Le Souvenir de Vous me Tue /
Medieval Chansons from the Court of Philip the Good /
Asteria (Sylvia Rhyne, soprano, Eric Redlinger, tenor, lute) / Asteria AMCD 0404
The concept behind Asteria is so elegantly simple it’s a wonder no one else is doing it: a soprano and a tenor who also plays lute. This enables two players to perform a vast amount of material, including virtually the entire 15th-century Burgundian chanson repertoire, the focus of this recording.
Eric Redlinger plays the lute finger-style, using five and seven course instruments made by Cezar Mateus. This allows him to play both tenor and bass parts on the lute, or occasionally take the melody in a polyphonic arrangement. His gentle, slightly reedy tenor voice provides a supple backing for Rhyne’s elegant soprano. His lute tone has enough edge to cut through the texture and balance with the voices.
The opening track, “Quant La Doulce Jouvencelle,” from the celebrated Canonici 213 manuscript, shows off the duo’s abilities, with lute and soprano; lute, soprano and tenor; and lute alone taking turns. This chanson, from the same massive tome that includes many pieces by Dufay and Binchois, is anonymous but is in much the same vein as those two masters, with graceful melody enlivened by angular rhythms in an open, transparent texture.
The title track, “Le Souvenir de Vous” by Robert Morton, begins as a lute solo before the chanson proper. The leisurely pace and gentle, unforced performance suits both the music and the ensemble well.
As appealing as this disc is, I came away wanting more. Binchois, seemingly the perfect composer for the duo and an exemplar of the Burgundian chanson tradition, is only heard once, on “Pour Prison.” Dufay, the leading composer of the 15th century, is a little better served with three chansons, but one is a lute solo and the others are perhaps the most-often performed of his 90-odd chansons: “Se la Face ay Pale” and “Adieu Ces Bons Vins.” With a total time of just 37:43, it seems the addition of several more chansons by these masters, or more of the many fine anonymous works from the repertoire, would have rounded out the disc nicely.