Dante and Music

The music of anonymous French and Italian troubadours in the time of Dante Alighieri

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The concert by Ensemble Micrologus takes us to a world in which the musical art of the troubadours underwent a profound transformation: from the followers of Ars Antiqua, in the 13th century, to the first steps of the Ars Nova, in the early 14th century.

This was a period marked by the end of feudalism and the rise of merchants (the bourgeois), who traded in the Communes of central Italy and the Signorie of the city states in the north of the country.

We are thus taken on a journey through the music of the best-known troubadours of the 13th century, whom Dante mentions because he knew them well, elevating them to the status of his masters and comparing them to the Italian maestros, creators of the oldest production of songs and ballads, although with no direct proof of their compositions.

That is why the programme includes some reconstructions of songs, also based on Dante’s text, using the technique of contrafactum (in other words, an adaptation of a new poetic text to a pre-established melody), which was common at the time.

In the First Part, the music associated with the fifes and trumpets of court, or the city, frames various moments: first, the spiritual love song of the Lauds, adopted by the guilds of the city. This is followed by the poetry of the troubadours; Dante himself, in De Vulgari Eloquentia, bears witness to the fact that the art of the troubadours survived and influenced later music. He praises Bertran de Born, the poet of arms, Arnault Daniel, the poet of love, and Guirault de Borneilh, the poet of rectitudo. And later, Folquet de Marseille. Another great artist, Bernard de Ventadorn, is mentioned in Paradise.

In the Second Part the soundscape of the Comedy begins to take shape. While Inferno involves mostly loud, dark sounds and voices, in Purgatory we find song, dominated by the salmodia of the Gregorian chant. Amor che nella mente mi ragiona by Casella, based on a text by Dante, is reconstructed using contrafactum. Tant m'abelis vostre cortes deman by Arnaut Daniel is reconstructed as Tant m'abelis l'amoros pensament by Folquet de Marseille. Finally, in Paradise, the music is a vision and expresses angelic light and movement.

In the Third Part we move to the Corte Scaligera, between Verona and Pádua and its university, where the Codex Rossi 215 was written, with the first monodic ballads and polyphonic madrigals.

The court of Cangrande, where Dante stayed during his exile and to which the poet dedicated the Paradise Canticle in 1316, was a place where all ‘good customs’ were to be found: qui son le tempeste d’amore e d’amare..chitarre e liuti viole e flauti, voci alt’ed acuti qui s’odon cantare...qui boni cantori con intonatori e qui trovatori udrai concordare.

Patrizia Bovi e Goffredo Degli Esposti


The musicians of Ensemble Micrologus were among the first to contribute to the rediscovery of medieval music and the spirit in which this music can be made today. In fact, through the research and study of direct and indirect sources, it is now possible to perform medieval music on the basis of plausible hypotheses of performative practice and general musical aesthetics.

In 1984, after several years of participation in the medieval festival Calendimaggio, in Assisi, Patrizia Bovi, Goffredo Degli Esposti and Gabriele Russo, along with Adolfo Broegg (1961-2006), decided to form Ensemble Micrologus; together, over the years, they produced more than 30 different shows, some of which were also staged in theatres, and they performed concerts not just in Italy but also Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, England, Morocco, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Spain, Switzerland, Slovenia and Hungary.

In parallel, they took part in the activities of the Laboratorio Arte Musica e Spettacolo, in Assisi, where they followed courses and seminars that culminated in the production of various liturgical dramas and medieval religious plays. Also in the 1980s, they joined the activities of the Ars Nova Study Centre, in Certaldo, where they had the opportunity to encounter and contemplate the ideas of the most prestigious Italian and foreign professors.

Ensemble Micrologus use faithful reconstructions of period instruments (always in direct collaboration with various specialised luthiers) and, in their theatre shows, costumes and sets; each year they present one or two new thematic shows to the public, alternating between holy and secular music (from the 12th to 15th centuries), as well as commissioned productions for a range of European festivals. In some cases, they benefit from invaluable collaboration with eminent scholars, such as Prof. Dinko Fabris (Department of Early Music – Conservatory of Bari) for the series of records I Tesori di Napoli, or the researchers of the Centre de la Voix at the Abbaye de Royaumont.

In 2002, they were the first group to directly record the music of the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, at the ancient monastery of Montserrat in Catalonia.

In collaboration with Abbaye de Royaumont (during a residency there in 2002-2003), they staged the opera Li Gieus de Robin et de Marion (late 13th century), directed by Jean François Dusigne, with which they toured France as well as other European countries.

In February 2003, commissioned by La Cité de la Musique in Paris, they produced Nostra Donna, a new multimedia show on the Cantigas de Santa Maria, directed by Toni Casalonga.

Micrologus were invited by the Flanders Festival-Antwerpen to be ‘Ensemble in residence’ for Laus Polyphoniae 2004, where they created a new production, Festa Fiorentina... per contar di frottole, and a new programme on Zachara da Teramo, made in collaboration with Prof. Francesco Zimei, of which a recording was made. Their collaborations also extend to experimentation with major contemporary artists: recently, they joined forces with Daniele Sepe, an exceptional Neapolitan saxophonist and composer, to record the album Kronomakia, an electrifying fusion between the Middle Ages and jazz/rock.

From 2007 to 2009, they toured with the Belgian company Toneelhuis, with the theatre and dance show Myth, by choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Micrologus also take part in projects linked to cinema: they wrote the soundtrack for the film Mediterraneoby Gabriele Salvatores, which won an Oscar in 1992.

In 2009, the Book-CD Aragòn en Nàpoles earned them the Biggest Surprise award from the Boston Globe, on the list of best classical albums of the year.

In December 2009, they embarked on their educational work in Spello (Perugia), at the Centro Studi Europeo di Musica Medievale ‘Adolfo Broegg’, where they presented a permanent exhibition on ‘Lutes and string instruments from the Middle Ages to the present day’. For several years, Ensemble Micrologus have held courses and workshops on the performance of medieval music in collaboration with Festival Urbino, La Cité de la musique (Paris), the Abbaye de Royaumont and Festival Jaroslaw (Poland), among others.

Micrologus have recorded 25 albums, and won the Diapason d’Or de l’Année in France, in 1996, for the CD Landini and Florentine music, and in 1999, for the CD Alla napolitana (arranged in conjunction with the musicians of the Centro di Musica Antica ‘la Cappella della pietà de' Turchini,’ in Naples), as well as the Goldberg Best of 2000 Award for the CD Cantico della terra. They have made numerous radio and television recordings for: RAI 1, RAI 2, Radio 3, Radio France Culture, Radio France – Musique, ORF Vienna, Radio Suisse, and Asahi Television in Osaka.

Their recent performances, in 2016, include some prestigious stages: IUC in Rome, Festival del Centro Historico in Mexico, Società del Quartetto in Milan and Festival Monteverdi in Cremona.

They have also been prominent lately for their participation in the Festival Oude Muziek in Utrecht, in August 2016, two concerts for the Festival Pergolesi Spontini in Jesi, in September, and the concert for the Festival de Vanves (Paris) in November.

The recording of one of their latest programmes, Carnivalesco, won the Diapason d'Or in November 2014.


Patrizia Bovi voice, harp, buccina, bells
Goffredo Degli Esposti Flauta transversal, flauta dupla, zufolo & tambor, gaita-de-foles, cennamella
Gabriele Russo Guitar, rebec, buccina, fife
Peppe Frana Lute, chitarrino, crotal bells
Enea Sorini voice, tambourine, naccheroni


First part: Music in the time of Dante

Reis Glorios, Alba. Guirault De Borhneil (Paris, Bibl. Nat. fr. 22543) 
La Tierche Estampie Royal, Instrumental Dance (Paris, Bibl. Nat. fr. 844) 


Laude Novella, Lauda (Cortona, Bibl. Comunale, Ms. 91) 
Alleluia, alleluia, alto re di Gloria , Lauda (Florençe, Magliabechiano, B.R. 18)


Danse Real & Danse, Instrumental Dances (Paris, Bibl. Nat. fr.844)
Ai limousins, Sirventês/Canção. Bertran de Born
La Septime Estampie Real. Instrumental Dance (Paris, Bibl. Nat. fr.844)
Can vei la lauzeta mover, Song. Bernard de Ventadorn (Milão, Bibl. Amb. R 71sup)
Lo ferm voler qu’el cor m’intra, Song. Arnault Daniel (Milão, Bibl. Amb. R 71sup)
L’autr’hier jost una sebissa, Pastourelle. Marcabru (Paris, Bibl. Nat. fr. 22543)


Second part: music in the Comedy

The assault of the demons (Inf. XXII, 1-12) elaboração de G. Degli Esposti


In exitu Isräel de Aegypto Psalm CXIII (Purg. II, 43-48)
Amor che nella mente mi ragiona Song (Purg. II, 106-114/Convivio III) Canto de Casella – reconstrução modal da BR 18 di P. Bovi 
Tan m’abellis vostre cortes deman/Tant m’abelis l’amoros pessamens Song Arnault Daniel/Folquet de Marseille (Purg. XXVI, 140-147) (Paris Bibl. Nat. Fr. 22543)
Tant m’abelis Estampie produced by P. Frana


Kyrie eleison Kyrie and its instrumental trope (Assis, Bibl.Com. Ms.187)
Ave Maria Canto de Piccarda Donati (Par. III, 121-130) contrafactum da BR 18
Venite a laudare Instrumentale – producedby Micrologus (Cortona, Bibl. Com. Ms. 91)


Third part: Music in the della Scala court in Verona

Dal bel castel Madrigal for 2 voices (Cod.Vaticano Rossi 215)
La desiosa brama Madrigal for 2 voices (instrumental version) (Cod.Vaticano Rossi 215)
Amor mi fa cantar alla Francesca Monodic ballad (Cod.Vaticano Rossi 215)

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