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MONTEVERDI: Madrigals, Book 5

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Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Madrigals Book V: "La seconda prattica"
  Monteverdi's Fifth Book of Madrigals was published in Venice by Ricciardo Amadino in 1605. The natural successor of the Fourth Book (1603), it takes even further the expressive writing with which he had already so successfully experimented, and which had delighted some famous figures but scandalized others. His compositional audacity had led to much theoretical discussion and was the cue for canon Giovanni Maria Artusi's polemical publications, which inflamed the minds of intellectuals at the time: L'Artusi, overo Delle imperfettioni della moderna musica (Parts One and Two, published in 1600 and 1603 respectively). The reactionary Artusi was a staunch defender of the traditional rules of music and sworn enemy of the modern style that violated them. In his work he attacked a number of Monteverdi's madrigals which he had heard performed in Ferrara some years earlier, although they had not yet been published. These controversial works were cleverly divided between the Fourth and Fifth Books and did nothing but add to Monteverdi's success: by 1643 Book Five had been reprinted nine times. The composer dedicated this book of his latest works to Vincenzo Gonzaga, duke of the wealthy and beautiful city of Mantua, entreating him to accept them, "since his Highness did not disdain to listen to them several times in his royal chambers, when they were still written by hand, and on hearing them made it known that they greatly pleased him, for which reason he honoured me with the charge of his most noble Music: thus ... under the protection of such a great Prince, they will live eternally, to the shame of those tongues which seek to destroy the work of others". The dedication clearly conveys the composer's desire to defend both his own progressiveness and the artistic freedom that Ferrara had promoted for so many years, prior to its annexation to the Holy See: he was now composing his "new" music to be heard and appreciated by the duke in Mantua's "royal chambers", where no canon was lurking, pen poised. It also serves as a fascinating testimony of the performance practice of music "written by hand": works were rehearsed, performed and heard before going to print. Although we might have assumed this to be the case, the reality is that no autograph scores survive (by Monteverdi or virtually any other composer of the time), and our only sources are the printed scores: those that "will live eternally". (See however Monteverdi's manuscript works in the notes for the First Book, Naxos 8.555307.) Thirty years later, Artusi's stance had softened somewhat -- as Monteverdi himself wrote: "he calmed down to such an extent that in the future he not only went no further but also turned his pen to praise and began to like and esteem me". Even today, however, the revolutionary nature of some of Monteverdi's works has the power to shock. Confidently positioned at the start of the Fifth Book is the first of these, 'Cruda Amarilli', with its unprepared and unresolved dissonances on strong beats (showing that any "harshness" was a quite deliberate choice and by no means incidental) and inclusion of unexpected notes in consonant chords, techniques that are still strikingly modern today. For Monteverdi, the "norm", the theoretical practice validated by the authorities of the past, is now outranked by the expressive requirements of the words. He did not defend himself against Artusi by writing copious theoretical texts: instead he included a brief introductory essay, addressed to "studiosi lettori" (studious readers), in the Fifth Book. A musician in full-time employment rather than a theorist, he justified himself saying that he was not "master of the all the hours that [he] needed", adding, "be not surprised that I have presented these madrigals for publication without first responding to the criticism levelled at them by Artusi". The words that followed have become part of musical history: "I do not do things at random and as soon as it is rewritten it will appear bearing the name of Second Practice, or Perfection of Modern music". As Claudio Gallico notes, "the Second Practice is the musical style which makes the "oration" (i.e. the word together with the meaning, communicative sense, spirit and concept that lie within it, as well as prosody, syntax and rhetoric) the mistress of harmony (i.e. of the music and its phonics, grammar and structure) and not its maidservant" (C. Gallico: Monteverdi, 1979). Monteverdi, therefore, took advantage of the freedom to use any musical means, be they traditional or newly invented, to illustrate the poetry, transforming it in both expressive and artistic terms. Though Artusi thought that "the Second Practice may in all truth be said to be the dregs of the First", he was to be overwhelmed by the power of this new idiom which inexorably swept across the old world over the next few years. From this book onwards, a change in the structure of the madrigal can be observed. The traditional piece for five voices was transformed into a testing-ground which welcomed instrumental writing and extended sections for vocal trios and duets, or even solo works, supported by an "innovative invention". The latter consisted of a completely autonomous instrumental melodic line (in other words, not simply doubling the bass line as the basso seguente had done up till then), written by the composer himself (not worked out by the instrumentalists), and which, as Giovan Battista Doni wrote in 1635, "since it continues from beginning to end, is usually known as basso continuo". It is stated in the frontispiece, as well as in the book that Monteverdi himself had had printed for the instrumental bass line only (a first for one of his publications), that this part is for "harpsichord, theorbo or other similar instrument, and is required for the last six pieces and optional for the others". The basso continuo accompaniment plays a vital and indispensable part therefore in the musical texture of the final six madrigals, adding a harmonic support to the solo vocal lines without which the piece would be incomplete. These chords were improvised by the instrumentalist above the bass line. The precise instruments to be played were not specified and would have varied according to the availability of performers and the musical and expressive effects desired. In the Fifth Book, the predominance of texts by the Ferrarese poet Giovanni Battista Guarini (sixteen out of nineteen) reminds us, as with the Fourth, of the production of his Pastor fido staged by Vincenzo in Mantua, but for which no account of the music survives. In a book whose theme is that of unrequited love, we find two cycles adapted from that work, one featuring Mirtillo's desperate love for Amaryllis, which she is unable to reciprocate, and the other Dorinda's sorrowful utterances to Silvio. Monteverdi successfully brings together two scenes which are not consecutive in the original to create a dialogue between Mirtillo and Amaryllis in the two opening madrigals. The dissonances mentioned earlier on the first words of 'Cruda Amarilli' [Track 1] are echoed in 'O Mirtillo' [2] on the words "il cor di questa che chiami crudelissima Amarilli" in a progression of vertical harmonic chords which highlight the transparency of the lyric. The story of the second unhappy couple (Dorinda and Silvio) forms the heart of this book, and represents the Monteverdian five-voice madrigal par excellence -- the "traditional", a cappella
Item number 8555311
Barcode 747313531127
Release date 01/05/2006
Label Naxos Records
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Claudio Monteverdi
Conductors Marco Longhini
Orchestras Delitiae Musicae
Producers Lodovico and Marco Longhini
Disc: 1
Questi vaghi concenti (These lovely songs)
1 Cruda Amarilli (Cruel Amaryllis)
2 O Mirtillo
3 Era l'anima mia (My spirit)
4 I. Ecco, Silvio, colei (Lo, Silvio)
5 II. Ma, se con la pieta (Yet, if your innate kindn
6 III. Dorinda, ah, diro mia (Dorinda, ah shall I ca
7 IV. Ecco, piegando le genocchie (Lo, I bend my kne
8 V. Ferir quel petto, Silvio? (Pierce your breast,
9 I. Ch'io t'ami (If, cruel girl)
10 II. Deh, bella e cara (Ah, beloved, fair)
11 III. Ma tu, piu che mai dura (But, harder of heart
12 Che dar piu vi poss'io? (What more can I give you?
13 M'e piu dolce il penar per Amarilli (The pain I su
14 Ahi, come a un vago sol (Alas, as if toward a grac
15 Troppo ben puo (Tyrannous love)
16 Amor, se giusto sei (Love, if you are just)
17 T'amo, mia vita! (I love you my beloved!)
18 E cosi, a poco a poco (And thus, little by little)
19 Questi vaghi concenti (These lovely songs)
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