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Early Music Current Issue

Published: Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2017 05:44:10 GMT



Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

John Eliot Gardiner

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Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Monteverdi’s ‘daily bread’: the economic life of a professional musician

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

In 1627, describing the economic situation of a bass singer in Venice who was being considered for service in Mantua, Monteverdi articulated the main goal of any musician: ‘to enjoy the security of enough bread [pane sicuro] throughout his life’. This telling assessment translated into an economic portfolio that comprised fixed salaries, ecclesiastical benefices, occasional engagements and different forms of patronage. As an employee, first of a princely court and then of a state ecclesiastical institution, Monteverdi’s career offers a useful perspective on career strategies for a musician moving between three cities (Cremona, Mantua, Venice) that were geographically close and yet far apart in terms of their political and socio-economic contexts. Based on previous studies but also on unpublished documents, this article explores Monteverdi’s various socio-economic environments so as to explain the opportunities and the difficulties he faced during his career.

On the authenticity of Christoph Platzer’s Handel portrait (c.1710)

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

This article questions the identification of a miniature by Christoph Platzer as a portrait of the young George Frideric Handel c.1710. The miniature was purchased in 1938 by the city of Halle an der Saale for a planned museum in Handel’s birthplace, but was subsequently lost. The article traces the provenance of the miniature to the collection of Francis Wellesley (1865–1935) and argues that the art historian George. C. Williamson and the Handel enthusiast Newman Flower identified it as a portrait of Handel.

Monteverdi’s Confitebor primo from the Selva morale et spirituale of 1641: context, text and structure

Thu, 05 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Monteverdi’s Venetian psalms are characterized by a remarkable variety of compositional styles, techniques and structures. Confitebor tibi Domine, Psalm 110 in the Vulgate, serves as the second psalm after Dixit Dominus for all Vespers on Sundays, feasts of male saints, Christmas, Corpus Christi, the Dedication of a Church, and several other specific feasts. Dixit Dominus, which narrates the words and actions of the Lord, is filled with military imagery and words of action, and is treated by Monteverdi in all his Venetian settings as a large and impressive piece with considerable attention to musical interpretations of its text. Confitebor tibi, by contrast, begins in the first person, continuing with an enumeration of the wondrous works of the Lord. The vocabulary features abstract concepts rather than actions, and Monteverdi consistently treats this psalm in a more intimate fashion, with an emphasis on fewer voices than his Dixit Dominus settings, and less concern for the interpretation of individual words. This article discusses Monteverdi’s reaction to the psalm in the Confitebor primo (the first of three settings) from the Selva morale et spirituale of 1641, paying particular attention to the manner in which he generates a complex structure at both micro and macro levels of the composition in organizing the twelve verses of the text.

Massive Salieri

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

SalieriAntonio, Plenary Mass in C with Te Deum, ed. HettrickJane Schatkin, Recent Researches in Music of the Classical Era 103 (Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2016), $495

Monteverdi in Venice

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

As part of the 450th anniversary celebrations, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice hosted a two-day conference on ‘Monteverdi’s Venetian operas: sources, performance, interpretation’ (the Italian title was slightly different: Le opere veneziane di Monteverdi: nuove proposte di lettura e messa in scena) on 16–17 June 2017. Co-organizers Ellen Rosand (Yale University) and Stefano La Via (Università di Pavia) invited an impressive group of musicologists, literary and theatre historians, and practitioners to present on various aspects of Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (1640) and L’incoronazione di Poppea (1643); the programme is at monteverdi-nuove-proposte-lettura-messa-scena. The meeting also coincided with performances of the Monteverdi ‘trilogy’—including Orfeo (1607)—at the Teatro La Fenice by John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra (performed in Bristol in April–May, and proceeding with triple engagements in Salzburg, Edinburgh, Lucerne, Berlin, Paris, Chicago and New York—see

Monteverdi at the crossroads

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Fifty years ago, at the time of Monteverdi’s quatercentenary in 1967, very little of his music had penetrated the consciousness of European and North American audiences. This began to change dramatically as the 20th century progressed; increasing numbers of performances, recordings and musicological studies in subsequent decades have changed Monteverdi’s place in the present-day musical landscape. Musicians today are more than ever at ease with Monteverdi’s music, approaching more confidently the composer’s often fragmentary scores with a revised understanding of ‘historically informed performance’. At the occasion of the composer’s 450th anniversary, I take brief stock of current trends in the performance of Monteverdi, and identify the principal challenges faced both by scholars and by performers of the composer’s music.

Monteverdi, Marino and the aesthetic of meraviglia

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

In his influential book, Monteverdi and the end of the Renaissance (1987), Gary Tomlinson argued that Monteverdi’s fidelity to the integrity of the poetry he set to music marked him as one of the last proponents of Renaissance Humanism. With the seconda pratica, the composer proved himself to be the most astute musical interpreter of Italian poetry, and the master of matching musical technique to poetic gesture. But following his introduction to the sensual poetry of Giambattista Marino (1569–1625)—often called ‘the poet of the marvellous’—Monteverdi did not always respect the formal integrity of his texts. Though it is generally agreed that the appeal of Marinist meraviglia prompted a change in Monteverdi’s compositional approach after c.1614, the way in which the composer engaged this new aesthetic in music has not been fully explained. In order to come to a nuanced understanding of the composer’s late style, this essay reconsiders how the traditional view of Monteverdi—the singularly perceptive interpreter of literature and the creator of the seconda pratica—can be reconciled with his vastly different approach to poetry and music in his settings of Marino, an approach based on contrast rather than resemblance.

Mad fools and the Praise of Folly: matassins and the ballets of Lully, Destouches and Campra (1660–1718)

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Mad fools and buffoons called matassins performed comic dances in pantomime and were sometimes portrayed in French ballet. There is confusion concerning their identity and the choreography they performed, in particular whether they were humorous figures or warlike sword dancers. The entertainers known as matassins may have come to France in association with the commedia dell’arte, and the first printed music bearing the title ‘matassin’ appeared in France (Guillaume Morlaye, 1552). Matassins appear along with commedia dell’arte characters or in commedia-derived scenes in ballets. Among these are ballet intermèdes composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully for performance between the acts of the first Paris performance of Francesco Cavalli’s opera Xerxes (1660), intermèdes tightly integrated with the action in Molière and Lully’s comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (1669), and Lully’s tragédie- and comédie-ballet Psyché (1670). They also performed in André Campra’s ballet pastiche Les fragments de Monsieur de Lully (1702), as well as Campra’s opéra-ballet Les Âges (1718), and André Cardinal Destouches and Houdar de la Motte’s comédie-ballet Le Carnaval et la Folie (1703), which were both based directly or indirectly on Desiderius Erasmus’s Praise of Folly.

Handel, not by Hogarth

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

This article reports on recent art-historical scholarship confirming that a miniature oil portrait by William Hogarth, now at Burghley House, Stamford, does not depict George Frideric Handel.

Clarinet charms

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

RiottePhilipp Jakob, Clarinet Concerto in C minor, op.36, ed. HarlowMartin, Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era 104 (Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2016), $145

Fifteenth-century songs

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Secular polyphony 1380–1480, ed.FallowsDavid, Musica Britannica 97 (London: Stainer & Bell / Musica Britannica Trust, 2014), £122

The glamour of the symphony anthem

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

PurcellHenrySacred music, part I: nine anthems with strings, ed. LaurieMargaret, PikeLionel, WoodBruce, The works of Henry Purcell, 13 (London: Stainer & Bell, 2016), £75

Monteverdi’s ‘Zefiro torna e ’l bel tempo rimena’ as hypertext

Mon, 04 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Published in 1614 in his Sixth Book of madrigals, Monteverdi’s setting of Petrarch’s sonnet ‘Zefiro torna e ’l bel tempo rimena’ (Canzoniere 310) has earned a justified reputation as one of his most virtuosic madrigals for five voices. Even in this mature work, Monteverdi was mindful of the tradition from which he had emerged and on which his style was based. Indeed, the striking descending motif that sets the words ‘sono un deserto’ (are a desert) near the end of the madrigal alludes to the work of another great madrigalist, Luca Marenzio—specifically, the opening of his setting of Petrarch’s ‘Solo e pensoso i più deserti campi’ (Canzoniere 35) in Il nono libro de madrigali a cinque voci (Venice, 1599). I explore these musical connections and discuss their possible implications, suggesting that Monteverdi’s allusion need not have been solely the product of creative emulation or competition between artists. As a musical and literary form, the madrigal was open to intertextual dialogue: thus Monteverdi’s madrigal stands as hypertext to Marenzio’s, generating a hermeneutic field in which the audience could utilize some, or all, of the correspondences between them to arrive at one or more of several possible readings.

Rescuing Ariadne

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

In his Ars amatoria, Ovid provides his readers with a compelling lesson on the value of boldness for the aspiring lover. Ovid’s vision of Ariadne in the arms of Bacchus—rather than the lone lamenting woman—gives a vivid description of a vigorous seduction, in terms that are both visually and aurally captivating. While scholars have long been fascinated with Arianna’s lament, this essay reconsiders Monteverdi’s Arianna from the perspective of the Bacchic ending as a celebration of sensual pleasure. It draws upon paintings and frescoes by such artists as Carracci, Titian and Guido Reni to demonstrate the often ironic, playful and erotic way in which this myth was understood in the 17th century. I also explore the sonic realm implicit in most artists’ rendering of the myth, and its implication for our speculation about the ending of the opera that we are otherwise constrained to imagine. This allows us to understand Ariadne’s lament not only as the impassioned outpourings of an abandoned woman, but also as a central part of an erotic awakening that opera was uniquely able to express.

Essays for Craig Wright

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Music and culture in the Middle Ages and beyond: liturgy, sources, symbolism, ed. BrandBenjamin and RothenbergDavid J. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), £64.99


Sat, 19 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Is Monteverdi still ‘divine’? In his novel, Il fuoco (1900), Gabriele d’Annunzio lauded ‘il divino Claudio Monteverde’ as ‘a heroic spirit, of pure Italian essence’ (un’anima eroica, di pura essenza italiana!). The epithet gained still greater force during the Fascist era. Thus Gian Francesco Malipiero, who edited Monteverdi’s complete works, picked up the thread in his preface to the second volume of the yearbook Musica in 1943, the tercentenary of the composer’s death: he tasked Monteverdi with shining new light on ‘the future of our music’ (illuminando con nuova luce l’avvenire della nostra musica). But the composer’s contemporaries also had some sense of the remarkable creative powers of this ‘oracle of music’ (oracolo della musica, to quote Benedetto Ferrari), given the extraordinary eulogies published on his demise. Here, as for D’Annunzio, Monteverdi’s greatness was somehow linked to his presence in Venice. But the power of his music extended beyond mere borders.

Monteverdi in Venice: new documents and perspectives

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

There is a pressing need to document Monteverdi’s Venetian period (1613–43) in greater depth. This task has long been impeded, however, by our haphazard grasp of the specific complexities of Venetian socio-cultural and musical contexts. By looking beyond St Mark's Basilica, the present article uncovers brief archival records often overlooked by music historians. These new documents may not add much to the known facts of Monteverdi’s biography, but they do cast significant new light on the vast network of social relationships that Monteverdi developed during his Venetian years with fellow musicians and with higher-ranked patrons, not least in secular spheres and in the world of early ‘public’ opera.

Counting musicians: a London catalogue aria in context

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Catalogue arias were a regular feature of 18th-century continental opera, but as it happens, in the 125 or so Italian opere buffe staged in London between before 1800, this aria type was a comparative rarity. The catalogue was an identifiable buffa aria sub-genre, and its text could list almost anything: the 18th-century London audience heard lists of food, employers and cooking. Probably the first such aria they heard was the list of estates in Il filosofo di campanga in the 1760–61 season, the first in which opera buffa was a serious force on the London stage. This article briefly examines the use of the genre in London, but then turns to its employment in a new English comic opera called The Travellers in Switzerland by Henry Bate Dudley with music compiled by William Shield. It argues that while on the face of it the aria lists Italian musicians and is an apparent satire on the pretentions of the type of dilettante that could be found at the Opera House, salons and musical gatherings of the capital, it also comments on the artistic pretensions and delusions of The Travellers in Switzerland’s main character, Count Fripponi.

Polyphony, Dufay to Palestrina

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

When these recordings arrived, I was working with a group of singers reading from facsimiles of Renaissance choirbooks and partbooks, and the experience has left its mark. Repeatedly this review touches on a relevant question: to what extent could these recorded performances have been achieved from the physical copies used by Renaissance musicians themselves? The ten recordings are taken in loosely chronological order; they span mostly sacred repertory from the 1450s to around 1600.

New recordings for lute, theorbo and mandolin

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

As with most of his contemporaries, what little biographical information we have on Giacomo Gorzanis comes from the prefaces to his surviving printed books: he was blind, was born in Apulia but worked far to the north in Trieste, and was well connected within the ruling Habsburg world, travelling also in Germany and Austria. Born in the 1520s, Gorzanis published four books of solo lute music, labelled primo (1561), secondo (1563, reprinted 1565), terzo (1564) and quattro (1560s, reprinted 1579), as well as two books of napolitane for lute and voice. The edition of 1579 was published posthumously, indicating that the composer died at some point in the late 1570s. While his manuscript music has received quite a bit of attention from scholars, relatively little of his printed music is available on recordings. Italian lutenist Michele Carreca performs 25 works selected from all four of the solo collections of Gorzanis on this new CD: Gorzanis, Giacomo: Solo lute music (DHM 88985374332, issued 2017, 53′); more than half are pieces found on no other recording to this time.

Monteverdi and the parola scenica in performance

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Monteverdi’s music has always featured frequently among early music recordings; indeed, a thorough look at their recording history, well beyond the limit of this review, would allow us a glimpse at the history of historically informed performances from the early recordings of the Concentus Musicus Wien and The Consort of Musicke to the latest recordings by the likes of Concerto Italiano, La Venexiana, the Cappella Mediterranea, L’Arpeggiata and so on. This batch of nine CDs and one DVD, with release dates from 2012 to 2017, forms a brilliant and variegated homage to Monteverdi in this 450th anniversary whilst being exemplary of this continuous music production, whether as part of individual performers’ own projects to record the entire output of Monteverdi or as innovative exploration of the composer’s music, highlighting themes and subjects across his madrigals and operas. One aspect that is very interesting to consider through these recordings is whether and how the different groups have paid attention to what we might call Monteverdi’s parola scenica. I am consciously using here a label—parola scenica—that is of course associated with Verdi, but I think it is possible to use it in relation to Monteverdi’s music, and not just his operas but his madrigals too (Ellen Rosand compares the two composers in the conclusion to her book Monteverdi’s last operas: a Venetian trilogy (Berkeley, 2007); see also M. Calcagno, ‘Monteverdi’s parole sceniche’, Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music, ix/1 (2003)). There is indeed in Monteverdi an attention to the parola scenica, words that by themselves create a sense of drama, and whose delivery have to be carefully articulated, nuanced, with a sense of breathing through them that could make or break the overall performance. The following CDs in this respect show interesting results, sometimes more and sometimes less successful.

Schubert, Schumann, the Mendelssohns and more

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

This batch of recordings features a variety of works for small-scale forces. Ranging from Lieder and works for solo fortepiano to some of the mainstays of the Romantic chamber music repertory for strings and pianoforte, the two composers who are most represented are Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann. Alongside these two there is a selection of music from other composers, predominantly but not exclusively Austro-German: Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Hélène Montgeroult and Louis Spohr, as well as keyboard arrangements by Franz Liszt of works by Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn and Fryderyk Chopin.

Early music from the Iberian world

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

The recent recordings of 17th- and 18th-century music from the Iberian world considered here both fill gaps in the repertory and open up some new avenues to explore further. The music itself is generally of very high quality and would probably have entered the repertory much sooner if, at least in some cases, the sources were more readily accessible and if, in those CDs dedicated to vocal music, the languages were French or Italian rather than Spanish and Portuguese. But no matter, we now have mostly excellent recordings of a good selection of works ranging from songs by Juan Hidalgo through instrumental works by Santiago de Murcia to a one-act opera by Sebastián Durón and concertos, quintets and sonatas by Boccherini and his contemporaries. For me, the discovery of this batch of CDs is the beguiling recording of Portuguese modinhas by L’Avventura London, more of which anon. But let us start with Juan Hidalgo and move chronologically through the Iberian Baroque.

Mourning Purcell

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Odes on the death of Henry Purcell, ed. HowardAlan, Purcell Society Edition Companion Series, vol. v (London: Stainer and Bell, 2013), £75

Post-Gregorian chant in southern Italy

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

NardiniLuisa, Interlacing traditions: Neo-Gregorian chant Propers in Beneventan manuscripts, Studies and Texts 205; Monumenta Liturgica Beneventana 8.xvi (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017), €105 / $100

Monteverdi in Cremona and Mantua

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

As part of a series of events marking the 450th anniversary of the birth of Claudio Monteverdi, the Dipartimento di Musicologia e Beni Culturali of the Università degli Studi di Pavia sponsored a conference with the decidedly old-fashioned title ‘The making of a genius: Claudio Monteverdi from Cremona to Mantua’. The conferees followed that geographical path as well, spending two days in the city of the composer’s birth and apprenticeship, and then journeying on to Mantua. Interspersed among the 27 papers were three lecture-recitals and three concerts. The full programme is available at, and I hope that the presenters will forgive me for not listing every single presentation in this report.

Data for the history of Georgian music

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Data relating to 18th-century England is gradually becoming more accessible to historians, through various projects such as Locating London’s Past ( and the online proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674–1913 (, to name but two. Scholars are starting to interrogate the data in ways that provide new contexts and meanings to existing work in our fields—whether those fields are musicological, historical, social or economic in focus. A study day, Data for the Social Historian of 18th-Century English Music, held at Senate House, London, on 27 June 2017 brought together postgraduate students with established researchers, each with a different outlook on such data and its uses. The day highlighted the differences between the various sources of data, how they can be assembled into a dataset, and how to make such databases sustainable for the long term.

C. P. E. Bach the borrower

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, The complete works, series IV (Oratorios and Passions)Vol.4.2:Passion according to St Matthew (1773), ed. LeisingerUlrich (Los Altos, CA: Packard Humanities Institute, 2011), $25