Bernart de Ventadorn

Quan (Can) vei la lauzeta mover, motet

    Description by Jeremy Grimshaw

    The essence of the European medieval tradition of courtly love, which served as the inspiration for centuries of French poetry and music, is encapsulated in the second verse of Bernart de Ventadorn's famous monophonic song Can vei la lauzeta mover: "Alas! I thought myself so wise in love, and yet I was so ignorant; for I can't help falling for a woman who will never return my love!" Even with what modern ears might consider an impoverished palette of musical materials -- a simple monophonic melody in a common church mode -- the song conveys the exquisite irreconcilability of the speaker's love and its permanently unrequited state, his fervent devotion to a noble lady and the distance that tradition and duty places between them. Ventadorn was one of the best-known troubadours (poet/singers of medieval southern France). He is known for his music and poetry, as well as his rumored association (perhaps more than merely "courtly") with Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose court was the hub of the medieval French song tradition. Eleanor was the granddaughter of the William IX, known as the first troubadour, and mother of Richard Lion Heart, a well-known trouvère (as poet/singers were known in northern France). Can vei la lauzeta mover, which dates from the late twelfth century, thus serves as an exemplar of the secular song tradition of Ventadorn and Eleanor's time. Ventadorn's poem, written in the old Provençal language known as langue d'oc or Occitan, survives in eight strophes, each set to the same through-composed Dorian melody. Each strophe (except the shortened final verse) contains eight lines of eight syllables each, the lines corresponding to individual phrases of the melody and following an A-B-A-B-C-D-C-D rhyme scheme. The simplicity of the melody and tight structure of the poetry do not occlude the sentiments of the text as one might expect, but rather enhance them by playing out the kind of stylized restraint/resistance dichotomy conveyed in the poetry. In fact, the regularity of the structure serves to enhance the despair of the last verse. Resigning all hope of winning his love's favor and committing himself to death or exile, the speaker ends his lament by bidding farewell to his friends, life, love, and singing. Just has he abandons song, the song itself ends, the final strophe suddenly cut off at its midpoint.

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2018
    Various Artists
    Christophorus
    CHR 77432
    2018
    Ricercar
    RIC 134
    2017
    Various Artists
    L'Oiseau-Lyre
    4788104
    2013
    Pneuma
    PNE 1400
    2013
    ECM
    2013
    ECM / ECM New Series
    4765968
    2013
    Naxos
    8503270
    2012
    Naxos
    8505230
    2012
    Naxos
    8572784
    2011
    Erato
    256467986
    2009
    Naïve
    NC 40011
    2008
    Et'cetera
    1361
    2007
    Hyperion
    55273
    2006
    Hyperion
    CDA67549
    2005
    Hyperion
    55186
    2005
    Licanus
    308
    2005
    Ricercar
    243
    2003
    Nettwerk
    CD 303292
    2002
    Gallo
    1071
    2001
    Christophorus
    77242
    1999
    Nimbus
    1753
    1999
    Naxos
    8554257
    1998
    Harmonia Mundi
    94396
    1997
    Opus 111
    30170
    1997
    L'Oiseau-Lyre
    448999
    1997
    Nimbus
    5002
    1996
    Dorian
    90243
    1996
    Teldec
    97938
    1995
    Harmonia Mundi
    HMX290 649/54
    1995
    Christophorus
    74519
    1995
    Harmonia Mundi
    2901524
    1994
    Erato
    94825
    1994
    Lyrichord
    LEMS8001
    1993
    Dorian / Dorian Discovery
    0109
    1993
    Hyperion
    66367
    1992
    Harmonia Mundi
    90396
    1991
    Hyperion
    66094
    1990
    ECM / PolyGram
    837360
    1990
    Hyperion
    66423
    W.W. Norton
    3099
    Norton
    10608
    W.W. Norton