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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 11 (2005) No. 1

Giovanni Antonio Rigatti: Messa e salmi, parte concertati. Edited by Linda Maria Koldau. Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era 128–130. 3 vols. Middleton, Wisc.: A-R Editions, Inc., 2003. [Vol. 1: xxiii, 116 pp. ISBN 0-89579-528-0; score: $65, parts: $21. Vol. 2: ix, 192 pp. ISBN 0-89579-529-9; score: $69; parts: $37. Vol. 3: x, 160 pp. ISBN 0-89579-530-2; score: $66; parts: $30.]

Reviewed by Andrew H. Weaver*

1. Giovanni Antonio Rigatti and the Kleinmeister Problem

2. The Monteverdi Comparison

3. The Habsburg Dedication

4. The Music of the Edition

5. Other Comments About the Edition


1. Giovanni Antonio Rigatti and the Kleinmeister Problem

1.1 It has been nearly thirty years since Jerome Roche first drew our attention to the Venetian composer Giovanni Antonio Rigatti, asserting the composer’s centrality in the development of Italian sacred music in the 1630s and 40s and even commenting that “behind the figure of Monteverdi there stands a composer of originality and talent in Giovanni Antonio Rigatti.”1 Indeed, in the course of a short working career lasting only about fifteen years (Rigatti died in 1648 in his mid-thirties), the composer not only held a number of prestigious posts (including maestro di cappella at the Udine cathedral and chaplain to the patriarch of Venice) but also published no fewer than eleven collections of music: five motet books, three “Messe e salmi” collections, a collection of music for compline, and two books of small-scale madrigals. Throughout these publications Rigatti shines as a masterful composer with a genuine melodic gift, no fear of adventurous harmonies, and masterful control of writing extended works over simple ostinato bass patterns. Moreover, his frequent use of verbal cues for the performers, from standard tempo and dynamic indications to specific expression marks such as “soave” and “grave,” betrays a creative mind that is very much attuned to the expressive power of his music. Who else but a composer fully assured of his compositional prowess would instruct performers that his works “would better be rehearsed before the performance, so that those who sing them will become acquainted with the changes and the retardations of the battuta according to the meaning of the words [l’Oratione], to make sure that all is sung with the most intense affect possible.”2

1.2 Nevertheless, the words with which Roche opened his 1976 article remain just as true today as they were when he first wrote them: “Giovanni Antonio Rigatti is not a widely-known name.”3 Until the publication of Linda Maria Koldau’s edition, only one of Rigatti’s prints was available to modern scholars and performers in its entirety, a book of solo motets from 1643 included in Anne Schnoebelen’s facsimile series of solo motet prints.4 Otherwise, individual works by Rigatti have appeared only sporadically in various publications: six works in the monumental series of Italian sacred music edited by Schnoebelen and Jeffrey Kurtzman,5 and a handful of other pieces in low-profile individual editions.6 Nor has Rigatti been widely represented in recent recordings. While a significant portion of the edition under review appears on two hard-to-find recordings by the Vancouver Cantata Singers,7 only four other recent compact discs contain music by the composer.8 The current state of research on Rigatti is best encapsulated by the entry on the composer in the second edition of the New Grove Dictionary, which augments the biographical information found in the 1980 edition but otherwise reprints the rest of the earlier article verbatim, with the addition of only a handful of new sentences. Although three titles have been added to the bibliography, the most recent is Jerome Roche’s 1984 monograph on northern Italian sacred music;9 conspicuously absent is the 1994 article by Roche that Koldau cites in her Introduction as containing “the most detailed biography of this little known composer” (p. xviii, n. 2).10 The New Grove work-list, moreover, does not cite even one of the available editions of Rigatti’s sacred music. All of this has conspired to keep Rigatti among the dreaded ranks of the Kleinmeister, but now that his most ambitious publication is finally available in its entirety in a clean, professional, scholarly edition in A-R’s well-known Recent Researches series, perhaps the time has finally arrived for this underrated composer to receive some much-deserved and long-overdue recognition.

2. The Monteverdi Comparison

2.1 Given the current state of affairs, it is perhaps inevitable that Koldau opens the Introduction of her edition with a comparison between Rigatti and his most famous contemporary, drawing the reader’s attention to the similarities shared by Rigatti’s print and one issued six months later by the same publisher: Monteverdi’s Selva morale et spirituale. Such an approach is by no means unwarranted; indeed, as immense “Messa e salmi” collections featuring multiple settings of psalm texts ranging in scale from modest da cappella pieces to grand concertato works for up to eight voices and obbligato instruments, these two collections are unrivalled among other Italian sacred prints of the 1630s and 40s. This approach also has its clear advantages, allowing Koldau, for instance, to highlight the generational differences in Monteverdi’s and Rigatti’s styles and to emphasize the new developments apparent in the younger composer’s music. Behind this approach, however, lurks the implication that this little-known composer is “just as good” as his mighty contemporary, an implication that in the end is a double-edged sword. Despite Koldau’s contention that Rigatti is no mere imitator of Monteverdi, a comparison of the overall structure of the two prints (made possible by Koldau’s inclusion of detailed tables listing the contents of both publications) nonetheless cannot help but paint Rigatti as the less ambitious and (dare I say it?) less original of the two composers.

2.2 Rigatti’s publication is unquestionably an impressive achievement, featuring an eight-voice concertato mass, nineteen vespers psalms (two for more than five principal voices and all but five including obbligato instruments), a six-voice Magnificat, and two Marian antiphons. This can only pale, however, in comparison to Monteverdi’s Selva morale, which in addition to a four-voice da cappella mass and fourteen vespers psalms (eight of which are scored for eight or more principal voices) features concertato mass movements (including an eight-voice Gloria), two Magnificats, seven vespers hymns, three Marian antiphons, four solo motets, and of course the anomalous five Italian madrigals that open the volume. Koldau’s Introduction also ignores some very real differences between the two publications. For one thing, the vespers music in the Selva is geared specifically for feasts of male saints and avoids the more typical “female cursus” psalms included by Rigatti. The younger composer’s print also does not contain a single example of the extra-liturgical items that add so much to the mystique and uniqueness of the Selva morale. In this light, Rigatti’s print ends up seeming rather typical, even run of the mill; by arming the reader with too many details about Monteverdi’s Selva morale, Koldau has unwittingly managed to minimize the younger composer’s achievement. While I do not fault Koldau for drawing the comparison with Monteverdi, perhaps there is a lesson here for all of us who champion lesser-known composers not to insist too vehemently on detailed comparisons with the heroes of their time.

3. The Habsburg Dedication

3.1 There nonetheless remains one very compelling similarity between Rigatti’s and Monteverdi’s publications, one that Koldau rightly emphasizes in her Introduction: the dedications to prominent members of the Austrian Habsburg dynasty (Rigatti’s print is dedicated to Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III, while the Selva morale is dedicated to Eleonora Gonzaga, the widow of Ferdinand III’s predecessor, Ferdinand II). This leads to one of Koldau’s most fascinating hypotheses: that the Venetian publisher Bartolomeo Magni may have played a significant role in assembling these two similar collections within a short span of time. This is an idea rife with implications for anybody working on early modern print culture; after all, dedications of single-author prints tend to be interpreted as a transaction involving only the composer and the dedicatee. The motivations of the publisher are rarely figured into the equation, and asking such questions could shed fascinating new light on the promotion and dissemination of music of the Seicento. In this case, Koldau’s hypothesis that “it is conceivable that Magni was under great pressure to issue these representative church music collections at a certain point in time” (pp. x–xi) leads her to a compelling explanation for one of the most frustrating features of both prints: the huge amount of typographical errors throughout the partbooks. This idea also provides a satisfying reason as to why Rigatti would dedicate his most ambitious publication to a court to which he had no known connections.11 It helps lend credence, moreover, to Rigatti’s statement in the characteristically self-deprecating letter to the readers that he is only publishing these works because he has “been pressed to do so by friends.”12

3.2 Koldau’s speculation as to Magni’s participation in putting together these prints remains, however, just that: speculation. Accordingly, she also considers the possibility that Rigatti might have assembled his print specifically with the Viennese court in mind. In the case of Monteverdi’s Selva morale, such inquiries have proven fertile ground for new insights, but this is not surprising considering Monteverdi’s long and fruitful association with the Habsburg emperors (not to mention the Gonzaga family) as well as his inclusion of extra-liturgical items that can be associated with specific aspects of Viennese culture.13 For example, Monteverdi’s solo bass motet (“Ab aeterno ordinata sum”), which Koldau describes as a work for the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, has more recently been shown to have a specific relationship to the Habsburg court. While this motet’s text (Proverbs 8:23–31) does indeed appear in the liturgy for the nativity of the Virgin, its more widely recognized interpretation in the seventeenth century was as a prefiguration of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, a doctrine championed by Ferdinand II and Ferdinand III despite objections from Rome.14 With Rigatti, however, we are on much shakier ground. Koldau claims that a “Viennese bent” is apparent “in musical details, which correspond to the specific musical predilections of the emperor’s court” (p. ix), but she presents no compelling details, and the predilections she cites—a preference for “massive, polychoral sound” and “intense, small-scale concertato motets”—are hardly unique to the Habsburg court.

3.3 There are, however, at least two details that, although not unique to Vienna, nonetheless might help build a more convincing case. One is the presence of concitato writing in Rigatti’s two settings of “Dixit Dominus” and the Magnificat, explicitly pointed out in the latter work with the rubric “Toccata da guerra.” Although concitato writing had been rapidly taken up by Italian composers after the publication of Monteverdi’s Madrigali guerrieri, et amorosi in 1638, it must not be forgotten that the dedicatee of Book Eight was none other than Ferdinand III. War-like music, moreover, was appropriate for a monarch who only a few years previously had enjoyed great success on the battlefield, and as Steven Saunders has pointed out, concitato writing appears in a number of works written by Viennese composers in the 1630s.15 The other detail is Rigatti’s unusually rich writing for strings, which Koldau emphasizes as one of the more idiosyncratic features of the composer’s style. She goes on to remark that “it may well be that he chose this splendid instrumentation with a view to the musical predilections of the dedicatee” (p. xvi) but doesn’t explore the idea further. Peter Holman, however, had already suggested that rich string writing combining violins and viols seems to be a hallmark of music from the Viennese court,16 and this is indeed what one finds in many of the works in Rigatti’s print. Ferdinand III himself, moreover, penned a setting of “Pange lingua” for four voices and five-part viol consort, much of which features the texture of just a single voice complemented by all of the strings.17 Perhaps it is no coincidence that this is precisely the texture encountered in the closing “Ave Regina caelorum a voce sola con 5 viole” of Rigatti’s print, a piece that according to a rubric in the canto partbook is dedicated to Ferdinand III’s wife, Maria of Austria.

4. The Music of the Edition

4.1 Despite the above reservations, Koldau must be praised for this fine edition of Rigatti’s publication, which above all lets the music speak for itself in the composer’s favor. The music is laid out on the page very clearly, with empty staves judiciously removed whenever possible. Helping to augment the ease with which the reader can follow the score is the fact that with every reduction or expansion of the score each staff is clearly labeled with its voice part. The music also benefits from excellent editorial policies. Koldau adds editorial figured bass numbers with a very light hand, recognizing that with scorings as grand as the majority of pieces in the publication, extra figures are generally unnecessary. I especially applaud her reproduction of all of Rigatti’s expression marks exactly as they appear in the original source, without regularizing the spelling (in cases such as “adasio” and “pian”) and also avoiding italics so as to allay any possible confusion with our modern expression marks. Thanks to this wise decision, performers are given the benefit of Rigatti’s many lengthy opening rubrics, such as the detailed performance guidelines for the three-voice “Nisi Dominus” (also reproduced in Plate 6). Readers are also treated to the sometimes surprising simultaneity of specific expression marks, such as at measure 51 of the Credo, where the continuo is labeled “Pian Adasio et grave,” the second tenor reads “Adasio più che si può,” and the first tenor is instructed to perform “Adasio et devoto.”

4.2 The music is also greatly enhanced by Koldau’s superb commentary throughout the Introduction. In addition to an overview of the works in the print, Koldau provides a separate bipartite section that places Rigatti’s music into the conventions of the 1630s and 40s and also highlights the unique aspects of his style. Though this occasionally makes for some repetitive reading, it nonetheless provides a rich context for appreciating Rigatti’s music while also showcasing Koldau’s impressive breadth of knowledge of the musical styles and conventions of mid-century sacred music. It also allows her to provide explanations for conventional features of Rigatti’s print that would otherwise probably seem unusual to those not fully familiar with the repertory, such as the fact that Rigatti’s Sanctus and Agnus Dei are extremely short compared to the other movements of the Mass (which would have allowed for the insertion of other extended musical works at this point in the service).

4.3 Koldau’s Introduction also features a number of insightful analyses of individual works. Especially fine is her analysis of the solo psalm “In exitu Israel,” a work cast in the style of the burgeoning cantata, featuring recitative sections that alternate with aria passages accompanied by two violins. She also provides fascinating insights into the deeper meaning of structural features of the works, such as the rather conventional practice of recalling the opening music of a psalm for the phrase in the doxology that reads “as it was in the beginning” (“sicut erat in principio”). Also compelling is her comment that by occasionally incorporating a psalm-tone cantus firmus into the doxology Rigatti was “underlining the contemporary understanding of chant as timeless music belonging to the higher spheres of harmony” (p. xiii). Only rarely do Koldau’s musical discussions veer into narrative, blow-by-blow descriptions of the music, as happens, for instance, in her discussion of the Mass. This is not necessarily a problem, except for the fact that in these more narrative passages Koldau sometimes glosses over or even ignores striking aspects of the music. To give just one example, she dismisses the harmonies of the Agnus Dei as “extremely simple” (p. xi), and yet measure 32 of that movement contains one of Rigatti’s most shocking harmonic progressions: the sudden and very affective appearance of an F-sharp-major triad following immediately upon a cadence to an A-major triad.

4.4 Only occasionally in Koldau’s Introduction do her comments leave the reader wanting further explication. One such moment is when she remarks in passing that “the aural topos of two Phrygian cadences” is that of “harmonic representations of the semantic field of question, request, acclamation, and hope” (p. xiv), as well as her passing references (with no citation) to the topoi of other cadential types in Note 45. I was also rather disappointed by the modern tonal vocabulary used throughout the Introduction; although this serves Koldau’s larger point that Rigatti’s music seems more closely analogous to our system of major-minor tonality than that of the preceding generation, her frequent references to major keys and other tonal conventions nonetheless come off as somewhat naïve. One would expect a more nuanced discussion of harmonic relationships in scholarship of this caliber, especially from someone whose footnotes include references to both Michael Dodds’ work on the psalm tones and Eric Chafe’s well-known monograph on Monteverdi’s harmonic language.18

5. Other Comments About the Edition

5.1 Koldau’s edition includes all of the excellent features that we have come to expect in works published in this series. Six high-quality plates allow the reader to peruse the opening and closing matter of the print in its original form, along with a sampling of the musical notation. Every work opens with incipits featuring the original clef, time signature, opening notation, and part designation. The extensive Critical Notes not only list all of the errors found in the original print but also provide a prose paragraph for each piece describing any notational oddities or ambiguous rubrics and expression marks. Another excellent feature of the Critical Notes is the presentation of music examples that provide the original notation of passages that required extensive editorial alteration. The full translations of all the opening matter are also an important aid for the scholar and performer, as are Koldau’s excellent performance suggestions in the Introduction, which are based on an intimate knowledge of the score and of Rigatti’s music in general. I was able to find only a handful of factual errors, omissions, and typographical errors in the Introduction, none of which detracts from the overall high quality of the edition.

5.2 Finally, I feel compelled to ask why the decision was made to publish this edition in three volumes. While I understand that a total of 468 pages in a single volume would result in an edition well beyond the bounds of the standard page length of the series, the resulting three-volume set is not entirely convenient to use. At the very least, the publisher could have opted to reprint Koldau’s Introduction at the beginning of each volume (all three volumes sport identical Acknowledgements and Critical Reports), or each volume could have opened with an Introduction geared specifically to the music in that part (with references to the other volumes where appropriate). As it is, the unwitting performer who picks up just the second or third volume might very well be forced to make do without either Koldau’s insightful commentary or any of the plates. This is, however, just a small technical issue that in no way detracts from this excellent edition of high-quality, crowd-pleasing music that would undoubtedly be a welcome addition to the concert repertory of any early music ensemble.


* Andrew H. Weaver (weavera@cua.edu) is Assistant Professor of Music at the Catholic University of America. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2002, with a dissertation on motets at the Habsburg court in Vienna during the reign of Ferdinand III (1637–57). He has also been a faculty member at the University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University. He is currently completing an edition of motets by Giovanni Felice Sances for A-R Editions.

1 Jerome Roche, “Giovanni Antonio Rigatti and the Development of Venetian Church Music in the 1640s,” Music and Letters 57 (1976): 267.

2 Avvertimento to the publication under review, given in facsimile in Plate 5 and translated on pp. 3–4.

3 Roche, “Giovanni Antonio Rigatti,” 256.

4 Venice, Solo Motets from the Seventeenth Century 1, ed. Anne Schnoebelen (New York: Garland, 1987).

5 Seventeenth-Century Italian Sacred Music, gen. ed. Anne Schoebelen, 20 vols. (New York: Garland, 1995–1999). Vol. 4 includes a three-voice mass, vol. 11 includes three psalms for solo voice, vol. 12 includes a two-voice psalm, and vol. 13 includes a 3-voice Magnificat. [See a review of volumes 4, 11, and 12 by Jonathan Glixon in JSCM 3, no. 1 (1997); and a review of the mass volumes (1–10) by Stephen Miller in the present issue of JSCM. —ed.]

6 Four psalms from the edition under review have been published in individual editions: Confitebor tibi a6, ed. Jerome Roche (Borough Green, Kent: Novello, 1979); Dixit Dominus a8, ed. Clifford Bartlett (Huntingdon, Cambs: King’s Music, 1986); Magnificat a6, ed. Roche and Bartlett (Huntingdon, Cambs: King’s Music, 1989), and Nisi Dominus a3, ed. Bartlett (Huntingdon, Cambs: King’s Music, 1993). Four motets (Gaudent in caelis, Haec est vera fraternitas, Lauda Sion, and Tota pulchra es), all ed. Dennis Collins, have been included in the series “Celesti fiori: Italian Motets from the Seventeenth Century for One or Several Voices and Basso Continuo” (Barcelona: Prima la musica!, 2003–).

7 A large portion of the vespers music appears on Venetian Vespers of 1640, Vancouver Cantata Singers, dir. James Fankhauser (Skylark 9301, 1994), and the entire Mass appears on A 1640 Venetian Mass, Vancouver Cantata Singers, dir. James Fankhauser (Analekta fleur de lys FL 2 3097, 1997).

8 Four works by Rigatti appear on Venetian Vespers, The Gabrieli Consort and Players, dir. Paul McCreesh (Archiv Produktion 437 552-2, 1990); two works appear on Salve Regina: Sacred Music by Monteverdi and his Venetian Followers, Robin Blaze, countertenor, with The Parley of Instruments, dir. Peter Holman (Hyperion CDA67225, 1997); and one work each appears on Hohelied-Motetten der italienischen Renaissance, Isaak Ensemble Heidelberg (Christophorus CHR77137, 1992) and Che soave armonia, Tirami Su (Challenge Classics CC 72035, 1998).

9 Jerome Roche, North Italian Church Music in the Age of Monteverdi (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).

10 Jerome Roche, “Giovanni Antonio Rigatti and his Musiche concertate of 1636,” in Il madrigale oltre il madrigale, dal Barocco al Novecento, destino di una forma e problemi di analisi: Atti del IV Convegno internazionale sulla musica italiana nel secolo XVII, Lenno—Como, 28–30 giugno 1991, ed. Alberto Colzani, Andrea Luppi, and Maurizio Padoan (Como: Antiquae Musicae Italicae Studiosi, 1994), 139–45.

11 Along the same lines, however, Koldau’s conjecture that Rigatti considered the print to be a “letter of application” to the Habsburg court is also worth considering.

12 The letter is given in facsimile in Plate 3 and translated on p. 3.

13 See, for example, Linda Maria Koldau, Die venezianische Kirchenmusik von Claudio Monteverdi (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2001), 110–66; and my “New Light in the Forest: A Context for the Solo Motets in Claudio Monteverdi’s Selva morale et spirituale (1641),” unpublished paper presented at the Sixty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society, Columbus, 1 November 2002.

14 See my “Piety, Politics, and Patronage: Motets at the Habsburg Court in Vienna During the Reign of Ferdinand III (1637–1657)” (Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 2002), 384–90; and my “New Light in the Forest.”

15 Steven Saunders, “New Light on the Genesis of Monteverdi’s Eighth Book of Madrigals,” Music and Letters 77 (1996): 183–93, especially at 186–8.

16 Peter Holman, “‘Col nobilissimo esercitio della vivuola’: Monteverdi’s String Writing,” Early Music 21 (1993): 587–8.

17 A modern transcription of Ferdinand III’s Pange lingua is in my “Piety, Politics, and Patronage,” 548–61.

18 Michael Robert Dodds, “The Baroque Church Tones in Theory and Practice” (Ph.D. diss., Eastman School of Music, 1999) (cited in notes 35 and 37); Eric T. Chafe, Monteverdi’s Tonal Language (New York: Schirmer, 1992) (cited in note 38).

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