Love, Lust and Lamentations: Prologue

Composer: Claudio Monteverdi (b. 1567 - d. 1643)
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Composer: Claudio Monteverdi (b. 1567 - d. 1643)

Performance date: 30/06/2015

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1567-1643

Duration: 00:19:32

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:Duo

Instrumentation Other: S-solo, chitne

Artists: Mike Fentross - [chitarrone]
Maria Keohane - [soprano]

, Let me die.. Arianna’s opening plea in
her lament over lost love fittingly sets the scene for our mini
dramaturgy.  Indulgence in woe and self
pity were all the rage in the 17th century, and this, coupled with an obsession
with sex and lust led to a powerful output of love songs from Northern
. Lamento d’Arianna
was originally part of a lavish, tragic opera premiered by Monteverdi at the
Mantuan court of Duke Vicenzo Gonzaga in 1608. Sadly all that remains of it are
a few copies of Rinuccini’s libretto and a small segment of the opera, the
famous Lamento d’Arianna, which
Monteverdi published as a separate entity in 1623 viewing it as one of the most
important milestones in his stylistic development.

The Lament takes the form of an extended
recitative for voice and continuo, depicting Arianna’s tortured reaction when
she discovers she has been abandoned on the island of Naxos
by her lover, Tèseo. Its range and depth of expression can be likened to that
of some of Shakespeare’s soliloquies. The opening repeated words Lasciatemi morire, are accompanied by an
unforgettable and piercing dominant seventh chord, underlying Arianna’s despair
and pain at being abandoned. In stark contrast to this, Arianna’s longing words
O Tèseo, O Tèseo mio, occur several
times throughout the Lament, indicating that despite everything, she still
feels tenderness towards her lover. It is Monteverdi’s ability to reflect
Arianna’s wildly shifting emotions and contradictory feelings that have insured
this Lament’s survival and given Arianna herself the reputation as the first
great operatic heroine.

The serene Romanesca by Piccinini gives us some
breathing space and a moment to dwell on the story thus far. In the early 17th
century, the terms chitarrone, theorbo and archlute were interchangable.
Developed from the bass lute, the chitarrone, with its set of long open bass
strings was the perfect instrument to accompany the voice. Piccinini came from
a family of virtuoso lute players and composers and he was one of the few to
successfully combine playing with writing for the instrument. In his first
volume of lute music, Intavolatura di
Liuto et di Chitarrone, libro primo
1623), he gives a detailed description of some modifications to the chitarrone
while also laying claim to his having invented the archlute in 1594.

D’India’s simple,
reflective lament Piangono al pianger mio
conveys an outpouring of grief where the world around is weeping and sighing
together with our protagonist, who is full of self pity. D’India was a composer
of great versatility, he travelled widely and his output includes works in all
the vocal styles of the time. In this setting of Rinuccini’s text, he shows his
ability to convey drama in a beautiful and understated manner.

It is time for Cupid
to awaken, for love to once more flourish. Strozzi lightens the mood from the
outset of Amor dormiglione in her
humorous call to Cupid. She is ready for love and impatient for something to
happen. The expectant mood is exquisitely expressed by Strozzi, who rose to the
forefront of madrigal writing in Venice
after Monteverdi’s death. As a woman, Strozzi breaks away from all the
traditions of her time. The daughter of a courtesan, and possibly working as a
courtesan herself, she embodies the new model of Venice,
which, as the 17th century progressed, was fast becoming Europe’s
pleasure city. Strozzi defies many of the strict social rules and expectations
of women in the 17th century and although this song is flirtatious and mocking,
her other works suggest that she was no stranger to pain and grief inflicted by