1213 – Bataille de Muret

2 narrators, mixed choir, cornetto, shawm,  sackbut, dulcian and percussion
Lyrical epic in 5 parts (Premier assaut, Montfort, Second assaut, La bataille, Le deuil)
Laisses 137 to 142 of « La chanson de la croisade albigeoise » (anonymus original in Occitan language, french translation of Patrick Burgan).
Duration : 35’
Commission of the ensemble « Les Sacqueboutiers de Toulouse »
First performance on thursday 12th september 2013 in the Muret’s church of Saint-Jacques, (national commemoration  of 800th birthday of the famous Muret’s battle which took place on thursday 12th september 1213, by Renat Jurié (narrator in Occitan language), Pierre-Yves Binard (récitant in french), Scandicus and Quinte-et-sens choirs, and the ensemble « Les Sacqueboutiers de Toulouse ».
Conductor : Patrick Burgan.

Extract first movement :

Extract second movement :

Extract third movement :

Extract fourth movement second part :

Beginning fifth movement :

Audio Extract : “Premier assaut”

Audio Extract : “Second assaut”

Audio Extract : “La bataille”

Audio Extract : “Le deuil”

To get the scores, send an email to the association Alcmène : Contact

Through the crossed lines of a reinvented battle, by Sylviane Falcinelli

The musical genre inspired by battles flourished throughout the XV and XVI centuries but waned under the English Virginalists at the beginning of the XVII century. Recent wars have only inspired a few works of circumstance (Beethoven : The Battle of Vittoria ; Tchaikovsky : Ouverture 1812 ) before  taking  on  patriotic form « captured live » in the XX century (Vincent d’Indy) : Sinfonia brevis de bello gallico in 1918. Chostakovitch :  in 1941). In the mean time  the fresco of war  had been widely transposed onto the lyrical scene ( apart from Liszt’s symphonic poem : The Battle of the Huns)

The fact that a modern day composer  wants to put a medieval battle to music is a demonstration of an original transmutation of the epic into  symbolic mystery  (as is confirmed by the three gregorian chants representing the passing of the dead from the dark, woeful earth to  paradise  ). The early instruments bring echos from the past but don’t appear as an ancient language artificially latched onto modern speech. The composer hasn’t  foregone its identity.

In fact the listener will quickly understand that the responsibility of  the  expression of   emotions – in allegorical form –  lies with the choral ensemble (screams,  fear , lamentations)   experienced  by masses whose flesh and spirit were torn apart, but whose voices can only longer hope  for the  anaphoric passage by artistic evocation. Patrick Burgan already a master in the art of expressing poetic essence through vocal polyphony, has succeeded this time in breaking down the barriers between the writing and the text –  thus becoming the allusive spokesman for the collective sensations and urges.  Excluding the narrators, it is  the percussionist’s job  to bring  a touch of realism  to the noises setting the  the scene. Few in number through the use of superimposed layers he succeeds in evoking the different   facets of the poem : an apparent restriction in means –  an elegant feature hiding  a deeply intricate  structure . The whole effect giving a free rein to the listener’s imagination so he can  recreate his personal « cinescenie »  from the interlacing sounds beckoning  his ear.


A lyrical epic, by Patrick Burgan

« 1213–Battle of Muret » depicts the famous battle which took place in Muret, twenty kilometres south of Toulouse on Thursday 12th September 1213. A terrible defeat for the Toulousains  led by Count Raymond IV  against the crusaders of Simon de Montfort, it marked a decisive stage in the undertaking of depossession  led by the crown of France, its conquest of the Languedoc region and the organised annihilation of the Cathar people.

On top of this came tragedy « aux allures d’ordalie » (trial by god) which changed the course of events leading to political repercussions on this event ; King Pierre II of Aragon who had come to support the Toulousains was killed at the start of the battle.

All aspects combined made this an event of remarkable proportions   ; the clash on that day between the chivalry of the Catalan-Aragonese people and that of Simon de Montfort’s cunning strategy who with a much smaller army succeeded in bringing off a resounding victory (joining in the ranks of legends in history the famous battle of Agincourt in 1415 in  when  a few of Henry V’s  Englishmen crushed a huge army of French troops.)

The magnificent epic poem which narrates this battle is an extract of  La chanson de la croisade albigeoise (The song of the Albi Crusade)

which was written immediately after the event by a troubadour who has remained anonymous. Whereas Guillaume de Tudèle ( author of the first part of the song) is favourable towards the crusaders, our author is an active campaigner against the crusades and is an ardent defender of the ideals of  medieval society in Occitan ;

In  1213- Battle of Muret, we can hear one of the narrators representing the  troubadour’s voice of the XIII century, relating the original text  in the Oc language as passed on through the ages.   A second narrator  gives a modern French translation : it is the voice of mankind today. Not a man who looks on part of  his own story with a distant view  but a man who is  faced with the same daily problems, the same political involvements, the same idealogical absurdities, the same religious tensions, the same whims of destiny, the same human tragedies.

The two narrators – one to the left and one to the right of the stage deliver the text simultaneously : if this method doesn’t really cause a problem in  understanding – the listener will always capture the meaning of the language  best mastered  –   it brings a  particularly dramatic effect  to the narration .

Behind the narrators four early woodwind instruments – cornetto, shawm,  sackbut  and dulcian provide the background to the narration, comment on it, execute the transitions, unleashing the battle’s frenetic clamour. The  mixed choir has  a purely orchestral rôle where no text is used. Through using various vocal effects (coloratura, humming, shouts of anger) it participates along with  the instruments  in the ensemble of the musical vibrations. Even if at times it seems to harmonise with the voice of the protagonists (Raymond de Toulouse, Pierre d’Aragon, Simon de Montfort etc.)  words belong to  the strict reserve of the narrators .

The use of early instruments and the Oc language are not  the only elements which transport  us to  the epoch  of the subject in question. The musical language itself makes use  of  certain medieval techniques, in particular the « hiccup  » a system of continuous syncopations widely used in the « Ars Nova of  the XIV century. The work’s melodic construction is based  for the most part on the song of the XV century « l’homme armé » and the last part (le deuil –  grief) on three gregorian chants : De Profundis, Lacrimosa, InParadisum. After which the quotation from  the troubadour Folquet de Marseille’s song is then included.  As acting  bishop of Toulouse  he blesses the knights on crusade at the end of the third scene.(Second assault).

The dangerously assymetric construction of the metric proportions of the the fourth scene (The battle) is based on the figures and date of the event.

« 1213-Battle of Muret » was first performed on Thursday 12th September 2013 in the church of Saint-Jacques in Muret.