Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
At the court of Gonzaga.
It is not exactly known when Monteverdi left his native Cremona, but in 1590 he entered the service at the court of Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga of Mantua as a performer on stringed instruments. He immediately met many famous composers and musicians of that time, but his new maestro di cappella, the Flemish modernist composer Gia de Weert, who, despite not being a young man, remained an active participant in the avant-garde, had the greatest influence on him. the movements of the nineties of the 16th century.
The most difficult moment when writing music of this style was that the mood of the music should correspond exactly to the mood of the verses, and it was necessary to recite extremely carefully during the performance of the work. De Wert chose the extremely emotional poetry of Tasso and his main rival, Battisto Guarini, for his works, and his music, respectively, was also very emotional, unmelodious and difficult to perform. Nevertheless, this music immediately attracted the attention of Monteverdi, and the first book of madrigals, published by him in Mantua, shows the undoubted influence that a new trend for him on Monteverdi. It should be noted that, although it did not achieve an understanding of the style, there is a complete change in the direction of Claudio's work — angular melodies, a discordant harmony on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Guarini is a favorite, and every nuance of his poems is over-expressive - even at the expense of general musicality.
New style and new environment had a negative impact on the productivity of the composer. Although he continued to compose, for the next 11 years his works were almost never published. In 1595, he accompanies his employer on a tour of Hungary, and four years later in Flanders. In 1595, Monteverdi marries court singer Claudia Cattaneo, who bore him three children, one of whom died in infancy.
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In 1596, when the post of maestro di cappella was released due to the death of de Verte, unfortunately Monteverdi, the vacancy was not his, but six years later, at the age of 35, he gets his job and takes the place of leader. He publishes two books of madrigals in 1603 and 1605, each of which becomes a masterpiece of its time. His understanding of avant-garde manners has become much better. Limited by the need to follow the semantic content of the poems, he solved a purely musical problem of thematic development and proportion. Although the melodies became even more angular, and the dissonances became more pronounced, the general condition was more emotionally dynamic and less neurotic. If Guarini's eroticism demanded sensual music, Monteverdi emphasized in his mature madrigals lightness and humor, sacrificing conformity of details to the general consonance of music and poetry.
It was an advanced musical instrument, along with the use of intense long-term dissonances, which, in the end, was the cause of attacks by conservative-minded critics on Monteverdi, who had become by that time the central figure in the avant-garde group. A series of pamphlets published by Bolognese music theorist Giovanni Maria Artussi made Monteverdi the most famous composer of the century and made him appear in print with important points explaining the nature of his vision of art. He denied any of his revolutionism, saying that he was nothing more than a follower of the traditions that had simply evolved over the past 50-odd years. These traditions require combining existing forms of art, especially words and music, so that it cannot be judged as a composer using traditional musical means. In addition, art must be able to "turn over" the whole person, which also requires the abandonment of some generally accepted conventions. On the other hand, he declared his struggle with other, older traditions, represented by the polyphonic works of the composers Josquin Des Pres and Palestrina, according to which it was music that was paramount. Thus, there were only two of the most influential "practices", as Claudio himself designated - the desire to preserve certain traditions of church music and opposing operas and cantatas - the dichotomy, fully manifested only in the 19th century.
If his madrigals earned him a reputation as a composer known beyond the borders of northern Italy, Orpheus, his first opera, staged in 1607, finally approved him as a composer, writing large-scale music that differs from the popular elegant miniatures. At one time, Monteverdi visited several public performances of the early operas of Florentine composers Jacobo Peri and Giulio Caccini, and tried to write for the stage himself. In Orpheus, the concept of new music is expressed much brighter than in the works of its predecessors - he combined the richness of the dramatic techniques of the late Renaissance with the direct simplicity of pastoral stories, so beloved by the Florentines, recited by the recitative. His recitatives are more flexible and expressive, the recitation based on the melodies of his madrigals cannot be compared with the noisy recitatives of early operas. In a word, he didn’t just bring together various types of musical art - he made a single blend of them, showed an example of expressing the emotion of a dramatic work with musical means - dissonance, virtuosity of vocal parts and instrumental colors.
A few months after the first production of Orpheus, the fate struck Monteverdi with a heavy blow: after a serious illness, his wife died. In a state of deep depression, he went to his native Cremona, but very soon he was called back to Mantua to compose a new opera for the festivities on the occasion of the marriage of the heir to the duke, Francesco Gonzaga and Margarita of Savoy. Claudio returned very reluctantly and immediately plunged into work. He composed not only opera, but also ballet and intermezzo. The following misfortune happened when the opera (it was called “Lorianna”) was already at the rehearsal stage. The prima donna, a young girl who lived in the house of the composer (probably, as a student of his wife), died of smallpox. The singer was changed, and in May 1608 work on the opera came to an end. The success of the production was amazing. Later, the notes were lost, with the exception of the most famous stage “Lamento”, which withstood a huge number of publications and productions and became, in fact, the first great opera stage.
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