The great conflagration • Music for Charles VI, King of France (1368-1422)

In 1392, with France finally enjoying a brief period of peace in the midst of its years-long conflict with England, King Charles VI experienced an attack of psychosis, the first episode of a terrible mental illness that would dominate his adult life. Taking advantage of the resulting political instability, his brother Louis d’Orléans entered into open conflict for power with John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, ultimately provoking a murderous and bloody civil war. Torn apart by two strongmen incapable of putting aside their differences to fight a common foreign enemy, France would soon fall, forfeiting its crown to England...

The Great Conflagration tells the story of this pivotal and oft-overlooked moment in French history, following the traces left by native composers active at that time. A tumultuous political atmosphere leaves destruction in its wake, preserving few details about contemporaneous artists and their work. Even so, we know that these musicians were among the most celebrated of their day, as the poet Martin le Franc (1410-1461) recounts in Le Champion des Dames:

Tapissier, Carmen, and CĂ©saris
Not so long ago sang so well
That they amazed all of Paris!

Our program seeks to do justice to these forgotten composers who had a profound influence on music history. Bridging the extreme refinement of the late 14th-century Ars Subtilior and the simpler aesthetic of the 15th-century Burgundian chanson, these musicians’ creations would launch a new musical era, with Gilles Binchois and Guillaume Dufay becoming its most emblematic figures.

Premiered on the 600th anniversary of Charles VI’s death, this program combines remarkable music with rare, captivating texts to immerse spectators in this unfamiliar moment in time, a period whose challenges and conundrums remain profoundly contemporary.

Into the Winds [...] offers a brilliant program, "Le Grand Embrasement" which features fragments of chronicles and music from the Ars subtilior to the early 15th century. Fanfares, occasional music and love songs evoke — without words — war and peace, love and death around the figure of Charles VI. Buisine, slide trumpet, bombards and shamws, recorders and drums: such an array of combinations color this rare music with delicacy, subtlety and brilliance where Binchois and Oswald von Wolkenstein alternate with Johannes le Grant or Jacobus Coutreman. Anne Ibos-Augé, Diapason Magazine

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