Bertrandon de la Broquiere (2005)

for Tenor and Five Instruments

Tenor, Flute, Oboe (or Soprano Saxophone), Violin, Cello, Trombone
Duration: 7 minutes

Program Note
In the Spring of 1996, I walked the pilgrimage to Compostela across France and Spain. During these months, I conceived of a series of works that could musically enact the way that experience creates slow transformations in an individual.

Bertrandon de la Broquirere was a minor noble from Southern France. Little is known of his life, though from his narrative we learn that he held the post of "first carving squire" at the Burgundian court of Philip the Good. In February of 1432, Bertrandon left Ghent for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, returning in mid-1433. Like many others, before and since, Bertrandon was not traveling solely for devotion; he was also clandestinely assessing the possibility of Philip's launching a crusade.

Bertrandon's sea journey to Jaffa was relatively uneventful. On his return journey overland, Bertrandron was confronted with many troubles: at the gates of Damascus he was pulled from a fight over his felt hat ("not the usual costume in those parts"); in Homs, another group threatened to kill him; in the mountains near Tarsus he took ill. In all of these instances, a Mameluke sultan named Mahomet, who seeing that Bertrandon was alone and could not speak the language, accompanied and cared for him. During their time together, Bertrandon learned the ways of his guide: he sat cross-legged, slept on the ground, drank water without wine, and rode his horse without stirrups. At their parting Bertrandon was moved, and wrote:

"I am writing this so that people will remember that a man not of our faith did many good things for me... and he bade me to be very careful, from now on, of the Saracens whose company I kept, warning me that they can be as bad as the Europeans."

Among writers of the time, Bertrandon's favorable portrayal of Muslims was anomalous.

I began composing this work while studying with Jonathan Kramer, completing it after his death. Like Bertrandon and myself, Jonathan shared a delight in travel and in encountering unfamiliar ideas and making them his own. Jonathan also encouraged me to think of a composition as a journey: a work could end in a different place from where it began. This composition is dedicated to the memory of Jonathan Kramer.

Bertrandon de la Broquiere is a part of the ongoing collection 'Cancionero Anonimo', a loose grouping of fragments, sketches, studies, and completed works that together document a life

CC Ensemble
Matthew Cody, conductor
Alex Richardson, tenor

30 March 2005
Merkin Concert Hall
New York, New York



Performance by CC Ensemble, Todd Tarantino, conductor; Alex Richardson, tenor


Score Sample
Score in Preparation