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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 9 (2003) No. 1

“Singing,” “Acting,” and “Dancing” in Vocal Chamber Music of the Early Seicento

Margaret Murata*


Five chamber pieces from before 1640 with rhythmically contrasting sections demonstrate the use of different musical styles as dependent upon text. Recitational and song-like styles can embody contrast or opposition in their texts; poetic conceits are vivified through allusion to narrative modes from epic and the theater, in the connection of metric music to choral dancing and choral response, and by mimetic suggestion created by the treatment of rhythm.

1. Musical Variety and Theatrical Representation

2. Irregular Rhythm and Representing “the Natural”

3. Metric Music: Choral Dance

4. Metric Music: Choral Response and the Arioso

5. Choral Finale to Chamber Monody: “Se tu parti da me” by Jacopo Peri

6. Arioso and Choral Dance in a Sacred Concerto: “Non ha, non ha più loco” by Domenico Mazzocchi

7. Epic Recitation, Arioso, and Refrain Aria: “T’amai gran tempo” by Stefano Landi

8. Triple Meter in Duple Mensuration: “Amor la donna mia” by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger

9. Rhythm, Mimesis, and Narrative



Musical Examples

1. Musical Variety and Theatrical Representation

1.1 In the theater, stories and characters help us understand the uses of different musical styles and genres, whether the music consists of strophic songs in a Shakespeare play or animates an ensemble ballet in a Lully opera. From the very beginning of opera, both the diverse influences upon and the novelty of the genre allowed for a variety of music, from emotional monodies emulating ancient Greek soliloquies to insouciant songs—such as a drinking song for Charon in the 1619 Morte d’Orfeo by Stefano Landi. Though more rare, particular genres of Italian vocal chamber music also appeared in operas, such as the “arie di più parti” used to set sonnets. An early example can be found in the Roman opera Amor pudico of 1614.1 On the one hand, such uses of appropriately different kinds of vocal music can enhance the reality of theatrical representation, by bringing “real” music onto the stage.2 On the other hand, the representational fiction that is the stage can bestow the illusion of naturalness to singing, as happens with recitative. As is well known, inspired by descriptions of music unknown to them and in a largely unknown language (ancient Greek), a few musicians in Florence in the late sixteenth century devised new ways to theatricalize Italian solo singing, by rendering music more naturalistic through devices representative of “the natural” in the theater.

1.2 Aspects of a drama, however, that help account for the different kinds of music in a theatrical work, such as plot, character, or dramatic structure, are absent in most vocal chamber music. The interpretation of chamber pieces with few external props can nonetheless be enhanced by considering (or discovering) parallels between them and music for the stage. This essay begins by revisiting a few categories of recitational and song-like styles from the earlier seventeenth century and their relation to theater. It then examines a few compositions that mix those styles, in order to exemplify how the music offers multiple referents that enrich fairly straightforward poems. As we shall see, these references have less to do with making a chamber solo “dramatic” or suggesting a “scene” in the absence of costumes or sets, and have more to do with embodying the poetic conceit at the core of each work. Both Silke Leopold and John Hill have contributed recently and concretely to our understanding of the origins of “cantata-like” juxtapositions of declamatory and tuneful music in early seventeenth-century chamber music.3 The focus here on recitation and song examines their interaction with each other in terms of the story of the “person” represented by the chamber singer.


2. Irregular Rhythm and Representing “the Natural”

2.1 The novelty of Florentine monody is apparent when it is compared in general with other types of sung narrative verse. We may think of epic verse, for example, as being recited with repetitive, low-profile musical phrases in isometric lines. A ballad may catch the ear with a well-shaped, lightly decorated, syllabic tune that is repeated for multiple strophes and which could also allow further melodic—but not metric—variation. Both such styles have rhythmic regularity in common, derived in our musical imaginations from a conception of regularity and repetition in epic or ballad.4

2.2 Musical settings, however, can also diverge from or ignore the patterns of their texts. Italian monody between the 1580s and 1620s tended in one direction toward the irregular qualities of spoken language, changing pitch according to speech contours, rather than to the conventions of melodic shape, and varying rhythmic durations to suit oratorical delivery. This tendency can be exemplified in some published representations of formulas for singing ottave, the stanzaic, eight-line form of Italian epic and chivalric narrative, with eleven syllables in each line.5 When given as melodic models, single strophes are often identified as “aria da cantar ottave,” as opposed to the often elaborated settings of strophic ottave that appear in manuscripts and prints.6 One syllabic setting from Kapsperger’s second book of arias of 1623 provides a concise example of oratorical rhythm, written down.7 The eight isometric lines of “È fior la speme mia” form four parallel couplets, but the lines vary in musical duration from two semibreves to three (see the complete text [text 1] and score [example 1]). Five of the eight lines open with the same musical rhythm of five equal syllables, but the internal four syllables of all the lines differ in rhythm. Furthermore, with one judicious contraction in line 6 (echoing line 4), the four internal syllables in lines 2 through 8 increase steadily in musical duration from one semiminim to three minims (example 2). Musical rhythm thus paces the delivery; but pitch creates its intensity. The first four lines stay within a pitch range of a minor sixth (e' to c'' in mm. 1–8). In the second four lines, the tessitura rises, creating a range of a minor seventh (f'-sharp to e'') as the poet’s similes reach their final, sardonic complaint. Such a “naturalistic,” syllabic musical representation of poetic declamation is the essence of the stile rappresentativo,a mode of reciting that parallels the illusion of natural speech in the theater. Since singing ottave is, however, a chamber genre, we might assume that subsequent strophic repetitions (which Kapsperger does not present) would have been varied by melismatic embellishments. Contradicting such an assumption are two ottava settings in recitational style published by John Hill, both termed “arie in stil recitativo” (1:209). Hill’s example by Ottavio Catalani on a text from Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata remains predominantly syllabic for 105 bars and was apparently performed as a dramatic soliloquy (vol. 2, no. 14).

2.3 In the same decades, solo singing also continued in a less speech-like direction toward another kind of irregularity. The traditional practices of singing isometric verse in terze rime, ottave, and other fixed forms, distended poetic meter with melismatic ornaments of varying length, in variable places in the poetic lines. The embellishments were often not so much variations of fixed melodic tones as variations over repetitions of melodic or bass formulas (also called arie).8 But since these basses, too, were often not disposed isometrically (unlike, for example, a blues bass), the resulting effect of spontaneous melodic invention projected its own version of “the natural”—sprezzatura with virtuosity, as it were. This ornamentally varied style appears in sets of stanzas and also in the parti, or sections, into which single fixed forms, such as sonnets, were divided. That this kind of singing was highly prized can be inferred from its representation in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo as the type of music Orpheus sings to demonstrate his power in the underworld (“Possente spirto”).9 Such decorated singing is often talked about as the opposite of syllabic recitation, but it is important to observe that melismatic passages appear more frequently as excursions in declamatory contexts than in metric, song-like music. They represent another type of expressive rhythmic distention of the poetic line, and in a manner that actors who only speak cannot do.10 Thus when this kind of embellished solo singing appears on stage, it effectively represents itself—not acting, but professional singing.

3. Metric Music: Choral Dance

3.1 In addition to recitational genres, there were of course various stand-alone categories of song, such as laude, popular songs, villanelle,11 and scherzi, as well as general categories such as canzonetta or arietta.12 In terms of the theater, one important use of song was for dancing or to suggest choral dancing. Choruses performed both isometric and polymetric verse in the ancient theater, and such choruses remained a persistent feature of neo-classical productions, from the 1585 revival of Oedipus rex (with choral music by Andrea Gabrieli) to generations of Jesuit school plays. (They appear, for example, in all the Rospigliosi/Barberini operas set in imperial Rome.13) Although not all choruses that close acts were designed for balletic display with distinctive choreographies, the convention continued in intermedio-style finales and, later, in acts that closed with solo ensembles or in strongly metrical solo arias. In early modern theatrical dancing, various vocal scorings of music for dancing are evident—homophonic polyphony, solo dance songs, combinations of the two and, especially, tutti-soli scoring in which the choral passages act as refrains.14 Verse patterns are variable and often not isometric. Features of this sort appear in compositions that may have been originally for the stage or the chamber; but without external evidence, it cannot be known whether a “dance-like” passage in a detached piece may have been danced, may simply be employing a dance meter, or is functioning as a musical reference to dance or choral music. Passages in triple meter, as Silke Leopold has aptly warned, cannot automatically be dubbed “dance songs.” 15 (Among other caveats, she points out the frequency of duple meter balletti, for example, in collections by Gastoldi and Miniscalchi.) For chamber music in mixed song and recitational styles, however, the critic’s job is more to test whether references to dance affect the reading of the whole, rather than speculating whether they are traces of actual dance music.

4. Metric music: Choral Response and the Arioso

4.1 Another use of song style has been well known since Nino Pirrotta’s 1956 essay on the oldest “cavatina,” an essay inspired by the function of the “mezz’arie” in the operatic score La catena d’Adone of 1626.16 Pirrotta made a correspondence between the brief, non-strophic passages in song style in Domenico Mazzocchi’s score and J. G. Walther’s definition of cavata in his 1732 dictionary of music, namely, the music for the summarizing function of a few words at the end of an extended recitative, set “alla battuta e in arioso” (solche sententiösen Worte nach dem Tacht, und arioso zu setzen).17 Such sententious lines are familiar in spoken drama, in certain choral comments to main characters or commentaries on their actions by secondary roles. An example is the scene in Guarini’s Pastor fido (Act III, scene 2) in the game of blind-man’s bluff between Amarilli, Mirtillo and Corisca.

Amarilli: Mirtillo: Amarilli: (to Mirtillo) Coro di ninfe:

Ite con l’altre in schiera e tutte insieme fatemi cerchio, e s’incominci il gioco. Ma che sarà di me? Fin qui non veggio qual mi possa venir da questo gioco comodità che ’l mio desire adempia; … … … … … . Alfin sete venute. E che pensaste di non far altro che bendarmi gli occhi? Pazzerelle che sete! Or cominiciamo. Cieco Amor, non ti cred’io, ma fai cieco il desio di chi ti crede; che, s’hai pur poca vista, hai minor fede.18

82 89

4.2 The chorus has a similar function in the more intense messenger scene in Rinuccini’s libretto Arianna.

Nunzio primo: Coro: Nunzio primo: Coro:

Se su da l’alto cielo, … non scende fiamma o telo, … … … … … . che sia giustizia in Ciel creder non voglio. Bell’ è il tacer dove grand’ira abbonda. … … … … … . Una gentil donzella, … … … … … . piange la rotta fede, … … … … … . Ben son, ben son fallaci le speranze mortali. Ma il sospetto e ’l timor troppo veraci.19

645 655 666 670 682

4.3 Such responses are easily transferred to the rhetoric of a single speaker. In a sonnet by Marino, for example (text 2), a simple change of person in the closing tercet from “potrò” to “potrai” (from “Well can I say” to “Well can you say”) would reproduce a soloist’s lament followed by a sententious choral response.

[Recit.] [Aria] Amor, com’esser può che per mia doglia chiuda un tenero sen anima alpina? Com’è che si nasconda e si raccoglia mente infernal sotto beltà divina? Sì bella guancia con sì cruda voglia? Sembra cinta di fior tana ferina! Sì fero core in sì leggiadra spoglia? E qual vipera in rosa o rosa in spina? Chi crederà che mort’ empia si celi in angelico sguardo, e ch’in un riso dolce il pianto e’l dolor si copra e veli? Potrò ben dir, s’un mansueto viso esser ministro dee d’opre crudeli c’habbia ancor le sue furie il Paradiso. 9 breves / cadence in Gm 11 breves / cadence in FM 7 breves / close on V of G 18 + 18 = 36 breves

4.4 Earlier sonnets were normally treated as four parti, or sections of (4+4) + (3+3) lines in strophic variations.20 Benedetto Ferrari set one to open his 1633 collection of Musiche varie with eleven interrogative lines of recitative answered by three lines “in aria” (see example 3). He retained the four formal sections, but the three in recitative are unequal in length (9, 11, and 7 breves in duration), and they close with different cadences—full cadences in the tonic G minor at m. 17, in F major at m. 38, and with a half cadence in G at mm. 52–3. The start of the closing tercet in 3/2 at m. 54 does not, however, resolve the D-major dominant chord. The singer jumps directly into B-flat major and with a leap up of a tenth (example 4). This disjuncture emphasizes a change of “voice” as much as does the change in musical style. Marino’s shift here at line 12 marks a change in the address to Cupid from the masochistic pleasures of lament and frustration to wry wit, as the poet answers himself with a final antithesis. Musically, however, text repetitions expand the setting of the final three lines to 18 breves (in 6/2), making it longer than any of the earlier sections. After a principal cadence in G minor at m. 72, more repetition of just the two closing lines extends the “arioso” another 18 breves, creating a recitative-to-aria proportion of 3:4 in which the sententious sentiment preponderates. A musical setting of a few choral lines might have similarly been expanded in a theatrical context.


5. Choral Finale to Chamber Monody: “Se tu parti da me” by Jacopo Peri

5.1 In 1609 Jacopo Peri published “Se tu parti da me,” a three-strophe canzona all in recitative verse by Michelangelo Buonarroti, the younger. Tim Carter has identified this monody as a substitute text for the chorus that closes Act III of Buonarroti’s Il giudizio di Paride, staged in Florence in 1608.21 (See the complete text [text 3] and score [example 5].) Its first six lines are sung in the expected declamatory manner and are varied in each stanza. Each strophe concludes, however, with a musical refrain in song style, which is also varied.22 Several aspects of the monodic version connect it to choral traits of both song and movement. Buonarroti’s recitative lines are internally song-like. The anapestic feet of the opening line imitates the dance rhythms of the classical chorus:23

Se tu párti da mé, [6] - Fíllide amáta, [5]

The second line, though iambic, offers half-line phrases of six and five syllables that parallel and complement the first line:

se prívi gl’ócchi míei [6] del túo splendóre [5]

Peri’s musical setting closely follows these characteristics. It not only models the rhythmic ductus, but the music for both lines rises and descends to a focal tone (marked * in the example) just before a harmonic resolution (example 6). “Fillide amata” would be harmonized I–V–I over the tonic pedal; and the f'-sharp of “miei” provides a fresh note temporarily halting the descent to the closing dominant. The setting enhances Buonarroti’s phrase, complements without moving into “song,” in a manner that is simultaneously “recitativo e cantativo.”24 The three refrain lines of each strophe conclude in an arioso, strongly metric fashion. Together with the lyric quality of the stanzas, the three varied refrains evoke the choreographic pattern of a soloist alternating with dancers in chorus.

5.2 Since there is only one possible speaker of Peri’s published text (“ch’altrove amante/ Qual me non troverai fido e costante”), this choral format may seem inappropriate. Yet in the chamber version, the alternation of styles kinesthetically represents the dramatic situation of the text, which contrasts images of an act of departing (by Fillide) and the constancy of the poet/speaker, who is begging Filli to remain put. The fixed position of the poet is established by the openings of each stanza. In the first two strophes, lines 1 and 2 are sung over an A-minor chord sustained for four semibreves; the pedal tone is further extended to five semibreves in strophe three. The opposing motion is imparted by the refrain sections with their (3+3) meter and, additionally, by their melismatic ornaments. Although the brief melismas on “girsene” and “errante” in the first and second refrains do serve as word-painting, they are also among the few words in the three strophes that evoke motion. (The verb “versi” —to pour cooling tears, in this case—in the second stanza is not ornamented.) The verb “tu parti” of the opening line is given rhythmic motion only at the end of the second refrain with the melisma on “se fai da me partita.” In the third and final refrain, motion and stasis are brought together. The poet pleads for Fillide to halt, but does so in the metric motion of the refrain, as if he were following her. Clearly Fillide is not staying. He alludes to her search for another lover with running melismas on “altrove” and “troverai,” while in the final three measures, the singer stands alone; that is, he returns to rhythm that is “fido e costante” (example 7).

5.3 Such a reading should serve to caution performers eager to add their own embellishments to the recitative portions of strophes two and three. Such a reading also suggests a broadening of the kinds of stage movement—beyond the steps of gagliards or correnti toward mime—that can be suggested by considering “dance” in this music.

6. Arioso and Choral Dance in a Sacred Concerto: “Non ha, non ha più loco” by Domenico Mazzocchi

6.1 A combination of melismatic and tripla elements also tells the story in Domenico Mazzocchi’s setting of “Non ha, non ha più loco,” a two-strophe canzonetta by Giulio Rospigliosi. (See the complete poem [text 4] and score [example 8].) A quatrain of rhyming couplets in the seven- and eleven-syllable lines of recitative leads into a set of closely rhymed senari, set in a 3 + 3 meter. The appearance of the work in the composer’s 1640 volume of Musiche sacre would seem to preclude any direct connection with dance. The 5-line metric form of the senari, however, corresponds to the choral close to Act I of Rospigliosi’s opera San Bonifazio (Rome, 1638).

G. Rospigliosi/D. Mazzochi (pub.1640) G. Rospigliosi/V. Mazzochi (perf. 1638)
Mi spiace
Ahi quanti n’inganna
la face,
fallace beltà!
che dolce a me fù,
Chi cieco s’affanna
Se credi mai più
seguendo suo lampo
goder ne miei danni,
mai scampo
oh, quanto t’inganni!
non ha25

* tr = tronco, a line missing its last, unaccented syllable)

Mazzocchi’s duet, however, does not set the two kinds of poetic rhythm in simple recitative-aria opposition. The opening lines in recitative meters are not set syllabically, but are in an imitative concerto texture, replete with joyous melismas that simultaneously represent both the uncontrolled excesses of the singers’ former lives and delight in their new, reformed ones. These excesses are cleared away by the “fiamme più pure” of line 3, which cause all melismatic music to cease. Line 4 closes the first half of the strophe with a sententious phrase, “altri tempi, altre cure,” which has delicious twinges of tritones as each imitating voice enters (soprano in m. 22, bass in m. 24). A settenario set in aria style (mm. 22–25) signals change and detachment. Pivotally, this line introduces the regulated life that is represented by the strongly metrical setting of the senari that follow (mm. 26–36). The two musically contrasting sections in both stanzas tidily evoke the worldly past and celebrate the future.26

7. Epic Recitation, Arioso, and Refrain Aria: “T’amai gran tempo” by Stefano Landi

7.1 An arioso line also concludes the opening recitational section in Stefano Landi’s “T’amai gran tempo,” published in his second book of arias of 1627.27 The canzonetta—or aria—has six strophes, each with a second “half” in a song style that is continued in an 11-breve textual and musical refrain in 6/2 (see example 9). These formal elements of recitation + arioso followed by metric air + refrain are cleverly employed to tell the story. Four formal eleven-syllable lines open each strophe to state in familiar literary language how faithless the poet’s lover has been (see text 5). Landi does not present this stereotypical complaint in stile rappresentativo. Taking his cue from the endecasyllabic quatrain, he calls on the narrative musical style of epic ottave (example 10). The singer maintains this “serious” style for the first three lines in each quatrain. In the fourth line, however, a triple-meter arioso signals reversal (see example 9, mm. 7–11). This fourth line breaks in with a mocking announcement that cadences in the tonic: “I’m fed up and I’ve taken care of myself elsewhere” (str. 1); “I’ve had enough and I’m not listening to you any more” (str. 3); “I’m free now and can’t hear your whistle” (str. 5). Both the rhythm and harmony anticipate a ciaccona. Once this arioso line is heard in the first strophe, the return to recitative style in strophes 2 through 6 can only be heard in parody of the ottava style.

Strophe 1

1 [recit.] T’amai gran tempo e sospirai mercerde. GM cadence
Tu m’hai tradito ogn’hor priva di fede. Am
Hor va con novi amanti a far tue prove, GM
4 in 3 ch’io son già stufo, e m’ho provisto altrove. GM
5 in 3
Hor vanne mò
ch’io non ti vuò,
ch’io son già stufo, e m’ho provisto altrove. CM
Hor vanne mò,
ch’io non ti vuò,
10 [refrain] che già di là dal Pò passato è ’l merlo. CM
Corri, corri a vederlo.

In each strophe, the news in the arioso line (line 4) motivates a chipper five-line aria section of disjointed ciaccona gestures: “Now go, since I don’t want you” (str. 1); “Go ahead and yell, I’ve gone deaf” (str. 2); “Go rot, I’m free” (str. 5). The truncated quinari in the tripla (lines 5–6, 8–9) prevent any kind of fluid corrente motion. Landi sets their four syllables in six beats.



van -

6 - 1


2 -3

4 >




6 - 1


2 - 3


4 >

The lengthened second and third syllables throw musical stress onto the tronco end-syllables, which fall on beat 4; it connects right onto the next anacrusic syllable in a series of petulant stomps (or arrested pliés) that then throw their energy on to the lengthened beats (see mm. 13–17).

7.2 Landi’s aria section concludes with a two-line refrain saying (transparently) that the bird has flown the coop: “The blackbird has already flown away over the Po. Run, run to see it!” The previous petulant rhythm smoothes out and musically differentiates the two sections in 6/2. The refrain in mm. 24–34 thus functions as a sententious arioso to the aria—an echo of a theatrical choral refrain and an external confirmation of the poet’s triumph. Text and rhythm send the ex-beloved away (“corri, corri”) at the same time that the refrain symbolizes the poet’s freedom and the loosened bonds of love (“ch’io sciolto vò”).

8. Triple Meter in Duple Mensuration: “Amor la donna mia” by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger

8.1 Even brief triple-meter passages in otherwise recitational pieces deserve some thought and should not simply be noted as decorative moments of text illustration, interpolated for the sake of variety. A case in point occurs in “Amor la donna mia” (“My lady holds Cupid in her heart”) from Kapsperger’s 1612 Libro primo d’arie.28 (See text 6 and example 11.) Leopold classifies the text as a madrigal, noting that Kapsperger’s setting is through-composed. Most of the lines are short, with seven syllables. The two quatrains and the final tercet are marked off by closing eleven-syllable lines, thus subdividing the fourteen lines of the poem into (4+ 4) lines and (3+ 3), as in sonnet settings. These are not, however, set in strophic variation as was typical for sonnets.

1 5 9 12

C (recit.)

in 3 C


Amor la donna mia rinchiude nel suo core fra tregua et amore, e tutto vuol che nel mio petto sia.

Porge Amor, s’ella ride, tregua mostra, se tace; e con ira il cor mi sface. Così m’avviva ogn’hor, così m’ancide. Tal’hor tutto mi dona; ben sol mi nieg[h]’ e vieta d’amor la dolce meta,

ond’ io sospiro e dico, “Ah fere e crude voglie, costei tutto mi dona e tutto toglie!”

V–I to AM cadence

V–I to DM V–I in FM V–I in CM V–I in AM V–I in B-flat V–I in GM V of A V–I in AM

Kapsperger set the first quatrain as a slowly unfolding thought, sung over a single A-minor pedal closed by a full cadence (m. 5); its final major triad is indicated in the lute tablature.

8.2 The second quatrain gives its first two complementary lines in triple meter. “She offers love, if she smiles,” with a cadence to D major at m. 8 and “peace if she is silent,” cadencing in F major (m. 11). James Forbes noted that this shift to triple meter is not “justified by the meaning of the text”;29 the shift, however, is prompted by a change from the iambic rhythm of lines 1–4. In a similar, later madrigal by Orazio Michi, however, John Hill surmises that the triple meter of lines 5–6 of an eight-line poem was suggested by their isometric patterning, with one anapest followed by two trochees.30 The situation appears parallel in Kapsperger’s quatrain. A scansion of the quatrain shows that line 7, where the mensuration returns to C, has eight syllables, seemingly by accident. Its poetic meter, moreover, is well-known for lyric ottonario lines such as “Vi ri-cór-da, o bós-chi om-bró-sí” from Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. The triple meter of lines 5–6 foreshadows this ottonario rhythm.

Meter line a- na- pest/ i - amb/ i - amb/ i - amb/ i - amb/ syllables
. . > x > . > .
in 3 5 Por- ge A- mor, s’e- la ri- de, 7
. . > . x . > .
6 tre- gua mo- stra, se ta- ce; 7
. . > . > . > .
in C 7 e con i- ra il cor mi sfa- ce. 8
. > . > . > . > . > .
8 Co- s" m’a- vi- va o- gn’hor, co- s" an- ci- de. 11

After lines 5 and 6 are set in five measures of 3/2, when line 7 returns to C mensuration it does not return to the declamatory style of the opening quatrain (which is delayed until the closing tercet). Instead, the bass remains active for all four lines, and few tones are repeated in the vocal line. Despite then the return to duple mensuration, Kapsperger continues to emphasize groupings of three minims through to line 11.31 These in fact also group into four larger 6/2 units (example 12). The “premature” return to C appears prompted by the textual contrasts in lines 6 and 7 between “tregua” and “ira” (“truce” versus “anger”). Line 8 in itself furthermore contrasts “living” and “dying.” Competing feelings continue in lines 9–11, between being loved and not achieving its “sweet goal” (despite the parallel eighth-notes in m. 17 in the lute that push to the G-major cadence). Thus the persistence of three-beat units, after the return to duple mensuration, poses the two meters together in a rhythmic communication of the tugging opposites of the poem, as the woman who is loved “gives all and takes all away.”

9. Rhythm, Mimesis, and Narrative

9.1 The text-based choices for the rhythmic contrasts in the five chamber pieces by Peri, Kapsperger, Landi, Ferrari, and Domenico Mazzocchi illustrate that the use of different musical styles in a single composition—a phenomenon tracked carefully by Jan Racek and others, catalogued by Leopold, and astutely differentiated by Hill—are not just choices in search of becoming a conventional disposition of recitatives and arias. Fundamental oppositions in the poem can be expressed, combined, and resolved by opposing musical styles. The five works also demonstrate that song styles that are non-specific in affect can take on expression when they participate in expressing a poetic conceit.32 The examples presented here also emphasize the importance of rhythm to the projection of meaning. Landi’s ciaccona and Kapsperger’s repressed sarabande both spring from remembered seductions. As a compositional tool, rhythmic contrast—and not only metric contrast—makes manifest the belief in the power of number to move the humors through music. Thus its effectiveness is more than a matter of melodic variety. Changes in meter or of surface rhythm, whether poetic or musical, can accomplish shifts of affect or changes in voice or argument. Each manner conveys its own kinesthetic mimesis (including the act of speech that recitative imitates). Working together, as we have seen, the contrasts can be more than madrigalian musical images, more than simple imitation or reflection of the words of a poem as they go by. In Mazzocchi’s “Non ha, non ha più loco” and Landi’s “T’amai gran tempo,” contrasts create “before” and “after” states that create narrative time. Peri’s “Se tu parti” and Kapsperger’s “Amor la donna mia” ultimately compound their contrasting components, yielding a familiar Baroque story—oscillation that intensifies to stasis or ultimate paradox. Strophic forms can draw out this latter narrative pattern and play with it in a way not possible in a work with only one moment of contrast, as in Ferrari’s “Amor com’esser può” discussed above.33 In the six strophes of Landi’s “T’amai gran tempo,” the fifth stanza represents the apex of freedom from his faithless lover that the poet has gained. The progression can be read in the fourth lines of the different strophes.

Strophe: 1 3 4 5 I’ve provided for myself elsewhere. I flee from your call. My heart finds its liberty. I’m already free and no longer hear your whistle.

But in the fourth line of the sixth strophe, after five recitative-to-aria shifts, the lover’s golden lips and silvery hair make the poet “rich with only regret.”

Se talento ti vien di dar martello, guardati il volto, che non è più quello. Hor le tue labra d’oro e ’l crin d’argento ricco mi fanno sol di pentimento.

This sole mention of regret in the last stanza softens the bravado of all the previous claims to liberty. At the same time it hardens the speaker’s resolve, even though harshness (dar martello) and metals are attributes of the other: “Now no more will I love you.” The blackbird of the refrain that has flown beyond the Po, and which stood for the rebellious liaison that gained the poet his present freedom, now is also his impassioned past, seen disappearing over the hills.


*Margaret Murata (mkmurata@uci.edu) has been studying Roman seventeenth-century vocal music for three decades, working primarily on operas and cantatas composed for the Barberini family in Rome and, more recently, on the history of early modern editions of Baroque arias. She is Professor of Music at the University of California, Irvine and has served as President of the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music (2000–03).

1 See John Hill, Roman Monody, Cantata, and Opera from the Circles around Cardinal Montalto, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 1:291–93.

2 Nino Pirrotta perspicuously discussed this in “Early Opera and Aria” in New Looks at Italian Opera: Essays in Honor of Donald J. Grout, ed. William W. Austin (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1968), 75–80. Among his examples, he cites the bergamasca sung by the Zanni from Bergamo in Chi soffre speri (Rome, 1639), 99, in a scene composed by Marco Marazzoli.

3 See Silke Leopold, “Strophen mit wechselnden Metren” in her Al modo d’Orfeo: Dichtung und Musik im italienischen Sologesang des frühen 17. Jahrhunderts, 2 vols., Analecta Musicologica, vol. 29 (Rome: Deutsches Historisches Institut, 1995), 1:223–31; and Hill, Montalto, 1:189–90, 224–34. See also Robert Holzer, Music and Poetry in Seventeenth-Century Rome: Settings of the Canzonetta and Cantata Texts of Francesco Balducci, Domenico Benigni, Francesco Melosio, and Antonio Abati, 2 vols. (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1990), 1:262–72; see also 258–62 on early cantatas ca.1640.

4 For an example see Stefano Landi’s “Aria da cantar sestine” in his 1620 book of Arie (Venice: Gardano, 1620; reprint, New York: Garland, 1986), which provides music in the equivalent of 9/2 throughout for Petrarch’s “A qualunque animale alberga in terra.” Each eleven-syllable line is set to a phrase lasting eight dotted semibreves. It is discussed in Silke Leopold, Stefano Landi. Beiträge zur Biographie, Untersuchungen zur Vokalmusik, 2 vols., Hamburger Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft, vol. 17 (Hamburg: Karl Dieter Wagner, 1976), 1:152–53; and in Leopold, Al modo d’Orfeo, 1:248–49, where she identifies it as a corrente.

5 Leopold, Al modo d’Orfeo, 1:98.

6 The catalogue of printed music for solo voice (1601–1644) in Leopold, Al modo d’Orfeo, vol. 2, lists 19 appearances in prints from 1605 to 1635. They are numbers 1105 (Fabriani, 1605), 1110, 1119, 1121, 1123, 1127, 1135, 1138, 1141, 1146, 1166, 1170, 1177, 1184, 1189, 1190, 1194, 1210, and 1212 (Negri, 1635). The manuscripts examined by Hill yield 20 ottava settings (Montalto, 1:203).

7 Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger [Johann Hieronymus Kapsberger], Libro secondo d’arie a una e più voci (Rome: Luca Antonio Soldi, 1623; reprint, Archivum Musicum, vol. 32, [Florence: Studio per Edizioni Scelte, 1980]), 14.

8 See, for example Leopold, Al modo d’Orfeo. 1:175–203; and Hill, Montalto, 1:60–65, 198–210.

9 In Act III of Claudio Monteverdi, L’Orfeo (Mantua, 1607).

10 Hill perceived this basic similarity between syllabic and melismatic singing in music from fifty years earlier: “It seems that there were two very different kinds of extemporized modification made in the performance of mid-sixteenth-century villanelle and arie: one added ornamental melismas and thus created a cantillational style relatively liberated from the text being sung, while the other retained the syllabic setting of the notated song but modified its rhythm in order to create a recitational style even more closely controlled by the declamation of the text than the written music itself was”; see Montalto, 1:65. In seventeenth-century recitative, to be “controlled by the declamation of the text” is to be rhythmically liberated, while remaining syllabic.

11 On the early seventeenth-century villanella, see Leopold, Al modo d’Orfeo, 1:204–209.

12 On the early seventeenth-century canzonetta as a genre, see Hill, Montalto, 1:194, 210–18; Leopold, Al modo d’Orfeo, 1:40–46, 62–67, 232–40; and Holzer, Music and Poetry, chapters 2–3. Among the rare treatments of “arietta” is Piero Gargiulo, “Per la terminologia del teatro d’opera secentesco: fonti teoriche e drammaturgiche” in Fiamma Nicolodi and Paolo Trovato, eds., Le parole della musica, 2 vols. (Florence: Olschki, 1994), 1:37–38.

13 Il Sant’Alessio (1632, 1634), I Santi Didimo e Theodora (1635, 1636), Il San Bonifatio (1638, 1639), and Il Sant’Eustachio (1643); all staged in Rome.

14 An example of the refrain form—of many available—is the chorus of fishermen “Stampa il ciel con l’auree piante” that closes the scene between Theseus, the counselor, and messenger in Rinuccini’s Arianna of 1608 (lines 459–98).

15 Leopold, Al modo d’Orfeo, especially 1:240–43. See also her discussion of Tanzformen, 1:248–53.

16 His now-classic “Falsirena e la più antica delle cavatine” in Collectanea Historiae Musicae 2 (1956): 355–66; reprint in Nino Pirrotta, Scelte poetiche di musicisti: teatro, poesia e musica da Willaert a Malipiero (Venice: Marsilio, 1987), 255–63.

17 Johann Gottfried Walther, Musikalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1732; reprint, Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1953), 150; cited in Pirrotta, “Falsirena,” 261. See also Carolyn Gianturco, “The Cantata: A Textual Approach” in The Well Enchanting Skill: Music, Poetry, and Drama in the Culture of the Renaissance, Essays in Honour of F. W. Sternfeld, ed. John Caldwell, Edward Olleson, and Susan Wollenberg (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 49–50.

18 In this scene, the chorus’s quatrain continues for three more stanzas. Further stanzas return as a refrain/ritornello (with new text) twice in the middle of the scene and at its end. Amarilli here tells everyone to move together, make a circle, and begin the game. Mirtillo objects. Later Amarilli asks if Mirtillo only thought he would have to put on her blindfold; she tells her friends that now the game can begin. The chorus sings, “Blind Cupid, I don’t believe you—but go ahead and blind the desire of anyone who believes in you, for the less you can see, the less you trust.”

19 The first messenger says that if flames or arrows don’t descend from the sky, he won’t believe that justice exists in Heaven. The chorus answers, “It is better to remain silent where there is great anger.” After the messenger begins his description of Ariadne weeping and abandoned, the chorus comments, “How illusory are the hopes of mortals, and too real suspicion and fear.”

20 To cite only recent examinations, see Leopold, Al modo d’Orfeo, 1:175–88; and Hill, Montalto, 1:195–203.

21 Tim Carter, Forward to Jacopo Peri: Le varie musiche and Other Works (Madison: A-R Editions, 1985), xx.

22 “Se tu parti da me” is cited by Hill as an example of “contrast between recitative and aria” occurring “within each strophe” (Montalto, 1:221); and because the words of the musical refrain change for each strophe and each strophe is varied, Leopold discusses it as an example of a through-composed strophic canzona (Al modo d’Orfeo, 1:234).

23 Anapests were common for choral entrance odes. For closing choruses, William C. Scott notes, for example, “The ending stanzas of extant Sophoclean plays are all from 3 to 6 anapestic lines by the chorus, except for Trach[iniae]. … and [of] O[edipus]T[yrannus], which is probably counterfeit”; see his Musical Design in Sophoclean Theater (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1996), 287, n. 205.

24 The phrase “stil recitativo, e cantativo” comes from a letter of 1612 by the composer Santi Orlandi, quoted in Susan Parisi, “Ducal Patronage in Mantua, 1587–1627: An Archival Study,” 2 vols. (Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1989), 1:265. In Montalto, 1:65ff., Hill reads the two adjectives as referring to contrasting styles. Claudio Annibaldi has observed that the adjectives modify a singular noun, describing one style with both characteristics, in his review of Hill, Montalto in Early Music History 18 (1999): 370–71. The phrase could also imply melismatically embellished declamatory music.

25 See San Bonifazio in Giulio Rospigliosi, Melodrammi sacri, ed. Danilo Romei, (Florence: Studio Editoriale Fiorentino, 1999), 98–99. Romei’s edition is based on a source dating from after 1692, I-Rvat Vat. lat. 13538.

26 It would not be surprising to discover that this duet once closed a more extended cantata, perhaps one for performance at an oratorio, or an allegorical composition.

27 Discussed in Leopold, Landi, 1:159–61. She includes the arioso fourth line in the “aria” section. Il secondo libro d’arie musicali di Stefano Landi ad una voce (Rome: G. B. Robletti, 1627) is available in facsimile in the series Archivum Musicum: La cantata barocca, vol. 4 (Florence: Studio per Edizioni Scelte, 1980).

28 Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger [Johann Hieronymus Kapsberger], Libro primo di arie passeggiate a una voce con l’intavolatura del chitarone (Rome: Jacomo Christoforo ab Andlaw, 1612; reprint, Florence: Studio per Edizioni Scelte, 1980), 18.

29 James Forbes, “The Nonliturgical Vocal Music of Johannes Hieronymous [sic] Kapsberger (1580–1651)” (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1977), 96.

30 “Empio cor, core ingrato” by Orazio Michi, edited by Hill in Montalto vol. 2, no. 163, and discussed by him in 1:229–30.

31 For an earlier example of triple meter in duple mensuration, see Leopold’s discussion of “Ahi, chi mi guida il foco” by Domenico Melli (1609) in her Al modo d’Orfeo, 1:216–19 (given as Example XXXI in 2:56–57).

32 Leopold, Al modo d’Orfeo, 1:227 also refers to the basic affective neutrality of many early Seicento sections “in aria,” in her criticism of Nigel Fortune’s 1968 analysis of “Torna il sereno Zefiro” by Sigismondo d’India as composed of madrigalistic, recitative, and arioso sections, each with a different emotional content: “Und die Bezeichnung des ersten Teils als ‘madrigalisch’ erscheint ebenso zweifelhaft wie die Behauptung, daß der Ariencharakter des letzten Abschnitts emotionale Gründe habe.”

33 Similar extended recitative-to-aria compositions continue to resemble scenes that close with “choral” commentary. For an example of a theatrical chamber monologue with an unexpected and witty anti-theatrical single shift of voice, see Luigi Rossi’s “Lamento d’Arione,” discussed in Margaret Murata, “Rospigliosi, poeta per musica,” in Lo spettacolo del sacro, l’etica del profano, ed. Danilo Romei, in press.


Text 1: “Aria di cantar ottave” from Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger, Libro secondo d’arie (Rome, 1623)

Text 2: “Amor, com’ esser può che per mia doglia,” poesia del Cavalier Marino, from Benedetto Ferrari, Musiche varie a voce sola (Venice: Bartholomeo Magni, 1633)

Text 3: “Se tu parti da me, Fillide amata” from Jacopo Peri, Le varie musiche … a una due, e tre voci (Florence: Cristofano Marescotti, 1609)

Text 4: “Non ha, non ha più loco,” aria a 2. Canto, e Basso (“Regret for having followed Love”), by Monsignor [Giulio] Rospigliosi from Domenico Mazzocchi, Musiche sacre e morali (Rome: Lodovico Grignani, 1640)

Text 5: “T’amai gran tempo e sospirai mercede” from Stefano Landi, Secondo libro di arie musicali … ad una voce (Rome: G.B. Robletti, 1627)

Text 6: “Amor la donna mia” from Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger, Libro primo di arie a una voce con l’intavolatura del chitarone (Rome, 1612)

Musical Examples

Example 1: Kapsperger, “È fior la speme mia” (ottava), complete

Example 2: Kapsperger, “È fior la speme mia,” the rhythm of each eleven-syllable line

Example 3: Ferrari, “Amor com’esser può che per mia doglia,” complete

Example 4: Ferrari, “Amor com’esser può che per mia doglia,” mm. 49–56

Example 5: Peri, “Se tu parti da me,” complete

Example 6: Peri, “Se tu parti da me,” opening phrases

Example 7: Peri, “Se tu parti da me,” the final refrain

Example 8: Domenico Mazzochi, “Non ha, non ha più loco,” complete

Example 9: Landi, “T’amai gran tempo,” complete

Example 10: Landi, “T’amai gran tempo,” opening phrases

Example 11: Kapsperger, “Amor la donna mia,” complete

Example 12: Kapsperger, “Amor la donna mia,” mm. 12–18: triple meter within duple mensuration

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