Claudio Monteverdi

1567 - 1643

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi (15 May 1567 (baptized) – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composergambistsinger, and Catholic priest.

Monteverdi is considered a crucial transitional figure between the Renaissance and the Baroque periods of music history. While he worked extensively in the tradition of earlier Renaissance polyphony, such as in his madrigals, he also made great developments in form and melody and began employing the basso continuo technique, distinctive of the Baroque. Monteverdi wrote one of the earliest operas, L'Orfeo, which is the earliest surviving opera still regularly performed.

(b. Cremona, May 15, 1567; d. Venice, November 29, 1643)

Italian composer, the most important JL musician of the first half of the 17th century. He absorbed the musical style of the late Renaissance and, in his early works, helped bring it to its highest expression. He pioneered new compositional techniques in his madrigals and other vocal works, effectively laying the foundation for many of the stylistic conventions of the Baroque. To the nascent genre of opera he brought the power of a musical imagination unrivaled in his own lifetime, together with formal skills and psychological insights among the most impressive of any composer in history. He created works of extraordinary stature in nearly every significant form of the day.

The son of a doctor, he studied with Marc'Antonio Ingegneri (ca. 1547-92) at the cathedral in Cremona, obtaining a thorough grounding in traditional "Palestrina-style"   polyphony — the   lushsounding, rigorously constructed contrapuntal art of Palestrina and his circle. A precocious student, Monteverdi published several books of motets and madrigals in this conservative style before going to Mantua, in 1590 or 1591, to serve as a string instrumentalist at the court of Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga. There he came into contact with Giaches de Wert (1535-96), the master of the ducal chapel and a composer known for the daring, expressive use of chromaticism and dissonance in his madrigals. Wert's music would exert an important influence on Monteverdi, whose Third Book of madrigals, appearing in 1592, reveals a new boldness in approach and a much wider range of style.

In 1599 Monteverdi was passed over as Wert's successor in favor of the more experienced Benedetto Pallavicino, but in 1601, following Pallavicino's death, he was appointed
maestro di cappella in Mantua.

Monteverdi's fame spread rapidly, supported by the publication of his Fourth Book of madrigals in 1603 and his Fifth Book in 1605. Even before the madrigals of the Fourth Book appeared in print, the conservative theorist Giovanni Maria Artusi—having heard some of them in private performance—published a fierce diatribe excoriating Monteverdi for his modernistic excesses. While Artusi's attack did nothing but enhance Monteverdi's stature as a madrigalist, it cried out for rebuttal. In 1607, when Monteverdi published his Scherzi musicali (Musical Jokes); a collection of part-songs for three voices, written in a much simpler style than the madrigals), he included a lengthy declaration (signed by his brother, Giulio Cesare Monteverdi, also a musician in the service of the Gonzaga family) arguing that his works utilized a new way of writing—a so-called seconda prattica, to which the rules of the old prima prattica, the method of Palestrina and the traditionalists, did not apply. The "second practice" was based on the premise that in vocal music, expression of the emotional content of the words was paramount and could justify the sorts of transgressions to which Artusi objected. The greatest achievement of Monteverdi's first 40 years was the completion, also in 1607, of his first opera, L'Orfeo, widely acknowledged as the first great work in the history of the genre. A second opera, Arianna, the music to which is now lost (except for one aria, "Lasciatemi morire"), followed in 1608.

Around this time Monteverdi became disenchanted with conditions at the Mantuan court. Feeling overworked and underappreciated, he retreated to the home of his father, Baldassare, in Cremona. But a petition written by Baldassare to Duke Vincenzo, seeking Claudio's release from the post of
maestro di cappella, was rejected, and Monteverdi had no choice but to remain in the Gonzaga family's service until 1612— when, following Vincenzo's death, both he and his brother were sacked. The deteriorating conditions in Mantua had already prompted Monteverdi to begin looking elsewhere for employment, and undoubtedly played a part in his decision to publish, in 1610, a grand collection of church music, including a mass in the old style and a set of Vespers demonstrating his mastery of the new style (in its use of basso continuo, voices and instruments in combination, dance forms, virtuoso solo singing, and operatic declamation) alongside elements of the old (cantus firmus technique, divided choirs, and strict a cappella polyphony).

Monteverdi's dedication of the collection to Pope Paul V suggests he was hoping for an appointment in Rome, but, as things turned out, his future was in Venice. The death of Giulio Cesare Martinengo in July of 1613 left vacant the post of
maestro di cappella at the Basilica of San Marco, the city's magnificent principal church, and on August 19, 1613, following his successful audition with a performance of one of his masses, Monteverdi got the job.Monteverdi would spend the remaining 30 years of his life in Venice. Much of the music he wrote for San Marco has been lost. A single retrospective volume of 40 sacred pieces was published in 1640, under the title Selva morale e spirituale (Moral and Spiritual Forest), with another, containing a mass and psalm settings, appearing posthumously in 1650. Three new books of madrigals were published during the composer's years in Venice. The Sixth Book, dating from 1614, is a collection of five-part settings, some coming fairly close to 16th-century style, others in the new soloistic manner known as the stile concertato, in which continuo instruments rather than voices fill out the texture.

In the latter, Monteverdi delights in showing how one or two voices can be more expressive than four or five. The Seventh Book of madrigals (1619), titled Concerto, consists mostly of duets and trios in this new style, while the Eighth Book (1638), titled
Madrigali guerrieri, et amorosi (Warlike and Amorous Madrigals), runs the gamut from large-scale polyphonic works for voices and instruments to pieces in the theatrical style. A Ninth Book, consisting of miscellaneous madrigals and canzonettas, was published posthumously in 1651.

Monteverdi was a few months shy of his 70th birthday when, during the winter of 1637, the world's first public opera house opened its doors in the Venetian parish of San Cassiano. Over the next four years Venice acquired three more opera houses. Competition was keen, and Monteverdi found his talents as an opera composer in demand once again. In 1640, his Arianna was revived at the Teatro San Moise. That same season, for the Teatro San Cassiano, Monteverdi wrote Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria (The Return of Ulysses to His Homeland). In 1641, for the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo, he composed Le nozze d'Enea inLavinia (The Marriage of Aeneas to Lavinia), the music to which has been lost, and in 1643, also for Santi Giovanni e Paolo, he wrote L'incoronazionedi Poppea, his crowning masterpiece. Encompassing a range of styles from heroic to lyrical to comic, and uniting seemingly disparate musical and formal approaches by sheer force of imagination, these grand works set the stage for Baroque opera, which composers of the next two generations would turn into the predominant musical genre of 17th-century Italy.

In a period of revolutionary change in musical style, much of which he helped bring about, Monteverdi was the art's most adventurous, eloquent, and influential voice. A brilliant innovator whose own language underwent a complete metamorphosis over the years, he was also a brilliant synthesizer whose work in established genres infused them with new vitality. To paraphrase his contemporary Shakespeare, he bestrode the musical world like a colossus,bridging not merely two centuries but two eras, the Renaissance and the Baroque. He was the Orpheus of his age.

INFLUENCES
 

Monteverdi's writings on the seconda pratica and his madrigals, sacred music, and operas in that style make him the most influential composer of his time. His music also shows a slow movement from modal harmonies to the key-based tonal system we use today. He also played a vital role in the creation of secular music for the general public.

"The end of all good music is to affect the soul."
                                                                                    Claudio Monteverdi

Key Works

This is a transitional madrigal, with elements of both the old and new styles. The five-part text setting is clear and uncomplicated; this may be in part to allow instruments to either replace or double vocal parts, as a later arrangement with basso continuo suggests. The poem (“Eyes serene and clear / You inflame me”) by Ridolfo Arlotti is on the subject of suffering from the pangs of love.

Luci Serene e Chiare

Another five-part madrigal, Si, ch’io vorrei morire hides a much more earthy message. The references to dying in the text arean allusion to a much more pleasant “ending”, as supported by both other portions of the lyrics (“Ah mouth!Ah lips! Ah tongue!”) and the rather unsubtle rising and falling of the music.

Si, Ch’io Vorrei Morire

From the fifth book of madrigals, this five-part madrigal is more harmonically stable than Luci serene, although elements of the older polyphonic style remain. This madrigal was specifically cited by Artusi as an example of the “Imperfections of Modern Music”. The text (“Cruel Amaryllis”) is taken from Giovanni Guarini’s play II pastor fido, a popular source for contemporary composers.

Cruda Amarilli

L’orfeo - Savall

Though not his first opera, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo was the first to gain broad acceptance and to popularize the elements of the seconda pratica. Based i>n the ancient Orpheus myth, the opera presents a variety of styles: “dry” and fully-accompanied recitative, florid arias, choruses and instrumental interludes. Also, in keeping with the traditions of Classical Greek drama,

he makes use of deus ex machina “god from a machine”) in the final act.

L’orfeo

From the fifth book of madrigals, this five-part madrigal is more harmonically stable than Luci serene, although elements of the older polyphonic style remain. This madrigal was specifically cited by Artusi as an example of the “Imperfections of Modern Music”. The text (“Cruel Amaryllis”) is taken from Giovanni Guarini’s play II pastor fido, a popular source for contemporary composers.

Vespers of the Blessed Virgin - Magnificat

Monteverdi’s Vespers for the Blessed Virgin was written during his service for the Duke of Mantua, although his duties did not include composing sacred music. In fact, the work is

dedicated to Pope Paul V and was published in a volume which also included his Mass in ilia tempore as well as several Vespers psalm settings and motets.
It is possible that he later used these as “audition pieces” to obtain the position at St Mark’s in Venice. The work contains a mixture of both prima and seconda pratica, and a reworking of an instrumental toccata from L’Orfeo.

Messa a quattro voci da cappella 

Missa in illo tempore.

Claudio Monteverdi has been proposed as the subject of this Portrait of a Musician by a Cremonese artist (c. 1570–1590, now at the Ashmolean MuseumOxford).

Posthumous portrait medallion of Monteverdi, etching by Barberis

Frontispiece of Monteverdi's opera L'Orfeo, Venice edition, 1609.

Bronze bust of Monteverdi at Public Gardens John Paul II, in Cremona.

"Orfeo", opera in V Acts

Though not his first opera, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo was the first to gain broad acceptance and to popularize the elements of the seconda pratica. Based on the ancient Orpheus myth, the opera presents a variety of styles: “dry” and fully-accompanied recitative, florid arias, choruses and instrumental interludes. Also, in keeping with the traditions of Classical Greek drama, he makes use of deus ex machina (“god from a machine”) in the final act.
PROLOGUE (16:30) Following the opening fanfare, the spirit of Music appears to introduce the tale.

ACT ONE (16:30) Nymphs and shepherds gather to celebrate the wedding of Orpheus and Euridice. They dance and offer up thanks to the gods.

ACT TWO (25:20) Orpheus is telling of his joy when a messenger arrives with bad tidings: Euridice has been killed by a snake. The assembled crowd bewail their grief, while Orpheus vows to descend to Hades to win Euridice back.

ACT THREE (27:00) Orpheus, guided by the spirit of Hope, arrives in the Underworld. He charms the boatman Charon to sleep with his song, and continues onward.

ACT FOUR (16:20) Won over by Orpheus’s music, Persephone begs her husband Pluto to release Euridice; he agrees, on the condition that Orpheus not look upon her until he has returned to the living world. He sings first of his joy and then of his growing doubts that she is following him. Hearing a noise and fearing attack by the Furies, Orpheus turns, but as he sees Euridice she fades from view.

ACT FIVE (16:20) Orpheus returns to Thrace to mourn. His father, Apollo, chastises him and invites him to return to “where true virtue finds its due reward, joy and tranquillity”. They rise to the heavens on the cloud, singing.

Madrigals, Book 4

Madrigals, Book 5

Lamento d'Arianna - Madrigale Libro VI

Il Ballo delle Ingrate

Madrigais, Book 6 (Vol 1 & 2)

Seventh (7) Book of  Madrigals

Tirsi e Clori (Balletto)

Monteverdi: Seventh Book of Madrigals
00:08:11 A quest’olmo, a quest’ombre, SV 119 
00:14:02 Non è di gentil core, SV 118 
00:17:49 O come sei gentile, SV 120 
00:21:49 Io son pur vezzosetta pastorella, SV 121 
00:25:05 O viva fiamma, o miei sospiri ardenti, SV 122 
00:28:13 Vorrei baciarti, SV 123 
00:32:33 Dice la mia bellissima Licori, SV 124 
00:35:02 Non vedrò mai le stelle, SV 126 
00:38:58 Ah, che non si conviene, SV 125
00:42:12 Ecco vicine, o bella tigre, l’ore, SV 127 
00:46:15 Perché fuggi tra’ salci, SV 128 
00:49:31 Tornate, o cari baci, SV 129 
00:52:11 Soave libertate, SV 130 
00:55:38 Se ’l vostro cor, Madonna, SV 131 
00:58:41 Interrotte speranze, eterna fede, SV 132
01:01:14 Augellin, che la voce al canto spieghi, SV 133
01:04:42 Vaga su spina ascosa, SV 134 
01:07:34 Eccomi pronta ai baci, SV 135
01:10:07 Parlo, miser, o taccio?, SV 136 
01:14:36 Tu dormi, ah crudo core!, SV 137 
01:17:47 Al lume de le stelle, SV 138 
01:21:50 Con che soavità, labbra adorate, SV 139 
01:26:21 Ohimé, dove il mio ben, SV 140
01:31:02 Se i languidi miei sguardi, SV 141 
01:38:49 Se pur destina e vole, SV 142 
01:47:42 Chiome d’oro, SV 143 
01:50:49 Amor, che deggio far?, SV 144 

Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda

"Mass of Thanksgiving" à 4 voci 

“Scherzi Musicali (1632)

Madrigali, Libro VIII (1)

Madrigali, Libro VIII (2)

Il Ritorno Di Ulisse In Patria

Selva morale e spirituale

L'incoronazione di Poppea (Part 1)

L'incoronazione di Poppea (Part 2)

Mass for Four Voices (1650)

Ninth ( (9) Book of  Madrigals (1651)

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