Motets Wallons. Motets, Conductus et pièces instrumentales
Manuscrit de l'Abbaye de St. Jacques, de Liège - XIIIe et XIVe siècles / Huelgas Ensemble
Musique en Wallonie MW 29 (LP)



1. Parce virgo spes reorum  [4:28]

2. Je n'ai, keu ke nus en die  [3:24]
motet ~ triplum Bien me doi ~ ténor Kyrieleison

3. Pulchra decens  [1:34]
motet ~ duplum Lonc tens at ~ ténor et sperabit

4. Herou! Herou! je la voi la  [4:20]
motet ~ triplum Belle Aelis ~ ténor Flos filius

5. Ce sunt amorettes  [3:00]
motet ~ triplum Diex! ou porai-je ~ ténor ki n'a point d'argent

6. Salve virgo virginum  [2:00]
motet-litanie ~ duplum Est ilh dont ensi ~ ténor Aptatur

7. Cis a cui  [3:41]
motet-quodlibet ~ duplum Li douls penseirs ~ triplum Qui amour vuet


1. Deus in adiutorium  [4:32]
conductus II & III

2. Bele Izabelos  [3:29]
motet ~ duplum Je me quidoie ~ triplum entre Copin et Borgois

3. Amor qui cor vulnerat  [2:17]
motet ~ triplum aucun vont sovent ~ ténor Kyrie eleison

4. Quant li dous tens  [3:38]
motet ~ triplum Plus joliement ~ ténor Portare

5. Virgo gloriosa  [3:59]
motet-litanie ~ triplum Dous rossagnoles ~ ténor Laetabitur

6. Je n'en puis mais  [2:56]
motet instrumental ~ triplum J'ai mistote ~ ténor Puerorum

Total de la première face: 22m   
Total de la seconde face: 20m 34s

Jan CAALS, ténor
John DUDLEY, ténor
Jo GULINCK, basse
Michel HOLVECK, rebec
Nancy LONG, déchant
Marcel ONSIA, saqueboute
Piet STRYCKERS, vièle
Erik VAN NEVEL, baryton, bombarde, flûte à bec
Paul VAN NEVEL, bombarde, flûte à bec
Flor VERSCHUEREN, percussion
Claude WASSMER, bombarde, flûte à bec

Direction: Paul VAN NEVEL

Manuscrit original conservé à la Bibliothèque Nationale de Turin. Transcription : A. Auda et P. Van Nevel
Enregistré en la grande salle de l'Abbaye de Park, à Heverlée (Belgique) les 20 et 21 janvier 1978
Régie musicale et prise de son: Jan VANWELKENHUYSEN
Première publication: Musique en Wallonie 1978
Au recto: Ange Musicien - Collégiale N.-D. de Huy (Belgique) Portail du Bethléem (vers 1335) (copyright A.C.L. Bruxelles)


The very rich Biblioteca Reale of Turin, in Italy, possesses an extremely important manuscript, classification no. Vari 42, the interest of which is increased for us as it has been clearly proved to be of Liegeois origin.

Originally, this manuscript was, in fact, part of a volumi­nous collection of parchments which, from time immemo­rial, had been kept in the famous Abbaye Saint-Jacques in Liège.

When the abbey library was sold on March 18th 1788, all these documents were divided into four lots, which were then numbered as they still are today, namely: Vari 45, 44, 43 and 42. And it was thanks to its new owner, Charles-Albert of Savoy, that the manuscript finally reached the Biblioteca Reale of Turin.

But let us go back a little and try to find out more accura­tely what was the geographic origin of the packet of docu­ments and the date when they were compiled. Firstly, a certain number of characteristics clearly indicate that the collection comes from the Abbaye Saint-Jacques in Liège. On the back of the title page, we can clearly read the name of the Abbot Olbert, first prior of the abbey. Later, was added on the first page, in a different hand; „Liber Sti Jacobi in Leodio". And Nicolas Bouxhon confirms this in his catalogue of the abbey library, drawn up in 1667, and furthermore describes the musical part which, as can be seen, occupied the end of the fourth volume (Vari 42): «... folio 249: usque ad finem hujus operis plurima occurrunt gallia et latina cum notis". Lastly, in the text, which is however of French origin, there are certain Walloon characteristics which unfortunately have not yet been studied as they deserve. Moreover, Friedrich Gennrich, in his Bibliographie der Altesten Motetten (Darmstadt, 1959) speaks of a manuscript of the „...Wallonischen Sprachge­biet".

As for the date when the manuscript was compiled, the problem is much more complex. The most authoritative sources situate it within quite a long period from between the 13th century (Apel) to about 1350 (Gennrich Reany). Nevertheless, several elements indicate that the notation dates from the first half of the 14th century rather than from the end of the 13th. For example, the use of certain ornamentations such as the „currentes" which would then have to be compared with older manuscripts. Or again, the binary virtuosity of the triplum in some of the pieces of the collection. All this points to a highly developed Franconian notation rather than a notation of around 1280, the date mentioned by Apel in The Notation of Polyphonia Music.

In short, a comparison between this notation and the notation of similar works belonging to earlier manuscripts (for example, the Montpellier, Bamberg and Trêves codi­ces) makes it definitely possible to situate the compilation of Vari 42 fairly accurately between 1320 and 1340.


Although, as we have just seen, they were composed in the 14th century, the three „CONDUCTUS" and the thirty-one MOTETS of our manuscript are in fact part of the repertoire of the French school of the 13th century, the Ars Antiqua. Thus it was a „reactionary" compilation, since this collection, typically Ars Antiqua, appeared after the beginnings of the Ars Nova: indeed the first manifesta­tions of this „new art", that is to say, certain musical insertions of the Roman de Fauvel appeared as early as 1316; as for the famous treatise of Philippe de Vitry, the Ars Nova, which gave its name to the entire period, it was written during the years 1320-1325. The fact that the Lie­geois collection of the 13th century pieces was written during the golden age of the Ars Nova is all the more significant because seven motets out of the thirty-one, must be situated around 1270: they can, in fact, also be found unaltered in the ancient corpus of the codex of Montpel­lier. This fact sufficiently indicates that the art of the French 13th century remained alive until late into the 14th century and that ecclesiastical circles such as that of the Abbaye de St. Jacques in Liège could remain stubbornly closed to the very principles of the Ars Nova isorythm, prolation, coloured notation, binary rythm, innovations, etc...

The treatise Speculum Musicae which the monk of St. Jac­ques, Jacobus de Leodio, wrote at the same date, clearly indicates moreover that in Liège the Ars Antigua was more appreciated than the Ars Nova:

„... In a company of competent musicians and people of high standing, motets in the old style and in the modern style were sung. I observed that the persons present prefer­red the pieces in the old style. (...) where will this futile art lead us, this new way of singing in which the words cannot be understood, in which the consonances are lost and the value of the notes changed, in which the old perfection disappears, in which imperfection reaches the summit and in which the different types of beat are confused?..." (extract from the 7th book).

Hence, it is not surprising that it was in the midst of this circle of defenders of the Ars Antiqua that this vast com­pilation of musical art was carried out; it was antiquated no doubt, but unparalleled. This manuscript, with very careful Franconian modal notation, may therefore be con­sidered as the last peripheral source of the Ars Antiqua.

As indicated above, our manuscript contains three „con­ductus" and thirthy-one motets. With regard to the con­ductus, the two versions of DEUS IN ADIUTORIUM (beginning of side 2) also exist in other older manuscripts; but the third, PARCE VIRGO (beginning of side 1) is uni­que. As for the motets, 25 of them care to be found in the most important collection of 13th century motets, namely the codex of Montpellier (Library of the School of Medi­cine, H. 196). Furthermore, 14 others are also to be found in another remarkable source of motets of the Ars Anti­gua: the codex of Bamberg (Stadtsbibliothek Ms. Ed. IV.6). Finally, 6 small manuscripts earlier than those of our collection also contain a few motets that are in the Liège manuscript. We may therefore consider the manus­cript of the Abbaye St. Jacques as a regional anthology of conductus and motets, all for three voices, coming mostly from previous manuscripts belonging to the Notre-Dame School.

It is necessary to recall that the motet is the most popular of the polyphonic forms of the Notre-Dame School? Its purport was borrowed from the Gregorian foundation of a „discantus" fragment of an organum. Hence the fact that, in the Liège manuscript, the tenors are generally indi­cated by the first word of the fragment used (PORTARE, APTATUR, SOLEM, etc), this fragment being, of course, noted in a measured form. In a few rare cases, the basic Gregorian tenor was replaced by a melody borrowed from the repertoire of the troubadours or else by the triplum or duplum of another motet. Thus, out of over 1200 known motets of the Ars Antigua, there are so far 65 in which the tenor is a French melody. The Liège manuscript contains 8 motets — a relatively high number — the tenor of which is French; two of them are on the record: BELE IZABELOS and CIS A QUI; the latter tenor, which was very popular, consists of various fragments of songs. A number of other voices are written over the tenor; the most important is the duplum or motetus. Most frequently a third voice, the triplum, was added. In certain cases the polyphonic script even had a fourth voice the quadruplum. The St. Jacques manuscript contains exclusi­vely motets of the usual type for three voices: tenor, duplum, triplum. The composers of motets showed remarkable creative talent and ingenuity. This Liège manuscript contains motets which were for two voices only in the previous manuscripts and to which a third voice was added afterwards. There are also compositions which were written for three voices from the start but in which the triplum has been replaced by a new part. There is also great diversity in the text: a duplum on a religious text is frequently accompanied by a triplum in vulgar Latin or in French; but we also find two different vulgar Latin texts, one adapted to the duplum, the other to the triplum, in one and the same motet; or, on the contrary, two French texts etc...

Originally, the text of the triplum still had some bearing on the text of the duplum, but later on, the two texts became totally independent; that is the case in the Liège manuscript.

The composition of a conductus required a different technique. Here, the music served as a processional chant and hence its character became more solemn; its polyphony was thenceforth less complicated than that of the motet. All the voices have the same text, which is declaimed prac­tically simultaneously. Moreover, the basic part of the conductus does not consist of a Gregorian fragment, as in the motet, but of an original, autonomous melody. Although the first conductus possessed only a single voice (from the versus of St. Martial), quite soon they were composed of two parts in the „note-against-note" style. Later, the conductus was generally composed for three voices most frequently in a complicated melismatic style which, however, remains faithful to the principle of equal accents in all the voices and the simultaneous declamation according to the writing of the ligatures. The homophonic character of the conductus is still particularly reinforced by the incessant intersections affecting all the parts; the tessitura of the whole does not generally exceed the twelfth; this technique often leads to the repetition of the same theme by the different voices. During the early years of the Ars Antiqua, the conductus was very popular. One of the central sources of the Notre-Dame School, the codex of Wolfenbüttel (Herzog August Bibliothek, Ms. 677) contains no less than 180 pages of conductus! Later, in the course of the 13th century, the success of the con­ductus diminished in the face of the growing popularity of the motet. It is undoubtedly for this reason that the St. Jacques manuscript contains only three.


The interpretation of these various conductus and motets given here by the HUELGAS ENSEMBLE is based on two essential principles: on the one hand the respect of Gothic aesthetics in general and, more particularly of Gothic music; on the other hand, the indications of the musical notation itself (plicae, ligatures, longae florales, etc...) as well as the treatises of the period. For the instru­mental and vocal execution of this Liège repertoire, spe­cial attention was given to the application of 13th century techniques or reading, ornamentation and vibrato, — so­metimes still greatly marked by the Arab influence (cf. the exécution of the plica).

The indications of Hieronymus de Moravia, Johannes de Garlandia, Johannes de Grocheo, Englebert d'Amont, etc. ... have particularly contributed to the rediscovery of the exact interpretation of the various vibratos: flores longi, flores aperti, flores subiti, nota procellaris, tristro­pha, etc. ... The instrumental possibilities have been put to use in accordance with 13th century customs. The follo­wing table shows the various combinations used.


Most of the works are performed in the original hexacord, others are transposed to the fourth or fifth, as was custo­mary in the 13th century. Certain motets of the Liège manuscript are moreover noted one-fifth higher than in the previous manuscripts (particularly in the codex of Montpellier).

The litany-motets (SALVE VIRGO, VIRGO GLORIOSA) are sung according to certain processes of antiphonal alternance such as those described by Robert of Avesbury in his Life of Edward III: „... four of them sang in the language of the country and four others replied as indicated in the litany ..."

Finally, the choice of these pieces was made with a view to presenting all the facets of the St. Jacques manuscript: the religious repertory, the profane repertory — Latin or ver­nacular — as well as the purely instrumental performance.


a. TORINO ms, Biblioteca Reale, Var. 42 Fascsimile edi­tion by Antoine Auda (Brussels 1953): a magnificent edition, the transcriptions of which unfortunately bear the mark of time. The transcriptions of the plicae and certain ties, the arrangement of the text, the use of the musica ficta and the movements of accents consecutive to the omission of the anacrusis are inadequate, obso­lete solutions. Apart from this, AUDA's commenta­ries and the facsimile edition are exemplary.

b. MONTPELLIER ms., Bibliotheque de l'Ecole de Medecine, ms. H.196 (facsimile; Ed. Y. ROKSET).

c. BAMBERG ms; Staatsbibliothek ms. Ed.IV.6 (facsi­mile, Ed. F. AUBRY).

d. WOLFENBUTTEL ms., Herzog August Bibliothek, ms. 677 (facsimile, Ed. J.-H. BAXTER).

Paul Van Nevel