Guillaume DuFay’s (1397-1474) Vergine bella, che di sol vestita is among the earliest surviving musical settings of the poetry of Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374).
While the 3-part musical setting may be performed with some tampering by adding text to the lower parts, there is a sufficient degree of authority to support an instrumental rendering of the tenor and contratenor lines, which are mostly untexted in all sources. Instrumental performance presents a challenge when arranged for one person to play on the lute, due to parts that cross and frequent differences of rhythmic distribution as they do so, but entirely possible if done with sensitivity to line, articulation and rhythmic accent. Our performance is in accordance with the original clef designations from Bodleian Library ms. Canonici 213 with the untexted lower parts played on the lute.
Interpretively, we were entirely uninfluenced by other musical approaches and, while informed by the commentary and analysis of Alejandro Planchart and Margaret Bent, our interpretation is unique. As is typical of his music, DuFay obviously had a formal scheme of proportion in his time signatures for this sectional piece, but we assign a larger value to the basic pulse and shape the time changes in accordance with the rhetorical devices inherent in the text.
While we take all the steps necessary to consider historical performance practice, in the end, we are convinced that a flexible and communicative musical approach surely trumps a rigid and academic performance: We are performing expressive music, not doing dry math.
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