Sarband: Llibre Vermell de Montserrat

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256kbs, with booklet (lyrics & translations)
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16b/44,1khz, with booklet (lyrics & translations)
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Audio samples
  • 01 O virgo splendens
  • 02 Laudemus virginem
  • 03 Splendens ceptigera
  • 04 Imperayritz
  • 05 Cedit frigus
  • 06 Polorum regina
  • 07 Mariam matrem
  • 08 Imperayritz (Instrumental)
  • 09 Stella Splendens
  • 10 Los set gotxs
  • 11 Ad mortem festinamus
  • 12 O virgo splendens
  • 13 Cedit frigus (instrumental)
  • 14 Cunctisimus concanentes

14th century Pilgrim Songs from the Monastery of Montserrat (Catalonia)

Order the CD or download: after you place your order, you'll immediately receive a mail with the link for download of the tracks in high mp3 quality, lossless FLAC or CD quality WAV files, with a booklet (lyrics & translations).

"This CD is truly a necessary part of anyone's library of medieval music. Intriguingly combining influences from both Western Europe and North Africa with the solemn piety and joyful secularity that are both often associated with medieval music, Sarband has created a recording of subtle yet astounding beauty."  Folk Tales  5.11.2000

Vladimir Ivanoff

Rose Bihler-Shah, Fadia El-Hage, Cornelia Melián, Catherine Rey

Paolo Cecere – Vielle, Hurdy-gurdy, Shawm, Psaltery
— Fidel, Drehleier, Schalmei, Psalterium
Marika Falk – Medieval and Arab Percussion
— Mittelalterliche und Arabische Perkussion
Ian Harrison – Cornetto, Shawm, Vielle, Bagpipes
— Zink, Schalmei, Fidel, Dudelsack
Mehmet Yesilçay – Oriental Lute, Frame Drums
— Ud, Rahmentrommeln
Vladimir Ivanoff – Portative Organ, Medieval Lutes, Medieval and Arab Percussion
— Portativ, Mittelalterliche Lauten, Mittelalterliche und Arabische Perkussion

OJC: Osnabrücker Jugend Chor & Domkantorei
Youth Choir Osnabrück & Cathedral Choir

Vladimir Ivanoff: SARBAND — Johannes Rahe: OJC


May 1993
Dom von Osnabrück | Osnabrück Cathedral
Jochen Scheffter · Vladimir Ivanoff
Masterings: Tonstudio Ulli Krauss, Musikhochschule München

Ulrich Balss & Vladimir lvanoff


Medieval Spain had two famous places of pilgrimage: Santiago de Compostella and Santa Maria de Montserrat. Situated on a cleft mountain peak near Barcelona, the monastery of Montserrat was the center of devotion for the Virgin Mary for all of Catalonia

The monastery of Montserrat was founded ca. 1025 as a branch of the Benedictine monastery of Ripoll. Legend tells us that the Virgin Mary performed miracles there which explains the fact that the mountain had been inhabited by hermits as early as the end of the ninth century. During this time the mountain was reconquered from the Saracens and conveyed to the monastery of Ripoll by the counts Wifredo and Suner. The monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat originated out of one of the hermitages. A large number of pilgrims went there, mainly because of their belief in the wonder-working power of the black statue of the Virgin Mary which was put up around the year 1200. The monastery was also a cultural center of the first order: some of the monks had studied at far away universities like Paris or Bologna. Clerics from noble Spanish families, mostly from Catalonia, represented the aristocracy in Montserrat through their celebration of daily Masses.

This is how Montserrat became the spiritual, cultural and political center of Catalonia.

With the conquests of the Catalan-Aragonese crown, Montserrat became "famous" worldwide: Churches were built in honour of the Virgin of Montserrat in Mexico, Chile and Peru. In the colonies, islands and settlements were named after her. After the almost complete devastation of the monastery by Napoleon in 1811, Montserrat regained its former significance only during the Catalonian "Renaixença" at the end of the 19th century.

The most precious treasure from the library at Montserrat is a codex from the late 14th century, the 'Llibre Vermell' or 'Red Book'. The manuscript is named after its red velvet cover which stems from the late 19th century. 35 of the original 172 sheets in folio of this manuscript are lost today. Besides various other contents, mainly for liturgical use, one of the fascicles of the Llibre Vermeil (folio 21v-27r) contains ten musical works (notated during the years 1396-1399).


-pilgrim songs-

The anonymous scribe explains the intended function of the pieces which were copied by him:
"Quia interdum peregrini quando vigilant in ecclesia Beate Marie de Monte Serrato volunt cantare et trepudiare, et etiam in platea de die, et ibi non debeant nisi honestas ac devotas cantilenas cantare, idcirco superius et inferius alique sunt scripte. Et de hoc uti debent honeste et parce, ne perturbent perseverantes in orationibus et devotis contemplationibus [..]"
"As it happens that the pilgrims, while holding night vigil in the church of the Blessed Virgin from Montserrat, sometimes desire to sing and to dance, and even so during the day on the Church Square, where only virtuous and pious songs may be sung, some suitable songs have been written down here for this need. These should be used in a respectful and moderate manner, so as not to disturb those who wish to continue their prayers and religious contemplations."

Since the monastery of Montserrat did not have a pilgrims hostel, the visitors spent the night in the church, thus rearranging the liturgical room into a hostel. The songs of the Llibre Vermell were meant to replace the traditional secular songs and dances performed by the celebrating pilgrims during the night vigil. Fitting to this task, the Cants dels Romeus, the songs of the pilgrims, have a popular tone. Some Spanish traditional melodies were probably also used, but their original lyrics were substituted by religious texts which should communicate essential points of the Christian doctrine of salvation to the faithful. The erudite and well-travelled monks from Montserrat also combined musical influences from different European regions. They created a unique amalgamation of simple Spanish folk melodies and complex, courtly compositional techniques from Italy and France, maybe with the help of musicians from the internationally composed royal chapel of Aragon. Perhap individual pieces already existed as courtly songs and were provided with religious lyrics by the monks.

The opening choral O virgo splendens (tracks 1 & 11) seems to be a liturgical chant but is, in reality it a skilful 'composition' from different textual and musical sources, amongst others the antiphon O virgo visa. The melodic structure allows it to be performed as a two- or three-voice canon. The same is true for Laudemus virginem (track 2) and Splendens ceptigera (track 3). The title of caça, common to all of these pieces, shows their relationship with the French chasse and the Italian caccia. The two-part Stella splendens (track 8) cites from the lyrics of the opening O virgo splendens. The two-voice structure, notation and text structure of this virelais dearly show influences of the French Ars Nova.
In our performance, we use two similar chants from the monastery of Ripoll as instrumental interludes: the two-part conductus Cedit frigus (tracks 4 & 12) and the Salve virgo regia (track 3). Stella splendens is introduced by an instrumental prelude, in which the melodies of the six Cantigas de Santa Maria (approx. 1300) describing the miracles of the Virgin of Montserrat are used (track 8). The songs Stella splendens, Los set gotxs and Polorum regina are explicitly titled as round dances in the manuscript. Ad mortem festinamus tells us through its text that is a death dance.
Many medieval documents — especially from Spain and Southern France — tell us about dances in church and during liturgical service. The unrestrained dances in church, which were sometimes accompanied by the fiddles and shawms of jugglers and minstrels, led to prohibitions and restrictions by the Church. In the year 1209 the Council at Avignon decided: "Statuimus ut in sanctitum vigiliis in ecclesiis historicae saltationes obscoeni motus seu choreae non fiant nec dicantur amatoria carmina vel cantilenae ibidem."

"We decide, that during the night vigils for the Saints, the minstrels should neither perform dances with obscene movements in the churches, nor should love-songs and similar chants be performed."

Los set gotxs (track 9) is the first extant song in the Catalan language; the form of the text is similar to the Provençal balada. Polorum regina (track 5) and Cuncti simus concanentes (track 13) are both virelais in terms of their form. The melody of Polorum regina is still cited in 1577 by the Spanish music scholar Salinas as the folk song Yo me yva mi madre.
Mariam matrem (track 6), a virelais with a texted melody and two accompanying voices without text, and the double-texted Imperayntz / Verges ses par (tracks 7 & 14) follow the style of the French Ars Nova. The text of the death dance Ad mortem festinamus (track 10) is derived from the poem Contemptus mundi (1267). With its absurdly joyful melody and the deliberately false accented Latin text (Ad mortem festinamus) instead of (Ad mortem festinamus), this death dance is the only known example which shows an attempt to musically demonstrate the medieval concept of the monde renversé, the world upside-down, symbol for the vanity of secular hierarchy in the face of the hereafter.



1. O Virgo spendens    [4:50]
a. Choral — b. Canon a 3
2. Laudemus virginem    [2:34]
Canon a 3
3.    [4:00]
- Salve Virgo — virelai, Codex Ripoll
- Splendens ceptigera — Canon a 3
4. Cedit frigus    [1:23]
conductus / virelais a 1, Codex Ripoll
5. Polorum regina    [5:50]
a 3
6. Mariam matrem    [8:33]
virelais a 3, a. vocal — b. instrumental
7. Inperayntz ~ Verges ses par    [2:02]
virelais a 2, instrumental
8. Stella splendens    [6:44]
virelais a 2
9. Los Set Gotxs    [5:33]
balada a 1
10. Ad mortem festinamus    [4:32]
Danse macabre | LV 10
11. O Virgo Splendens    [3:05]
12. Cedit frigus    [3:50]
conductus / virelais a 2, Codex Ripoll
13. Cuncti simus    [5:51]
virelais a 2
14. Inperayntz ~ Verges ses par    [4:22]
virelais a 2, vocal

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