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Songs of Love & War - Claudio Monteverdi

In celebrating the genius of Claudio Monteverdi, we pay homage to a visionary and daring composer whose work continues to captivate and inspire. His contributions to sacred and secular music, his innovative approach to composition, and his enduring influence on the course of musical history make him a true master whose brilliance transcends the ages.

“My fascination with Monteverdi lies not only in his musical excellence but also in the intricate

connections between his art and the socio-political dynamics of his era. Now that I live in Vienna, I have delved deeper into the connection between Monteverdi and the Austrian crown, exploring all the backgrounds behind the dedication of the Eighth Book to the newly crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Ferdinand III. Monteverdi is indeed the creator of modern music, and evidence of his musical intuitions can be seen in all European music from the late 17th century to the present.”

Marco Vitale

Le Nuove Musiche

The late Renaissance spurned many new ideas in music, art and poetry. A group of intellectuals known as the Florentine Camerata felt that florid choral writing detracted from conveying the meaning of the text. In 1602 one of their members, Giulio Caccini, published his Le nouve musiche, a collection of songs for solo voice and basso continuo, in a new style, now known as monody, with a single voice accompanied by instrumental accompaniment. This textual setting was the foundation of stile recitativo, which presaged the development of modern opera as we know it today.

Monteverdi’s Operas

In 1606, the Duke of Mantua commissioned Monteverdi to write his first opera, L’Orfeo, in which he fully embraced this monodic style. In 1643 Monteverdi would write his most successful work, L'incoronazione di Poppea, his final opera. Although neglected for about 250 years, since its rediscovery in 1888 it has since become one of the most popular of baroque operas, with its much-loved final duet, “Pur ti miro.”

Maestro of St. Mark's Basilica

Monteverdi also gained the coveted position of Maestro di Capella at St Mark’s Basilica in

Venice, succeeding the great Giovanni Gabrieli, who was instrumental in developing the Venetian School, a poly-choral style of alternating parts, made possible by the unique choral arrangement of opposing choir lofts in the church. The famed German composer Heinrich Schütz made a pilgrimage to Venice in 1628 to study with Monteverdi and learn about his new compositional techniques.

Songs of Love and War

The focus of Saturday’s concert, Monteverdi’s Eighth Book of Madrigals incorporates the various musical styles of this era and, most notably, what Monteverdi referred to as the stile concitato, which he felt expressed the “agitated” emotions of mankind, which had not been expressed in music before. Split into two symmetrical halves, one for “war” and one for “love”, each half begins with a six-voice setting, looking back to the older style of the late Renaissance. Other madrigals in the set use a double choir, in the Venetian stile concertato, as one can hear in the deeply moving “Hor che'l ciel e la terra".

“It is a milestone in the modern madrigal, and the division into two volumes – the first for war madrigals and the second for love madrigals – represents an encyclopedia of human feelings in the allegoric form of war and love. In fact, it describes the two opposite emotions of anger and love.

“We had to make some selections, as performing the entire collection would take at least two entire evenings (although it's an experience I would love to have!). I have chosen the most spectacular madrigals and the ones that have a particular meaning to me as a musician and as a person. Especially the last one in the program, "Dolcissimo Uscignolo," is an invitation for all of us to reflect on our own strengths and limitations and appreciate the diverse gifts that life grants to each individual.”

Marco Vitale


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