Les Eschés amoureux

An allegory of courtly love in the late Middle Ages

The metaphorical chessboard

Les Eschés Amoureux is one of the most fascinating literary works of the late Middle Ages. A young man enters a garden and meets a beautiful lady seated at a chess board on which every stone represents a character trait or an attitude. The God of Love invites him to be seated opposite the lady, and a game starts where every move reflects the unspoken rules of courtly love.

The Eschés were never set to music, but the emotions they describe are at the heart of musical expressivity in the late Middle Ages. The chess game thus forms the frame on which our concert is woven, with pieces from composers such as Guillaume de Machaut and Guillaume Dufay, as well as anonymous compositions from superb manuscripts of the late 14th and 15th centuries today preserved in Chantilly, Oxford and Torino, as well as instrumental pieces from codex Faenza or the Buxheimer Orgelbuch.


A tous les amoureux gentilz,
especialment aux soubtilz
qui aiment le beau jeu nottable,
le jeu plaisant et delittable,
le jeu tres soubtil et tres gent
des esches sur tout aultre gent,
vueil envoyer et leur presente
ceste escripture cy presente…

Evrard de Conty, Les Echés Amoureux, Prologue
(between 1370 and 1380)
Allegory of Music

Four musicians: 2 singers, vielle, harp, organetto, and recorder
Optional multi-media projection
Duration: c. 75 minutes