Fauvel Studies: Allegory, Chronicle, Music, and Image in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale De France, MS Français 146

Article excerpt

Margaret Bent and Andrew Wathey, eds. Fauvel Studies: Allegory, Chronicle, Music, and Image in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS français 146. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998. xix, 666 pp. ISBN 0-19-816579-X (hardcover).

This enormous collection of essays combines the work of 27 authors, including ten musicologists, seven literary scholars, and ten historians, four of whom specialize in the history of art and architecture. Few musical manuscripts would warrant the breadth of attention and scholarly scrutiny found here, but Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, MS français 146 (henceforth Fauvel) is an indisputable exception. Dating from the first decades of the fourteenth century, this is the oldest and largest (93 folia, measuring 33 ? 46 cm) of the thirteen extant manuscripts containing an interpolated version of the Roman de Fauvel, written by Gervès du Bus. A satirical allegory, the Roman encapsulates the last decades of the reign of the French king, Philip the Fair (d. 1314), and the downfall of his finance minister, Enguerran de Marigny, using the mocking image of a horse called Fauvel, whose name (an acrostic) and nature is representative of the vices ijlaterie, avarice, vilanie, variété, envie, and lascheté. This grand literary creation, written in Old French and intended for a sophisticated audience, is richly decorated with both highly detailed illuminations and interpolated music. It includes settings of both French and Latin poetry, in the form of motets, conductus, and monophonie songs, early examples of the formes fixes. Also included in the manuscript are the complete works of an otherwise obscure composer, Jehannot de Lescurel, a verse chronicle of French history (1300-1316), and several French and Latin narrative dits (moralizing poems) by Geffroy de Paris. A modern edition of the Latin examples, by Leofranc Holford-Strevens, appears for the first time in the present volume ("The Latin Dits of Geffroy de Paris: An Editto Princeps"); this article alone is an unquestionably valuable contribution to the existing literature.

Any musical scholar approaching this extremely complex manuscript for the first time would do well to begin with a detailed reading of this volume, which not only handily summarizes all relevant scholarship to date (and provides a valuable introduction to the source by the volume editors) but also considerably advances our knowledge of compositional technique and manuscript organization in early Ars nova France. Several articles are essential reading for an analytical understanding of the music of this period. Wulf Arit ("Jehannot de Lescurel and the Function of Musical Language in the Roman de Fauvel as Presented in BN fr. 146") shows Fauvel not only as a substantial early source of the separate genres of rondeaux, ballade, and virelai, but also as a previously unrecognized exemplar of new compositional methods in these monophonie songs. Joseph C. Morin ("Jehannot de Lescurel's Chansons, Geffroy de Paris's Dits, and the Process of Design in BN fr. 146") posits a credible theory that the works of Geffroy and Lescurel, like the Roman, were manipulated carefully by the compilers of the manuscript in order to best reflect its political focus. Included as evidence is a useful appendix of column widths and ruling markings, showing the careful design of the copyists. Christopher Page shows the manuscript as an early source for an innovative new genre, the ballade, which had only recently appeared on the scene in Paris, some time between the writing of the treatise of Johannes de Grocheio (c. 1300) and the compiling oí Fauvel ("Tradition and Innovation in BN fr. 146: The Background to the Ballades"). This volume also provides a new catalogue, by Susan Rankin, for all the short plainchants of the manuscript ("The 1AUeIUyS, antenes, respons, ygnes et verssez' in BN fr. 146: A Catalogue Raisonné"). Anne Walters Robinson ("Local Chant Readings and the Roman de FauveF), contributes a comprehensive study of variants for several Fauvel chants in thirteenth- and fourteenthcentury French manuscripts (most of which are Parisian). …


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