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May Champagne Concert 2023: The Music of Guillaume de Machaut

A professional vocal ensemble performed in Oriel Chapel and were directed by our Fellow and Tutor in Music, Dr David Maw. The concert was devoted to the work of the 14th-Century French composer and poet – Guillaume de Machaut, who was a central figure of the ars nova style in late medieval music.

Dr Maw has spent much of his professional life researching, writing about and performing the music of Guillaume de Machaut; and he is preparing a new edition of the composer’s music.

Machaut composed in a wide range of styles and forms and was crucial in developing the motet and secular song forms. The programme began with the composer’s notable ‘Messe de Nostre Dame’, the first work of its kind in music history, considered by many to be a masterpiece of medieval religious music.

The concert was a unique opportunity for guests to listen to medieval poetry and music performed by Hannah Cooke (Mezzo soprano), Tom Robson (Tenor), Joy Sutcliffe (Mezzo soprano), David de Winter (Tenor), Cécile Varry (Reciter), and Dr David Maw (Organ).

The evening’s programme also assembled songs for a courtly setting (a collection of love songs dating from various stages during Machaut’s creative life). Brief extracts from Machaut’s narrative poems provided context; and his music was supplemented by instrumental compositions from the fifteenth-century Faenza Codex.

The concert ended with the beautiful Déploration on the death of Machaut, in which poems by his pupil Eustache Deschamps were set to music by F. Andrieu, as preserved in the late-fourteenth-century Chantilly Codex. This is a manuscript of medieval music containing pieces from the style known as the Ars subtilior. It is held in the museum at the Château de Chantilly in Chantilly, Oise.