Mauro Calcagno: Perspectives on Luca Marenzio’s Secular Music

Brepols, 2014.
527pp, €80.00.
ISBN 9 78 2 503 55332 0

The contents do not completely cover Marenzio’s secular music: the writers tend to pick on specific examples or types. There is a considerable quantity of the music itself discussed in extensive detail.

Music and Poetry.

Franco Piperno Petrarch, Petrarchism, and the Italian Madrigal (pp. 15-30) discusses the revival of Petrarchan verse for madrigals between 1542 & 1570.

James Haar The Madrigali a quattro, cinque et sei voci of 1588 (pp. 31-50) is the only such set by Marenzio, perhaps writing in a style that was aiming at different noble masters; English composers later used the same pattern.

Seth J. Coluzzi Tirsi mio, caro Tirsi: Il pastor fido and the Roman Madrigal (pp. 51-73) makes an attempt to distinguish quasi-soloistic sections, but I’m not convinced. The latest idea isn’t always better than previous ones until the next idea appears. The compromise is noted by Alfred Einstein (p. 70, note 23): “The whole book is full of hidden drama, but the presentation of the actual scene or monologue is always madrigalesque, even if there is a real temptation to dramatize”.

James Chater ends the group with Family matters: Music in the Life and Poetry of Giovambattista Strozzi the Elder (pp. 75-140). Both Strozzi were blind; the Elder was mostly a poet, with over a thousand poems – the Junior is less significant in the discussion of the music, especially the long list of music that is known of but not visible or audible.

Musical Styles and Techniques.

Ruth I. DeFord C and Ȼ in the Madrigals of Marenzio (pp. 143-164) has confusing examples, especially the up and down arrows which interfere with the clashing stresses in the music. The use of C (4 crotchets) and Ȼ (4 minims) are not necessarily firm rules – see, for example, ex. 6/a, b & d (p. 161-2) in C but with 4 minims. 6 is more irregular, presented by the editor with 4 crotchets | 8 crotchets | 1 crotchet |8 crotchets. I’m not convinced that singing to the beat is as significant as the theorists assume anyway: singers need to be aware of the tactus but also of the stress of the poem.

John W. Hill turns to Two Reflections of Sixteenth-Century Italian Solo Singing in Luca Marenzio’s Villanelle (1584-97) (p. 165-202). This is a useful read for those who wish to sing/play the published music or adapt playing with the vocal lines (not necessarily all of them) or strumming a guitar or lute. Performers who enjoy more flexible music should read this chapter.

Music and Patronage: A Debate

Claudio Annibaldi Social Markers in the Music Market… (p. 205-234) is followed by comments by Mario Bagioli, Arnaldo Morelli, Stefano Lorenzetti & Jonathan Glixon, concluded by Annibaldi’s A Reply in an Apologetic Vein (p. 251-261). I found myself more interested by the other writers. and wondered if the four names given above may have taken advantage of later research, and consequently Annibaldi by definition would have also followed even later. However, none of the footnotes by all the authors in this section were later than 2006 (I may have missed a 2007 item that I didn’t see on the check.) This section strikes me as the least successful, but it would have been better without Annibaldi! One misprint: Gardano and Scotto in the 1670s (p. 255, last para.) I’m a little surprised by mention of Condoleezza Rice (p. 259) – I don’t remember a pronounciation with a double zz or tz?

Contexts of Production, Circulation, and Consumption

Giuseppe Gerbino Marenzio and the Shepherds of the Tiber Valley (pp. 265-281) is well worth reading for the short creation of a myth by the Tiber, parodying Tirsi and Clori and the pastor Ergasto. The text was published in 1597 as Prose Tibertine del Pastor Ergasto by Antonio Piccioli Cenedese.

Paoli Cecchi “Delicious air and sweet inventions”: The Circulation and Consumption of Marenzio’s Secular Music in England (c.1588-1640) is a massive exposition (pp. 283-369). While reading it, I regretted that Tessa Murray was too late to incorporate her Thomas Morley, Elizabethan Publisher – see review in EMR 162 p. 4. She creeps into p. 303 note 66 on the strength of a 2012 joint quote from Philip Brett and Tessa. This is a massive survey, not just of available music, but how much was known of its use. The printing of violas accompanying vocal solos is a mistake for viols (p. 318), but on p. 322 there is a treble viale and the viola da gamba (not within quotes) lower down the first para­graph. There is a vast amount of information, not just on existing or hypothetical editions but on how they was used.

I had expected to read the book during a cruise on a boat running from Budapest to Regensburg – but without much likeli­hood of following the plan because of the failure to get under bridges and made worse for me by the failure of my glasses. Reading became very difficult and the final day involved four hours by bus and five hours waiting for the flight, so I couldn’t get through the final section and this is the first chance I’ve been able to catch up at least some back work on our music sales activity. The final group of Print Cultures and Editions covers Jane A. Bernstein, Christine Jeanneret, Laurent Pugin and Etienne Darbellay. The end is a useful short summary of various aspects, preceded by “changing criteria and editorial techniques from one volume to the next, as is the case of the CMM series, which should should be strenuously avoided.” It is, however, impossible for such long-running of some of the series to change in mid course, but new editions should certainly use the more current form – unnecessary cutting note values and elaborate and confusing beaming, for instance. I’ve avoided CMM12 (Giovanni Gabrieli), using editions that are more accessible, though a certain amount of under­standing is needed – I’ve been involved in Cambridge with several 1615 motets for at least three distinguished organisations for the 500th year of his publication (though he died in 1612 and his amanuensis was hardly reliable!)

The final two pages (461-2) draw attention to the differences between manners and notation. Not all will agree, and performers who are not involved in the specialists’s expertise may well be distracted from perfor­mances. There are too many attempts at complete editions: it’s better to publish other composers for whom there is less access. But no complaints about this volume. It concludes with a 50-page list of Marenzio’s works and 13 pages of indexes. The cover is elegant, but 1.780 kg is rather an effort to hold. It has 527 pp, the height of an A4 sheet, and only fractionally less wide.

Clifford Bartlett