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Motets, Madrigals, and Monteverdi: here’s what you need to know.

Motets, Madrigals, and Monteverdi: here’s what you need to know. featured image

Claudio Monteverdi, the madrigal and motet master, was an important link between the Renaissance and Baroque eras. A madrigal is a secular (non-religious) vocal music composition of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. They’re often sung without instruments, and the voices vary from two to eight, and most often, three to six. Usually the emotions of words or poems are expressed, musically. They were written in the spoken languages – French, English, Italian, and often covered current issues (like pop songs today). A motet was religious in nature, sung in Latin, and covered off biblical themes.

Most of Monteverdi’s work, including stage works, have been lost (ah … what treasures would we have known?). 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 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. We have an excellent insight into what he was going through during his life; he wrote many letters to friends, detailing struggles with stress related to work (politics, of course), plagues (that affected his colleagues and family), and occasional money problems.

Listen to this work, “Weeping of the Madonna”, which leads to other motets. It features soprano Maria Cristina Kiehr with the Concerto Soave. It’s gorgeous music, and brings a gentle ray of light into a busy, dark world.

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


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