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May 15 Composer Birthday: Claudio Monteverdi

May 15 Composer Birthday: Claudio Monteverdi featured image

Claudio Monteverdi, the madrigal master, was an important link between the Renaissance and Baroque eras. A madrigal is a secular (non-religious) vocal music composition of the same two eras. They’re often sung a capella (without instruments), and the voices vary from two to eight, and most often, three to six.

Most of Monteverdi’s work, including stage works, have been lost (which always pains me to read – what masterpieces are we forever denied?). What remains are nine books of madrigals, large-scale sacred (religious) works, and three operas. He is remembered for pushing the structure of form and melody forward, and used the basso continuo (an underlying bass line, often provided nowadays by harpsichord and cello), which was considered novel at the time. Monteverdi’s music was forgotten for a few centuries, and enjoyed a revival in the early 20th century, and is now regularly performed and recorded. Though much of his music is lost, there is a paper trail of his personal life. He wrote many letters to friends, detailing struggles with stress related to work (the usual politics, of course), plagues (that affected his colleagues and family), and occasional money problems.

This is the “Lamento della Ninfa” (The Lament of Ninfa”) featuring Les Arts florissants. It’s a gorgeous performance, and unfortunately, the soprano is not named.

Claudio Monteverdi was born May 15 1567 in Cremona, Italy, and died November 29, 1643 in Venice.

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