Session 19 (Free Papers): Madrigals

Tuesday, 6 July 2021, 14.30-16.30, Room 217 | Chair: Laurie Stras (University of Huddersfield)

The influence of Torquato Tasso’s poetry on Monteverdi’s madrigals | Christian Charles Giddings (Deering High School)

There is general agreement in the scholarly literature that Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) was one of the most skilled and historically significant composers active during the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries. He composed extensively in most of the principal genres of vocal music cultivated in Italy in the decades surrounding the turn of the century, including Mass, motet, sacred concerto, opera, and both unaccompanied and accompanied madrigals. His nine numbered books of madrigals, in particular, are thought to bridge the gap separating the polyphonic styles of the late Renaissance and the early Baroque. As is well known, one of his favourite sources of madrigal texts was the poetry of his contemporary Torquato Tasso (1544-1595), one of the most influential Italian poets of the second half of the sixteenth century.

This paper analyses in detail the first madrigalian setting of Tasso’s poetry by Monteverdi published in 1587 (Book One). Such analysis suggests that the composer responded to the expressivity and increased formal freedom typical of Tasso’s poetry by making greater use of musico-rhetorical figures, as described by the German theorist Joachim Burmeister (1564-1629) in his treatise Musica poetica (1606).

“Madrigals in Italian as well as Latin”: Towards a radical re-definition of the madrigal in the late 16th century | Christian Thomas Leitmeir (Magdalen College, University of Oxford)

Throughout the 16th century, languages constitute a convenient mechanism for sorting non-liturgical polyphony into different ‘genres’. Motets (however loosely defined in most other respects) are characterised through their Latin texts, whereas chansons, partsongs, Lieder and madrigals were based on the vernacular of languages of French, English, German and Italian, respectively. Even the Elizabethan is ultimately treated as an exception that proves the rule. The only major violation of this linguistic principle can be explained away as a process of cultural transfer, through which the Italian madrigal inspired similar creations in the English language. Infinitely more troublesome is the testimony of the Madrigalia tam Italica quam Latina, published in 1590 by Camillo Zanotti, Vice-Kapellmeister of the Imperial Chapel in Prague. A comparative study reading of the Italian and Latin madrigals assembled in this little-known print established that Zanotti’s terminology has more than curiosity value. Albeit unique in their unashamed broadening of the term ‘madrigal’ beyond the Italian vernacular, the Madrigalia tam Italica quam Latina are suggestive of a broader trend. As this paper will argue, by the end of the 16th century, cosmopolitan circles of Italophile and Italophone no longer regarded Italian as a definiens specificum of the madrigal. Severed from its ties to the Italian vernacular, the term ‘madrigal’ may have served as a descriptor of specific compositional features and techniques more generally. Analogies between Latin- texted works from Zanotti’s publication and ‘motets’ by Gallus, Luython, Lassus and other (Eastern) Central European composers and others constitute a reasonable case for adding the term “Latin madrigal” to our nomenclature of genres.

Poetic reworkings in madrigals of the forgotten ones: Focus on Pietro Havente | Cathy Ann Elias (DePaul Univeristy)

Borrowing and reworking of musical materials in the Renaissance has received much well-deserved attention. For this study I will focus on the working and reworking of the poetry used within selected Italian Renaissance madrigals, in particular those of Pietro Havente. Comparing the literary source of a poem with a non-identical version found in a musical manuscript offers an opportunity to examine the processes—musical, textual and societal—that led to the differences. Also, intentionality and mechanism may be clearer when examining text. While variation may simply be due to the processes of oral transmission and copying errors, I found evidence of other mechanisms in madrigal collections. For example, modifying the text to suit a specific dedicatee or creating a new poem closely modelled on a pre- existing one.

The provenance of the text, when available, is also a worthwhile object of study. Most of the madrigal texts were found in collections of poems by diverse authors, often of aristocratic origin. The authors, the collections, and the dedications may help us to follow the links of patronage and contemporary intellectual and social networks. To conclude, I will bring music back into focus: Havente’s madrigals remained little performed because the alto partbook is missing. I will play ones with a newly written part.