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Claudio Monteverdi
(1567 - 1643)


One of the greatest of the composers from the Baroque era. The music of Claudio Monteverdi-- one of the most influential composers of all time-- is a realization of freshness and richness that embodies some of the greatest compositions in Western Classical Music.

Monteverdi was born in Cremona, Italy in 1567. When he was young, he became a viola player in the orchestra of Duke Gonzaga of Mantua and studied counterpoint with the well-known composer Ingegneri. At 17 and at 20, he published canzonette a3 and madrigals in which appeared the harmonic innovations for which he is famous and which led Rockstro to call him "not only the greatest musician of his own age, but the inventor of a system of harmony which has remained in uninterrupted use to the present day." His progressions include the unprepared entrance of dissonances and the dominant seventh and ninth chords. He was bitterly assailed in pamphlets, particularly by Artuso, and Monteverdi replied in kind. The outcome was his complete triumph and the establishment of a new school of song and accompaniment and the ushering-in of the Baroque Era in music.

His victory, while salutary for art in general and dramatic song in particular, spelled the end to the polyphony of the Renaissance Era that had been brought to perfection in the music of Victoria and Palestrina. Therefore, one hand we must morn the loss of one of the greatest spiritual music styles of all time with the replacement of a perhaps more mundane style, but on the other we welcome the opportunity to usher in a new style of music that will continue for more than a century, reaching perfection in the music of J.S. Bach.

In 1603, Monteverdi became Ingegneri's successor as maestro to the Duke and composed for the wedding of the Duke's son to Margherita of Savoy the opera Ariadne, in which Ariadne's grief moved the audience to tears. Never had there been a dramatic music such as this! Little did they know that they were witnessing the birth of Opera, an art form that would continue unto the present day.

In 1608, Monteverdi produced his glorious opera Orfeo with the then-unheard-of orchestra consisting of 36 pieces. Orfeo was published in 1609 and in 1615 and the score shows great modernity, Rockstro comparing its prelude with the one bass-note sustained throughout to the introduction to Wagner's Das Rheingold, and its continual recitative also to that of Wagner.

In 1608, appeared Monteverdi's mythological spectacle Ballo delle Ingrate appeared. The Vespers and motets published in 1610 gave him such fame that he was in 1613 made maestro di Cappella at San Marco in Venice, at the unprecedented salary of 300 ducats, but is was raised to 500 in 1616 and a house and traveling expenses given to him.

In 1621, his very romantic Requiem was given with effect. In 1624, he introduced the then startling novelty of an instrumental tremolo (which the musicians at first refused to play) into his dramatic interlude Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. In 1627, he composed five dramatic episodes including Bradamante and Dido for the court at Parma, in 1630, the opera Proserpina Rapita, then in 1637--in the first opera-house ever that opened at Venice (the Teatro di St. Cassiano operas having hitherto been performed at the palaces of the nobiliy)--Monteverdi produced the operas Adone, Le Nozze di Enea con Lavinia, Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria, and L'Inoronazione di Poppea. He earned the title of "the father of the art of instrumentation" and was the most popular and influential composer of his time.

Among his great works are his books of Madrigals, the Eighth Book embodying music of the highest caliber.

In 1636, Monteverdi joined the pristhood and that is the last that we hear about him in the history of music.

Monteverdi MP3s

-> Monteverdi MP3s in the DoveSong MP3 Library

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