Composer: Claudio Monteverdi (b. 1567 - d. 1643)
Performance date: 05/07/2019
Venue: St. Brendan’s Church
Composition Year: 1619
Recording Engineer: Gar Duffy, RTÉ
Instrumentation Category:Baroque Ensemble
Instrumentation Other: vn, va, vc, lu, db, hpd, ob, s, m, t, b
Peter Spissky -
Camerata Øresund (Ida Lorenzen [violin], Tinne Albrechtsen [violin], Alison Luthmers [vioin], Rastko Roknic [viola], Hanna Loftsdóttir [cello], Joakim Peterson [double bass], Dohyo Sol [lute], Magdalena Karolak [oboe], Marcus Mohlin [harpsicord]) - [baroque ensemble]
Fieri Consort (Hannah Ely, Lucy Cox [soprano], Nancy Cole [mezzo-soprano], Tom Kelly, Chris Lombard [tenor], Ben McKee [bass]) - [vocal ensemble]
Biagio Marini was a virtuoso violinist and a composer, born in
Brescia in the North of Italy. He was a very well-travelled man, holding
positions in Belgium, Germany and throughout Italy, and in 1615 he
joined Monteverdi’s ensemble at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. Although
much of his output is lost, both the solo and instrumental violin music
which has survived exhibits an inventiveness and a boldness that was
way ahead of his time. The first use of double and triple stopping can
be found in Marini’s works, as well as explicitly notated tremolo
effects and the use of scordatura tuning.
The trio sonata La Monica
is taken from one of the most extensive collections of violin
literature of the seventeenth century: 69 compositions which Marini
wrote in 1626 while in Neuberg on the Danube and published three years
later in Venice as his Opus 8. At first glance, Marini’s work doesn’t
seem to bear all that much resemblance to the popular Italian folk tune,
La Monica, but on close analysis, there are harmonic similarities and appearances of small snippets of the tune throughout. La Monica
tells the story of a young girl forced to become a nun against her
will, which seems to be a recurring theme in Italian Folklore from
Mediaeval and Renaissance times. The memorable opening theme in the
upper voices reappears throughout the piece, interspersed with passages
of free variations. Kate Hearne
was born in Cremona in 1567. In 1590 he took up a position as a viol
player at the Mantuan Court of the Gonzagas. They would remain his
patrons for many years, with Monteverdi working his way up to being
master of the music both at court and at church from 1602, following in
the footsteps of two giants of the field Giaches de Wert and Benedetto
output during his time in Mantua was prolific, producing not only
several books of madrigals and other songs, but also his first operas
including L’Orfeo and L’Arianna. He developed his own style of composition the ‘seconda prattica’ which his brother Giulio Cesare Monteverdi described as the one that considers harmony not commanding but commanded, and makes the words the mistress of the harmony.
This artistic liberty ruffled the feathers of some of his seniors,
particularly the theorist Artusi who disliked Monteverdi’s bold use of
dissonance. Nevertheless, Monteverdi continued to work at the Mantuan
court until Duke Vincenzo died in 1612 and he was somewhat coldly
dismissed by the succeeding son, Francesco.
was soon sought out to fill the position of chapel master at St Mark’s
in Venice, where he would remain until he died in 1643. Venice was a
hive of creative and liberal minds where opera was rapidly developing
into the form we know today. St Mark’s was also possibly the largest
musical establishment in the country and festivals were extravagantly
celebrated. Monteverdi was certainly kept busy and he flourished, soon
publishing his Sixth and Seventh Books of Madrigals.
Seventh Book of Madrigals was first published in Venice exactly 400
years ago in 1619. It consists of a selection of solos, duets and trios
and culminates in a ballo for five voices and two soloists representing the lovers Tirsi e Clori (Thyrsis and Chloris). A ballo
was a well-established popular spectacle involving music, choreography,
costumes, machinery and lighting to create special effects and was part
of early operatic experiments. In this case, the two characters open
with a dialogue, followed by solos in their own distinctive styles then
combining in a final duet before the other voices join with a highly
celebratory chorus. The plot is very thin and the characters merely
describe the happy pastoral scene they find themselves in, exclaiming: Let us dance, and by our skill and our song extol the praises of dancing.
up to this celebratory finale, the duets and trios that we perform
today travel through the typical ups and downs that precede a love
story’s happy ending. Tempro la cetra features a defiant
but lonely tenor who realises he only tunes his lyre to the songs of
Mars, God of War. He longs for love however and by the end he hopes that
he may sleep in Venus’ lap. The first piece in Monteverdi’s
Seventh Book, it opens with an instrumental sinfonia which acts as an
overture to the collection and this piece provides little tasters of
what is to follow.
In A quest’olmo we
catch a glimpse of a long-lost love-scene. There are beautiful moments
of instrumental duets alongside solo voices, perhaps suggesting the
ghostly pair of lovers from the past. Hopelessness follows in Interotte Speranze
as the speaker resigns himself to eternal damnation, a beautiful
example of Monteverdi’s homophonic writing with speech-like phrases and
heart-wrenching dissonance performed as a duet for two tenors.
This is followed by a duet between two sopranos, O come sei gentile
who address a songbird, comparing its lovelorn singing to their own,
but concluding that the bird sings for love’s joy (to live) while they
sing for love’s pain (to die). There are plenty of fluttering ornaments
imitating birdsong and antiphony between the two singers who present the
opposing fates in love.
If all love must end in sorrow, the Passacaglia by Biagio Marini – a short hymn to love’s sadness is the ideal palliative. Marini
borrowed the typical texture of a pavan and added a brief introduction
to create a tightly-knit, seamless texture–a clear contrast to the more
dramatic variations in his solo works.
The bird becomes a messenger of love in Augellin,
a trio for two tenors and a bass. The tormented soul asks the little
bird to take pity on his sorrow and tell his love that he dissolves in tears.
In the opening, the writing for the solo tenor, like in the previous
duet, imitates birdsong as he addresses the little bird and this is
written specifically over the word canto. Finally the little messenger brings pleasure in love. In the exuberantly joyful Chiome d’oro
we hear of the delightful golden tresses, teeth, lips and eyes of the
speaker’s beloved. This is a double duet, featuring two sopranos and two
violins who take it in turns to duet with each other.
Before we can throw ourselves into the celebratory conclusion though, Tirsi has a moment of sorrow in Al lume delle stelle
as he sits under a laurel tree, by the light of the stars, lamenting
the loss of those bright eyes. The quartet opens with the solo tenor
(playing the character of Tirsi) climbing up a C major arpeggio as he
tries to reach the stars, he ends the phrase with a dramatic descending
10th on the words sott’un alloro (under the laurel tree) and the soprano echoes with a similar plummeting 9th si dolea lagrimando (such laments) while the other voices imitate the climbing arpeggio up to the stars.
This drama is reflected in Sonata Decima a tre by Dario Castello
published two years later in 1621. Like Marini, Dario Castello was also
a violinist under Monteverdi at St Mark’s, Venice. This was a time when
the Venetian masters were leading the way towards establishing the
genre of the sonata, and Castello made an important contribution to this
movement in his publications of two books of Sonate concertante in stil moderno
in 1621 and 1629. Castello’s lively Sonata leads us directly into the
celebrations of the union of Thyrsis and Clori that concludes
Monteverdi’s Seventh Book.
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