Canticum Novum, Emmanuel Bardon
The listener who is anticipating a presentation of authentic studies supported by derivations and reference to manuscripts may search the booklet notes in vain. Clues as to the nature of this recording are found in the translation of Aashenayi as ‘encounter’ in Persian (becoming familiar with each other); Bardon’s training under Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall; and his foundation of Canticum Novum, the festival Musique à Fontmorigny, the itinerant early music festival Le Festin Musical, and l’École de l’Oralité, through which he teaches young audiences about early music, mainly in deprived neighbourhoods of the Loire département. This context of outreach programmes and creative workshops clarifies the metaphor of the “big top” (le chapiteau), suggested, by Aline Tauzin of the Cultural Encounter Centre of Ambronay, as an “ephemeral place set up at the end of each summer for a few weeks and then taken down”. The idea of a giant circus marquee suggests the inclusiveness and entertainment value of this performance.
So cultures, singing styles, languages, the nationalities of refugees and immigrants across the centuries, all are blended without individual attention being drawn to them. The languages of songs are transliterated though not obviously identified, and are translated into French and English. A soloist in the Eastern style of the Ottomans known to Cantemir is joined by a chorus singing with French intonation; Afghanistan, Turkey and Armenia rub shoulders unobtrusively, along with Sephardic romance and the Cantigas of Alfonso X. So, this is not historical reconstruction so much as social and cultural integration, musical improvisation and living participation.
Some of the pieces upon which performances are based will be familiar to the listener, including the Cantigas, Cantemir, and Sephardic lyrics from various lands, but the instrumental arrangements are particularly atmospheric, giving a new life to traditional themes. One representatives of the Armenian tradition (Sareri hovin mermen) expresses romantic sadness, while the other (Nor Tsaghik), though about Christ rising, seems in its mood to emphasise “the shadow of death in the darkness”. The representative of Afghanistan (Dar Dậmané Sharậ) expresses the mysterious singing sound of the shifting desert, the awe and timelessness. Iran’s representative (Sậki ba khodậ), though in the indulgent poetic tradition of Persia, would hardly meet the approval of the Revolutionary Guard. Attached to the cheeky dialogue of a Sephardic romance from Turkey (La comida de la mañana), is an Afghan piece (Khan delawar khan) with a crescendo of excitement. The traditional Turkish Sirto accelerates the dance rhythm and increases amplification, before the Cantiga, Offondo do mar tan chao, with its processional movement to the finale.