The title of the album Mia Yrmana Fremosa (My Lovely Sister) comes from a 13th century Galician-Portuguese collection of songs, Cantigas de amigo, by Martín Codax, the oldest surviving music from the Iberian Peninsula. The seven-song cycle is the featured work on this recording of Medieval women's songs by the Berlin-based early music trio Triphonia. Besides singing, the women expertly play recorders, Romanesque harp, psaltery, vielle, and numerous exotic percussion instruments, so the recording has a refreshing timbral variety. Although none of the selections are known to be by a woman (though there are many anonymous works), all are written from a woman's perspective and are grouped according to topic: separated lovers, mothers and daughters, unhappy marriages, laments, and divine love. Manuscripts of the period offer few clues about how the music was to be played or sung, so authenticity of performance practice is a shady issue and conscientious performers are guided largely by their broad historical knowledge and musical instincts. Triphonia rightly treats the minimal information in the manuscripts as a skeleton intended to be fully fleshed out. Its approach tends to be on the maximal side, adding vocal and instrumental lines to the monophonic melodies, and the results sometimes sound downright sumptuous. The pure voices blend beautifully and the instrumental accompaniments devised are colorful and imaginative. An especially intriguing touch is the inclusion of six different realizations of the 13th century motet "Endurez, endurez les dous mas d'amer" from the Codex Montpellier. Purists may argue with the freedom with which they treat the material, but the group's decisions are based on a lifetime of research and performing experience, and this approach certainly brings this ancient music to life. The sound of Challenge Classics' CD is clean, detailed, and warmly vibrant, with excellent balance. Recommended for anyone who has had trepidation about approaching very early music out of fear that it is dry; Triphonia's performances suggest that sonic sensuality is a phenomenon that extends further back into history than we might have imagined.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Cantigas de amigo|
God de bat eyn zelelin (Text: Wienhäuser Liederbuch, c. 1470 / Melody: Rostocker Liederbuch, late 15th century)
Cantiga de Santa Maria: De vergonna nos gardar (El Escorial, Real Monasterio de El Escorial, c. 1280-83)
Ik drage an mynes herten grunt (Text: Wienhäuser Liederbuch / Melody: Liederbuch der Anna von Köln, c. 1500)