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This is how Monteverdi bursts upon the scene in his first opera. Oh. Oh. That's the way the chorus of nymphs and shepherds react to the shocking news of the death of Eurydice on the very day she married Orpheus. Now, what if we were to compare those vocal stabs, those eyes with the almost audible scream we get in Caravaggio's boys stung by a lizard, which established Caravaggio's credentials as a struggling painter in Rome? Both are emblems of a new fascination with human psychology, both of them searching fresh ways to convey extremes of human emotion, instantaneous reactions to terrible tragedy and collective loss, or simply surprised personal reflex to a sting.
Caravaggio on Monteverdi pull you into the scene as in a one to one drama. Of course, there are differences, not least in that Caravaggio is said to have repudiated the entire classical and renaissance canon and was quite capable of overthrowing the tired artistic conventions of his time. Whereas Monteverdi, though every bit as radical, was never an iconoclast. Children will be returning to that scene in our favor later in the podcast and compare it to the way other composers dealt with this trope.
But for now, I want to take you on a survey of Monteverdi's background, his musical ancestry, as it were, what and who were his main antecedents and models? How did he assimilate them and then break free? And might this tell us also why it's really only in his lifetime that music seems to catch up with the other art forms after lagging behind for the past 100 years? Claudio Monteverdi was born in Cremona in 1967, the city, a famous violin makers like Amati and Stradivarius, and he became a pupil of the maestro of the local cathedral, Marcantonio in January, from whom he received a thorough, if conventional training in polyphonic or multi voiced music.
The thing that interests me is that Monteverdi, once he left Cremona and moved on to Manchuria in his 20s, never turned his back on the skills he'd acquired, not even later when he branched out into new territory. And it's largely thanks to him, but not exclusively. So that music seems suddenly to catch up with a pictorial arts in terms of humanist values and graphic expressivity. And this is at the core of the claim I made at the outset of this series that Monteverdi, a phenomenal innovator, deserves to be considered in the same breath as those other celebrated game changers of his generation Galileo, Kepler, Shakespeare, Rubens and Caravaggio, and how there were, in some cases, close connections and exchanges between them in what someone at the time called an into traffic of the mind.
Let's begin by looking at what was really happening in the world of music from, say, 14, 75 up to the time of Monteverdi's emergence a little over a century later. This is the time of the high renaissance in European art, but music is developing at a different pace in these years and it's not an exclusively Italian matter either. On the contrary, after a period of intense and vigorous musical flowering during the 14th century, music in Italy seems to have gone into some sort of decline.
And if truth be told, there's not a single composer of distinction between Francesco Nandhini, the friend of Petrarch and a prolific composer of secular music who died in 1997, and the emergence of Mohrenschildt and Palestrina 150 years later. This is music by Balentine. What's the point of. The hotbed of musical invention in these intervening years was located north of the Alps, first in Burgundy, then in Paris, and the most conspicuous talent at the time was in Flanders, the Netherlands and in England.
Unlike the glorious 15th century paintings of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Botticelli and later by Titian and Raphael, music in Italy was in the doldrums. And its revival came as a result of a huge influx of Franco Flemish composers crossing into Italy. And they certainly left their mark there, inspiring a new generation of Italian musicians born in the second half of the 16th century. I suppose one could say that music was linked to a different aesthetic from that of the pictorial arts and that it was locked in an even more subservient role, serving the church or at the behest of pious patrons of these men from the north.
Much the most celebrated in 1900 was just Scandi play, born somewhere close to the frontier of modern Belgium and France, but employed mostly in northern Italy. In 04, he was in Ferrara and at the behest of Duke Ercole Destiny, he wrote an extended setting of some 50 for Holy Week. It lasts all of 425 bars. This is an example of what church music sounded like 100 years before Monteverdi's vespers. It has a mesmerizing, repetitive quality, like a prayer wheel.
It is lucid and approachable, a world away from the dense polyphony of the previous generation of Flemish composers, full of intellectual complexity and artifice to underpin the whole structure of his setting, Jesca invents a simple motif like a Samten, and he tosses it to and fro in a sort of heightened speech.
It has a hypnotic beauty, but my feeling is that music of this kind was not yet on a par with a sister arts in terms of genuinely reflecting the humanist values current in pre reformation Europe.
Difficult as it is to make a direct comparison, think of the acute sensibility of a famous Leonardo da Vinci painting like the Mona Lisa or the Last Supper, and then set them against a Motet like this one by Joska of exactly the same period.
True, there's a touching, effortless naturalism to his misery that he may. But can it really be a comparison with the epic grandeur of Michelangelo's Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, as was claimed in 1067? This style of composition brought Joska international prestige, and it evolved into the high art called Renaissance polyphony or as Perfecta. The main feature of this style is the principle of imitation and in the hands of composers like Gorbea Velayat and Cipriano de Rori, who may have taught Engineering Monteverdi's teacher, it goes something like this.
Take a melodic phrase, usually quite short, pass it on to two or more voices, either exactly alike in true imitation or approximately so in what's known as free imitation. What you gain is logical coherence, a form of musical conversation in which all the voices partake. The Flemish and Dutch were supreme at this, and it was copied and widely emulated in England, France, Spain and Portugal, Joska may have started the process of humanizing music, moving it closer to rhetoric and poetry, and turning it into something more akin to speech, which is exactly what the Florentine pioneers of opera were to claim as their invention 100 years later.
But meanwhile, there were others who stuck to music's ties with arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. Such a one was Zammuto Joslin's exact contemporary, he was the unofficial main composer to the French court and may have been in charge of the elaborate musical festivities at the famous field of the cloth of gold. The meeting between the two Kings Farci Premier of France and Henry, the 8th of England in 1920. Mouton was fascinated by the challenges of composing in strict canon, a bit like Bach 200 years later.
Here is his Moutet nation's motto, dedicated to the Holy Virgin and composed some 20 years after Jesus misery.
Muto arranges these eight voices differently, and he then constructs a quadruple cannon, a fifth apart and at a distance of two whole bars. It's one of the most ingenious canonic structures possible.
It's a bit like formation flying.
Within this structure, the cannon runs all the way through the peace. With complete technical mastery and what's more, it makes perfect musical sense.
One way of appreciating what Muto is doing here with his quadruple cannon is to think of a simple graph diagram. It's variable lines could be representing blood flow or the rise and fall of investments. Doesn't really matter.
Then set another graph diagram just above it, but spaced a couple of inches to the right. The curved patterns of the graph are identical, except that they start a bit higher up and also a little bit later. So the canon covers both coordinates of pitch and of time.
And the really clever thing is the way the two graphs coincide, producing patterns or in this case, interweaving polyphonic lines that make perfect euphony. Gorgeous and atmospheric as it is, this music ignores the reforms imposed by the Council of Trent on any composer sacred music, demanding total clarity and intelligibility of text. You need an exceedingly keen ear to pick out all the words from this sublime wash of music, knowing no man, the virgin mother or without pain, the savior of the world.
More than likely, Mouton was attracted to the concept of the divine harmony of the spheres music that was not literally audible but was understood as a harmonic, mathematical and above all, religious ideal, and he was attempting something that resembled it as closely as humanly possible. It's a concept that was soon to lose ground, partly due to the wider spread of humanism, but also a result of the impact of the new science now beginning to affect all the arts. But it survived in Monteverdi's exact contemporary.
The brilliant mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler. We saw previously how Kepler devoted his whole life to exploring the richly patterned cosmos and trying to explain the structure of it, drawing together in a single net mathematics, science, music and religious doctrine to validate his conception of a harmonious universe of infinite number. The movements of the heavens and the music of the spheres consisted, he said, not just a scales, as Plato had taught, but in Kepler's words, they formed an everlasting polyphony.
By the middle years of the 16th century, things really start to change in the world of music. Among the five senses hearing now begins to run site a close race. Its importance receives a colossal boost during the Reformation by Luther's emphasis on hearing God's word and through his insistence that it should be proclaimed from the pulpit and then reaffirmed through Lustick Congregational singing of carols, many of which had pagan origins. Ordinary people could now, for the first time gain access to the Bible in their own language.
Let's turn to another composer whom I feel motivated could have learnt from Jack Kleemann or Clamens non-paper, as some called him at the time, who belongs to the generation between Joska and Palestrina. And in contrast to the seamless polyphony of Zammuto, we just heard Klayman's create striking aural images which catch the ear with a sudden change of texture or a bold harmonic shift immediately clear is this change from the mathematically clever but not obtrusive, audible polyphony of mutal to something much more humanistic and personal in music.
Oh. Leo. This photo by Clamens Memory Evidence Roeser. It's a fervent appeal to the Holy Virgin for protection and succor. And he manages to keep things moving forwards, swerving away from coming to a premature rest at cadences.
Oh, Mary Rose of Spring, Fairgate to heaven brighter than the stars, supports and direct me, bless the food.
Vanquish me. I find it sounds modern even today. Just listen to the way he constructs soaring interlocking melodies distributed across all five parts, wave after wave. The two examples in music we've just heard by Mutare and then by Klayman's show clearly how reverence for the Madonna shifts from evoking her ethereal and spiritual attributes to embodying her more human and womanly side. Isn't that very similar to the differences we see in Renaissance art developing across the centuries and how artists change their approach?
Think for a moment of Prevelly or Filippo Lippi in the middle of the 15th century and the idealized, ethereal femininity we see in their paintings of the Madonna and child. Aren't these similar in atmosphere to the music of Mutal? And now move on 50 years to Sandro Botticelli and the way he painted his exquisite model, Simonetta, this butchie known as Lasantha by both for Venus and for the Madonna, suggestive, desirable, ineffable. Or as John Berger put it, a woman painted as from the inside and only closed in her skin afterwards.
Isn't that the image we get from that Motet by Clamens? I hope you find these parallels across the art form striking and enticing as I do, but the thing to remember is that they are not contemporaneous Botticelli's. Venus was painted, for example, in the 1980s, and music is still lagging behind painting and only gradually starts to catch up. Mouton composes 100 years after Filippo Lippi paints Klayman's 70 years after Botticelli. And it's only when we get to the 1096 that music has fully assimilated the humanist agenda and seems at last to be in sync with painting and sculpture.
By this time, in fact, ever since the Council of Trent had demanded crystal clear art in churches to teach people and help them contemplate the Catholic message, strict rules were also laid down for composers so that their use of elaborate counterpoint became more and more constrained, particularly as regards the treatment of dissonance. Anything that masked the audibility of God's word was frowned upon. And all this comes to a head in the music of Palestrina, whose enormous output of motets and Massie's serene, lucid and perfectly balanced now become the benchmark for Roman Catholic composers, especially those in the pay of the church.
However, parallel to this is a fresh wave of humanist distrust of anything that smacks of the old scholasticism. And that, in turn opens a window for devotional music to become a vehicle for much more personal, intimate expressions of piety. At an opposite pole from Palestrina, we find a maverick composer like Jesu, Eldo, who, as the principal knows it, was answerable to no one but his own guilt wracked conscience. As a true modernist with an extraordinary rich imagination, he's able to build on Clamens, his personal piety, and to spin fragile, haunting lines like these.
Something immediately interesting about Jezebel Elder's music. Brett Dean, the Australian composer, hits the nail on the head when he says she has a doubt, creeps inside and grabs your soul and is in no hurry to let go. Jesse Ventura was famously reclusive, after all, he was a criminal and a murderer. So was Caravaggio, his exact contemporary.
Maybe they met Caravaggio, who painted lots of boy lutenist was certainly fond of madrigals and commonness, it's possible he could have sung or played some of just about his music.
Jihadist music has some of the same chiaroscuro that we find in Karamoja.
Oh, my. This is private penitential pleading, pleading to the Holy Mother for mercy. Psychologically, General, just way of coming to terms with the murder of his wife and her lover caught red handed in adultery, was through this intensely private way of atonement.
This bit reminds me of Caravaggio. General De. Shows signs of a new kind of emotional space defined by darkness as well as by light. Now, compare that to Monteverdi composing around the same time and still on the theme of Marry the Blessed Virgin. Oh.
Paul. There's no trace of neurosis here, no dark introspection. I mean. Instead, it's just kind of ecstatic veneration. And a forthright re-entry celebration of divine womanhood. Portus. He's ready for. I can hear that outrageous vocal flourish echoes of a muezzin calling people to prayer.
The eastern portal epitomizing Venice is close contacts through its connections with the Levant and its emulation of Eastern cultures, architectural and indeed musical harmony. This fragment from Monteverdi's Vespers reveals how secular and sacred have by now drawn closer together, and there is a sense in which are failed. His first opera and the Vespers are twins, or at least two sides of the same coin. And they aren't simply anthologies made up of individual numbers, but dramatic sequences conceived within an overarching architectural design or fail as a retelling of a familiar myth creating a grand, coherent scheme of narrative order beyond anything Monteverdi's contemporaries achieved and his 16th and Vesper's equally grand in conception as a reinterpretation of the hundreds of vespers services which the audiences of the day must have heard as they sat perhaps daydreaming in St.
. Mark's Basilica only for Monteverdi's music to grab their attention back from the distractions of light shifting through the Porfiry windows or the wreaths of incense smoke billowing through the basilica, or thinking of Galileo back as a young man in a cathedral, being distracted during the service by the movements of a lamp swinging back and forth as a pendulum.
It's almost as though Monteverdi has added a fresh layer of theatricality beyond everyone's expectations for this is a vespers, as the musicologist John but suggest, which is also about the experience of being at a misperceives.
Ofay on the Vesper's in this way constitute what we might see from our perspective as the first modern musical works carried through on a scale and ambition previously unimaginable to me, it suggests that this music shows an affinity with Rubins caught painted to the Gonzaga at exactly the same time as Monteverdi was their maestro de Capella.
True, the cellulite, rumps and tummy's of Rubens naked women that crowd his canvases can be just a bit too realistic for some tastes. But that doesn't apply so much to his portrayals of the Madonna here. Instead, we see Rubins his magical skill in making things intensely and joyfully alive. There's more movement, more light, more space than in so many of his predecessor's versions of the same subject.
And Rubens exhibits his exuberant joy in portraying the life in all its manifestations, religious or secular, very much as Monteverdi does.
So far, in our quest to uncover Monteverdi's musical antecedents, we've focused on the development of church music so rich and atmospheric and the ways it culminated in Monteverdi's vespers of 16 10 and this ubiquitous theme of hymns addressed to the Virgin. It's time that we switched our focus onto the secular music of the time. In the wealthy north, Italian courts of Ferrare, Florence and Mantua rival ambitious Dukes had long been searching out and cultivating composers from the north, from Flanders and from the Netherlands, one of the most brilliant being, Cipriano Dekraai, who worked first in Ferrara and then followed his mentor Vilayet as Maestro de Capella of St.
Mark's in Venice. You only need to hear 13 bars of one of G.P.A. Madrigal's to see what happens when he decides to turn the harmony loose. Oh, oh. Oh. It's. Oh, I'm the gordito. I mentioned earlier in the podcast that Monteverdi was no iconoclast and was happy to work the whole range of his traditional musical training and upbringing into his newly expressive language. It doesn't mean, though, that he wasn't harmonically adventurous nor uninterested in the games that could be played, especially when responding to poetic texts.
If Cipriano Drori could navigate through half the existing keys in 13 bars, Monteverdi could take 87 out of a total of 110 bars to set six 11 syllable lines of poetry to at least six startling distinctive melodies, including a chromatic scale, a rare thing in music at the turn of the 17th century. Just listen to the opening bars of this magical piano is so speed. It's the final piece in his fourth book.
Bruce. So I was watching for. Oh. Sales for. This. As a composer of four books, a madrigals so far, and drawing on the examples of his various predecessors, Monteverdi is outdoing them all, most obviously in his sheer inventiveness and a rare capacity to get right inside the mind of the poet whose verse he's setting to music quality, which springs from a deep interest in the emotional life of people. Who asks Robert Burton in his anatomy of melancholy can reckon up the dotage, madness, servitude and blindness, the foolish phantasms and vanities of lovers that torments wishes, Idol attempts.
Wow. Monteverdi's doing just that, amongst other things, following his urge to expand the range of sensual feeling and to deepen and intensify the representation of human emotions in music. By six hundred, Monteverdi is still in service at the Mansion Court. While not yet quite ready to render the emotions in a systematic catalogue as he would go on to do in his 50s, Monteverdi's already more and more inclined towards attempting a dramatic portrayal of the inner life of his fellow men and women.
You sense he's poised to make the leap from the small scale magical into music for the theatre. Let's even say that he was ideally placed to throw his hat in the ring. Just think of where he got to up to now, he'd experienced it first hand, the new Sharov tragicomedy when Guaranies Pastor Phaedo eventually made it to Manchester in 1998 in an elaborate production in the court theatre. He knew all about how to compose intermediator incidental music that was slipped in between stage plays, vehicles for scenic display, joy and masquerades tournament's theatrical happenings with no expense spared.
And as I've already suggested, he's aware at least from hearsay, if not yet at first hand, that increasingly sumptuous displays of ceremonial music were being performed in independent spirited venis and not just in the big piazzas and open spaces as weapons of state, but in how great churches, as well as their architectural space and resonant acoustics, were being exploited for magnificent choral displays, blocks of contrasted sonorities, balancing high and low voices and instruments, something Monteverdi felt naturally drawn to.
It's the equivalent of those bodies in motion that we find in the dazzling tableaus of Titian, Rafael Veronese and Tintoretto. But being employed in Mantua in sixteen hundred, Monteverdi wasn't at the epicenter of that feverish experimentation that was going on at this time as more and more people tried to reconfigure the role and function of music through trial and error. The place for that was Florence. I asked Tim Carter, professor of musical history at the University of North Carolina, to describe the goings on there.
Florence is an extraordinarily interesting place. In the 70s and 80s and 90s. There are many academies. There are serious intellectuals thinking about issues across the arts, across philosophy and of course, in the sciences as well. And Bargnani, so-called Camerata is one of these groups that we've probably elevated to greater importance than they might have had at the time.
One of the members of the so-called Camerata was Vincenzo Galani to be the father of Galileo Galilei. And there's no question that Vincentia Galileo was interested in music, music theory and also the philosophy of music. They bring musicians into their circle, not least Julio Cattalini, who composes the first solo songs, and is Jacobo Courcey, who really gets associated with the rise of so-called opera in Florence in the mid 90s, culminating in the performance of the actual operas in 1900 and the festivities celebrating the wedding of Maria de Medici and only after the King of France.
By this time, Monteverdi would have heard tell of them are Nordic style and the brave, if historically shaky claims the Florentine camarata were making at the time to reconstruct what they held to be the musical style of the ancient Greeks. And no doubt he knew of Vincenzo Galilea, who for the past quarter century had been building his case that ancient music was superior to contemporary music because, as he said, it gave value to the unity of declamation and it respected the rhythm and rhetoric of poetry.
Galili deplored the way composers use counterpoint and ended up obscuring the meaning of the words and therefore the ability to communicate. He said that the most noble, important and principal aspect of music is the expression of feelings through words are not the concordance of the various parts, as modern practitioners say and believe. The big question is, did Monteverdi experience any of this at first hand? Was he there in Florence to hear in 600 what some call the first public performance of an opera already by Jacomo period?
We know that German Chancellor Gonzaga was in Florence in 600 for the wedding. He was, in effect, the brother in law of Maria de Medici. So he's going to turn up for the wedding. We know that pictures Gonzaga travelled with a large retinue that also included a horrendous number of horses that the majority were terribly worried about and trying to find stables for. This was a big problem for the organisers of the festivities. Where do you put all the horses that arrive in the entourage?
We know that among that entourage was Vincenzo Gonzaga secretary Alesandro St John. We have a list of the entourage and Alessandra's studio is on it. Also on that list is musicI musicians. No names. Now, we can assume that given that Monteverdi had already travelled with Vincenzo Gonzaga to the battlefields in Hungary, that he was part of Vincenzo Gonzaga retinue, when when Vincenzo Gonzaga travelled, the musicians went with him and Monteverdi would have been one of those musicians.
Well, I think I'm clear, but the fact is we don't really know whether Monteverdi was in Florence in 1900 or not. But let's let's listen to an example of what the Florentines called Reggie Tarde Cantando speaking in song. Undeniably, Perry's music has a kind of winning directness and eloquence to it, and it illustrates the way the steely representative or the style of representing music in drama on the stage produced music, that is, Tim Carter says, somehow manages to address the listener through the first person rather than by way of some kind of third person mediation it enacts rather than tells a story.
Northern Congo, no, no. Oh, oh, oh, New York, oh. So Speedo. Laquinimod. Kodo. Oh, call me Mama Portugee. Oh, I came here to call for Jimmy Carter. Oh, my. Says he. Taha. Plus, by far, the most famous name is often small town in the title of. That is nonpoint going on Suspiria from hayrides share with me is the balanced and performance historian and a standing musical colleague, Oliver Webber.
Ollie, we've been hearing about the Camarata disparity and their very early operatic experiments, listening to that extract from Paris Opera Redditch. Don't you wish we could in some way arrive at it fresh and unhitch Monteverdi, with whom we're much more familiar?
Yes, absolutely. And how many other musical moments would we love to be able to do the same thing, too? I've often I'm sure you have as well, had conversations with friends and colleagues about the fantasy of having a time machine to travel back to hear Monteverdi's or fail or a Bach cantata in Leipzig or whatever it might be.
But actually that doesn't address that problem. You can go back with a time machine. You've still got your 21st century ears, especially because Monteverdi was emerging as such a towering figure and such a master of his craft. The early forays and the early attempts to to bring this goal of the Camerata onto the stage can seem a little weak in comparison. And in all honesty, they are not in the same league. But there are some very beautiful moments and it's exquisite, exquisite.
And, you know, if we look at the ingredients that he uses, unprepared dissonances, you know, the primary sin, if you like, that Atoosa complained about. Exactly. It's not Munadi in the sense that it's just one voice. It's actually a duet the whole time. It's a duet between the sung voice and the underpinning of the bass line. And it's the friction, the harmonic friction that that creates, which is the real magic of this music.
And I think this is the other thing we've got to bear in mind. If we if we try to sort of put ourselves in the ears of the of the listener and 6500 who's grown up with counterpoint, Casini talks about how he trained for 30 years in counterpoint and then learned more from the Camerata with Buddy than he than he had in his entire life.
So to suddenly hear that texture must in itself have been extraordinary. Yes, shocking, I think, in a way. And I would imagine also very moving.
So let's go back to Monteverdi and listen to what he might have learnt from hearing this opera or reading it in score when he developed the same scene in or fail in Mantua. So much your. For Sylvia, the message starts to tell him how. She died with her own. His single expletive mean. Gut wrenching emerging somewhere from the depths of his being.
She proceeded to tell the whole story, all 16 seven.
This is uncharted territory in terms of musical and dramatic expression.
It is one of the most impressive, indeed heartrending passages in all opera. A lot less work. Cool. Oh, good schools all.
The company knows this is just plain recitative, as Perry and the other Florentines supinated tests melodic life and shape passing dissonance, a bittersweet lyricism or something more serious is a kind of reportage with moments of horrified paralysis, which he can hardly get the words out.
The woman for the job of.
Pliska percent me. Also. It is. No. Once the full implications of the messages, news have sunk in. Orpheus resolves to leave home. And to venture into Hades, the underworld, to rescue his bride, leaving the pastoral community of Thrace behind him. To her. What's more. Oh, so.