Monday, 15 May 2017


The real Monteverdi.
Fret not, youth of the 21st century, anti-progressives have been balking at the bane of your radical tastes for millennia. 

Take, for instance, this pundit of birthday boy Padre Claudio Monteverdi, who, quite curmudgeonly, set quill to parchment to decry the composers' then avant-garde use of dissonance to set mood and emphasis to text (over music):
"...such composers, in my opinion, have nothing but smoke in their heads if they are so impressed with themselves as to think they can corrupt, abolish and ruin at will the good old rules handed down from days of old by so many theorists and excellent musicians, who are the very ones from whom these modern musicians have learned awkwardly to put a few notes together. But do you know what generally befalls works like these? In the end, since they lack good foundation, they are eaten away by time and fall to the ground, and those who put them up are made a laughingstock."
- Giovanni Artusi, 1540 - 1613, "On the Imperfections of Modern Music".
The Italian theorist and contemporary of the Father Monteverdi (who took Holy orders in 1631 following an outbreak of the plague in Venice) Giovanni Artusi, himself a composer, would inadvertently - and almost single handedly - assist in skyrocketing Monteverdi to fame and prestige by drawing public curiosity to the works of the progressive musician. It seemed everyone in town wanted to see - and hear - for themselves just what the fuss was all about. As it turned out for the much disgruntled Artusi, there was much in the way of glory to be witnessed from the ecclesiastical composer. 

Indeed, there remains much to be awestruck about when it comes to Monteverdi, even today. "Father" of not only his parish but also of opera as we know it,[1] inventor of the tremolo (and resulting pizzicato), distinguisher of the prima and seconda pratica, and former maestro di capella at one of the world's most enduring and distinguished Bascilicae - that of Venice's St. Mark's - Monteverdi's influence continues to be felt in prestigious theatres and operatic conservatoires across the globe. Indeed, much of this beloved sub-genre of western classical music owes it's formation and legacy to the innovations of the 17th century progressive genius that was Monteverdi.

May 2017 marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of Claudio Monterverdi, who entered the classical music sphere on the 9th day of the month in 1567. His baptism occurred on this day at Cremona.

To learn more about Monteverdi, visit the Monteverdi archives here at Unraveling Musical Myths.

Enjoy below one of my most beloved works by Monteverdi, the Lamento Della Ninfa: Amor, from the composers 8th book of madrigals, Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi (Madrigals of War and Love). If you enjoy this performance featuring L'Arpeggiata, you may also want to take a listen to Emma Kirkby's more subdued - yet equally enchanting - version with The Consort of Musicke by clicking here.

[1]see my article on Operatic Firsts here on Unraveling Musical Myths to learn more. Although Monteverdi did not invent opera per se, he did shape the artform into the format we know (and love) today.
Did You Know?

Not Monteverdi.
This portrait (L) of an actor, who bears a striking resemblance to Claudio Monteverdi has made the rounds for some time - and with remarkable frequency - as a true likeness of the composer.

This is a misattribution.

The painting, entitled "Ritratto di un attore" (Portrait of an actor), was painted sometime between 1621-22 in Mantua by artist Domenico Fetti, and the 'sitter' is believed to be that of either Tristano Martinelli or Francesco Andreini, both actors of the famous commedia dell'arte.


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