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Volume 7, no. 1

Music, Patronage, and Printing in Late Renaissance Florence. By Tim Carter. Variorum Collected Studies Series CS682. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000. [xii, 282 pp. ISBN 0-86078-817-2 $99.95.]

Monteverdi and his Contemporaries. By Tim Carter. Variorum Collected Studies Series CS690. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000. [xii, 256 pp. ISBN 0-86078-823-7 $99.95.]

Reviewed by Kelley Harness*

1. Interlocking Webs of Relationships: Florentine Music Life

2. “A New Direction”: Monteverdi and his Contemporaries

3. A Glimpse of Musicology in the Final Quarter of the Twentieth Century

References


1. Interlocking Webs of Relationships: Florentine Music Life

1.1 Over the past twenty years, Tim Carter has contributed extensively to the study of late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Italian vocal music. His work on the musical life of Florence remains fundamental to any study of the city’s music during this period, and his more recent articles on Monteverdi promise to enjoy the same longevity. Twenty-five of these important essays—originally published over a span of twenty years (1978–1998)—have now been collected and reprinted in two volumes of Ashgate’s Collected Studies Series. The subjects and approaches of the articles vary, from a richly documented archival record of Jacopo Corsi’s musical patronage to a critical study of Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse. But they share a characteristic evident in almost all of Carter’s musicological scholarship: his insistence that we continually reevaluate what we think we know about musical life and musical style in the seventeenth century.

1.2 Music, Patronage and Printing in Late Renaissance Florence consists mainly of Carter’s research of the 1980s. The articles present the documentary fruits of Carter’s meticulous examination of state and private archives in Italy, arranged topically as follows: Jacopo Peri (I–III), musical life in 1608 (IV–VI), patronage (VII–VIII), publishing and book selling (IX–XII), and issues in Tuscan music outside of Florence (XIII).1 Throughout this series of essays Carter expands our understanding of what constituted Florentine musical life in the late Renaissance, which he reminds us involved more than a single patron (the Medici Grand Duke) or a single genre (opera), but consisted rather of a complex web of relationships among composers, performers, patrons, music printers, and music sellers. In a second, related argument, he reminds us of the continued viability of the older genres of intermedi and polyphonic madrigal in the first decades of the seventeenth century. In instances such as the 1608 festivities celebrating the marriage between Prince Cosimo II de’ Medici and Archduchess Maria Maddalena d’Austria (IV), or the early seventeenth-century stocklists of Florentine book-sellers (XII), the older traditions even prevailed over their more modern counterparts of opera and monody.2

1.3 Carter skillfully extracts the threads of patronage and music business from this fabric of musical life in order to display more clearly their individual colors and textures. He demonstrates that patrons exerted influence in a variety of ways, from Grand Duchess Cristina di Lorena’s expression of concern that the heavens appeared to be opening too often in the intermedi of 1608 (IV, 95) to Jacopo Corsi’s involvement as both colleague and benefactor to the city’s musicians (VII–VIII). In what continues to be the crucial study of this central Florentine figure, Carter documents both Corsi’s musical background and his financial dealings with the city’s musicians and nobility. He argues persuasively that the circle of poets and musicians who frequented Corsi’s house in the 1590s represents a continuation of Bardi’s group of the 1570s and 1580s. The more practical bent of the later group reflected the values of the new grand duke, Ferdinando I.3 Corsi was thus not only a patron, but also a client, who pursued a strategy of conspicuous expenditure on music and spectacle to further his family’s social and political aspirations.

1.4 Carter next turns to the influence of individuals active in the business of music—printers and sellers. Once again he has mined the riches of the Florentine archives and once again his conclusions remind us of the need to reconcile our preconceptions with the actual evidence, as well as the need to consider economic history in our studies of a city’s musical life. This section’s two longest essays (XI–XII) address both music printing and music selling, with continued reference back to issues raised in the book’s earlier articles. Concerning patronage, he argues that the refusal of the Medici grand dukes to issue blanket privileges and other trade protections discouraged publishers from committing more of their financial resources to music publishing (X–XI). His study of the three individuals who ventured into this risky business—Giorgio Marescotti, Cristofano Marescotti, and Zanobi Pignoni—reinforces the notion of an interlocking web of influence by exploring the close links between the city’s publishers, musicians, and patrons.4 He demonstrates the tenacity of older repertories in the sales and music stock of three Florentine book-sellers (XII).
 

2. “A New Direction”: Monteverdi and his Contemporaries

2.1 Carter’s interest in the output of Italian music printers is also evident in the first article of Monteverdi and his Contemporaries , one of several links between the two volumes.5 According to his introduction, this second book traces a “new direction” in his work of the 1990s, one which moved away from archival studies to devote more attention to the music itself (pp. vii–viii). The articles examine musical works and genres from a number of perspectives, including performance, sources, and analysis and criticism. Carter divides the book into two parts, subtitling the first four articles “Issues in Early Seventeenth-Century Solo Song” and the final seven “Monteverdi Studies,” which are then joined by “‘An Air New and Grateful to the Ear’: The Concept of Aria in Late Renaissance and Early Baroque Italy.” But the reader will find that nearly all the articles grapple with issues of aesthetics and musical poetics in the seventeenth century, in particular the affective possibilities inherent in musical structures and procedures.

2.2 This theme grows out of issues explored in Carter’s earlier articles, especially his insistence that we recognize the continued importance of polyphony to the early seventeenth century. The two articles on Giulio Caccini (II–III), although dealing ostensibly with issues of performance and sources of Caccini’s music—some of them polyphonic—also pose important questions concerning the nature of a work as understood in the seventeenth century. Carter asserts that the essence of both the monodic and polyphonic works is their skeletal structure. In his discussion of Caccini’s Amarilli, mia bella he identifies this essence as the work’s “aria,” introducing a term that will be crucial to the volume’s remaining essays. Carter concludes that the aesthetic judgment of “good aria” was not bound to a particular genre or medium (III, 272–73), an important observation which allows him to uncouple aria’s traditional association with the new monodic style.6 Schenkerian analyses delineate the similar background structures of a three-voiced villanella by Marenzio, a solo madrigal by Caccini, and a five-voiced madrigal by Monteverdi, an analytical illustration of the teleological orientation of aria described by Pirrotta (V).7

2.3 This emphasis on structure lays important groundwork for what seems to emerge as the book’s central argument: as musical craftsmen, composers, especially Monteverdi, searched for (and found) intrinsically musical solutions to problems of representing emotion, in other words, “recover[ing] the ground for music as music, rather than as some spurious form of speech (VIII, 127).8 Carter is especially interested in the expressive potential of the aria style, which he believes to be superior to speech-based recitative at conveying emotion (IV, 72): “Moreover, the formal quality of aria-writing is scarcely as emotionally neutral as might be believed. Monteverdi was only one of many composers to realise the fact that the most intense emotional expression was best achieved through musical techniques that aimed less for an immediate but all too deluding naturalism than for an aesthetic distancing that, paradoxically, allows a far more powerful identification with the emotions at hand.”

2.4 Carter suggests that an increased awareness of the affective possibilities of the aria style facilitated Monteverdi’s own changing aesthetic from resemblance, that is, a mimetic relationship between the music and text, to representation, in which the composer relies on constructed conventions to signify emotion.9 In the book’s final three essays he explores some of the implications of this critical approach to Monteverdi’s later dramatic works. “Intriguing Laments” (X) revisits the events surrounding the 1628 festivities in Parma, which celebrated the wedding of Duke Odoardo Farnese and Princess Margherita de’ Medici, and for which Monteverdi contributed music for five intermedi. Carter offers compelling evidence to suggest that this event can be seen as a locus of clear tensions between the older, speech-based style and the newer emphasis on the sprightly canzonetta. Although the music is now lost, close analysis of its text permits Carter to hypothesize about the musical style of Dido’s lament in the second intermedio. He concludes that Monteverdi highlighted Dido’s emotional outbursts by means of aria style refrains. In his brief study of Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (XI) he proposes that the aria’s traditional association with amorous themes can shed light on the character of Penelope. Penelope’s refusal to participate in triple-time arias until after her recognition of Ulysses may underscore a message in which Constancy overcomes Time, Fortune, and Love (XI, 15).10

2.5 But Carter is also rightfully cautious about assigning any single reading to these early operas. In “Re-Reading Poppea ” (XII) he urges a more multivalent approach, one which recognizes the slippage that may occur between signifier and signified, evident, for example, in the rhetorical play of the paradoxical encomium, “an exercise in praising that which cannot be praised.” (p. 180). Of course, no Monteverdi opera is slipperier than Poppea. With this in mind Carter revisits Seneca’s centrality to recent interpretations of the opera.11 Focusing on Act II, scene iii, in which Seneca’s followers entreat their teacher to give up his resolve to die in a highly chromatic outburst (“Non morir”), Carter reminds us that Monteverdi had used the same musical gestures in the amorous canzonetta “Non partir, ritrosetta” from the eighth book of madrigals. Thus he introduces the possibility that the followers’ plea might not be genuine but rather trivial, an interpretation which in turn renders more ambiguous the character of Seneca. He then offers another possibility, one supported by the opera’s prologue: L’incoronazione di Poppea depicts the triumph of love, but within the inverted value system of the paradoxical encomium.

2.6 The articles in this volume are concerned mainly with the aria. They do not address issues of expressivity in the types of recitative-based operas which continued to dominate Florentine opera through the 1620s.12 Undoubtedly these works offered some seventeenth-century audience members intense emotional experiences—after all, the contemporary work possibly most praised for precisely its ability to move listeners’ emotions, Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna , achieves its effects without recourse to the aria style. And Carter is careful to point out the problems with attempting to “support any clear-cut affective distinction between ‘recitative’ and ‘aria,’ . . .  for this period.” (X, 61). Yet by calling attention to the expressive potential of the aria style, Carter illustrates persuasively both the rhetorical richness of this music and the diversity of approaches by which we might apprehend it. It seems likely that, as suggested by the articles in Music, Patronage and Printing in Late Renaissance Florence , the wishes of patrons, either individual or corporate, also played a role in the particular emphases of regional operatic styles, an issue Carter may address in his future work, which will likely “seek to reintegrate and synthesize the separate strands” seen in these two volumes (“Introduction,” Monteverdi and his Contemporaries , ix).
 

3. A Glimpse of Musicology in the Final Quarter of the Twentieth Century

3.1 In the above paragraphs I have touched on only a handful of the issues which emerge from this rich collection of essays. Reading the articles in order allows the reader a fascinating glimpse into one scholar’s responses to what has been undeniably the most turbulent quarter century of the discipline. Although Carter’s dialogue with his own past work and that of others emerges over the course of the two books, one wishes that the nature of the series would have allowed him to preface each article with a brief introduction.13 Readers may also find the lack of repagination cumbersome and the type size sometimes too small, especially for those articles reproduced from larger-sized journals. Technical matters aside, these two books contain many of the essays central to a study of early seventeenth-century music. They exemplify the methodological rigor, clear, engaging prose, and (importantly) humanity that characterize the very best writings in musicology (both “Old” and “New”).

 


References

*Kelley Harness (Kelley.A.Harness-1@tc.umn.edu) is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities). She has articles forthcoming on the musical construction of the virgin martyr in early Florentine operas and on the allegorical implications of L’Euridice. She is currently finishing a book entitled Echoes of Women’s Voices: Female Patrons in Early Modern Florence.
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Notes

1. The Roman numbers refer to the reprinted articles as they appear in the Ashgate volumes, which have not been repaginated.
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2. Although Camillo Rinuccini’s surviving Descrizione for the 1608 festivities includes no mention of any works which would fit the description of an opera, Carter notes (IV, 97–98) the discrepancy between Rinuccini’s account and a letter from Grand Duke Ferdinando concerning the number of commedie to be performed, suggesting that an opera might have been planned, then abandoned at some point between December 1607 and the festivities of October 1608. He further cites a letter which refers to plans for a “rappresentazione spirituale” (IV, 103, n. 57). A likely candidate is Riccardo Riccardi’s Conversione di Santa Maria Maddalena: ridotta in tragedia (Florence: Giunti, 1609), a five-act play in verse with prologue and moralizing choruses. A manuscript containing two drafts of the work (I-Fr, Ricc. 2242, fols. 27r–55v, 195r–206v) states that it was “made by him [i.e., Riccardo] to perform [singing - canceled] with a musical air in the ancient manner of tragedies, for the most felicitous nuptials of the Most Serene Prince of Tuscany, Don Cosimo de’ Medici” (“Fatta da lui Rappresentar [cantando] con un Aria musicale alla maniera Antica delle Tragedie, nelle felicissime nozze del Ser.mo Principe di Toscana, Don Cosimo de Medici.”). Whether or not this play was to have been sung throughout depends on whether “un Aria musicale,” refers to setting the entire text to music. I have discussed this play in “ Amazzoni di Dio : Florentine Musical Spectacle under Maria Maddalena d’Austria and Cristina di Lorena (1620–30) (Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois, 1996), 271–74, 414–15.
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3. On the values promoted during the rule of Ferdinando I, see especially Samuel Berner, “Florentine Society in the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries,” Studies in the Renaissance 18 (1971): 203–46, especially pp. 203–11. For updated biographies on the individuals mentioned by Carter, see Warren Kirkendale, The Court Musicians in Florence During the Principate of the Medici , “Historiae Musicae Cultores” Biblioteca 61 (Florence: Olschki, 1993). An important overview of the close relationship between court spectacles and the agendas of Medici grand dukes can be found in John Walter Hill, “Florence: Musical Spectacle and Drama, 1570–1650,” in The Early Baroque Era , ed. Curtis Price (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994), 121–45.
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4. Giorgio Marescotti was apparently on close terms with the groups of Bardi and Corsi (XI, 44–45), publishing works by Vincenzo Galilei ( Dialogo . . . della musica antica, et della moderna , 1581; and Contrapunti a due voci , 1584), Giulio Caccini (L’Euridice , 1600; Le nuove musiche , 1602), and Jacopo Peri (Le musiche . . . sopra l’Euridice , 1601). Zanobi Pignoni claimed to be a singer in the grand duke’s chapel (XI, 55), which would have placed him in close contract with the city’s best musicians. The sensationalistic “Diario di cose domestiche” (I-Fn, Gino Capponi, 273) describes the printer (fol. 166r) as a castrato and great drinker, blaming the latter for the fatal fall which ended Pignoni’s life on 8 September 1648 (“1648. Zanobi di Franc. Pignoni castrato, e grandiss.o bevitore, oltre all’adornam. della musica, che aveva, era applicato all’esercizio del libraio; occorse che la sera del di 8 di sett. 1648 tornandosene a casa cotto, e credendo salire la scala per andarsene in camera cascė dalla scala della volta, che era contigua alla scala che saliva, e perche stava solo in casa non lo vedendo comparire a bottega apersero per forza la sua casa, e lo trovorno morto nella volta con il capo tutto infranto.”)
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5. Several important studies of Italian printers have appeared since these articles were first published, including Jane A. Bernstein, Music Printing in Renaissance Venice: The Scotto Press, 1539–1572 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) and Richard J. Agee, The Gardano Music Printing Firms, 1569–1611 (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1998).
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6. “Amarilli, mia bella could exist equally well in several different guises. Moreover, the common factor between these guises is less the song as Caccini wished to have it notated than its ‘aria,’ taking the term in its broadest sense. Good ‘aria’ was an aesthetic quality much sought by those composers of the sixteenth century who set themselves apart from the polyphonic tradition; it also transcends distinctions of genre or performing medium and need scarcely be affected by them. Finally, it is a quality independent of a given piece’s manifestations in notated scores. Amarilli, mia bella , with its taut construction and easily remembered line, fills the bill well, however it might be presented for performance. Thus the different versions of the song discussed in this study reveal more than just the flexibility of contemporary attitudes towards musical works. They also emphasize the point that if there was an important stylistic shift in music of the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods, it was less one of changing genres and performing media than a reorientation of the musical qualities deemed to be essential for effective and affective composition.” (III, 272–73).
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7. Nino Pirrotta, Li due Orfei da Poliziano a Monteverdi (Turin: Einaudi, 1975), translated by Karen Eales as Music and Theatre from Poliziano to Monteverdi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 248. The works in question are: Luca Marenzio, “Se il dolce sguardo del divin tuo volto,” Il primo libro delle villanelle a tre voci (1584); Giulio Caccini, “Amarilli, mia bella,” Le nuove musiche (1602); and Claudio Monteverdi, “Anima mia, perdona,” Il quarto libro de madrigali a cinque voci (1603).
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8. See also Ellen Rosand, “Monteverdi’s Mimetic Art: L’incoronazione di Poppea ,” Cambridge Opera Journal 1 (1989): 113–37; and Rosand, “Operatic Ambiguities and the Power of Music,” Cambridge Opera Journal 4 (1992): 75–80. I must admit some concern over the examples which Carter has chosen to demonstrate seventeenth-century composers’ use of the aria style to represent particularly emotional points in the text. The aria styles illustrated in several of the examples (Domenico Visconti’s “O primavera, gioventĚ del’anno” [IV, ex. 4] and Monteverdi’s “Zefiro torna” and “O sia tranquillo il mare” (VIII]) as well as Penelope’s one brief shift to an aria style at “Torna il tranquillo al mare” (XI) all coincide with the appearance of the verb “tornare,” whose evocation of real (or hoped-for) physical action may also be partly responsible for the composers’ turn to music characterized by greater metrical regularity. Silke Leopold voices similar concern over the two Monteverdi madrigals; see VIII, 128, n. 20.
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9. For additional discussion of these terms as they inform Foucault’s epistemes see Gary Tomlinson in Music in Renaissance Magic: Toward a Historiography of Others (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 52–61 and 189–94.
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10. Ellen Rosand offers an interpretation of the opera’s other characters based on their ability or inability to sing arias in “Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and the Power of ‘Music,’” Cambridge Opera Journal 7 (1995): 179–84.
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11. Ellen Rosand, “Seneca and the Interpretation of L’Incoronazione di Poppea ,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 38 (1985): 34–71; Iain Fenlon and Peter Miller, “The Song of the Soul”: Understanding Poppea (London: Royal Musical Association, 1992). Wendy Heller has recently proposed Lucano as a central character in the opera; her persuasive argument seems to support Carter’s notion that an opera might possess multiple viable readings. See Heller, “Tacitus Incognito: Opera as History in L’incoronazione di Poppea ,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 52 (1999): 39–96.
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12. I have explored recitative’s contributions to characterization and interpretation in such an opera; see “La Flora and the End of Female Rule in Tuscany,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 51 (1998): 437–76.
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13. For example, see the format of Claude Palisca, Studies in the History of Italian Music and Music Theory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).
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