Alias: Claudio Monteverde
Baptised: 15 May 1567
Died: 29 November 1643
Monteverdi's compositional career spans sixty years from the end of the Renaissance to the early Baroque: like Beethoven two centuries later he was the major transitional figure between two distinct musical eras.
He was the first composer to realise the potential of opera for expressing powerful emotions, and he brought to his church music the musical innovations of his madrigal and instrumental style that he continued to refine throughout his lifetime.
Claudio (Giovanni Antonio) Monteverdi was born in Cremona in 1567, and baptised – probably at an age of several days – on the 15th of May. Monteverdi’s father Baldassare was a chemist and also practiced medicine; his mother Maddalena (née Zignani) died young, and Baldassare married twice more. Claudio had one elder sister, a younger brother Giulio Cesare who also pursued a musical career, and three more half-siblings from his father’s second marriage. Both Claudio and Giulio Cesare received a good musical education from Marc’Antonio Ingegneri, who was maestro di cappella of Cremona Cathedral, and whom Monteverdi would acknowledge as his teacher on the title page of his first book of madrigals. Claudio was clearly a precociously gifted boy, at the age of 15 sending a collection of three-part motets to be published in Venice by the printing house of Gardane, and following these with two further publications before he reached the age of 18, the latter of which, the volume of three-part canzonets, was published by Ricciardo Amadino, whose printing firm would go on to publish much of Monteverdi’s subsequent work.
By the time Monteverdi was ready to publish his second book of five-part madrigals, he had evidently outstripped his teacher and was looking for a musical posting outside Cremona; he visited Milan to obtain patronage, and within three years he was in full-time employment as a violinist or gamba player at the court of the Gonzaga family in Mantua. The third book of madrigals that was published soon after show the influence of the Mantuan maestro di cappella, Giaches de Wert, but Monteverdi's fame quickly spread and he became one of the leading court musicians. After the death of de Wert in 1596 he was succeeded by a more senior musician, Pallavicino, but upon his death in 1601 came Monteverdi's opportunity as musical director of the Mantuan court. In the meantime, Monteverdi had married one of the court singers, Claudia de Cattaneis, on 20 May 1599, who would bear him three children; Francesco (1601–?1677/78), Leonora (1603), and Massimiliano (1604–61).
In 1600 Monteverdi was the subject of an attack by the musical theorist Artusi, who criticised certain of Monteverdi’s harmonic practices and his modern style of word-painting, concerning works which were yet to appear in print but must have been circulating in manuscript. In 1603 and 1605 Monteverdi published the fourth and fifth books of madrigals, including much of the secular music he had worked on in the previous decade at Mantua that had attracted the ire of Artusi. The fifth book includes a brief reply to the criticism, which was amplified two years later by Monteverdi’s younger brother Giulio Cesare in the introduction to the Scherzi musicali of 1607; this only served to further popularise Monteverdi’s music and enhance his fame.
Monteverdi’s final years at Mantua were dominated by the composition of a series of dramatic works and unhappiness in his personal life, while the star of his fame ascended ever further. His first opera, L'Orfeo received its successful premiere at the beginning of 1607 during Carnival, and was followed by commissions for a second opera, L'Arianna, and several other smaller dramatic works including the balletto Il ballo delle ingrate. In the middle of the year Monteverdi returned to Cremona with his wife, who having been seriously ill for some time, was to be cared for by Monteverdi’s apothecary father. Claudia died on September 10; after little more than a fortnight he was recalled to Mantua. The inherent amount of overwork during the next year precipitated a nervous collapse; Claudio for a time again returned to his father’s house in Cremona to recuperate, before an angry exchange of letters resulted in a pay rise from the Gonzagas, more or less obliging him to return to court duties. However, Monteverdi’s desire to remain any longer in Mantua was effectively at an end.
The subsequent publication of the Vespro della beata Vergine in 1610 has been sometimes interpreted by music historians as being nothing less than an elaborate curriculum vitae, or job application for a church posting elsewhere: it was the first sizeable collection of church music published since the motets of his youth. The volume includes a learned six-part parody mass based on a motet of Nicolas Gombert, written in the Renaissance polyphonic style which he described as the prima prattica, or first practice, which strongly leans to the Roman school of church music dominated in the previous century by Palestrina; in August he travelled to Rome to obtain permission to dedicate the volume to Pope Paul V. On the other hand, the Vespers music inventively fuses traditional plainsong psalmody with the new technical innovations from Monteverdi’s dramatic music, described as the seconda prattica (second practice), interspersed with more intimate motets “designed for princely chapels or apartments”, thus lending itself to the elaborate instrumental and choral resources of Venice under the long line of maestri di cappella culminating in Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli; following the latter’s death in 1611, Monteverdi was invited to perform for the procurators of the Basilica of San Marco. Monteverdi succeeded, and in 1613 moved to Venice, where he would remain as maestro di cappella for the rest of his life.
View the Wikipedia article on Claudio Monteverdi.
- L'Orfeo, SV 318, opera (favola in musica) (prologue, 5 acts), produced Feb. 1607, pub. 1609,
- L'Arianna, SV 291, opera, 1608 – lost, aside from lament:
- Lamento d'Arianna, SV 22, 1v, bc, pub. 1623
- Lamento d'Arianna, SV 107, 5vv, bc, pub. 1614
- Il ballo delle Ingrate, SV 167, ballet, 4vv, 1608, pub. 1638
- Prologue to L'Idropica, comedy with music, 1608 – lost
- Tirsi e Clori, SV 145, ballet, 1616
- Le nozze di Tetide, favola marittima, 1616 – work begun and abandoned, lost
- Andromeda, opera, 1618–20 – lost
- Apollo, dramatic cantata – lost
- Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, SV 153, dramatic scena, 3vv, 2vl, va, vc, cb, bc, 1624, pub. 1638 (2 editions available)
- La finta pazza Licori, 1627 – lost
- Gli amori di Diana e di Endimione, 1628 – lost
- Mercurio e Marte, torneo, 1628 – lost
- Proserpina rapita, SV 323, opera, 1630 – lost, aside from trio:
- Come dolce oggi l’auretta spira, SV 173, 3vv, bc, pub. 1651
- Volgendo il ciel per l'immortal sentiero, SV 154, ballet, ca 1636, pub. 1638 (2 editions available)
- Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, SV 325, opera, 1640
- Le nozze d’Enea con Lavinia, opera, 1641 – lost
- La vittoria d’Amore, ballet, 1641 – lost
- L’incoronazione di Poppea, SV 308, opera, 1642
Score listing includes number of voices, instruments, and publication date (if known).
Madrigali e canzonette libro nono (Madrigals and song ninth book, Venice, 1651)
- Bel pastor dal cui bel guardo
- Zefiro torna e di soavi accenti, 2vv, bc, 1651
- Se vittorie sì belle, 2vv, bc, 1638
- Armato il cor d'adamantina fede, SV 150, 2vv, bc, 1638
- Ardo e scoprir, ahi lasso, io non ardisco, SV 158, 2vv, bc, 1638
- O sia tranquillo il mare o pien d'orgoglio, 2vv, bc, 1638
- Alcun non mi consigli, SV 169
- Di far sempre gioire amor speranza dà
- Quando dentro al tuo seno
- Non voglio amare per non penare
- Come dolce oggi
- Alle danze, alle gioie
- Perché se m'odiavi
- Si si ch'io v'amo, occhi vaghi, occhi belli
- Su, su, su, pastorelli vezzosi (1651)
- O mio bene, o mia vita
Score listing includes number of voices, instruments, and publication date (if known).
- L'Orfeo, SV 318 (Venice, 1609, 1615)
- Lamento d'Arianna, only surviving excerpt from L'Arianna (Venice, 1623)
Other dramatic works published in Scherzi musicali (1607), Madrigali guerreri et amorosi (1638), and Madrigali e canzonette (1651) below.
- Canzonette a tre voci (Venice, 1584)
- Il primo libro de madrigali a cinque voci (Venice, 1587)
- Il secondo libro de madrigali a cinque voci (Venice, 1590)
- Il terzo libro de madrigali a cinque voci (Venice, 1592)
- Il quarto libro de madrigali a cinque voci (Venice, 1603)
- Il quinto libro de madrigali a cinque voci (Venice, 1605)
- Scherzi musicali (Venice, 1607)
- Il sesto libro de madrigali a cinque voci (Venice, 1614)
- Concerto: settimo libro de madrigali (Venice, 1619)
- Scherzi musicali cioè arie et madrigali (Venice, 1632)
- Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi… (Venice, 1638)
- Madrigali e canzonette libro nono (Venice, 1651)
- Sacræ cantiunculæ liber primus, 3vv (Venice, 1582)
- Madrigali spirituali a quattro voci (Brescia, 1584)
- Musica tolta da i madrigali (Milan, 1607; 24 madrigal contrafacta with sacred texts, 11 by Monteverdi)
- Il secondo libro della musica… (Milan 1608; 8 madrigal contrafacta with sacred texts)
- Il terzo libro della musica… (Milan 1609; 19 madrigal contrafacta with sacred texts)
- Sanctissimæ Virgini Missa senis vocibus… ac Vesperæ pluribus decantandæ (Venice, 1610)
- Selva morale e spirituale (Venice, 1641)
- Messa a quattro voci, et salmi, concertati (Venice, 1650)
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