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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 15 (2009) No. 1

“Tranquilla guerra e cara”: Two Musical Metaphors in the Cantatas of Luigi Rossi

Roger Freitas*

1. Introduction

2. Paradoxical Metaphor and Marino

3. Rossi’s “Mollis Martial”

4. The “Ambiguous Triple”

5. Conclusion





Audio Examples

1. Introduction

1.1 When the word topos appears in connection with music, the subject is usually the repertory of the late eighteenth century. The operatic and instrumental works of that period have become linked to the idea of “topics” through the insightful explorations of Leonard Ratner, Wye Allanbrook, and others.1 But the seventeenth century too produced musical formulas with specific expressive significance. Even at the time, Salvator Rosa complained about (or appreciated) the lasciviousness of the ciaccona, and Monteverdi famously linked rapid pitch-repetition to images of battle; more recently, Ellen Rosand has revealed how even a brief appearance of the descending minor tetrachord could signify lamentation.2 Naturally, such explicit effects formed only a fraction of any composer’s expressive system or language, which embraced both a widely shared vocabulary—dissonance, chromaticism, dance rhythms—and local and even personal constructions. In my ongoing study of Luigi Rossi’s style, I have identified two such distinctive practices, amounting to local topoi, that I am tentatively labeling the “mollis martial” and “ambiguous triple” figures. In my view, both present richly layered meanings. On one level, they simply characterize the concepts and emotions with which they are regularly connected, just as the descending tetrachord symbolizes lament. On a second, they articulate and experiment with the contemporary notions of gender expression linked to their primary concepts. But I believe a third and perhaps most interesting layer of meaning derives from their relationship to celebrated elements of Claudio Monteverdi’s style, specifically, the stile concitato and the recitative lament. On the surface, Rossi’s topoi certainly allude to the elder composer, creating a kind of tribute. But Rossi modifies key aspects of Monteverdi’s practice—indeed subverts that practice—with stylistic incongruity, adding another, wittier layer of significance. I will argue, in fact, that in these passages Rossi translates into song one of the most admired and discussed literary tropes of the era, the paradoxical metaphor.

2. Paradoxical Metaphor and Marino

2.1 For the primo Seicento, the question of the paradoxical metaphor is bound up with the poetry of Giambattista Marino (1569–1625). Marino lavished more attention on this particular verbal figure than anyone before, cleverly harmonizing apparently incompatible or opposed ideas. The following is an excerpt from his famous Canzone dei baci. Having just portrayed kisses as jousts—and so linked love and war—he now piles on the contradictions:

Tranquilla guerra e cara,

This is peaceful warfare and dear,

ove l’ira è dolcezza,

where anger is sweetness;

amor lo sdegno, e ne le risse è pace;

love, disdain; and peace is found in fighting;

ove ’l morir s’impara,

where one learns to die,

l’esser prigion s’apprezza,

prizes being a captive,

né men che la vittoria il perder piace!

and enjoys losing no less than victory!

Quel corallo mordace,

That stinging coral

che m’offende, mi giova;

that injures me also aids me;

quel dente, che mi fére ad ora ad ora,

the tooth that now and then wounds me

quel mi risana ancora;

also heals me;

quel bacio, che mi priva

the kiss that deprives me

di vita, mi raviva;

of life revives me;

ond’io, ch’ho nel morir vita ognor nova,

wherefore I, who through dying gain a life ever renewed,

per ferito esser più, ferisco a prova.

injure in battle so as to be injured all the more.3

2.2 Though enormously popular, Marino’s playful and sensuous style was also highly controversial, and in the years following his death, a number of apologists rose to defend him, especially for his handling of metaphors.4 Rebutting charges of triviality, Matteo Peregrini, Sforza Pallavicino, and especially Emanuele Tesauro argued that the metaphor opens a level of perception normally thwarted by the rational mind.5 In the traditional Aristotelian view, the mind organizes the sensory images it receives into discreet categories, categories that correspond to traits actually possessed by the objects: the organization of the mind thus mirrors reality. Peregrini and Tesauro, however, deny the essential connection between object and mental image. That is, they distinguish between the thing itself and any mental impression it may create. In their view, the Aristotelian categories amount to little more than subjective artifice, and the intellectual habit of classification limits insight, trapping the mind in an arid “reality” of its own invention. As Peregrini puts it, we live in “a grand palace, stocked with every sort of provision and supply, but without knowing where the wine cellar is, nor which key will unlock which door.” 6

2.3 Loosening this web of fictions depends on a pre-rational, intuitive faculty, often called ingegno. With it, the mind can escape the intellect and conceive relationships between seemingly unrelated things. The expression in language of this free mental play is metaphor. In Tesauro’s formulation, the metaphor “send[s] our minds flying between one sort of thing and another, so as to make more than one idea appear in a single word.”7 He offers the following example:

If you say “the fields are pleasant,” it brings to my mind nothing more than the greening of the fields. But if you say “the fields laugh,” you make me see the land as a living man, the fields as his face, the pleasantness as his happy smile. Thus, in a single little word appear all these different sorts of notions: earth, field, pleasantness, man, soul, smile, happiness. And reciprocally, in a rapid journey, I observe in the human face the notions of the fields, and all the proportions that pass between these and those terms, not observed by me in other instances. And this is that rapid and easy teaching that leads to delight, since it seems to the mind of the listener that in a single word there appears a theater full of marvels.8

These “marvelous” fusions do not, of course, exist in the real world, and so Tesauro warns that metaphors must be judged not by their truth—being products of intuition—but by the rarity of their insight, the very degree to which they outstrip reality. By this measure, the most contrived, extraordinary metaphors are best, as they do the most to upset mental habits: in Peregrini’s terms, “the more an expression has of appearance and the less of substance, the more admirable it will be.”9

2.4 Importantly, this intellectual disruption is understood to take place in stages, as the mind comes to terms with the imagery. The first is simple confusion: in Pallavicino’s phrase, difficult metaphors “sweetly wound the intellect of the listener.”10 As perception dawns, confusion gives way to wonder and admiration, the aims of so much Baroque art. But Tesauro believes that the best metaphors go further and after astonishing the mind inspire renewed reflection—a kind of intellectual “digestion”—that permanently expands perceptions. Herein lies the crucial justification for Marino’s style. “For Tesauro,” as James V. Mirollo puts it, “the whole world is filled with wisdom, cunningly concealed by the Supreme Wit; through analogy, the basis of metaphor, the poet discovers truth.”11 In J. W. Van Hook’s terms, such poets “aim to stretch the epistemological capacities of the reader by exercising the mental faculties in unfamiliar ways.”12

3. Rossi’s “Mollis Martial”

3.1 Luigi Rossi inscribed something of these contemporary notions in the musical topoi under discussion here. The first of these I call the “mollis martial.” Its characteristic elements are a compound meter (usually notated in 6/8), triadic vocal writing in “fanfare” style, and—surprisingly—a harmonic area in the mollis realm, usually B-flat major.13 Both the subject matter and meter of the poetry appear to cue Rossi’s usage: a suggestion of battle, or at least struggle, is nearly always present, as are senari, six-syllable lines of regular rhythm. Table 1 lists the instances of this topos known to me. A characteristic example appears at the opening of Difenditi, Amore, as the speaker challenges Cupid to combat. (See Table 2 for the opening of the poem and Example 1 for the score.)14

3.2 To be sure, Eleanor Caluori briefly discusses this configuration of traits as one of the “migrating themes” she finds in Rossi’s music.15 But I perceive greater significance in the pattern, the result less of its predictable motive than its tonality. At least from the time of Monteverdi’s Combattimento, the military style was conventionally presented in durus harmonies; as Eric Chafe writes, “its virtually invariable presentation in the sharp major keys often makes a greater tonal effect in any given work than the military devices themselves.”16 Although Monteverdi did not publicly theorize the stile concitato until his preface to the eighth book, the Combattimento itself dates from more than a decade earlier, and central elements of the style are present already in the Lamento d’Arianna, as when—with triadic leaps, rapidly repeating notes, and harmonies around G major and A minor—Ariadne calls down storms upon Theseus (see Example 2).17 G major is again the “concitato” key in the Combattimento, though before long the more typical trumpet key of D major becomes the norm.

3.3 Yet as consistently as Monteverdi links the martial with the durus sphere, Rossi joins it to the mollis. In addition to the examples of Table 1, a number of other more varied works confirms this point. The text of the cantata Al soave spirar amounts to a long recitative lament, written in the usual versi sciolti punctuated by refrain lines (see Table 3). Opening and closing with narration, the poem is dominated by the complaint of Arion, the mythical singer thrown off his ship by greedy sailors but rescued by a musically-inclined dolphin. Rossi’s setting begins and ends on C, but throughout he employs specific tonal areas to distinguish Arion’s changing moods.18 For example, at lines 48–59, Arion leaves off an aggressive complaint and turns inward, reproving himself for previous outbursts: “Che vaneggi Arione?”; he repeats this gesture at lines 72–81. In both instances, Rossi portrays Arion’s withdrawal by moving to the extreme realm of F minor (supplemented by B-flat minor) for an extended and tonally closed period. By contrast, when at lines 60–71 (and again at 82–6) Arion emerges from introspection to fire up his courage (“Ma chi vendicherà / la mia morte innocente”), Rossi turns immediately to B-flat major, and the vocal line sketches a brief but unmistakable fanfare, an effect also repeated later at “Su, su, nell’ore estreme” (see Example 3a, mm. 114–5; and Example 3b, mm. 153–6, Audio Example 1).19 Here the usual cues for this topos—senari and battle imagery—are lacking. Yet the “mollis martial” appears anyway, so clearly does Rossi associate it with vigor and action.

3.4 But why B-flat major? Given the developing conventions of martial music, the choice seems almost perverse, especially if one assumes that only the musicians, and maybe a few astute patrons, would have perceived it. Rossi was certainly not ignorant of customary mollis associations. His recitative lament Già nell’oblio profondo opens with an evocation of night: “Already the day lies entombed in profound oblivion; and girded in shadows, the weary world rests and is silent.” 20 The tonality of B-flat major appropriately rules this tranquil scene. Similarly consistent with mollis traditions is the aforementioned use of F minor for introspection in Al soave spirar. Of course if contemporary trumpets had been built on a B-flat fundamental, Rossi’s “mollis martial” would be entirely predictable. But according to all research, Italian trumpets were based only on C and/or D.21 And while a tradition of battaglia pieces in F—inspired by Jannequin’s La guerre (1528)—does extend almost to the seventeenth century, a competing tradition of such pieces in G coexisted and seems to have prevailed by the time of the Combattimento (at least in Italy).22 To my mind, then, Rossi’s topos looks like an intentional—if covert—subversion of expectations, indeed a fusion of opposing effects. One could say he is writing G- or D-major music under the cloak of B-flat, or, to inflect the idea socially, dressing his warrior in silks and bows. This last image highlights the gender implications of Rossi’s practice, for the ultra-masculine music of war is softened—genuinely mollified—by appearing in a tonality associated with gentler, and so more feminine, emotions.23 As we know, men were understood to experience precisely this kind of softening when they fell in love, and certainly such compromised and vulnerable figures—for whom warfare has become “peaceful and dear”—are the native inhabitants of the lyric realm.24 With his “mollis martial,” Rossi cleverly embodies this pervasive paradox in music.

4. The “Ambiguous Triple”

4.1 Rossi accomplishes much the same thing, I believe, with a second and even more interesting formula, which I have called the “ambiguous triple.” Mellifluous triple-meter arias are of course a commonplace of mid-Seicento style, and Rossi’s “melting triple-metre lyricism” has often been noted.25 Yet not infrequently Rossi disrupts the flow of such arias with a variety of rhythmic tricks, including repeated hemiolas, misplaced accents, long notes, and the sporadic insertion of quadruple measures. All of these can be found in the cantata, Taci, ohimè, non pianger più (see Table 4 and Example 4; Audio Example 2). In the opening measures, the singer’s long notes effectively mask the initial meter, especially if—as the notation seems to encourage—the singer takes just a little rhythmic freedom. Several measures in clear triple meter follow, but in measure 11, Rossi begins a passage of hemiola so extended as to suggest a shift to duple, an effect emphasized by the setting of the repeated words “son traditi” in an aural 4/2. This passage then merges directly into a return of the hazy opening (at m. 14). The disorientation continues into the second half of the piece, with five measures of alternating triple and duple. At this point, finally, the meter becomes more regular, but the “ambiguous triple” has left a lasting impression.

4.2 Caluori notes this Rossian technique in passing, but again her explanation does not fully satisfy. For her, Rossi’s metrical inconsistency is triggered by irregular poetic verses or the desire to highlight particular words, and in fact the text of Taci, ohimè exhibits polymeter. But its mix of ottonari and quaternari—a commonplace of Chiabreran canzonettas—rarely leads composers to change meters. And Rossi’s setting of the quinari here (lines 7–8, 18–9) actually violates proper accentuation: the added beats in measures 22 and 24 extend the unimportant word “col.” Far from resolving a prosodic challenge, then, Rossi’s metrical complexity actually weakens the declamation, and so the purpose of that complexity must lie elsewhere. In truth, elements of Rossi’s “ambiguous triple” appear in a wide range of his works, including those with fully regular texts. Two examples, taken almost at random, are Amor giura, che m’aiuta and Ho perduta la fortuna, both of whose poems feature regular chains of ottonari piani but whose settings exhibit the disorienting duple insertions and extended hemiolas common to this effect.26

4.3 The topos manifests so frequently and with such varying intensity, in fact, that seeking a single explanation for it might seem misguided. (For this very reason I have not included a table listing all instances of the effect, to parallel Table 1.)27 But my investigations do suggest a consistency of purpose. Two exemplary works—Con Amor si pugna invano and Lasciatemi qui solo—demonstrate that purpose and expose again the layers of its significance. (For the former work see Table 5, Example 5, and Audio Example 3; for the latter, Table 6, Example 6a [Audio Example 4], Example 6b [Audio Example 5], and Example 6c.)

4.4 The metrical complexity of Con Amor si pugna invano is indeed acute, as might be suggested immediately by its notation in what I call “total coloration,” or what theorist Pier Francesco Valentini referred to as emiola maggiore (see Figure 1).28 In this system all normal note shapes are replaced by their colored equivalents: the semibreve (whole note) and minim (half note) are simply filled in, while the semiminim (quarter note) acquires a flag, the fusa (eighth note) a second flag, etc. This system is well known from the keyboard works of Girolamo Frescobaldi, and discussion of its meaning usually concentrates on tempo or tactus relationships to surrounding mensurations; its purpose in a freestanding work is not entirely clear.29 Although the initial 3 sign is never superseded, the operative meter of Con Amor—viewed in its entirety—appears to be compound duple. Accordingly, I have rendered my transcription (Example 5) in 6/2, retaining the original note values in their standard (non-colored) forms and inserting occasional 3/2 measures (indicated by dotted bar lines) to accommodate the barring of the source. The cantata begins, however, with two measures that sound as simple triple (3/1) and so in context might be thought of as hemiola. This opening, along with the prevalence of hemiola throughout the work, may explain the emiola maggiore notation. But the effect of hemiola, the 3:2 substitution, cannot be felt without a previously established triple meter, and so the piece really gives the impression of beginning in simple triple, or 3/1.

4.5 In actuality, no metrical pattern is allowed to stabilize over the first eleven measures of the cantata, the setting of the opening refrain line. Rossi undermines the initial feel of 3/1 by starting on the second beat of the measure and then, after only five beats, interrupting with a single compound beat (m. 3, in 3/2).30 While the sense of 3/1 then returns briefly, it fades again in measure 5 in favor of a simple-duple pattern, or 2/2, strongly suggested by the repeating rhythmic and melodic contours of the word vano (see the notation in Example 5). Measures 8 and 9 return once more to 3/1, but measure 10—in the antithesis of the pre-cadential hemiola— introduces the first real instance of 6/2, or simple triple, leading to the first full cadence (m. 11).

4.6 The middle section of the refrain is set more regularly, and the 6/2 grouping withstands challenges from the abbreviation of measure 15 and the hemiola of measure 16. But Rossi piles on the disruptions again as the refrain concludes. After the evaded cadence of measure 19, the effect of 6/2 returns with a point of rhythmic imitation between bass and voice. But while the hemiola in the vocal part of measure 20 hardly surprises, measures 21–2 combine hemiola writing in the bass with some halting syncopations in the voice that together obscure the meter, especially when followed by the single compound beat of measure 23. After the cadence in G minor (m. 24), syncopation continues for two measures, but in a more discernible 6/2. That regularity receives another shock, however, from the explosion of eighth notes (fusae) in measure 26, which by outpacing anything in the piece (and lacking textual motivation) feel unmoored from their surroundings. The climax comes with measures 28–30, where, over a dominant pedal, Rossi first blurs a hemiola by not articulating its third beat (m. 28), and then inserts, in place of the implied cadence, one more compound beat (m. 29) before finally allowing the music to stumble to its F major conclusion.

4.7 For clues to Rossi’s aims in these passages, one rightly looks to the text of the cantata (Table 5). The form of the poetry is wholly regular and so explains little: entirely in ottonari, two parallel stanzas of twelve lines surround a refrain stanza (estriviglio) of four. But the imagery employed, of an aggressive but ineffective battler, is crucial: strive as he might against Cupid, this lover’s “soul slips through his fingers” and shackles itself to his lady. On one level, then, the “ambiguous triple” depicts this man’s inability to wage real combat. A proficient fighter should be able to whip up his rhythms into a forthright and vigorous display, something like the stile concitato. But this man has been debilitated by Cupid, and his insecurity and ineptitude, even the “slipping” of the text, is painted by the erratic meter. Of course the slippage here is also one of gender. As we have noted, love weakens the warrior by cooling his masculine heat with more womanish passions. And whereas the “mollis martial” conveys this softening by tonal means, the “ambiguous triple” does so through meter, rendering forthright rhythms unstable and groping. As before, but in a different way, Rossi sets a call to battle with music distinctly less than masculine, all to express the contradictions of a man in love.

4.8 In these ways, then, the “ambiguous triple” creates a musical analogue for amorous languishing, or perhaps more accurately, for weak opposition to love’s torments. Certainly this is the most frequent context for the effect, as exemplified again by Taci, ohimè. But Rossi reveals another, deeper purpose for his topos in one quite special work: his setting of Domenico Benigni’s recitative lament Lasciatemi qui solo (see again Table 6).31 Benigni’s poem, with its uninterrupted versi sciolti and recurrent refrain line, largely fits the genre of the recitative lament (or soliloquy).32 Indeed, the opening words deliberately conjure the most famous of all such works: “Lasciatemi morire” from Ottavio Rinuccini and Claudio Monteverdi’s Arianna. In the time-honored tradition of imitatio, Benigni is both paying tribute to the older poet and exhibiting his own creativity. Yet he actually diverges from his model in important ways: at thirty-one lines, his text is less than half as long as Rinuccini’s, and, more significantly, his refrain line returns at nearly regular intervals, including at the end. These repetitions almost lend the free verse of the poem a stanzaic feel. Benigni’s aim, apparently, is to blur the boundary between versi sciolti and versi lirici, between recitative and canzonetta, between—one could even say—speech and song.

4.9 From his first notes, Rossi announces his intent to develop this conceit. The opening strikingly resembles that of the Lamento d’Arianna, with a remarkable dissonance on the accented syllable of “Lasciate.” Whereas Monteverdi used a minor second—b'-flat against an A-minor triad—Rossi chooses a tritone—c'-sharp against a G-minor triad (compare Example 7 to the opening of Example 6a).33 Indeed, by calling for the voice to enter on the dissonant note (rather than starting with a consonance), Rossi has intensified the shock. For Rossi too, then, this work is a kind of tribute.34

4.10 But the composer pursues Benigni’s metaphor primarily at the level of meter. After the first few measures, the listener becomes aware that, rather than the recitative of Monteverdi’s setting, Rossi has chosen a triple-meter aria style. That choice itself surprises: versi sciolti nearly always prompt recitative, Monteverdi’s work being the paragon. But Rossi complicates the matter with the most extreme manifestation of his “ambiguous triple” that I have found. In the opening measures (Example 6a), and whenever the refrain returns, he writes a static bass in combination with long vocal notes that often avoid strong beats: indeed, as in Con Amor, Rossi renders the meter of the opening measures vague. He also liberally employs hemiola, as in measures 16–9, where four measures of 3/4 start to sound like five of 2/4, finally jolted back on track in m. 20. In measures 115–7 (in Example 6b), and again later in measures 161–3 (in Example 6c), the hemiola is further complicated with rapid stile concitato declamation, thoroughly overthrowing the sense of 3/4. (One might note that Rossi sets both these passages of amorous war-making in his favored B-flat.) Finally, the surprise appearance of real recitative (in C) in measures 141–51 (Figure 6c) temporarily adds to the confusion, a state that Rossi extends through the following triple section (mm. 152 ff.) by the insertion of a single 4/4 measure (m. 155), a marked change of tempo, and metrically irregular declamation. Given the character of the poetry, the purpose of these passages seems clear: just as Benigni’s versi sciolti approach the lyricism of canzonetta, so Rossi’s triple-meter aria repeatedly approximates the metrical liberty, the declamatory freedom, of recitative.35

4.11 One can imagine this strange mix first eliciting surprise and maybe even a little confusion among its listeners, followed perhaps by admiration and wonder. As I have suggested elsewhere, such violations of expectations pepper the cantata repertory and often, I believe, signal the notion of wit.36 But the almost Marinistic union of opposites that informs Lasciatemi qui solo seems to go further and indeed “stretch epistemological capacities.” The genre of the cantata descended from earlier forms of monody, of course, and those forms themselves proceeded from a paradoxical metaphor: Jacopo Peri’s famous recitar cantando. As Peri suggests, the aim was to collapse the categories of ordinary speech and song, creating an integrated musico-rhetorical language. He devised, in his words, “the only type of singing that our music could offer to match our speech.”37 To my mind, Benigni and Rossi seem bent on collapsing two more such categories, this time, recitative and aria.38 Instead of recitar cantando, Rossi here writes what might be called recitar canoro, or “speaking melodiously.” By imitating the most famous monody of his day, Rossi makes the argument that, written carefully, his celebrated triple-meter style could assimilate the vaunted power of recitative. Although the “ambiguous triple” might first confuse listeners, it aspires to the rhythmic and emotional flexibility of recitative, thereby elevating the standing of aria style. At this very time composers were beginning to insert more numerous and expressive arias and aria-like passages into their works: in La catena d’Adone (1626), Domenico Mazzocchi aimed to alleviate the “tedio del recitativo” with lyrical “mezz’arie,” and Francesco Cavalli habitually carved out aria-style episodes from passages of versi sciolti. Just as Tesauro might have hoped, it seems, Rossi’s paradoxical topos heralds a real expansion in the conception of musical “reality.”

5. Conclusion

5.1 In this short examination, I have attributed several layers of meaning to two musical constructions found in the cantatas of Luigi Rossi. In so doing, I certainly have not meant to circumscribe the significance of that music. I have aimed merely to spotlight expressive gestures that might otherwise be overlooked and probe their meanings in the context of contemporary discourse. Both the “mollis martial” and “ambiguous triple” figures introduce an established compositional technique but with an unexpected variation, and in both cases that variation—tonal or metrical—can be read in seventeenth-century terms as a softening and thus an effeminizing of the technique. For this reason, both topoi regularly serve to communicate the kind of compromised, or perhaps eroticized, masculinity that saturates the lyric poetry of the age, where languid gentlemen so often surrender themselves to their severe ladies. This mixed imagery places the two effects firmly in the realm of the paradoxical metaphor, a trope then enjoying lively attention among men of letters. And at least the “ambiguous triple” appears to unite the artistic and enlightening functions that some writers advanced for these constructions: not only does it surprise and delight, it introduces the then novel prospect of a rhetorical lyricism (or lyrical rhetoric).

5.2 However their sense is construed, Rossi’s techniques surely merit recognition. They argue, if doubt existed, that Monteverdi figured large in Rossi’s consciousness. And their import extends at least to the music of Rossi’s circle. I have already discovered the “ambiguous triple” in the cantatas of Marc’Antonio Pasqualini, Mario Savioni, and Atto Melani, and the “mollis martial” in the works of Pasqualini.39 But the metaphorical interpretation remains inviting. Tesauro writes at length about metaphor in dance, drama, and the visual arts.40 That composers would have ignored the quality of ingegno—especially when writing private music for the elite—seems unlikely. In any case, all these questions are sure to be illuminated by future research, especially with the recent upsurge of interest in the cantata of the Seicento. Indeed, for the first time we can look forward to penetrating the expressive vocabulary of this unexpectedly sophisticated genre. As that happens, we will gain ever more regular admittance to the cantata’s own remarkable theater of marvels.


* Roger Freitas (rfreitas@esm.rochester.edu) is Associate Professor and Chair of Musicology at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. He is the author of Portrait of a Castrato: Politics, Patronage, and Music in the Life of Atto Melani (Cambridge University Press, 2009), and the editor of the Complete Cantatas of Atto Melani (A-R Editions, 2006).

1 Two classic studies are Leonard Ratner, Classic Music: Expression, Form, and Style (New York: Schirmer, 1980); and Wye Jamison Allanbrook, Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart: “Le nozze di Figaro” and “Don Giovanni” (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).

2 On the ciaccona, see Salvator Rosa, “La musica,” in Poesie e lettere edite e inedite di Salvator Rosa, ed. G. A. Cesareo (Naples: R. Accademia di Archeologia, Lettere e Belle Arti, 1892), 163–87. Rosa was of course not alone in his opinion: see Atto Melani, letter to Mattias de’ Medici, from Rome, 13 November 1655, quoted in Roger Freitas, “Un Atto d’ingegno: A Castrato in the Seventeenth Century” (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1998), 181. For literature on the genere concitato, see reference 17. Ellen Rosand, “The Descending Tetrachord: An Emblem of Lament,” Musical Quarterly 65, no. 3 (July 1979): 344–5.

3 Giambattista Marino, “La canzone dei baci,” in La canzone dei baci: I segreti delle bocche innamorate in una sensuale, voluttuosa poesia barocca, ed. Davide Dei (Florence: Le Càriti, 1999), 30. All translations are mine unless otherwise indicated.

4 For the following brief summary of this movement, I am greatly indebted to the work of the following literary scholars: J. W. Van Hook, “‘Concupiscence of Witt’: The Metaphysical Conceit in Baroque Poetics,” Modern Philology 84, no. 1 (August 1986): 24–38; Eugenio Donato, “Tesauro’s Poetics: Through the Looking Glass,” MLN: Modern Language Notes 78, no. 1 (January 1963): 15–30; and James V. Mirollo, The Poet of the Marvelous: Giambattista Marino (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963).

5 Matteo Peregrini, Delle acutezze, che altrimenti spiriti, vivezze e concetti volgarmente si appellano (Genoa: C. Ferroni, 1639); ed. and abridged in Ezio Raimondi, ed., Trattatisti e narratori del Seicento, Letteratura italiana: Storia e testi, vol. 36 (Milan: R. Ricciardi 1969), 139–68. Matteo Peregrini, I fonti dell’ingegno ridotti ad arte (Bologna: Zenero, 1650); ed. and abridged in Raimondi, Trattatisti e narratori, 169–90. Sforza Pallavicino, Del bene libri quattro (Rome: Corbelletti, 1644); ed. and abridged in Raimondi, Trattatisti e narratori, 218–62. Emanuele Tesauro, Il cannocchiale aristotelico (Turin: Giovanni Sinibaldo, 1654); reprint of 1670 edition, ed. August Buck, Ars poetica: Texte und Studien zur Dichtungslehre und Dichtkunst, Texte, vol. 5 (Bad Homburg: Gehlen, 1968). (Unless otherwise noted, all subsequent citations are to the modern editions listed here.)

6 Peregrini, Fonti dell’ingegno, 177, quoted and translated in Van Hook, “‘Concupiscence of Witt,’” 27: “L’ingegno senza la notizia de’ suoi fonti abita un gran palagio d’ogni vettovaglia e d’ogni bene riccamente fornito; ma non essendo informato dove sia il cellaio, dove la dispensa, né con quale chiave si apra questa or quella stanza.”

7 Tesauro, Cannocchiale aristotelico, 267: “portando a volo la nostra mente da un genere all’altro; ci fa travedere in una sola parola più di un’obietto.” I was led to this citation by Van Hook, “‘Concupiscence of Witt,’” 28, and I adapt my translation from his.

8 Tesauro, Cannocchiale aristotelico, 267: “se tu dì, Prata AMOENA SUNT: altro non mi rappresenti che il Verdeggiar de’ Prati. Ma se tu dirai, Prata RIDENT: tu mi farai (come dissi) veder la Terra essere un’Huomo animato: il prato esser la Faccia: l’Amenità il Riso lieto. Talche in una paroletta transpaiono tutte queste Notioni di Generi differenti, Terra, Prato, Amenità, Huomo, Anima, Riso, Letitia. Et reciprocamente, con veloce tragitto osservo nella faccia humana le Notioni de’ prati: e tutte le proporzioni che passano fra queste & quelle, da me altra volta non osservate. Et questo è quel veloce & facile insegnamento da cui ci nasce il diletto: parendo alla mente di chi ode, vedere in un Vocabulo solo, un pien teatro di meraviglie.”

9 Peregrini, Delle acutezze, 124, quoted and translated in Van Hook, “‘Concupiscence of Witt,’” 29: “Ma l’essere grazioso e mirabile non ha bisogno necessariamente di realtà, anzi tanto più il mirabile è mirabile, quanto ha più d’apparenza e meno si sussistenza.”

10 Sforza Pallavicino, Trattato dello stile e del dialogo (Rome: Mascardi, 1662); ed. and abridged in Raimondi, Trattatisti e narratori, 199; as quoted and translated in Van Hook, “‘Concupiscence of Witt,’” 32: “dolcemente ferir l’intelletto di chi ode.”

11 Mirollo, Poet of the Marvelous, 204.

12 Van Hook, “‘Concupiscence of Witt,’” 38.

13 In my use of the terms mollis and durus here, I follow the work of Eric Chafe, particularly as explained in Monteverdi’s Tonal Language (New York: Macmillan-Schirmer, 1992), passim, but especially 21–37. When I speak of music as inhabiting the mollis realm or sphere, I mean the music employs pitches and chords that characterize the three hexachords native to the cantus mollis: natural, one-flat, and two-flat. Any passage with a functional tonic of B-flat must occupy this mollis tonal space.

14 I have edited all music in the examples. As I generally follow standard editorial practices, only a few aspects of the scores require comment. In all cases the original clef for vocal lines is C1 and for basso continuo, F4. All accidentals above the staff represent editorial suggestions; all original bass figures appear below the bass staff, with editorial additions or changes in square brackets. The sources of Rossi’s music most typically bar triple-meter passages in groups of six beats, which I have thus adopted as my default. When this configuration changes—with the extension or contraction of the pattern, or with the substitution of a four-beat measure—I have indicated the change with numbers above both lines of the staff. This approach seems a reasonable and legible compromise between a diplomatic rendering (potentially difficult to read) and a score littered with real meter changes (compromising the character of the original).

15 Eleanor Caluori, The Cantatas of Luigi Rossi: Analysis and Thematic Index, Studies in Musicology (Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1981), 76.

16 Chafe, Monteverdi’s Tonal Language, 240.

17 A minor controversy surrounds the application of Monteverdi’s label, “genere concitato,” to these passages, as well as others that present martial characteristics. Supporting the connection are Nino Pirrotta, “Monteverdi’s Poetic Choices,” in Music and Culture in Italy from the Middle Ages to the Baroque, Studies in the History of Music 1 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984), 312–3; Chafe, Monteverdi’s Tonal Language, 240; and Paolo Fabbri, Monteverdi (Turin: EDT/Musica, 1985), 252. Massimo Ossi, Divining the Oracle: Monteverdi’s seconda prattica (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 227–8n, argues for a more restrictive use of the term. Return to reference 2

18 The opening key area is clearly what we would call C minor, but the concluding C-major harmony of the piece is approached as a half-cadence in F minor. More research is needed to determine whether Rossi might be alluding to a particular tone or mode. See, for example, the work of Gregory Barnett (e.g., “Modal Theory, Church Keys, and the Sonata at the End of the Seventeenth Century,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 51, no. 2 [Summer 1998]: 245–81) and Michael Dodds (“The Baroque Church Tones in Theory and Practice” [Ph.D. diss., Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, 1999]).

19 The five sound examples included with this article give a rough sense of some of the effects discussed. Unfortunately, I was not able to find an appropriate singer to record the various examples, and so with the help of some talented musicians at Eastman (I thank profusely both Kristian Bezuidenhout and Paul O’Dette), I sang some of the more interesting cases myself. As I am not a soprano, we transposed all the examples down an octave and a fourth.

20 From Luigi Rossi, Cantatas, ed. Francesco Luisi, texts ed. Francesco Luisi and Gabriella Biagi Ravenni, The Seventeenth-Century Italian Cantata, vol. 1 (New York: Garland, 1986), 262: “Già nell’oblio profondo / il dì sepolto giace / e, cinto d’ombre, il mondo / stanco riposa e tace.”

21 See Reine Dahlqvist, “Pitches of German, French, and English Trumpets in the 17th and 18th Centuries,” Historic Brass Society Journal 5 (1993): 29–41; Matthew Cron, “In Defense of Altenburg: The Pitch and Form of Foreign Trumpets,” Historic Brass Society Journal 8 (1996): 6–41; and Anthony Baines, Brass Instruments: Their History and Development (London: Faber and Faber, 1976), 124–5. Also worthy of note is Roman composer Alessandro Melani’s (1639–1703) consistent use of D major for his cantatas with trumpet.

22 Jannequin’s La guerre or Escoutez tous gentilz, on F with one flat, stands behind many similar works of the sixteenth century, including Annibale Padovano’s Aria della battaglia (1590) and Adriano Banchieri’s La battaglia (1596). Not surprisingly, the latter is included in Banchieri’s collection of Canzoni alla francese. By contrast, Andrea Gabrieli’s Sento un rumor (1587) is written on G with no signature, as is Orazio Vecchi’s Battaglia d’amor e dispetto (also 1587) and Girolamo Frescobaldi’s Capriccio sopra la Battaglia (1637). For a discussion of this repertoire, see Alan Brown, Grove Music Online, s.v. “Battle Music” (accessed 1 October 2008). Based on Rossi’s distance from the French chanson tradition, both temporally and geographically, I find these F-major battaglie unlikely to have influenced his “mollis martial” topos. But even if he knew such works, his decision to write in B-flat rather than the standard F of the “Jannequin tradition” significantly modifies the “norm” in the mollis direction.

23 Eric Chafe, the key researcher into the mollis-durus harmonic system, does not specifically map the tonal continuum onto the early modern continuum of gender, but the affects he associates with each pole—e.g., harshness for durus, pity for mollis—highlight the already gendered ideas of hard and soft systems. See Monteverdi’s Tonal Language, passim, with a fine series of examples in the chapter on Orfeo, 126–58.

24 For an introduction to some of the literature on this subject, see Freitas, “The Eroticism of Emasculation: Confronting the Baroque Body of the Castrato,” Journal of Musicology 20, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 196–249. The idea of the man effeminized by love is also addressed, among other places, throughout Wendy Heller’s Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women’s Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); and Thomas Laqueur’s Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990).

25 Robert R. Holzer, Grove Music Online, s.v. “Rossi, Luigi” (accessed 29 September 2008).

26 Amor giura, che m’aiuta may be found in F-Pn Rés. Vm7 6, fol. 12v; Ho perduta la fortuna may be found in F-Pn Rés. Vm7 6, fol. 1r (among other sources).

27 Indeed, the identification of “metrical disruption” remains subjective. Many works with scattered hemiolas or duple insertions could be said to be influenced by the “ambiguous triple” topos without becoming truly ambiguous. It would be impossible (and pointless) to try to draw a clear line.

28 On Valentini, see Margaret Murata, “Pier Francesco Valentini on Tactus and Proportion,” in Frescobaldi Studies, ed. Alexander Silbiger, Sources of Music and Their Interpretation: Duke Studies in Music (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1987), 326–50 passim, but especially 335–43.

29 See Murata, “Pier Francesco Valentini,” passim; Paul Brainard, “Proportional Notation in the Music of Schütz and His Contemporaries,” Current Musicology 50 (Spring 1992): 26–7. One should note that Frescobaldi himself sets one of his arie entirely in this notation: Tu sai pur dolce from the Secondo libro d’arie musicali per cantarsi (Florence: Giovanni Battista Landini, 1630), 23; reprint in Primo e secondo libro d’arie musicali, Archivium musicum; La cantata barocca, no. 10 (Florence: Studio per Edizioni Scelte, 1982).

30 In Valentini’s system, this might be thought of as an admixture of emiola minore (Murata, “Pier Francesco Valentini,” 335).

31 This cantata was first discussed by Robert Rau Holzer in his “Music and Poetry in Seventeenth Century Rome: Settings of the Canzonetta and Cantata Texts of Francesco Balducci, Domenico Benigni, Francesco Melosio, and Antonio Abati” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1990), 314–20. Many of the technical observations about the poem and Rossi’s setting may be found there (although I actually arrived at them from my own research). Needless to say, my interpretation of the significance of these gestures for Rossi’s practice is rather different.

32 On the genre, see Margaret Murata, “The Recitative Soliloquy,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 32, no.1 (Spring 1979): 45–73; on the typical poetic form, 49.

33 Rossi almost certainly possessed a manuscript score of Monteverdi’s work. See Holzer, “Rossi, Luigi.”

34 It is interesting that Monteverdi himself seems to have imitated many of his own older masters. See Geoffrey Chew, Grove Music Online, “Monteverdi, Claudio,” section 6 (accessed 27 September 2008). Chew’s essay refers to preceding scholarship on the topic, especially Gary Tomlinson, Monteverdi and the End of the Renaissance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987). It would seem that Rossi continued in the imitatio tradition.

35 Of course one might contend that Rossi’s setting of versi sciolti in aria style represents a rejection of Benigni’s poetic choices rather than a fulfillment of them. I hope it is clear I am arguing for a more complex attitude toward text-music relationships.

36 Roger Freitas, “Singing and Playing: The Italian Cantata and the Rage for Wit,” Music and Letters 82, no. 4 (November 2001): 509–42.

37 Jacopo Peri, preface to L’Euridice (Florence: Marescotti, [1600]), ed. Angelo Solerti in Le origini del melodramma: Testimonianza dei contemporanei (Turin: Fratelli Bocca, 1903), 47: “ho creduto esser quello [canto] che solo possa donarcisi dalla nostra musica, per accomodarsi alla nostra favella.”

38 I use the word aria here in the modern sense of a lyrical, melodic style with regular bass motion. In the early seventeenth century, the term tends to refer to the strophic form as much as to any elements of style. See Tim Carter, “‘An Air New and Grateful to the Ear’: The Concept of Aria in Late Renaissance and Early Baroque Italy,” Music Analysis 12, no. 2 (July 1993): 127–45; Claude V. Palisca, “Aria Types in the Earliest Operas,” Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music 9, no. 1 (2003); http://www.sscm-jscm.org/v9/no1/palisca.html.

39 Pasqualini employs some aspects of the “ambiguous triple” (especially the inserted quadruple measure) in his Lassa, e qual per le vene and Sospiri, che fate?; Savioni, in his S’io vi rivolgo un guardo; and Melani, in his Io voglio esser infelice and O quanto si dolea. Pasqualini employs the “mollis martial” in the aria “Su dunque al morire” of Oh Dio, come farò?

40 Tesauro, Cannocchiale aristotelico, 731–4.


Example 1. Opening of Difenditi, Amore by Luigi Rossi

Example 2. Excerpt from the Lamento d’Arianna by Claudio Monteverdi

Example 3a. Al soave spirar d’aure serene: lines 59–62

Example 3b. Al soave spirar d’aure serene: lines 81–6

Example 4. Taci, ohimè, non pianger più: lines 1–8

Example 5. Con Amor si pugna invano: lines 1–4

Example 6a. Lasciatemi qui solo: mm.1–36

Example 6b. Lasciatemi qui solo: mm. 103–22

Example 6c. Lasciatemi qui solo: mm. 141–69

Example 7. Opening of the Lamento d’Arianna by Claudio Monteverdi


Figure 1. Con Amor si pugna invano: Facsimile of First Page


Table 1. Examples of the “Mollis Martial” in the Works of Luigi Rossi

Table 2. Opening Text of Difenditi, Amore, by Domenico Benigni

Table 3. The Poem of Al soave spirar d’aure sirene

Table 4. The Poem of Taci, ohimè, non pianger più

Table 5. The Poem of Con Amor si pugna invano

Table 6. The Poem of Lasciatemi qui solo, by Domenico Benigni

Audio Examples

Audio Example 1. Al soave spirar d’aure serene: Setting of Lines 81–6

Audio Example 2. Taci, ohimè, non pianger più: Setting of Lines 1–8

Audio Example 3. Con Amor si pugna invano: Setting of Lines 1–4

Audio Example 4. Lasciatemi qui solo: measures 1–36

Audio Example 5. Lasciatemi qui solo: measures 103–22

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