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Musical Musings: Composers

Luca Marenzio

by William Finn
Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett

These articles are reprinted here with the kind permission of Kevin Knight, who has undertaken a project to transcribe an online version of the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia.

Musical composer, born in 1550 at Coccaglia, near Brescia; died at Rome 1599. His chief legacy to the musical world are his books of madrigals. His first collection was published in 1581 and was dedicated to Alphonse d'Este, the duke of Ferrara.

Many of his 159 madrigals and motets have been translated into modern notation by Proske. A number of madrigals were published in 1588 in Musica Trans-Alpina; this collection became immediately popular. A Mass in eight parts is well known, and is worthy to be classed with the Masses of more illustrious church musicians.

In a collection called Villanelle e Arie alla Napolitana he has left 113 exquisite madrigals and motets for three and four voices. The most notable of his compositions may be found printed in modern notation by Proske in Musica Divina, II (Ratisbon, 1853).

ROSSI, Elogi Historici di Bresciani illustri (Brescia, 1620); PEACHAM, The Compleat Gentleman (London, 1622).

Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett

Claudio Monteverdi

by W.H. Grattan-Flood
Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter

A distinguished musician, born at Cremona, May, 1567; died at Venice, November 29, 1643. He studied under Ingegneri (composer of the Responsoria, that until recently were regarded as by Palestrina), and at the age of sixteen he published a book of canzonets, followed by four volumes of madrigals. Although the majority of his early works show little trace of the inventive genius which afterwards revolutionized the prevalent system of harmony, one of his madrigals, printed in 1592, is remarkable for its many suspensions of the dominant seventh, and its inversion, as also suspended ninths. He was appointed Maestro di Cappella to the Duke of Mantua in 1602 and in 1613, was elected Maestro at Venice in succession to Martinengo, at a salary of three hundred ducats a year. So highly was he appreciated at Saint Mark's that in 1616, the Procuratori increased his salary to five hundred ducats. From that date until his death he produced numerous choral compositions, as also operas, cantatas, ballets, most of which cannot now be traced. Fortunately, the score of his opera Orfeo, printed in 1609, has come down to us, and is quite sufficient to indicate the inventive powers of a musician who broke away from the trammels of the older school and created a school of his own.

Monteverdi not only showed his genius in his dramatic writing but in the employment of new instrumental effects, and the combination of instruments in the theatre band. In his interlude written for the festival at the palace of Girolamo Mocenigo, he employed the device of an instrumental tremolo, till then unknown. Another novel effect was his employment of trombones to accompany the Gloria and Credo of a Mass, in 1631. At this date he was studying for the priesthood, and he was ordained in 1633. Six years later he composed an opera Atone for the opera house of San Cassiano, followed by two others, and a ballet for the carnival at Piacenza, in 1641. His enduring fame consists in his use of unprepared discords, his improvement of recitative, his development of orchestral resources and his revolution of instrumentation. He may justly be claimed as the founder of dramatic music, as we now understand it, and he anticipated Wagner in the employment of Leitmotiv.

EDWARDS, Hist. of the Opera (London, 1862); EITNER, Quellen Lexikon (Leipzig, 1900-04); LEE, Story of Opera (London, 1909).

Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter
Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volumes IX and X
Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company
Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
Reprinted by permission of copyright owner.

See New Advent Catholic Website

See also Marenzio's Estote fortes [CNP Catalog #7040]

 Back to Composers Index

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