Music Madrigal
by
Edmond Strainchamps
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0243

Introduction

Madrigal is the name of a musical genre for voices that set mostly secular poetry in two epochs: the first occurred during the 14th century; the second in the 16th and early 17th centuries. There is no connection between the two; it is only happenstance that the same word labeled very different genres in two different periods. The latter, termed the Renaissance madrigal—see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Music “Renaissance”—became not only the dominant kind of secular music in Italy, but during the course of the 16th century it was a progressive and experimental genre that affected both secular and sacred music throughout Europe. Its rise is linked to humanism and the new interest in vernacular language in Italy. Indeed, the Renaissance madrigal is perhaps best understood as a poetic/musical genre, one that was driven throughout its evolution by the changing fashion and taste in poetry that concomitantly brought about continuous alterations in musical rhetoric and style from c. 1520 into the first decades of the 17th century. Most Renaissance madrigals, which usually set a single stanza of poetry, were written for a cappella ensembles with one voice to a part and with the voices of equal importance. They were for as few as three voices or as many as six or more, but most frequently for four or five. Although intended for singers, historical evidence makes clear that instruments sometimes joined in, either substituting for voices or doubling them. The music, which set poetry generally of higher literary quality, was composed with great care to fit the words to each voice in a variety of ways, from straightforward syllabic declamation to extended melismas, with individual lines, singing together, producing a flow of harmonies in textures that spanned the gamut from chordal to contrapuntal. (See the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Music “Counterpoint”). The aesthetic that always underlay the genre was grounded in the universal recognition that music intensified emotional and intellectual meanings in the poetry it set, and madrigal composers were ever original in seeking expressive ways to match music to text. Some madrigals were for ceremonial events, such as banquets, weddings, or civic occasions; some were inserted into plays or other entertainments; some were composed for professional singers at the Italian princely courts; but most were intended for the delectation of amateur performers themselves, not for a listening audience. The Renaissance madrigal spread from Italy to several other centers in Europe—German-speaking lands, the Low Countries, Poland, and Scandinavia among them. Its greatest success beyond Italy, however, occurred in England during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. Ultimately, it was so successfully transplanted in England as to be composed by English composers to English poetry. Subsequently, historians have labeled it the Elizabethan madrigal, a genre distinct in many ways from its Italian parent.

General Overviews

A principal source for study of the Italian madrigal is Einstein 1949, a magisterial three-volume history of the genre that includes an anthology of ninety-seven madrigals. It covers the madrigal in Italy with great thoroughness but has little information about the madrigal elsewhere in Europe. More wide-ranging coverage, although much abridged, is found in “Madrigal” 2004, “Madrigal” 1996, and in “Madrigale” 1966, in English, German, and Italian, respectively. All three have extensive bibliographies. Haar 1986 is a scholarly and detailed study with an appendix of complete madrigals, and Roche 1990, while informed by scholarship, is a history addressed to the general reader that contains analyses of excerpted passages within each chapter from a variety of madrigals. Kerman 1962 is restricted to a study of the Elizabethan madrigal. There are as well chapters or parts of books on broader topics that have very good accounts of the madrigal; these include Carter 1992, Dent 1968, and Haar 2006.

  • Carter, Tim. Music in Late Renaissance and Early Baroque Italy. Portland, OR: Amadeus, 1992.

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    Despite its delimiting title, the entire history of the Renaissance madrigal is covered in chapters 6, 8, and 14. The book presents up-to-date scholarly opinion on details as well as on the broader context of the evolution in the madrigal’s style during the 16th and early 17th centuries. The book is clearly written and is highly readable by both scholars and nonspecialists.

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  • Dent, Edward J. “The Sixteenth-Century Madrigal.” In The Age of Humanism, 1540–1630. Edited by Gerald Abraham, 33–95. Vol. 4 of The New Oxford History of Music. London: Oxford University Press, 1968.

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    This overview of the Renaissance madrigal and its associated genres is addressed primarily to the general reader. It examines the madrigal in Italy from its beginnings in the 16th century to late examples of it that date from the 17th. It also contains substantial remarks on the madrigal in England and in other lands beyond Italy. Musical examples in the text help to clarify the points about style.

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  • Einstein, Alfred. The Italian Madrigal. 3 vols. Translated by Alexander H. Krappe, Roger H. Sessions, and Oliver Strunk. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949.

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    The first two volumes present a study in depth of the madrigal and related genres within the broad context of Italian cultural history, including a good deal of information on madrigal poetry. Volume 3 contains the complete scores of ninety-seven madrigals. Scholarship since Einstein’s day has negated some of his assertions, but the volumes are still essential for any investigation of the genre.

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  • Haar, James. Essays on Italian Poetry and Music in the Renaissance, 1350–1600. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986.

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    A collection of the six Ernest Bloch lectures that Haar presented at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1983. It is a scholarly book of admirable precision that is accessible to the informed general reader, perhaps as a result in part of its origin in public lectures. Its appendix of madrigals from the 14th century and the Renaissance adds much to its value.

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  • Haar, James. “Madrigal.” In European Music, 1520–1640. Edited by James Haar, 225–245. Woodbridge, UK, and Rochester, NY: Boydell, 2006.

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    Haar’s essay, the thirteenth among the twenty-six essays by various scholars the book contains, covers in a relatively few pages the history of the genre from its origin in a musical culture dominated by the French chanson to its close with Monteverdi in early-17th-century Italy. It includes as well a brief survey of the Elizabethan madrigal.

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  • Kerman, Joseph. The Elizabethan Madrigal: A Comparative Study. New York: American Musicological Society, 1962.

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    This book is an enduring and definitive source for information on the madrigal in England, a model of lucid and readable information for both the general reader and the specialist. It is the place to start for any study of the Elizabethan madrigal and is very highly recommended.

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  • “Madrigal.” In Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Sachteil 5. Edited by Ludwig Finscher, cols. 1541–1569. Kassel, Germany: Bärenreiter, 1996.

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    This large entry in German covers the madrigal of the 14th century as well as that of the Renaissance in Italy and in Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and England. Coverage of the 14th-century madrigal is by Dorothea Baumann; that of the Renaissance madrigal is by James Haar, both noted scholars in the field. It contains an extensive bibliography of writings on the madrigal in all languages. Available online by subscription.

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  • “Madrigal.” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root. Oxford Music Online. 2004.

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    Seven scholars have written portions of the entry, most of which are very good. It includes the madrigal of the 14th, 16th, and 17th centuries with subsections on the madrigal in society, madrigal poetry, and the madrigal beyond Italy and England. The bibliography is current, and it has the advantage of allowing sources to be called up from within the article itself. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • “Madrigale.” In La Musica. Vol. 3. Edited by Alberto Basso, 227–238. Turin, Italy: Unione tipografico-editrice torinese, 1966.

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    This encyclopedia article on the history of the madrigal, in Italian, is by the celebrated American musicologist Howard Mayer Brown. The article is excellent, although its bibliography is now dated.

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  • Roche, James. The Madrigal. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

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    A fine, not overlarge history of the madrigal in Italy that also covers the lighter, attendant genres, the madrigal north of Italy, the Elizabethan madrigal, and the 17th-century madrigal in its decline. Each chapter has close readings of musical excerpts that exemplify Roche’s remarks on the evolving style of the madrigal through the course of its history.

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Reference Works

A number of reference works, some multivolume, are valuable sources for exploring the madrigal and related genres of the 14th century and the Renaissance in more detail. Information on genres and composers as well as on details are available in several languages in print and online: Grove Music Online 2004; Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG) 1996, Dizionario enciclopedico universale della musica e dei musicisti 1983–1990; La Musica 1966–1971; and Dizionario biografico degli italiani 1960–. Répertoire international des sources musicales (RISM) 1960 contains a complete catalogue of musical works, printed and in manuscript, up to the year 1800. Vogel 1962 and Vogel, et al. 1977 offer alphabetical lists of all the madrigals published in Italy from 1500 to 1700. Lincoln 1988 is an index to printed anthologies of madrigals of the 16th century. Lewis Hammond 2011 is a guide to most of the recent publications on all aspects of the madrigal.

  • Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. 2d ed. Edited by Ludwig Finscher. Kassel, Germany: Bärenreiter, 1996.

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    A very large, multivolume encyclopedia in German, with nine Sachteil (subject) volumes and seventeen Personenteil (biographical) volumes. It contains entries on all aspects of music; those pertaining to the madrigal, canzonetta, and villanella—in the Sachteil volumes—are by noted scholars. Each entry closes with a substantial bibliography. Available online by subscription.

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  • Dizionario biografico degli italiani. Edited by Alberto M. Ghisalberti. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1960–.

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    A multivolume collection of biographical entries in Italian on noted Italians through history. Each entry concludes with a sizable bibliography. The work was begun in 1925, with the first volumes published in 1960. When complete it is expected to total 110 volumes plus additional supplements. It is a fundamental and valuable source for the study of all aspects of Italian history, culture, literature, art, and music. It can be accessed online.

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  • Dizionario enciclopedico universale della musica e dei musicisti. 9 vols. Edited by Alberto Basso. Turin, Italy: Unione tipografico-editrice torinese, 1983–1990.

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    It is divided into two parts with four volumes for Part 1, Il lessico (subject), and nine for Part 2, Le biografie (biographies). It is the ultimate reference work in Italian with 37,000 signed entries that include bibliographies and, for composers, works-lists. The last volume, Volume 13, Appendice, is a biographical supplement.

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  • Grove Music Online. Edited by Diane Root, Oxford Music Online. 2004.

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    With the full text of the twenty-nine-volume second edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and continuing updates, this is a vast and valuable resource in English for all aspects of music, with entries written by top scholars. Its bibliographies are current and have the advantage of allowing the entries to be called up online from within the articles themselves. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • La Musica. 6 vols. Edited by Alberto Basso. Turin, Italy: Unione-tipografico-editrice torinese, 1966–1971.

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    A multivolume dictionary-encyclopedia in Italian, which is divided into two sections: Part 1, Enciclopedia storico, with four volumes; and Part 2, Dizionario, with two volumes. An international group of scholars wrote the fine entries that cover topics on all aspects of music.

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  • Lewis Hammond, Susan. The Madrigal: A Research and Information Guide. New York and Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2011.

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    A large annotated bibliography of most of the recent secondary sources in English, Italian, German, French, etc. on the madrigal. It is broken into sections of general and specialized studies, which include those of related genres, historical printers and publishers, madrigal poetry, theorists, iconography, issues of performance, and individual composers.

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  • Lincoln, Harry B. The Italian Madrigal and Related Repertories: Indexes to Printed Collections, 1500–1600. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988.

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    This enormous volume contains thematic indices for nine thousand Italian-texted madrigals and other vocal works in cinquecento anthologies (i.e., publications with works by more than one composer). Index One lists composers and includes melodic incipits for all extant voice parts in their works. There follow indices for first lines of text, a thematic locator that uses numerical indicators for melodic intervals, and a list of sources organized by RISM numbers.

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  • Répertoire international des sources musicales. Munich: Bärenreiter, 1960.

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    A massive project of the International Musicological Society and the International Association of Music Libraries, which catalogues musical works, printed and in manuscript, up to the year 1800. It is divided into various sections; the most useful for the madrigal are Series A1, A2, and B1. RISM is an essential source about which descriptions and full details may be found on the website of the US RISM Office.

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  • Vogel, Emil. Bibliotethek der gedruckten weltlichen Vocalmusic Italiens aus den Jahren 1500–1700. 2 vols. Hildesheim, Germany: Georg Olms, 1962.

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    A reprint of Vogel’s original 1892 edition that lists alphabetically all the publications of Italian secular vocal music from between 1500 and 1700, their contents, and where extant copies may be found. It is supplemented by Alfred Einstein’s revised and enlarged bibliography of secular vocal anthologies in Volume 2, which is not included in the more recent Vogel, et al. 1977.

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  • Vogel, Emil, Alfred Einstein, François Lesure, and Claudio Sartori. Bibliografia della musica italiana vocale profana pubblicata dal 1500 al 1700: Nuova edizione interamente rifatta e aumentata con gli indici dei musicisti, poeti, cantanti, dedicatori e del capoversi dei testi letterari. 3 vols. Pomezia, Italy: Staderini-Minkoff, 1977.

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    Originally published by Vogel in 1892, this new edition, called “Il nuovo Vogel” by bibliographic cognoscenti, lists alphabetically all known Italian secular vocal music publications from 1500 to 1700, their contents, and where extant copies are now located. Its indices have lists of musicians, poets, singers, dedicatees, and capoversi (first lines of madrigal texts). It is an indispensable source for any scholarly investigation of the genre.

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The Madrigal of the 14th Century

The source of the poetic and musical form madrigal in the 14th century is uncertain, but the earliest surviving examples of it are from northern Italy, probably originating in the 1320s. It may have been of humble origin, but it soon entered the courts where trecento poets took it up, and it became a poetic/musical genre written expressly for the entertainment of the courtiers. The poetry, most often Arcadian and frequently love poetry, shows a wide range of subject matter, including contemplative, bucolic, encomiastic, satirical, and moralistic. The madrigals’ polyphonic music is most often for two voices: a highly ornamented and melismatic upper voice supported by a slower moving lower voice. Some overlap of the voices is not unknown, particularly in the final section, but imitation between the voices seldom occurs. Ordinarily the genre has two or three three-line strophes sung to the same music followed by a one- or two-line ritornello. Individual poetic lines usually have seven or eleven syllables for the strophes and eleven for the ritornello. There are a great number of rhyme schemes, but the two most commonly found are ABB CDD EE and ABA CDC EE. The musical style, which reached its final form in the 1340s, was established by Magister Piero (b. c. 1300–d. c. 1350), Giovanni da Cascia (b. c. 1270–d. 1350), and Jacopo da Bologna (fl. c. 1340–1360). Nearly 90 percent of the 190 or so extant trecento madrigals are for two voices, the rest are for three, with the three-voiced examples first appearing in the works of Jacopo da Bologna. The genre was always popular in northern Italy and also in Florence, where the major composers included Gheradello da Firenze (b. c. 1320–d. c. 1363), Donato da Cascia (fl. c. 1350–1370), Lorenzo da Firenze (d. c. 1373), Niccolò da Perugia (fl. c. 1350–1400), Paolo da Firenze (b. c. 1355–d. c. 1436), and the celebrated blind poet-musician Francesco Landini (b. c. 1325–d. 1397), whose excellence is said to have been recognized by his crowning with a laurel wreath. In the later 14th century the popularity of the madrigal began to decline, and it was superseded by the polyphonic ballata. As a genre for voices the madrigal was extinct by around 1415, although instrumental versions of it still appeared until 1420.

General Overviews

A general overview of the trecento madrigal is readily found in articles in the large dictionary-encyclopedias of music: “Madrigal” 1996 and “Madrigal” 2004. Articles and chapters in books, which often discuss the madrigal along with its contemporary genres, caccia, ballata, and lauda, that can be recommended are Ellinwood 1960, Fischer 1961, Haar 1986, Marrocco 1951, Pirrotta 1946, and Wilson 1997. Fischer 1956 is a very detailed catalogue of the madrigal along with the caccia and ballata. Pirrotta 1992 is a small facsimile edition with an excellent introduction in Italian and English. A suggested bibliography for information on the trecento madrigal follows.

  • Ellinwood, Leonard. “The Fourteenth Century in Italy.” In Ars Nova and the Renaissance, 1300–1540. Edited by Dom Anselm Hughes and Gerald Abraham, 31–81. Vol. 3 of The New Oxford History of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960.

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    Although older, this is still a very readable and informative essay that takes up topics that include the social and literary background of the genre, Italian notation in the period, the chief compositional forms, and the leading trecento composers. The madrigal is more directly discussed in pages 52–70.

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  • Fischer, Kurt von. Studien zur italienischen Musik des Trecento und frühen Quattrocento. Publikationen der Schweizerischen musikforschenden Gesellschaft, Ser. 2, Vol. 5. Bern, Switzerland: P. Haupt, 1956.

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    Following an explanatory introduction, the book catalogues all the known madrigals, caccias, and ballatas, and indicates composer, number of voices, sources of known manuscripts and their locations, modern editions, and where facsimiles of the works can be seen, among other categories. Discoveries have been made since 1956, but the work is basic and still useful.

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  • Fischer, Kurt von. “On the Technique, Origin, and Evolution of Italian Trecento Music.” The Musical Quarterly 47 (1961): 41–57.

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    The madrigal, the ballata, and the caccia, are discussed in a closely-reasoned article that looks into the question of the origin of Italian Ars nova secular music. Fischer concludes that it was an indigenous creation not influenced by foreign styles, most especially French, until after c. 1350, and then not greatly so. The last pages are given over to a consideration of three-part compositions by Francesco Landini.

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  • Haar, James. Essays on Italian Poetry and Music in the Renaissance, 1350–1600. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986.

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    Section 1, “The Trecento,” pp. 1–21, discusses the genre and its origin, its place in 14th-century society, and its evolution. Although the account is scholarly and detailed, it is lucid and accessible to the general reader. The book contains as well scores of complete madrigals from the 14th century in an appendix.

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  • “Madrigal.” In Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Sachteil 5. 2d ed. Edited by Ludwig Finscher, cols. 1541–1569. Kassel, Germany: Bärenreiter, 1996.

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    The opening of the entry, by Dorothea Baumann, a leading scholar of trecento music, reviews the facts known about the madrigal of the 14th century in a thoroughgoing and clear account. Bibliographical information appears at the end of the entire madrigal entry, in cols. 1563–1569. Available online by subscription.

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  • “Madrigal.” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root Oxford Music Online. Section I, “Italy, 14th Century,” by Kurt von Fischer and Gianluca D’Agostino. 2004.

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    This entry offers a brief but inclusive survey of the trecento madrigal. It is followed by a lengthy bibliography of books and articles in English, Italian, and German from 1946 to the present. The bibliography also includes modern editions of the music and theoretical sources. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Marrocco, W. Thomas. “The Fourteenth-Century Madrigal: Its Form and Content.” Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies 26.3 (July 1951): 449–457.

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    This excellent article first takes up the question of the etymological origin of the term “madrigal” and then delineates the form of its poetry and music during the forty-odd years of its greatest prominence in the 14th century.

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  • Pirrotta, Nino. “Per l’origine e la storia della ‘caccia’ e del ‘madrigale’ trecentesco.” In Rivista musicale italiana 48 (1946): 305–323.

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    Continued in Rivista musicale italiana 49 (1947): 121–142. This double-essay on the origin and history of the madrigal and caccia in 14th-century Italy takes up a number of topics, including the stylistic and structural characteristics of the genres and compares them to similar genres in other cultures, especially that of France. Poetry of both madrigal and caccia is carefully considered, as is the etymological derivation of the word “madrigal” and the various theories about it.

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  • Pirrotta, Nino, ed. Il Codice Rossi 215: Studio introduttivo ed edizione in facsimile a cura di Nino Pirrotta; Introductory Study and Facsimile. Lucca, Italy: Libreria Musicale Italiana Editrice, 1992.

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    An introduction in Italian and English for a facsimile edition of a small codex of thirty 14th-century madrigals. The excellent introduction examines the manuscript from every aspect, demonstrating an admirable depth of musicological investigation by one of the great scholars of the period. There are no transcriptions into modern notation, but the facsimiles of the parchment folios are highly informative and beautiful to behold.

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  • Wilson, Blake McD. “Madrigal, Lauda, and the Local Style in Trecento Florence.” The Journal of Musicology 15.2 (1997): 137–177.

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    This article offers a very good and wide-ranging study of trecento music in Florence, with a careful investigation of the lauda and its relationship with the madrigal. The madrigal itself is focused on more directly in section 5, pp. 157–177.

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The Early 16th-Century Madrigal

The Italian madrigal of the early 16th century arose in a period dominated by the French chanson, which the madrigal, although influenced by it, eventually eclipsed to become the preeminent form of secular vocal music in the Renaissance. The earliest madrigals date from Florence in the 1520s, at first in manuscripts, but by 1530 they appeared in prints as well. Rome was a secondary focal point for cultivation of the new genre, with music and the composers themselves often interchanged between the two centers. “Madrigal,” with reference to poetry, usually labeled a short poem of one stanza with an irregular mixture of seven- and eleven-syllable lines and a free rhyme scheme, but the word soon became a generic term for music that set sonnets, canzoni, ballatas, ottava rima stanzas, pastoral and dialect poems, and the like, as well as the poetic form the madrigal itself. In the first decades, many of the texts used were by the 14th-century poet Francesco Petrarch (b. 1304–d. 1374), whose poetry was rediscovered in the early cinquecento, and by Petrarchists, contemporary poets much inspired by the style and imagery of Petrarch’s sonnets and canzoni. Madrigal texts were also taken from the poetry of the great pastoral and romantic literature of the early 16th century, Jacopo Sannazaro’s Arcadia (1502) and Lodovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso (1517). The most significant composers of the early madrigal were Philippe Verdelot (b. c. 1485–d. c. 1530), Jacques Arcadelt (b. c. 1507–d. 1568), and Adrian Willaert (b. c. 1490–d. 1562), all three born in northern Europe but “Italianized” by their long residence in Italy, and Costanzo Festa (b. c. 1485–d. 1545), a native Italian who mastered the musical craft of the Franco-Flemish oltramontani. All four composed both secular and sacred music and their madrigals amalgamated the homophonic texture typical of the chanson with the polyphony of the Renaissance mass and motet. The chordal texture of the chanson was prominent in the earliest madrigals, but in subsequent generations of madrigal composers imitative polyphony would predominate in the mix. With regard to form, their madrigals established the norm of through-composed compositions, the inevitable result of their close responsiveness to the narrative of the text rather than to any formal scheme of the text itself.

General Overviews

The early madrigal, the origin of the genre and its characteristics during its first decades, has been widely studied and commented upon. The accepted notion of many years, that the madrigal was born in the disintegration of the frottola of northern Italy, has been overturned by more recent work that recognizes the frottola as a contemporaneous genre that did not metamorphose into the madrigal but continued alongside it for some time. Einstein 1949 puts forward the older, now-defunct, interpretation, which is countered in Carter 1992, Fenlon and Haar 1988, Haar 1981, Haar 1986, and Roche 1990. Despite the mistaken frottola-madrigal thesis, Einstein 1949 is valuable for the depth of detail in his writing about the earliest madrigals, the characteristics of their texts, and their composers. The broad cultural context in which he places the madrigal is not brought fully into play in the other writings in this list, but this fact certainly does not lessen their excellence as sources for further inquiry into the genre. Amati-Camperi 1998 offers a formal study of textual forms used in the early madrigal. Minor and Mitchell 1968 recount the ways in which the madrigal was used in a lavish, royal wedding festival, thereby indicating that the madrigal was established as being more than private chamber music. Slim 1972 and Slim 1978 present an admirable study of the thirty madrigals—as well as the thirty motets—that were contained in a diplomatic gift from Florence to Henry VIII of England c. 1527.

  • Amati-Camperi, Alexandra. “Poetic Form in the Early Madrigal Reconsidered.” Journal of Musicological Research 17 (1998): 163–193.

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    This article presents a study of the formal shapes of the chief poetic genres that were handed down, adapted, or composed anew to serve as texts for the early madrigal. These older forms—ballata, canzone, madrigale, sonetto, and ottava rima—were used in altered or abbreviated versions in the Renaissance madrigal from the time of Verdelot on.

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  • Carter, Tim. Music in Late Renaissance and Early Baroque Italy. Portland, OR: Amadeus, 1992.

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    Despite its title, the book contains a chapter, “The Early Madrigal,” with comprehensive and clear coverage of the subject that is of value for both specialists and non-specialists. With regard to the origin of the genre, Carter corrects the old misperception about the madrigal being an offspring of the frottola of northern Italy. In fact, the frottola was contemporaneous with the madrigal, not its musical forebear.

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  • Einstein, Alfred. The Italian Madrigal. 3 vols. Translated by Alexander H. Krappe, Roger H. Sessions, and Oliver Strunk. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949.

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    Chapter 2, pp. 151–212, which contains a close examination of the earliest madrigals, their texts, their composers, and the great poets of madrigal literature, is a valuable resource for a fuller understanding of the first generation of madrigals and their composers. Einstein’s remarks on the frottola-madrigal link, though, should be ignored.

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  • Fenlon, Iain, and James Haar. The Italian Madrigal in the Early Sixteenth Century: Sources and Interpretation. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

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    Chapters 2–4 detail the beginnings of the madrigal in Rome and Florence, its diffusion after the Sack of Rome in 1527, and the madrigal in the 1530s. The remainder of the book is given over to a study of the manuscript and printed sources of the early madrigal.

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  • Haar, James. “The Early Madrigal, a Re-appraisal of Its Sources and Character.” In Music in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Patronage, Sources, and Texts. Edited by Iain Fenlon, 163–192. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

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    Haar’s essay focuses on sources of the first madrigals, both in manuscripts and prints, their texts, and their music. There is as well an analysis of the musical and textual distinctions that separate the genres frottola and madrigal in the early decades of the century.

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  • Haar, James. Essays on Italian Poetry and Music in the Renaissance, 1350–1600. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986.

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    In Chapter 3, “The Early Madrigal: Humanistic Theory in Practical Guise,” there are remarks on the frottola vis-à-vis the madrigal. The chapter closes with an intriguing conception of inchoate musical ideas coalescing during the 1520s to form the madrigal in Florence, particularly in the hands of the two northerners Philippe Verdelot and Jacob Arcadelt.

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  • Minor, Andrew C., and Bonner Mitchell. A Renaissance Entertainment: Festivities for the Marriage of Cosimo I, Duke of Florence, in 1539. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1968.

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    With a transcription of the music and texts used, and a contemporary description of the occasion, the book makes clear the important role the madrigal played in the festivities for a grand, Florentine wedding. This, the earliest of many such public performances during the Renaissance, prefigures the ubiquitous role the genre would come to have throughout Italian culture.

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  • Roche, Jerome. The Madrigal. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

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    Chapter 2, “The Early Italian Madrigalists,” surveys clearly and concisely the salient characteristics of early madrigals and their composers. Musical excerpts in the text help to make the points all the clearer. It is informed by scholarship but easily read by the interested layman.

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  • Slim, H. Colin. A Gift of Madrigals and Motets. 2 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972.

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    A history and commentary (in Vol. 1) and edition (in Vol. 2) of an incomplete set of manuscript partbooks containing thirty madrigals and thirty motets that were copied in Florence c. 1527 and presented as a diplomatic gift to Henry VIII of England. The madrigals, most likely by Philippe Verdelot, are studied in detail within the context of a reconstruction of Verdelot’s life and career.

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  • Slim, H. Colin. “A Royal Treasure at Sutton Coldfield.” Early Music 6 (1978): 57–74.

    DOI: 10.1093/earlyj/6.1.57Save Citation »Export Citation »

    A report on, and a study of, the rediscovered fifth partbook that completes the set, and thus the thirty madrigals and thirty motets, that are the subject of Slim 1972.

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The Madrigal Around Mid-Century

In the 1540s the center of innovative madrigal composition moved north to Venice and the Veneto. In Venice itself Adrian Willaert (b. c. 1490–d. 1562), who by then held the prestigious position of maestro di cappella at the basilica of San Marco, was at the core of a group of composers, many of them his students, who established a new Venetian manner. Willaert’s madrigals are characterized by a serious and reserved musical style that is notable for its dense and complex polyphony. Along with this, his care for the setting of words, to some extent in response to the theorizing study of the poetry of Petrarch and Boccaccio made by Pietro Bembo (b. 1470–d. 1547)—see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Renaissance and Reformation “Pietro Bembo”—produced more thoroughgoing precision in his madrigals’ rhetorical declamation. Close attention to the madrigal’s music, and especially its poetry, became a preoccupation of a Venetian intellectual class, some of whom were members of academies where Williaert’s madrigals and others were examined and performed. A number of these, many of them settings of Petrarch sonnets, finally appeared in 1559 in Willaert’s Musica nova, his celebrated retrospective publication of sixty madrigals and motets. Willaert’s oeuvre also includes his very popular versions of the canzone alla villanesca (later, villanella), the light and sometimes coarse Neapolitan genre cultivated in the North, that served as a counterpoise to the serious madrigal, and that would later be replaced by the canzonetta, a light, strophic genre. (See the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Music “Canzonetta”). From this time forward, many more madrigals were published in Italy, most of them in Venice, the city in which the greatest number of printing firms were located. Nicola Vicentino (b. 1511–d. c. 1576) and Gioseffo Zarlino (b. 1517–d. 1590) were notable among the composers in Willaert’s orbit, but the most significant of all was the Netherlander Cipriano de Rore (b. c. 1515–d. 1565), who may have been Willaert’s pupil. Among Rore’s innovations were the expansion of the madrigal’s harmonic palette into the realm of chromaticism, a thicker texture in which five voices became the norm, and an intensification of the expressive treatment of the madrigal’s text. The popularity of his madrigals extended well beyond his lifetime and were influential in shaping the style of several successive generations of composers. In the 1540s and beyond, madrigals a note-nere (in black-note notation) appeared alongside “normal” madrigals. They originated from a notational shift to smaller note-values that produced quicker rhythms and syncopations in the music, while not altering appreciably the music’s tempo. As a result, note-nere notation added a new level of rhythmical activity that made possible greater precision in the madrigal’s textual declamation.

General Overviews

Bibliographical recommendations for study of the mid-16th-century madrigal center on publications relating to Adrian Willaert and his circle—including Nicola Vicentino, Gioseffo Zarlino, and Cipriano de Rore, and on writings about the lighter genres, which became increasingly important factors in the madrigal’s development. Aesthetic as well as technical considerations of poetry have an important presence in stylistic directions for the madrigal at this time, and Mace 1969 examines the importance that Pietro Bembo’s linguistic theories had in shaping the madrigals of Willaert and his circle. Cardamone 2008 and Pirrotta 1984 both explore the canzone villanesca alla napolitana, the former in a wide-ranging collection of essays, the latter in an essay specifically tied to Willaert. McClary 2004 is a significant book that examines the particular role of harmony in shaping madrigals by Willaert as well as by seven other composers, from Arcadelt to Monteverdi. McKinney 2010 is an important book with a detailed study of Willaert’s style and with analyses of a number of compositions from Musica nova as well as of madrigals by other composers of the period, including Vicentino and Zarlino. Kaufmann 1966 offers a study of the composer Nicola Vicentino, along with an assessment of his importance as a theorist and an inventor of musical instruments. Haar 1998 is a pioneering essay on the nota-nere notation of the time and its history from 1540 to 1565. The music of Cipriano de Rore and his use of nota-nere notation are discussed in van Orden 2016, whose essay also examines, and unexpectedly, the influence of the programmatic French chanson on Italian black-note madrigals. Einstein 1949, always a very valuable source, contains important appraisals of Willaert, Rore, and their contemporaries in the Veneto, while Feldman 1995 is a study centered on Venice and the intellectual and compositional currents circulating there.

  • Cardamone, Donna G. The canzone villanesca alla napolitana: Social, Cultural, and Historical Contexts. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    A collection of scholarly essays originally published between 1975 and 2005 that study the rustic and often ribald Neopolitan genre that had a symbiotic relationship with the madrigal during the second half of the 16th century. It was printed and circulated in Venice and Rome, whence it was taken up by Willaert and Lasso, among others.

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  • Einstein, Alfred. The Italian Madrigal. 3 vols. Translated by Alexander H. Krappe, Roger H. Sessions, and Oliver Strunk. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949.

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    These volumes, by one of the preeminent scholars of the genre, are always of great value in the study of any aspect of the madrigal. Einstein’s thorough coverage of Adrian Willaert and Venice, pp. 318–340, and Cipriano de Rore, pp. 384–423, are highly recommended.

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  • Feldman, Martha. City Culture and the Madrigal at Venice. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995.

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    Feldman examines the Venetian context of the madrigal and discusses Pietro Bembo and Gioseffo Zarlino and the link between language and music in 16th-century Venice. She also remarks on madrigals by Cipriano de Rore and Adrian Willaert and his students within the Venetian world and beyond. The book is an admirable specimen of interdisciplinary scholarship with the madrigal at its center.

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  • Haar, James. “The note nere Madrigal.” In The Science and Art of Renaissance Music. Edited by Paul Edward Corneilson, 201–221. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

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    This essay studies the phenomenon of black-note notation, also called cromatico (colored) notation, that appeared about 1540 and the effect it had on madrigals in the following decades. An appendix contains a chronological list of all the note-nere madrigals published in the years 1540–1565.

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  • Kaufmann, Henry William. The Life and Works of Nicola Vicentino (1511 – c. 1576). Musicological Studies and Documents 11. Stuttgart, Germany: American Institute of Musicology, 1966.

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    This is the classic book on Vicentino’s life and work, and it includes very prominently an examination of his studies of Greek theory that led to his creation of experimental keyboard instruments and the music he composed for them. The book also has remarks on musical mannerism in the period.

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  • Mace, Dean T. “Pietro Bembo and the Literary Origins of the Italian Madrigal.” The Musical Quarterly 55 (1969): 65–86.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/LV.1.65Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This excellent article investigates the linguistic theories of Bembo that arose from his study of the poetic language of Petrarch and Boccaccio, and which resulted in his re-evaluation of the interrelationship of sound, rhythm, and meaning in poetry. His new way of reading poetry had a telling influence on the madrigal style of Willaert and his colleagues in the Veneto.

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  • McClary, Susan. Modal Subjectivities: Self-Examination in the Italian Madrigal. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520234932.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Chapter 4, “Radical Inwardness: Willaert’s Musica nova,” presents a detailed study of three settings of Petrarch sonnets in Musica nova and examines the masterful way in which Willaert’s music illuminates the poetry in each. Much of this excellent essay focuses on details of the technical means by which Willaert translates the verbal and psychological subtleties of Petrarch’s sonnets into his madrigals. Complete scores of the madrigals are included.

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  • McKinney, Timothy R. Adrian Willaert and the Theory of Interval Affect: The Musica Nova Madrigals and the Novel Theories of Zarlino and Vicentino. Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010.

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    This breakthrough book studies the systematic ways in which Willaert’s Musica nova madrigals employ specific musical intervals for their expressive effect in setting words to music. The theoretical explanation of this, derived from Willaert’s compositions, was advanced by his students Zarlino and Vicentino. The book contains penetrating analyses of madrigals by Willaert and others and is important and fascinating, but it may be challenging for the general reader.

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  • Pirrotta, Nino. “Willaert and the Canzone Villanesca.” In Music and Culture in Italy from the Middle Ages to the Baroque: A Collection of Essays. Edited by Nino Pirrotta, 175–197. Studies in the History of Music 1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984.

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    The essay, originally published as “Willaert e la canzone villanesca” in Studi musicali 9, in 1980, discusses the genre in both its Neopolitan and Venetian versions and Willaert’s compositional contributions to it. It includes musical scores of several villanesche by Willaert, and a list of Willaert’s collections of villanesche and their contents in an appendix.

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  • van Orden, Kate. “Cipriano de Rore’s Black-Note Madrigals and the French Chanson in Venice.” In Cipriano de Rore: New Perspectives on His Life and Music. Edited by Jessie Ann Owens and Katelijne Schlitz, 125–151. Turnout, Belgium: Brepols, 2016.

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    This excellent essay presents an up-to-date historical and theoretical study of the note-nere madrigal before turning to a close examination of Cipriano de Rore’s role in shaping the new style. The essay ends with, unexpectedly, remarks on discernable links between the music of Italian black-note madrigals and the programmatic French chansons of Clément Janequin, which were well known in cinquecento Italy.

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The Madrigal C. 1560–1580

The composers who came into prominence in the generation after Willaert and Rore initiated a new, simpler madrigal style, a corrective to the serious and complex madrigal of their immediate predecessors. This new madrigal, sometimes labeled a “hybrid madrigal,” came about in part by the infusion of stylistic traits of the lighter forms of secular vocal music, such as the villanella, into the established madrigal. The result was a less “intellectual” madrigal, one with more clarity and lightness, and now created more directly for entertainment and pleasure. It was often used in the setting of pastoral and amorous verses, a number of which were drawn from the great pastorals and chivalric epics of the age, Jacopo Sannazaro’s Arcadia, Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, and later on, Torquato Tasso’s Aminta and La Gerusalemme liberata, and Giovanni Battista Guarini’s Il pastor fido. Among the outstanding composers of the time were Andrea Gabrieli (b. 1533–d. 1585) of Venice, the northerner Giaches de Wert (b. 1535–d. 1596), who was long associated with the princely courts in Mantua and Ferrara, and Alessandro Striggio (b. c. 1539–d. 1592) in Florence. In Rome, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (b. c. 1525–d. 1594)—see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Music “Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina”—although now better known as a composer of sacred music, was also active as a madrigal composer, including madrigals with a sacred text, the madrigale spirituale, whose cultivation occurred particularly in Rome during the Counter-Reformation. Of great significance also, were two northern-born composers who spent formative years in Rome and elsewhere in Italy before moving to German-speaking lands: Orlando di Lasso (b. 1532–d. 1594) and Philippe de Monte (b. 1521–d. 1603). A feature of the madrigal in these and later years was “word-painting,” a characterization of individual words or phrases by distinctive musical analogues, as when words like “rising” or “falling,” for example, might be set with an ascending or descending melodic contour. Already present to some degree in the Willaert generation, it developed further to be manifested in every aspect of the genre’s style: melodic shape; harmony; rhythm; meter; texture; and sonority. All of these “madrigalisms,” as they are now called, were eventually decried by critics of the genre, among them the Florentine musician Vincenzo Galilei, father of the astronomer. Of greater moment in these years was the emergence of the madrigale arioso, first published in Rome, which differed from the northern madrigal by its more chordal texture and its use of simple declamatory melodies and straightforward, formulaic harmonic progressions. It arose through the joining of Neopolitan reciting formulas in the aria da cantare and northern madrigalian elements—that is, from the combining of oral and written techniques. Its style remained an expressive resource in the subsequent development of the genre from the mid-century on.

General Overviews

The several themes and composers pertinent to a fuller understanding of the madrigal during the two decades 1560–1580 are brought out in the following readings. Brown 1992 and Brown 1997 look at madrigals by Andrea Gabrieli and Orlando di Lasso, respectfully, and both of Brown’s essays have ties to Haar 1998, on the madrigale arioso. Mann 1983 is a book that examines the enormous number of madrigals by the northern-born Philippe de Monte (or Filippo di Monte), those from his early years in Italy as well as those composed during his later career in Vienna and Prague. A broad study of the madrigal in Florence in the years 1560–1590 is found in Butchart 1979, and Palestrina’s spiritual madrigals, and that subgenre in general, are the subject of Nielsen 1999. Einstein 1949 and Roche 1990 consider the musical content of Gabrieli’s madrigals, along with madrigals by other composers of his generation. The importance and the prominence of the newly-popular pastoral texts are studied in the excellent book Gerbino 2009. Finally, the lighter forms derived from the Neopolitan villanesca that have a bearing on the madrigal after mid-century are discussed in DeFord 1985.

  • Brown, Howard Mayer. “The Madrigalian and the Formulaic in Andrea Gabrieli’s Pastoral Madrigals.” In The Pastoral Landscape. Edited by John Dixon Hunt, 89–110. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1992.

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    This very fine article studies two contrasting madrigals with pastoral texts: the first in Gabrieli’s “high style”; the second incorporating aspects of the formulaic manner of the arioso madrigal. The essay is additionally valuable for its perceptive observations of the broader development of style and technique in several generations of madrigal composers. It is highly recommended.

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  • Brown, Howard Mayer. “Lasso in Naples and Rome: The Early Four-Part Madrigals.” In Liber Amicorum John Steele: A Musicological Tribute. Edited by Warren Drake, 87–116. Festschrift Series 16. Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon, 1997.

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    An excellent essay that examines early madrigals by Lasso that, unlike the contemporary madrigals of northern Italy, use simple declamatory melodies supported by simple formulaic harmonies. They result from incorporating elements of the 16th-century arias of southern Italian improvisers into contrapuntal settings of Petrarch texts. Musical examples in the text illustrate Brown’s remarks.

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  • Butchart, David S. The Madrigal in Florence, 1560–1630. 2 vols. DPhil thesis, University of Oxford, 1979.

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    Volume 1, Part 2, “The Madrigal in Florence, 1560–1590,” examines madrigals by Alessandro Striggio, Stefano Rossetto, Vincenzo Galilei, Bernardo Giacomini, Alberigo Malvezzi, Giovanpier Manenti, Santi Orlandi, and Antonio Pace, among others. Volume 2 contains the full scores of eighty-two madrigals.

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  • DeFord, Ruth I. “Musical Relationships between the Italian Madrigal and Light Genres in the Sixteenth Century.” Musica Disciplina 39 (1985): 107–168.

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    An examination of the lighter genres derived from the villanesca—the villanella, canzone, and canzonetta—and their interface with the madrigal as well as the counter influence of the madrigal upon them during the second half of the cinquecento. There are appendices of musical examples and of quotations from, and parodies of, the music in the several genres that accompany this fine essay.

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  • Einstein, Alfred. The Italian Madrigal. 3 vols. Translated by Alexander H. Krappe, Roger H. Sessions, and Oliver Strunk. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949.

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    Chapter 7, “The Rise of Virtuosity in the Pastoral and the Dramatic Madrigal,” presents a study of Andrea Gabrieli and several of his contemporaries. The chapter also has perceptive remarks on poetry by Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso and its influence on madrigals in this generation.

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  • Gerbino, Giuseppe. Music and the Myth of Arcadia in Renaissance Italy. Cambrige, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    This brilliant book explores the advent and prevalence of pastoral poetry in the Italian madrigal after 1570, and the resultant representation and stylization of the myth of Arcadia through music. It studies the deep attraction pastoral imagery and the tragicomedies of fictional shepherds, nymphs, and melancholic lovers had among the Italian elite and the force that attraction had in shaping the late madrigal. The book is very highly recommended.

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  • Haar, James. “The ‘Madrigale Arioso’: A Mid-Century Development in the Cinquecento Madrigal.” In The Science and Art of Renaissance Music. Edited by Paul Corneilson, 222–238. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

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    This important essay examines the arioso madrigal, which grew out of the expanded rhythmic variety of the nota-nere madrigal. It is significant for its parlando declamation, with rhythms akin to those of spoken language, and for its simplified harmonies. Once established, the madrigale arioso’s quasi-improvisational style remained an accessible expressive component for the madrigal during its subsequent development. Musical examples appear throughout.

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  • Mann, Brian. The Secular Madrigals of Filippo di Monte, 1521–1603. Studies in Musicology 64. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1983.

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    A revision of Mann’s dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley, on the most prolific composer of Italian madrigals. A thorough examination of Monte’s madrigals composed during his years in Italy (1554–1568) appears in pages 75–147. Scores of madrigals in excerpts or in their entirety, appear throughout the book to make Mann’s analytical remarks all the clearer.

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  • Nielsen, Karen Shirley. “The Spiritual Madrigals of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.” DMA diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1999.

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    This study of Palestrina’s two books of spiritual madrigals, published in 1581 and 1594, examines them within their historical, social, and musical contexts. The history of this subgenre is recounted, along with remarks on other composers and their contributions to it. Attention given to how the madrigals were performed in Palestrina’s time leads to suggestions for how the works might best be performed today.

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  • Roche, Jerome. The Madrigal. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

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    Chapter 4, “Andrea Gabrieli and a New Generation,” studies not only the music of Andrea Gabrieli, but that of other prominent madrigalists of the post Willaert-Rore generation, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Alessandro Striggio, and Giaches de Wert during the earlier part of his career. The chapter also discusses the hybrid madrigal of the 1570s and its pastoral texts that evoked such an aura of amorous pleasure.

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The Late Madrigal, 1580–1600

The year 1580 was a watershed that saw the last madrigal publication of Andrea Gabrieli and the first of Luca Marenzio (b. c. 1553–d. 1599), widely regarded as the finest madrigal composer of what is perhaps the richest period in the genre’s history. Giovanni Gabrieli (b. c. 1555–d. 1612)—see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Music “Giovanni Gabrieli”—Andrea’s nephew, was active in Venice during this period as a composer of madrigals and canzonettas, and as an important teacher, but the significant centers of madrigal composition were now Rome and the small princely courts of Mantua and Ferrara. In these, a great range of forms and manners, styles, and ways of setting texts abounded: from traditional, polyphonic madrigals; through hybrid or lighter madrigals; to avant-garde madrigals that in pursuit of greater expressivity pushed the boundaries of harmony, melodic shape, texture, sonority, and text treatment. Professional singers began to replace amateur performers who could no longer cope with the technical demands of the new madrigals, and this led the genre toward becoming one that more often addressed a listening audience rather than one written for the delectation of the singers themselves. The polarization of performers and audience was particularly notable in Ferrara, where the duke had lengthy concerts presented daily by his virtuosic concerto delle dame (ensemble of singing ladies) and others who sang in madrigals for the court. Marenzio was certainly the leading composer in Rome, where he spent most of his career, but the perfection of his music and his felicitous and graceful settings of a wide range of poetry made him everywhere the most influential madrigal composer of the day. Among the notable madrigalists at the Este court in Ferrara were Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Alfonso Fontanelli, and Prince Carlo Gesualdo—see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Music “Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa”—the Neapolitan nobleman who arrived in Ferrara in 1594. Gesualdo, notorious and psychopathic, produced madrigals with such startling contrasts and distortions and such extreme chromatic harmony that they stand at the apogee of musical mannerism in the genre. In Mantua, the madrigal explored advances in the relationship between text and music in the work of the chief musicians at the court: Giaches de Wert (b. 1535–d. 1596) and Claudio Monteverdi (b. 1567–d. 1643). Wert, the last of the important oltramontani in Italy, spent most of his career in the employ of the Gonzaga court in Mantua, although he also had close ties to the court at Ferrara. Significant characteristics in Wert’s madrigals include the free, eccentric vocal lines that explore wide-ranging melodic leaps, and, by contrast, somber passages of choral recitative in which the ensemble declaims textual passages on nearly static harmonies. Claudio Monteverdi, Wert’s younger colleague, joined the court in 1592 to become eventually the most telling composer in the madrigal’s late history.

General Overviews

The complexity and diversity in the genre during the last decades of the century and the scholarly interest thereby engendered has given rise to a large number of studies. Some of them treat the subject in a wider frame, others focus on narrower topics or on the music of a single composer (or two) or place. Among the latter are Arnold 1979, Calcagno 2014, MacClintock 1966, McClary 2004, Newcomb 1980, and Watkins 1991, while the more inclusive studies are Brown and Stein 1999, Einstein 1949, Gerbino 2009, and Maniates 1979. Characterized in another way: the madrigal in the culture of the courts, Mantua and Ferrara being the leading centers, along with the Venetian Republic, is examined in publications by Arnold, MacClintock, Newcomb, and Watkins, while the madrigal within the broader sweep of Renaissance history throughout the Italian peninsula is the context for the remaining volumes listed.

  • Arnold, Denis. Giovanni Gabrieli and the Music of the Venetian High Renaissance. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

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    A book that considers all of Gabrieli’s oeuvre, with an investigation of his secular vocal music that takes up his Venetian-style, double-madrigals for ten or more voices, his more traditional five-voice madrigals, and his canzonettas. Brief musical excerpts printed in the text are helpful in clarifying visually points made with regard to the stylistic character of Gabrieli’s compositions.

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  • Brown, Howard Mayer, and Louise K. Stein. Music in the Renaissance. 2d ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999.

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    This outstanding book, published in 1976 as an advanced textbook, is by the eminent musicologist Howard Mayer Brown. It focuses on the great composers of the period within their historical context, and its final chapter, on the end of the Renaissance, pp. 337–373, contains excellent studies of Giaches de Wert, Luca Marenzio, Carlo Gesualdo, and Claudio Monteverdi. The bibliography was updated for the new edition after Brown’s death.

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  • Calcagno, Mauro, ed. Perspectives on Luca Marenzio’s Secular Music. Turnout, Belgium: Brepols, 2014.

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    This large volume contains essays by a number of distinguished Marenzio scholars. Among the topics are various of Marenzio’s madrigal books, studies of individual madrigals, Marenzio’s patrons, pastoral poetry, Petrarch and Petrarchists, Marenzio’s madrigals in England, and printers and editions of Marenzio’s madrigals. The essays, which run the gamut from small matters to large, are a valuable addition to Marenzio studies.

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  • Einstein, Alfred. The Italian Madrigal. 3 vols. Translated by Alexander H. Krappe, Roger H. Sessions, and Oliver Strunk. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949.

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    Chapter 9, “The Great Virtuosi: Marenzio, Gesualdo, Monteverdi.—M. da Gagliano,” traces in detail stylistic development in the madrigals of these four composers along with a wealth of musical and cultural information during the epoch of the late madrigal, all of which is complemented by the musical scores in Volume 3. That Einstein termed these madrigalists “great virtuosi” indicates clearly his high valuation of them.

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  • Gerbino, Giuseppe. Music and the Myth of Arcadia in Renaissance Italy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    In chapter 13, “Marenzio’s Utopia of the Senses,” a consideration of pastoral poetry vis-à-vis the new lighter madrigal of the late cinquecento precedes a penetrating examination of several of Marenzio’s madrigals, noting, among other aspects, the “bravura manipulation of texture and rhythm and the captivating and tuneful simplicity of musical matter” (p. 336) that make them unique—at once both naive and refined. The reading is highly recommended.

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  • MacClintock, Carol. Giaches de Wert (1535–1596): Life and Works. Musicological Studies and Documents 17. Rome: American Institute of Musicology, 1966.

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    This comprehensive book on Wert’s life and music is a classic, with Wert’s Mantuan madrigals and canzonette discussed in pages 69–130. Appendices contain transcriptions of the dedication pages from Wert’s publications, a title list of his works, and an inventory of his extant original publications in libraries and archives worldwide.

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  • McClary, Susan. Modal Subjectivities: Self-Examination in the Italian Madrigal. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520234932.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Chapter 6, “A Coney Island of the Madrigal,” presents a close study of settings by Wert and Marenzio of two celebrated poems: Petrarch’s “Solo e pensoso” and Giambattista Guarini’s erotic “Tirsi morir volea.” Each of the four madrigals that resulted is analyzed by examining in particular the role modality, thematic shape, rhythm, and sonority play in transmuting the two texts into exceptional pieces of music.

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  • Maniates, Maria Rika. Mannerism in Italian Music and Culture, 1530–1630. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979.

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    The broad scope of this book, grounded in a wealth of scholarly information, includes the close study of mannerism in the visual arts and literature as well as in music and music theory. The author’s remarks on the madrigal and pastoral and lyric poetry are fresh, perceptive, and highly informative.

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  • Newcomb, Anthony. The Madrigal at Ferrara, 1579–1597. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

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    Volume 1 describes the musical culture in Ferrara, mostly derived from documents extant in Italian archives. Newcomb’s account of daily life in the Este court, including the formation of the concerto delle dame, his remarks on other musicians and composers who were there, and on the music created and used during an eighteen-year period are notable. Volume 2 contains the scores of twenty-seven madrigals associated with Ferrara.

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  • Watkins, Glenn E. Gesualdo: The Man and His Music. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

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    This is a definitive study of Gesualdo, with a first part on his life, followed by a second part on his music. Gesualdo’s six books of madrigals are examined chronologically, and remarked upon with regard to details of their technical aspects, their text, and their form. The question of mannerism in Gesualdo’s music is also taken up.

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Monteverdi and the Last Days of the Madrigal in Italy

Claudio Monteverdi (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Music “Claudio Monteverdi”) was the most innovative and significant composer of madrigals in Italy during the first decades of the 17th century, and the changes he made in the genre had very far-reaching consequences. Some changes affected harmony and brought about a bolder use of dissonance and chromaticism, which he termed a seconda prattica (second [=modern] practice). Others affected melodic shape and how text was presented and expressed. Particularly telling, however, were those changes that altered the relationship of voices in the ensemble. The traditional equality among the madrigal’s voices (more or less maintained over the years), in which each singer was entitled to the entire text, and to the entire expression of it (Einstein 1924, cited under General Overviews—Monteverdi’s Contemporaries), now gave way to inequality. For example, when poetry contained direct speech or a monologue, its setting, seeking greater verisimilitude, might place the speech in a single voice while the remaining singers provided a supportive accompaniment or a commentary on it. In addition to textural alterations, the most telling of the changes, however, was the incorporation of instruments into the ensemble by the addition of a basso continuo (instruments providing a bass and chords)—see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Music “Continuo”—or larger forces of instruments for a concertato madrigal. The inclusion of the continuo freed the singing voices from their need to produce the harmonic and rhythmic fundament, but it destroyed a basic tenet of the madrigal as an a cappella genre. In Monteverdi’s madrigals these things and more are found, the result of his expressive and often dramatic realization of the poetry he set. None of this happened overnight, however, and the stylistic advances in avant-garde madrigals were complemented for several decades by a continuation of polyphonic a cappella madrigals and canzonettas. Other distinguished composers in Italy during the early 17th century include Sigismondo d’India (b. 1582–d. 1629), who published both a cappella and continuo madrigals, and the Florentine Marco da Gagliano (b. 1582–d. 1643), who published in the new genres of opera and monody (both of which depended on the basso continuo), and six books of five-part madrigals, all a cappella. Some scholars, following Einstein, have asserted that Monteverdi’s progressive madrigals and those by like-minded contemporaries breached the bounds of the traditional madrigal and led to its dissolution. It may be historically more accurate as well as more judicious, however, to recognize that with the advent of opera and monody in the early 17th century the madrigal began to be less popular and, surpassed in its expressive range, was superseded in the next decades by the chamber aria, duet, and the cantata, all of them continuo-based genres that flourished as the madrigal declined.

General Overviews—Monteverdi

The waning years of the madrigal in Italy are rich with estimable composers, but towering over all is Claudio Monteverdi, one of great figures in the history of music, about whom a great deal has been written. For this reason, the bibliographical recommendations for exploring the genre’s last years are broken into two sections: one for Monteverdi alone and one for readings not primarily about his music. Noteworthy books and articles on Monteverdi and his madrigals include Einstein 1949, Fabbri 1994, Fortune 1985, Leopold 1991, Palisca 1994, Pirrotta 1984, and Tomlinson 1987, along with the essays in Monterosso 1969. Lax 1994 and Stevens 1995 are source books that print all of Monteverdi’s letters and provide, thereby, a way to understand Monteverdi more deeply through a direct examination of the original documents themselves.

  • Einstein, Alfred. The Italian Madrigal. 3 vols. Translated by Alexander H. Krappe, Roger H. Sessions, and Oliver Strunk. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949.

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    Einstein’s remarks on Monteverdi address only his first four madrigal books, those in which he “still keeps within the traditional limits of the style” (p. 717). Other scholars generally consider the entire corpus of Monteverdi’s madrigal publications. Despite his study’s truncation, however, anything Einstein had to say about the madrigal is always worth careful consideration, and that assuredly includes his remarks on Monteverdi’s earlier madrigals and their texts.

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  • Fabbri, Paolo. Monteverdi. Translated by Tim Carter. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511627279Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Now one of the basic texts on Monteverdi, both for its biographical coverage and its delineation of his works, the book is organized around the three centers in which Monteverdi’s career evolved—Cremona, Mantua, and Venice. Madrigals were created in each of these, and as a result, discussions of his madrigals are spread throughout the book. There is a convenient title-index of all of Monteverdi’s compositions.

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  • Fortune, Nigel. “Monteverdi and the seconda prattica, ii: From Madrigal to Duet.” In The New Monteverdi Companion. Edited by Denis Arnold and Nigel Fortune, 198–215. London: Faber & Faber, 1985.

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    Fortune’s essay studies Monteverdi’s madrigals from the Fifth Book on. Noting Monteverdi’s reluctance to abandon the madrigal for Florentine monody, Fortune points out that many of the characteristics of accompanied song were nevertheless adapted to form part of the compositional core of Monteverdi’s polyphonic madrigals. The essay then turns to an examination of the duet and trio textures that were salient, structural features in his middle- and late-period madrigals.

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  • Lax, Éva, ed. Claudio Monteverdi, Lettere. Studi e testi per la storia della musica, 10. Florence: Olschki, 1994.

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    This fine book publishes transcriptions of Monteverdi’s 127 letters written between 1601 and 1643. The letters bring to light detailed information that ranges widely, from his music to court intrigue. The transcriptions have been done with great care, and they provide a rare opportunity to examine original, primary materials that otherwise can only be studied by visits to individual archives and libraries in Italy.

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  • Leopold, Silke. Monteverdi: Music in Transition. Translated by Anne Smith. Oxford: Clarendon, 1991.

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    This monograph on Monteverdi’s life and works disposes the examination of his music not chronologically but according to “connections, links, and interrelations” among their compositional details, with sections on, for example, pastoral themes, ostinato and other bass patterns, the lament, etc. As a result, the discussion of stylistic and basic aspects of the madrigals is quite diffuse in the book.

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  • Monterosso, Raffaello, ed. Congresso internazionale sul tema Claudio Monteverdi e il suo tempo: Relazioni e communicazioni, Venezia—Mantova—Cremona, 3–7 maggio 1968. Verona, Italy: Valdoneza, 1969.

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    A volume of thirty-five essays on Monteverdi and his era from a conference honoring the four-hundredth anniversary of his birth. Pages 322–376 contain four papers, in German and Italian, on Monteverdi’s madrigals and their poetry, the last of which, by Pierluigi Petrobelli, compares settings of the closing lines of “Ah, dolente partita” from Giovanbattista Guarini’s Il pastor fido by Luca Marenzio (1594), Giaches de Wert (1595), and Monteverdi (1603).

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  • Palisca, Claude V. “The Artusi-Monteverdi Controversy.” In Studies in the History of Italian Music and Music Theory. By Claude V. Palisca, 54–88. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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    This important study examines details of dissonance treatment and harmony in Monteverdi’s madrigals that Giovanni Maria Artusi attacked in his publications of 1600 and 1603. Monteverdi’s response to Artusi, along with that of his brother, introduced the term seconda prattica, his label for a new and more modern way of using music in the expression of the strong words and emotions in his madrigals’ texts.

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  • Pirrotta Nino. “Monteverdi’s Poetic Choices.” In Music and Culture in Italy from the Middle Ages to the Baroque: A Collection of Essays. By Nino Pirrotta, 271–316. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674863620Save Citation »Export Citation »

    In this insightful and authoritative essay Pirrotta examines chronologically the poetry of Monteverdi’s madrigals and discusses the significant part poetic choice played in determining his madrigals’ stylistic development. Other genres and music by other composers vis-à-vis Monteverdi’s madrigals are also examined. It is a remarkable essay, based on a lifetime of learning, and it is highly recommended.

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  • Stevens, Denis, trans. The Letters of Claudio Monteverdi. Rev. ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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    This important book has excellent translations of Monteverdi’s letters, which contain a great deal of information about his music, his life, and his career. Each letter is prefaced with a commentary, often lengthy, that establishes its historical context, and notes throughout the book dispel any obscurities in vocabulary or wording and identify persons mentioned in the letters. It is a remarkably informative book and is highly recommended.

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  • Tomlinson, Gary. Monteverdi and the End of the Renaissance. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987.

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    Within the context of their intellectual and social background, Tomlinson presents a study of Monteverdi’s madrigal books, with particular attention paid to their poetry and to Monteverdi’s treatment of words and images in the texts he chose. The poets particularly attended to include Petrarch, Torquato Tasso, Giovanni Battista Guarini, Ottavio Rinuccini, and Giambattista Marino. Monteverdi’s ties to other madrigalists are also considered.

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General Overviews—Monteverdi’s Contemporaries

Additional sources of information for the madrigal after 1600 usually include remarks on Monteverdi, but without his music as the primary subject. Many of these books and articles cover a broader range, as is the case with those that span several generations of madrigal history; others are centered on locations beyond Cremona, Mantua, or Venice, where Monteverdi’s music was created; and some concentrate on composers who were contemporaries of Monteverdi. In a few cases, these categories overlap one another. Bianconi 1987, Brown 1993, Butchart 1979, Carter 1992, and Mabbett 1997 belong to the category of wider-ranging studies; Fortune 1954–1955, Mompellio 1956, Strainchamps 1984, and Watkins 1995 are more narrowly focused. Einstein 1924 makes a succinct philosophical appraisal of the history of the genre.

  • Bianconi, Lorenzo. Music in the Seventeenth Century. Translated by David Bryant. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511586132Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This is a stimulating and impressive book in which a clear-eyed appraisal of music during the seicento leads to fresh insights with regard to the madrigal and other genres. Topics in Chapter 1 include the madrigal, Giovan Battista Marino and the poesia per musica, Monteverdi’s madrigals, the etymology and cognates of concerto, and the Europe-wide economic crash of 1619–1622 that hastened the demise of the madrigal in Italy.

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  • Brown, Howard Mayer. “Genre, Harmony and Rhetoric in the Late Sixteenth-Century Madrigal.” In Renaissance Culture in Context: Theory and Practice. Edited by Jean R. Brink and William F. Gentrup, 198–225. Aldershot, UK: Scolar Press, 1993.

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    Brown’s essay, beginning with an analysis of a virtuoso madrigal by Wert from 1581, turns to examine a variety of music that set high-culture poetry during the cinquecento and beyond, noting causal relationships throughout. In the process, Brown provides a brilliant summary of many of the chief impulses that shaped Italian music during a hundred years. It is an exceptionally fine essay by a very great scholar of the madrigal.

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  • Butchart, David S. The Madrigal in Florence, 1560–1630. 2 vols. DPhil thesis, University of Oxford, 1979.

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    Volume 1, Part 3, entitled “The Madrigal in Florence, 1590–1630,” discusses the madrigals of Stefano Venturi del Nibbio, Luca Bati, Marco da Gagliano, Giovanni del Turco, Domenico Visconti, Filippo Vitali, and G. B. Bartoli, among others. Volume 2 contains scores of madrigals by each of these composers.

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  • Carter, Tim. Music in Late Renaissance and Early Baroque Italy. Portland, OR: Amadeus, 1992.

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    Chapter 14, “From Madrigal to Cantata,” pp. 239–255, traces the expanding preference for continuo-based arias, duets, trios, and finally the cantata, which developed from the aria, during the years of the madrigal’s decline in the early 17th century.

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  • Einstein, Alfred. “The Madrigal.” The Musical Quarterly 10 (1924): 473–484.

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    An early publication that in compressed form adumbrates several of the central ideas and observations that appear fully realized in Einstein 1949, his three-volume Italian Madrigal published twenty-five years later. In this essay Einstein describes concisely the musical and historical forces that drove the madrigal’s progress through successive generations of advancing expressiveness and musical craft—forces that eventually drove the madrigal to its demise.

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  • Fortune, Nigel. “Sigismondo d’India: An Introduction to His Life and Works.” Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 81st Session (1954–1955): 29–47.

    DOI: 10.1093/jrma/81.1.29Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This article speaks more about d’India’s monodies than his madrigals, but the general outline of his origin in Spanish-controlled Sicily, and his career on the Italian mainland as an important composer of madrigals, as well as monodies, is of value in understanding basic facts about this significant composer of madrigals in the early seicento.

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  • Mabbett, Margaret. “Italian Madrigal Texts in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century.” In Liber Amicorum John Steele: A Musicological Tribute. Edited by Warren Drake, 307–335. Festschrift Series 16. Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon, 1997.

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    Despite its delimiting title, the essay examines the characteristics of texts and their role in shaping style and the formal aspects of madrigals from about 1580 to 1640. Appendices catalogue the frequency in the use of texts by Petrarch, Tasso, Guarini, and Marino, among others, and track the determining effect of a particular Petrarchan image in nine poems from the era.

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  • Mompellio, Federico. Sigmondo d’India, musicista palermitano. Milan: Ricordi, 1956.

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    An early book that helped to draw scholarly attention to d’India, and which is still of value for its informed discussion of his music. Both madrigals and monodies are studied, with comparisons made between d’India’s music and that of his contemporaries and predecessors, including Benedetto Pallavicino, Luca Marenzio, Claudio Monteverdi, and Marco da Gagliano. The text is complemented by a number of musical excerpts.

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  • Strainchamps, Edmond. “Marco da Gagliano, Filli, mentre ti bacio, and the End of the Madrigal in Florence.” In Music and Civilization: Essays in Honor of Paul Henry Lang. Edited by Edmond Strainchamps, and Maria Rika Maniates, in collaboration with Christopher Hatch, 311–325. New York: W.W. Norton, 1984.

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    In comparing two a cappella madrigals by Gagliano that set the same text, the first from 1602 and a second, shorter setting from 1617, Strainchamps argues that diminishing prospects for the future of the a cappella madrigal in Florence were recognized by Gagliano and account for his paring of madrigalian characteristics in the later version. Broadly speaking, they exemplify the trajectory of the declining seicento madrigal in Italy.

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  • Watkins, Glenn. “D’India the Peripatetic.” In Con che soavità: Studies in Italian Opera, Song, and Dance, 1580–1740. Edited by Iain Fenlon and Tim Carter, 41–72. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.

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    This excellent essay presents a close study of d’India’s development as a madrigal composer in response to leading progressive composers, both contemporaries and forebears: Wert, Marenzio, Gesualdo, Monteverdi, and others. D’India’s considerable achievements as a composer of monodies, especially as they relate to his madrigals, are also examined. The essay looks well beyond musical detail, by placing d’India within the broad arc of evolving music-text relationships in the early seicento.

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The Transalpine Madrigal

Two of the major madrigalists in the late Renaissance, Orlando di Lasso (b. 1532–d. 1594) and the more conservative Philippe de Monte (b. 1521–d. 1603), both northerners by birth, spent formative years in Italy before leaving for careers north of the Alps. Lasso (born Orlande de Lassus)—see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Music “Orlande de Lassus”—was from 1556 maestro di cappella at the court of the dukes of Bavaria in Munich, and Monte, the most prolific of all madrigal composers, with more than a thousand madrigals published in thirty-five volumes, left Italy for Vienna and Prague to serve as Kapellmeister to the Habsburg court from 1568 until his death. Both composers, but especially Lasso, kept in touch with Italy and changes in the style of the Italian madrigal through visits made to Italy and by contact with Italian composers who spent time in Germany. Both Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli had sojourns in Munich, and Giovanni served as a court musician there with Lasso from at least 1575 until 1579. The first German-born madrigalist who went to Venice, the first in a long line of German musicians to do so, was Hans Leo Hassler (b. 1564–d. 1612), who was a student of Andrea Gabrieli in l584–1585. He returned to Germany to hold posts with the Fugger family in Augsburg, as town musician in Nuremberg, and ultimately to serve as Kapellmeister to the Saxon Elector in Dresden. Through his publications of madrigals and canzonettas, Hassler was widely influential in the dissemination of the Italian style in German-speaking lands and in shaping a new generation of composers. Students also went to Venice from farther away and carried the Italian madrigal style back to their homelands. Melchior Borchgrevinck, Mogens Pedersøn, and Hans Nielsen were awarded grants to travel from Denmark for study with Giovanni Gabrieli by the Danish court of King Christian IV. The Italian madrigal was also cultivated in the Netherlands and Poland. Among the most notable, though, another German musician, was Heinrich Schütz (b. 1585–d. 1672)—see the separate Oxford Bibliographes in Music article Heinrich Schütz—who resided in Venice from 1609 to 1612 to study composition with Giovanni Gabrieli, returning to his position in Kassel only after Gabrieli’s death. He went back to Italy from Dresden, where he had become Kapellmeister, in 1628 to study with Claudio Monteverdi, from whom Schütz learned and took back to Germany the latest developments in Italian style. With all of these composers, and many others as well, the Italian madrigal flourished well beyond Italy during several generations, its life prolonged abroad as the genre declined in Italy, gradually metamorphosing into the styles and genres of the next great epoch, the Italian Baroque. See the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Music “Baroque Music.”

General Overviews

Studies of the madrigal north of the Alps, leaving aside England, has resulted especially in books and articles on the madrigal and its related genres in Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Among those that focus on events in Germany are Arnold 1985, Finscher 1994, Haar 1995, Hoffacker 1989, Smallman 1988, Smallman 2000, and Vossler 1972. Mann 1983 writes about Monte’s madrigals, of which the earliest belong to a history of the madrigal in Italy; only afterward did Monte go to Germany, where he wrote a great many more. Schmalzriedt 1972 discusses the students of Gabrieli in Venice, some of whom were from Germany and a number of whom were from other lands. Finally, Lewis Hammond 2005 has written about the unexpected and deliberate cultivation of the madrigal in Denmark for the sake of enhancing Copenhagen’s prestige as a cultural center in the 17th century.

  • Arnold, Denis. “The Second Venetian Visit of Heinrich Schütz.” The Musical Quarterly 71 (1985): 359–374.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/LXXI.3.359Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The article comments on Schütz’s 1628 visit to Venice and his contacts with composers and their music. He certainly encountered Monteverdi’s, as is known from his translation into German of Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda with its new sound of the stile concitato. Although no madrigals by Schütz resulted from the visit, he did incorporate stylistic advances from Italian madrigals into his music in other genres when he returned to Dresden.

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  • Finscher, Ludwig. “Lied and Madrigal, 1580–1600.” In Music in the German Renaissance: Sources, Styles, and Contexts. Edited by John Kmetz, 182–192. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

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    This article discusses the events that led to the decline and fall of the long-lived German Tenorlied at the end of the 16th century in response to the craze for the Italian madrigal and canzonetta in Germany, which had begun with Lasso in 1567.

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  • Haar, James. “Le Muse in Germania: Lasso’s Fourth Book of Madrigals.” In Orlandus Lassus and His Time. Edited by Ignace Bossuyt, Eugeen Schreurs, and Annelies Wouters, 49–72. Colloquiem Proceedings, Antwerpen 24–26.08.1994. Peer, Belgium: Alamire Foundation, 1995.

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    The article considers the events surrounding the composition of madrigals in Lasso’s Libro quarto of 1567. It is followed by an interesting and instructive comparison of the same textual phrases as set in madrigals by Wert and Lasso.

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  • Hoffacker, John. “The Italian Works of Hans Leo Hassler.” The American Choral Review 3.2 (Spring 1989): 5–35.

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    This informative article on Hassler’s madrigals and canzonettas is thorough and easy to read for the non-specialist. It provides good coverage of Hassler’s composition in the two Italian genres that he mastered during his tutelage with Gabrieli in Venice, and which engendered in him his lifelong commitment to the Italian musical idiom and his influential adaptation of it for German texts and genres.

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  • Lewis Hammond, Susan. “Italian Music and Christian IV’s Urban Agenda for Copenhagen.” Scandinavian Studies 77.3 (2005): 365–382.

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    This fascinating article is about the studied use made of the Italian madrigal in Christian IV’s campaign to turn Copenhagen into a more cultured capital, thereby enhancing Denmark’s reputation in Europe in the early 17th century. It was for this reason that beginning in 1599 Christian sent court musicians to Venice to be tutored by Gabrieli and to bring the Italian madrigal back to Denmark.

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  • Mann, Brian. The Secular Madrigals of Filippo di Monte, 1521–1603. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1983.

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    A revision of Mann’s 1981 doctoral dissertation at the University of California at Berkeley, which presents a comprehensive study of Monte’s madrigals from the early years in Italy (1554–1568) through the years in Vienna and Prague (1568–1603). Madrigals from his years at the Habsburg court are examined in pp. 149–421.

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  • Schmalzriedt, Siegfried. Heinrich Schütz und andere zeitgenössische Musiker in der Lehre Giovanni Gabrieli: Studien zu ihren Madrigalen. Tübinger Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 1. Stuttgart, Germany: Hänssler-Verlag, 1972.

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    The book, which resulted from the author’s 1969 doctoral dissertation (at Eberhard-Karls-Universität, Tübingen), traces the influence of Gabrieli’s teaching in an examination of the madrigals produced by his transalpine students, among whom were Schütz, Christoph Clemsee, Johann Grabbe, Hans Neilsen, and Mogens Pedersøn. The madrigals are studied comparatively with regard to their poetry, melody, rhythm, declamation, etc., and the study is enhanced by a number of musical excerpts and charts.

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  • Smallman, Basil. “Pastoralism, Parody and Pathos: The Madrigal in Germany, 1570–1630.” Miscellanea Musicologica: Adelaide Studies in Musicology 15 (1988): 6–20.

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    This valuable article makes clear how the transmission of the Italian madrigal, villanella, and canzonetta shaped secular composition in Germany. The article celebrates the best of German madrigal composition in the work of Hans Leo Hassler and Heinrich Schütz. Most especially did Hassler show the influence of his sojourn in Venice; indeed, it shaped all the rest of his creative life.

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  • Smallman, Basil. Schütz. The Master Musicians Series. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    A thoroughgoing biographical study, which begins with remarks on Schütz in the early years and his first visit to Venice to study with Gabrieli. It continues with an examination of Schütz’s Italian madrigal book that was published in Venice in 1611. The book is sound, informed by scholarship, and as part of the Master Musician Series, easy to read.

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  • Vossler, Karl. Das deutsche Madrigal, Geschichte seiner Entwicklung bis die Mitte des XVIII Jahrhunderts. Wiesbaden, Germany: Dr. Martin Sändig, 1972.

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    This classic account of the madrigal in Germany was first printed in 1898, and is still consulted on the subject. The book traces the history of the madrigal—and especially its poetry as it was adapted for setting in German—from the generations of Orlando di Lasso, Hans Leo Hassler, and Heinrich Schütz until 1747. There is a good deal of attention given to the career of Karl Ziegler (b. 1621–d. 1690).

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The Elizabethan Madrigal

Toward the close of the 16th century, the English were particularly admiring of Italian culture, including Italian poetry and madrigals, and copies of Italian madrigals circulated widely among the cognoscenti. In 1588, a significant event occurred in the development of a national school of madrigal composition in England—subsequently called the Elizabethan madrigal—with the publication in London of Nicholas Yonge’s Musica Transalpina, a large anthology containing Italian madrigals with their original texts translated into English. It contained four- to six-voiced madrigals by a variety of Italian composers, most prominent among them Luca Marenzio (b. c. 1553–d. 1599) and Alfonso Ferrabosco (b. 1543–d. 1588), an Italian who had served at the court of Elizabeth I between 1562 and 1578. Four similar anthologies, but now including canzonettas along with madrigals, followed in the next few years. The seminal figure in the founding of an English madrigal school was Thomas Morley (b. 1557–d. 1602), who had thoroughly assimilated the Italian idiom and transmitted it through his publications from 1593 on. Morley was mostly interested in the lighter Italian madrigal, the canzonetta, and the balletto, with his own madrigals modeled on the Italian style of the late 1570s. One of Morley’s adaptations was the “fa-la” refrain from the Italian balletto, which became a topos in the lighter English madrigal and even a gender designation, along with madrigal, canzonet, and ballet. The English composers who followed Morley for the most part hewed to his line, seldom approaching the Italian expressive and recitational styles of, for example, Wert and Marenzio, or the radical manner associated with Ferrara. Notable English madrigal composers who followed Morley did sometimes adopt a more serious tone, although the lighter madrigals endured; they include George Kirbye (d. 1634), Thomas Weelkes (b. c. 1575–d. 1623), John Wilbye (d. 1638), and John Ward (b. 1571–d. 1638). After 1600, the last two fine composers of the Elizabethan madrigal, each of whom published only a single book, were Orlando Gibbons (b. 1583–d. 1625)—see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article in Music “Orlando Gibbons”—and Thomas Tomkins (b. 1572–d. 1656). As this suggests, the madrigal in England began to decline in the early years of the 17th century. Its historical arc shows a sudden rise, a brief sustainment, and then a long diminution, during which it was superseded by the indigenous secular English song, which was a constant presence during the madrigal’s lifespan. The Elizabethan madrigal is perhaps best summed up by Kerman 1962 (p. 256) as “the richest offshoot of the Italian madrigal—itself the richest music of the 16th century.”

General Overviews

The central source for any study of the Elizabethan madrigal is Kerman 1962, whose author many years later also wrote the section on the English madrigal for Grove Music Online, Kerman 2004. Caldwell 1991 and Dent 1968 offer a good account without, of course, the thoroughness available in the book-length Kerman 1962. Fellowes 1948 is the earliest scholarly book (originally published in 1921) to investigate the whole of the English madrigal school; it was preceded by Fellowes 1967 (originally published in 1920), which focuses on the English madrigals’ texts. Einstein 1944 fills in some gaps in Fellowes 1967 while enlarging our understanding of the Italian sources. Roche 1990 has a good, if brief, account of the genre in England. Obertello 1949 is an extensive study in Italian of the Italian verse used for Elizabethan madrigals from 1588 through the last of Morley’s publications. Recommended readings for information on the Elizabethan madrigal are listed below.

  • Caldwell, John. The Oxford History of English Music. 2 vols. Vol. 1, From the Beginnings to c. 1715. Oxford: Clarendon, 1991.

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    Chapter 7, “Secular Vocal Music, 1575–1625,” contains a survey of the Elizabethan madrigal and related genres, such as the lute song. The chapter begins with a discussion of music by William Byrd, some of which qualifies as madrigals, before turning to an examination of madrigals and canzonets by Thomas Morley and others. Caldwell’s coverage of the madrigal is much indebted to Kerman 1962.

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  • Dent, Edward J. “The Sixteenth-Century Madrigal.” In The Age of Humanism, 1540–1630. Edited by Gerald Abraham, 33–95. Vol. 4 of The New Oxford History of Music. London: Oxford University Press, 1968.

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    Pages 83–95 present a survey of the school of English madrigalists, in which their distinctions and differences are described. Although the coverage in this older source is brief, its observations are still valuable. Comparisons with Italian models make clear that it was the particulars of the English language itself that prevented madrigals set to English poetry from ever attaining the breadth and subtlety of the genre in Italy, and that limited its life span.

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  • Einstein, Alfred. “The Elizabethan Madrigal and ‘Musica Transalpina’.” Music and Letters 25.2 (April 1944): 66–77.

    DOI: 10.1093/ml/25.2.66Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The article contains a close study of relationships among Italian poetry originals and Elizabethan translations or paraphrases of them as they appear in Nicholas Yonge’s Musica Transalpina published in 1588. Among the composers whose work is cited are William Byrd and Thomas Morley.

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  • Fellowes, Edmund H. The English Madrigal Composers. 2d ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1948.

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    The earliest book (the first edition is from 1921) to deal exclusively with the English madrigal in a critical survey of the period and of the English madrigal composers from William Byrd to Peter Philips. There is particular emphasis on four of the madrigalists: William Byrd, Thomas Morley, Thomas Weelkes, and John Wilbye. The book is addressed to the general reader rather than the specialist.

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  • Fellowes, Edmund H., ed. English Madrigal Verse, 1588–1632. 3d ed. Revised by Frederich W. Sternfeld and David Greer. Oxford: Clarendon, 1967.

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    This revised edition of the classic book originally published in 1920 is an anthology of poetic texts taken from the original madrigal collections and song books. Poems that were set as madrigals are contained in Part 1; Part 2 contains the texts of lute songs. Extensive indices provide full information on authors and translators and a list of the poems’ first lines.

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  • Kerman, Joseph. The Elizabethan Madrigal: A Comparative Study. New York: American Musicological Society, 1962.

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    This classic book is a thorough study of the English madrigal that has been the starting point for research in the genre since its publication. The book places the Elizabethan madrigal in the historical and social contexts of its adoption, its development, and its decline during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I.

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  • Kerman, Joseph. “The Elizabethan Madrigal.” Part Four of “Madrigal” in Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root. Oxford Music Online. 2004.

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    In comparison with Kerman 1962, this is a very compressed summary of the high points of the Elizabethan madrigal’s history. It has the virtue, however, of an up-to-date bibliography and the advantage of allowing sources to be called up from within the article itself. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Obertello, Alfredo. Madrigali italiani in Inghilterra. 2 vols. Milan: Valentino Bompiani, 1949.

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    The book, in Italian, presents a study of Italian poetry and its translations as used in Elizabethan madrigals—from the two books of Musica Transalpina (1588 and 1597) through Thomas Watson’s and Thomas Morley’s publications (1590–1598). With copious notes and extensive commentary, it provides an analysis of everything pertaining to literary matters in the Elizabethan madrigal. It does not discuss the music itself, only the poetry used for it.

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  • Roche, Jerome. The Madrigal. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

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    Chapter 8, “The Madrigal in England” (pp. 125–144), first examines the contrasts between the English and Italian contexts for cultivation of the madrigal. This is followed by a very good survey of both the Elizabethan madrigal and the canzonet, with a number of illustrative musical examples and brief analyses of them. The writing in the book is admirably clear and a pleasure to read. It is highly recommended.

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  • Teo, Kian-seng. Chromaticism in the English Madrigal. Outstanding Dissertations in Music from British Universities. New York: Garland, 1989.

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    Teo’s book, building on the authoritative work of Kerman 1962, investigates thoroughly and in detail the structural importance of chromaticism in the Elizabethan madrigal. It also discloses many hitherto unremarked links between English and Italian madrigals, in particular the influence of madrigals by Marenzio and Monteverdi on madrigals of more serious mien by younger, post-Morley English composers. It is a book now basic to study of the topic.

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