of my love).
Que fazen en casa                                                  Which they hold in the house
do qu'eu muyt' amava                                            of he whom I loved so much
do amor.                                                                   (of my love).
Do qu'eu ben queria                                               Of he whom I loved best --
chamar m'an perjurada                                           they called me the betrayed
do amor.                                                                   of my love.

III. Ai flores

Ai flores do verde pino                                         Oh flowers of the green pine wood,
se sabedes novas do meu amigo                         have you any news of my love?
Ai deus, e u e?                                                        Oh God! Where is he?
Se sabedes novas do meu amigo                         Have you any news of my love,
Aquel que mentio do que poss' comigo?           He who lied to me?
Ai deus, e u e?                                                        Oh God! Where is he?

Vos preguntades polo voss' amigo                    You ask for your beloved
e eu ben vos digo que e viv' e sano.                  and I tell you he is alive and well.
Ai deus, e u e?                                                       Oh God! Where is he?
E eu ben vos digo que e san' e vivo                   And I tell you he is alive and well
e será vosc' ant' o prazo saido.                            and will be with you before the season passes.
Ai deus, e u e?                                                       Oh God! Where is he?

IV. Amigos, non poss'eu negar

Amigos, non poss' eu negar                                Friends, I cannot deny
a gran coita que d'amor ei,                                    the great pain I feel because of love,
ca me vejo sandeu andar,                                     for I see myself acting foolish
e con sandeçe o direi:                                           and in my folly I confess it:
os olhos verdes que eu vi                                    those green eyes which I have seen
me fazen or' andar assi.                                         have made me act this way.

Pero quemquer s'entenderá                                 Thus if anyone will understand
aquestes olhos quaes son,                                  those eyes and what they do,
e dest' alguen se queixará                                     he will lament (as I do)
mais eu ja quer moira, quer no                             that he wants to die: but he doesn't!
os olhos verdes que eu vi                                    those green eyes which I have seen
me fazen or' andar assi.                                         have made me act this way.


 

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