Songs, Laments, and Madrigals by Monteverdi and D’India
Eccomi pronto ai baci BG, JM, UT, CL Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)
Sfogava con le stelle BW, SC, JM, BG, UT Monteverdi
Lamento d’Orfeo: Che vegg’io, ohimè BG, CL Sigismondo D’India (ca. 1582–ca. 1629)
Cruda Amarilli JM, CL D’India
Se’l vostro cor, Madonna JM, UT, CL Monteverdi
Dove potrò mai gir tanto lontano BW, SC, CL, BK D’India
Ahi, chi fia che consoli JM, BG, CL D’India
Lamento d’Olimpia: Misera me! Sia vero BW, EW, CL D’India
This piece was not performed due to illness
Sfere, fermate BG, CL, BK D’India
Ecco vicine, o bella tigre l’ore JM, GB, CL Monteverdi
Io mi son giovinetta BW, MN, BG, JM, CL D’India
Dolcissimo uscignolo BW, SC, MN, BG, UT, CL, BK Monteverdi
Shannon Canavin & Brenna Wells, soprano
Martin Near, countertenor
Jason McStoots & Bradford Gleim, tenor
Ulysses Thomas, bass
Catherine Liddell, theorbo
Emily Walhout, lirone
Bálint Karosi, harpsichord
Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 3pm
First Lutheran Church of Boston
Notes on the Program
The importance of Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643) as a proponent of the so-called seconda prattica, the new concerted music characteristic of the early Baroque, is unquestioned, as is his pre-eminence in the development of the new form of opera that sprang from the combination of music and rhetoric in the art of Italian monody. He was born in Cremona, Italy, on the May 15, 1567 and his musical talent was already evident during his youth: his first publication was issued by a prominent Venetian publishing house when he was 15, and by the time he was 20 a variety of his works had gone to print. His first book of five-voice madrigals, while bearing a dedication to his Cremonese mentor Ingegnieri, succeeded in establishing his reputation outside of his provincial hometown, and helped him find work in the court of the Duke Gonzaga of Mantua. His compositions from the Mantuan period betray the influence of Giaches de Wert, whom Monteverdi eventually succeeded as the maestro di cappella. It was around this time that Monteverdi’s name became widely known, due largely to the criticism levied at him by G. M. Artusi in his famous 1600 treatise “on the imperfection of modern music.” Artusi found Monteverdi’s contrapuntal unorthodoxies unacceptable and cited several excerpts from his madrigals as examples of modern musical decadence. In the response that appeared in the preface to Monteverdi’s fifth book of madrigals, the composer coined a pair of terms inextricably tied to the diversity of musical taste that came to characterize the times. He referred to the older style of composition, in which the traditional rules of counterpoint superseded expressive considerations, as the prima prattica. The seconda prattica, as characterized by such works as Crudi Amarilli, sought to put music in the servitude of the text by whatever means necessary-including “incorrect” counterpoint-to vividly express the text.
In 1607, Monteverdi’s first opera (and the oldest to grace modern stages with any frequency) L’Orfeo was performed in Mantua. This was followed in 1608 by L’Arianna, which, despite its popularity at the time, no longer survives except in libretti, and in the title character’s famous lament, a polyphonic arrangement of which appeared in his sixth book of madrigals (1614). Disagreements with the Gonzaga court led him to seek work elsewhere, and finally in 1612 he was appointed maestro di cappella at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.
Monteverdi’s earliest years at Venice were a rebuilding period for the cappella, and it was some time before he was free to accept commissions outside his duties at the cathedral. The 1630s were lean musical years for Monteverdi. Political battles and an outbreak of the plague left him without commissions from either Mantua or Venice. However, with the opening of Venetian opera houses in 1637, Monteverdi’s operatic career was revived. A new production of L’Arianna was staged in 1640, and three new operas appeared within two years: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Le nozze d’Enea con Lavinia, and L’incoronazione di Poppea. This resurgence preceded his death by just a few years: he passed away in Venice in 1643.
Sigismondo D’India (ca. 1582–ca. 1629), was born fifteen years after Monteverdi and died fifteen years before him. Most of what we know about his early life comes from what he said himself on the title pages of his publications: he claimed that he was of a noble Sicilian family and that he had received his training from “learned men of music.” While there is no evidence that he ever lived in Sicily, there is reason to believe that his father lived in Naples in the 1590s and that D’India was exposed to the most important musical figures there, including such musicians as Giovanni de Macque and the circle around Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa. D’India led an itinerant life as a singer and composer around the Italian courts between 1600 and 1610—perhaps most notably singing and performing in Florence for Giulio Caccini, who proclaimed his genius both as songer and composer—before settling in Turin in 1611 where he became director of chamber music at the court of Carlo Emanuele I, Duke of Savoy; most of his music dates from the period of his employment there. This was a position requiring the production of secular music, both instrumental and vocal, but it is most likely that his predilection was not for religious music.
Malicious courtiers undercut D’India with vicious gossip, and he left the court in 1623, becoming attached to the Este court in Modena on a temporary basis from 1623 to 1624. He then moved to Rome, taking a position with Cardinal Maurizio, who was a son of the Duke of Savoy. He produced more religious music at this time and composed an opera with a religious theme, Sant’Eustachio. In 1625 D’India took a permanent position in the court of the Este family and directed a funeral mass for Isabella d’Este (it is not known if this was one written by him or someone else).
The historical record grows thin at this point: in 1627, he was competing for a commission for a marriage between the Farnese and Medici houses, but lost to Monteverdi. He was also appointed to the court of Maximilian I of Bavaria, but it is not known whether he ever made it there, or exactly when, where, or how he died. A document dated April 19, 1629, is addressed to the heirs of Sig. D’India, establishing that he died some time earlier.
Despite being eclipsed by many of his contemporaries, D’India is regarded as the most important early Italian composer of secular vocal music in the new monadic style, with the exception of Monteverdi. His first publication was a book of madrigals for five voices published in Milan in 1606. This met with such extraordinary success that it was reprinted in 1607 and again in 1610 in Venice, set by the most famous music typographer of his time, Angelo Gardano. It was the first in a wonderful series of eight similar books, and the sumptuous tradition of the polyphonic madrigal was to remain the basis for all his compositions, transmuted into monodies and vocal duets with continuo. His secular compositions include five books of Musiche for one or two voices with continuo (1609–1623) and two books of Villanelle alla napolitanta for three, four, and five voices (1608–1612). D’India left absolutely no instrumental music and, surprisingly for such a great setter of words (often his own verses), no full-scale works for the stage. His music is marked by strong, dramatic emotional content and bold, original, and personal harmonic progressions. Among the most typical of his subjects are laments by rejected or jilted lovers, their heartbreak expressed in a reliance on chromatic half-steps and strong dissonances that resolve themselves in unusual ways.
While much of Monteverdi’s energy while he was in Venice was devoted to the administration of the choir of St. Mark’s and to composing and directing sacred music, he still found time to continue his work in the field of secular music, fulfilling commissions for operas, ballets, and intermedi, seeing his sixth book of madrigals (his last wholly Mantuan collection) through the press, and writing madrigals and strophic canzonettas which from the bulk of his seventh and eighth madrigal books. Published in 1619, the seventh book marked a watershed in Monteverdi’s work; all the pieces require instrumental accompaniment, and most of its contents are scored for only one, two, three, or four solo voices with continuo, reflecting not only a general change in Italian musical fashion, but also the new social environment in which Monteverdi was working. Eccomi pronto ai baci for three male voices is reminiscent of the opera L’incoronazione di Poppea as the men act as nursemaids who dribble, yell, and make trouble. The five-part madrigal Sfogava con le stelle is typical of Monteverdi’s experimental impulse, with numerous sections of text set in the manner of falsobordone, or unmeasured homophony, often employed by composers of sacred music to move rapidly through lengthy psalm texts. But Monteverdi’s use of it had other, richer functions as well, differentiating the poet’s opening narration of the scene from the first-person epigrammatic complaint that follows. Monteverdi also indulged in some very daring dissonances than in previous compositions, such as the minor seventh at “il suo dolore” and grinding clashes generated at “pietosa sì” by a simple, stunning rearrangement of the voice leading of the perfectly consonant falsobordone progressions heard just before.
It is hardly surprising that musicians of the Baroque period were fascinated by the legend of Orpheus, as much for the tragic love story of the mythic couple, as for the ancient Greek belief in the extraordinary power of music. Among the first operas were two settings of Euridice, the first by Jacopo Peri and the second by Giulio Caccini, as well as Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. Composers up to Haydn, including Luigi Rossi, Telemann, and Gluck, adapted the tragic story for the stage, and thus evoked the power—which they themselves possessed—of the art of sound. D’India’s lament of Orpheus, Che vegg’io, ohimè, appears in his fourth book of Musiche (1621) and like the lament of Olympia, displays the vulnerability of youth; rudely awakened from his dream of happiness, he bursts into tears and sobs while his beauty still blazes out sonorously. D’India’s masterful display of fast-paced emotional and dramatic changes is at its best in this piece, in which Orpheus’s disjointed turns are reflected in the jarring harmonic progressions, such as A major followed by G minor at “fra le vostre ombre anco accogliete,” D major to E flat major at “ma che vaneggi, Orfeo,” and E minor to B flat major at “Tremando aghiaccio.”
Cruda Amarilli appears in D’India’s first book of Musiche, and may be derived from Sicilian folksong. The text, taken from Il Pastor fido by Battista Guarini, had enjoyed a considerable measure of popularity with composers of polyphonic madrigals: Marenzio, Wert, Pallavicino, Monteverdi, and D’India himself had all made five-part settings of them. The monadic version of Cruda Amarilli, tense, emotional, and chromatic, is a distillation of this tradition. Set to a poem by Tarquinio Tasso, Monteverd’s duet Se’l vostro cor, Madonna pictures the spurned lover growing desperate as he sees his lady bestowing her favors on others, providing the composer with ample opportunity for rhetorical sighs and exclamations.
In his second collection, D’India made the rather unusual choice of presenting the unique genre of the duet over a basso continuo. It was not the first time he used such forces: indeed his first book of monodies ends (following a fairly common manner for the period) with three pieces in which the single vocal line is joined by a second voice, thus bringing this debut collection to a close with a fuller sonority. These three pieces already offered diverse solutions in their treatment of the two voices. Dove potrò mai gir tanto lontano sets an anonymous “ottava rima” (rhyming stanza) over a repeating bass pattern known as the Ruggiero with the two sopranos elaborating imitative passages on words that justify their use (“acuto strale,” “fuggirò,” “veloce,” and “foco”), alternating with brief passages in contrasting rhythms.
D’India’s echo aria Ahi, chi fia che consoli is immediately reminiscent of the Audi coelum from Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610. D’India’s work, however, aside from being secular instead of sacred, is more of a dialogue between the singer and his echo, which repeats a portion of the final word of the protagonist’s phrases in an often taunting manner, tormenting the already lovesick man with questions to questions and an ultimate sentence to death.
D’India’s fourth and fifth books of Musiche contain five laments altogether, including Olympia’s lament, Misera mei! Sia vero, from the latter collection (1623). One of the stories in Ariosto’s romance-epic Orlando furioso, first published in 1516, concerns Olympia, the beautiful but spoiled young daughter of the count of Holland. Having fallen deeply in love with the noble Nireno, she refused to marry another suitor, the King of Friesia’s son, and as a result saw her father and brothers killed, and her country sacked by Friesian troops, in an act of revenge for her refusal. After Orlando came to the rescue, she was eventually able to marry Bireno. But he soon proved fickle by falling in love with a young girl, and abandoned Olympia at the first opportunity on an islandoff the coast of Scotland. In her lament, one of the great set pieces of Ariosto’s poem (canto x. 19-34), Olympia glimpses Bireno’s sails as they disappear over the horizon in the pale light of dawn; she berates him for his infidelity and cruelty, recalls the terrible chain of events set off by her passonate love for him; and suffers recurring fears about her own safety, seeing herself as prey to the wild animals which she is sure inhabit the island.
D’India’s setting of Olympia’s lament—like that of Monteverdi—stands at some distance from Ariosto’s original. As the author of his own text, D’India dropped much narrative and incidental detail to concentrate on his protagonist’s highly rhetorical outbursts of anguish, rate, and terror.Unlike Monteverdi’s version of this lament, which concludes by seeking Bireno’s forgiveness for her complaints, D’India makes his heroine suffer a complete physical and mental collapse at the end of his setting, each word or phrase there becoming a musical fragment. His handling of the relationship between voice and bass line is quite free, and he produces harmonies that are often bolder than those even Monteverdi uses in his lament. D’India is also much more inclined to underline exclamations and emotional high points by a greater use of melodic intervals specifically associated with expressive utterance, as in the sequence of diminished fifths at “Ohimé, ohimé ch’io moro.” All in all, D’India creates a powerful, at times almost overwhelming, impression of Olympia’s grief.
Sfere fermate is the last piece in D’India’s fifth book of Musiche, a “lightweight” strophic poem distinguished by the title “aria.” An honest to goodness encore, the composer himself stipulating that it should be performed after the end of the work. Monteverdi’s Ecco vicine, o bella tigre l’ore is an excellent example of his writing for two equal voices, with virtuosic passagework playing off of homophonic declamations in which it is sometimes difficult to tell if there are one or two voices singing.
D’India’s Io mi son giovinetta opens with a somewhat rollicking display of youthful enthusiasm as the narrator describes his young love; but the youth’s heart is soon broken when she sends him away. Found in Monteverdi’s eighth book of madrigals—those of “love and war”—Dolcissimo uscignolo is composed for five voices and “indispensable instrumental continuo.” Though this may seem to send us back to the climate of his earlier books of madrigals, this return is illusory; the airy lyricism of the piece grants the upper voice an almost absolute dominance while the rest of the voices play a secondary role.
Notes by Shannon Canavin